Painted Chipboard Bighorn Sheep

I'm fascinated by bighorn sheep and their unique adaptations. For example, did you know that a male's horns can weigh up to 30 pounds and measure 50 inches? Or that they have glands on their feet that release scents to help assert dominance? Both males and females grow horns, which continue to grow throughout their lives. Amazing!

Two states (Nevada and Colorado) as well as one Canadian province (Alberta) have named the bighorn sheep as their state (provincial) mammal. Today I'm going to use a bighorn sheep to demonstrate my process for helping kids create a realistic version of an animal on chipboard. Follow along and give it a try! 

Painted Chipboard Bighorn Sheep


  • chipboard
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • Folk Art paint
  • construction paper
  • black ink


Find a good reference photo. I usually look through dozens of photos to learn what the animal looks like from different angles and across individuals before picking one that will be my reference. Then I use a pencil to block out the body and head. Notice how blocky my drawing is. I'll be refining it later. For now, I just want the basic shapes. 

Next, I add legs. As I do, I reshape the body, smoothing out sharp corners and changing proportions as needed. I stay very focused on my reference photo, trying to draw exactly what I see (as opposed to what I think I should be seeing). 

When I think the body I've drawn matches the reference photo, I carefully cut it out with microtip scissors. I cut outside the lines, because I can always cut away tiny bits as needed but can't add material back. At this point, I walk away for at least a few minutes. Fresh eyes will help me see any areas that need additional cutting. 

The next step is adding a base coat of color. To keep myself from getting bogged down in details or painting what I think should be there instead of what I'm actually seeing, I use my fingers to add swaths of color. Fingers are not a great choice for detail, so this keeps me focused on undertones and shadows. 

Acrylic paint dries very on chipboard, so by the time I wash my hands I'm ready to add the next layers. Here, I use a paintbrush. As you can see, I'm constantly mixing shades and tones on my palette paper. My goal is to match what I see in the reference photo. It takes practice and patience. Fortunately, you can keep adding layers of paint as many times as it takes to get the results you want. 

I started with shadows, so my final painting step is to add highlights. And an eye, which I added after taking the photo. 

To make the mountain habitat for your bighorn sheep, tear a piece of grey construction paper in half. Use one half for the mountains that are the most distant, then tear the second half two more times and layer the pieces to make the foreground. 

Ink the edges of the mountains to create dimension, then layer them on a sheet of blue construction paper. Now add your bighorn sheep.


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