Is Philly now the home of the 40-day chicken challenge? Local artist Bob Dix is on day 39 of his avian undertaking — but instead of eating the birds, he’s illustrating them.
The inspiration, of course, was Alexander Tominsky’s rotisserie poultry consumption odyssey that culminated in early November with a red carpet eating at the abandoned pier behind the Walmart. The stunt went viral, and Tominsky used his unexpected platform to promote local hunger relief efforts.
Dix’s personal art quest kicked off just as Tominksy finished his. Saturday, he’ll take another page from the chickenman’s book and cap his 40-day adventure with a public gathering.
This one happens at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, the classic Passyunk Avenue dive, and features him painting a chicken, live and in person. Why?
“I am not gonna try and be too philosophical,” Dix told Billy Penn, “but there is something about chickens.”
A former bartender who’s been making art for decades, Dix sells his work on Etsy, Threadless, and TeePublic. He finds his muse in local “oddball stuff”: the car stuck in a Fishtown construction site, the emotional support alligator in Love Park, the people who went tubing down I-676 when it was flooded by Ida.
The first subject in his current series was Super Chicken, a character from the 1960s animated series “George of the Jungle.”
“I just thought it was being kind of funny,” said Dix, noting that the real challenge was finding 40 different kinds to draw. “Everybody I tell it to, they’re like, ‘Are there 40 types of chickens?’ I’m like, ‘There’s thousands of different types of chickens.’”
He’s changed up the medium, too. Some images are cartoony black-and-white sketches, others are vibrant, lifelike watercolors. Each drawing or painting is posted to Instagram with a caption offering background on the subject.
Dix has already sold some of the individual chicken art, he said, and he’s planning to compile the collection into a book.
He’s waded much deeper into the chicken enthusiast space than he imagined. “I never thought that I’d find the beauty in chickens,” Dix said. “But … each one has their own little thing.”
Chicken content is now flooding Dix’s social media, and he said he’s gained some followers who are specifically into the poultry illustrations. Some of his favorites include Robot Chicken, a Dong Tao, and a Silkie.
Dix considered doing the 40th chicken piece at the abandoned pier where Tominsky had his moment, but then considered the weather. Instead, he’ll be at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“Philadelphia will make a party out of anything — out of any weirdness,” Dix observed. He’s looking to channel both the chicken-eating spectacular (which Tominsky specifically labeled “not a party”) and the infamous Furnace Party of 2019.
“I’m born and raised here, so I’m a little biased,” Dix said, “but I absolutely love Philadelphia that much that I want to celebrate those strange moments.”
It’ll be his first live painting ever, but the second isn’t far away. It happens at World Cafe Live on Dec. 22, as part of a Jim Henson holiday tribute — and will likely include a chicken too, since, he said, they feature “all through the Muppet history.”
At Ray’s, he plans to bring a few panels, and possibly even paint more than one chicken, depending on what the audience wants.
“I don’t know how it’ll turn out,” he told Billy Penn. “It’s something different, you know, for the holidays. I’m not even looking to make any money off of it — I just want to bring people together.”