Monthly Archives: February 2011

Sketching for “Scalloped Owl”

My painting “Scalloped Owl” currently hangs in Lucy’s Art Emporium in Dover, New Hampshire. If you’re in the area, go visit Lucy’s! My paintings will be there until the 2nd of March (and there are great art exhibitions and gifts there all year round!).

I started this owl painting with a photograph of a barred owl from a book I got from the library.

I started with a realistic pencil sketch (as you see on the left, below). I got a feel for the general shapes in the owl, its posture and its feather patterns. Next I drew the stylized drawing you see on the right, which I based on the first drawing and the photograph combined, as well as a good dose of imagination.

owl sketch pencil drawing

I emphasized the dark ring of feathers encircling the owl’s face, the very round and shiny eyes, the variegated bib of feathers about the owl’s neck, and the striped effect of the feathers on its body. I also added a background in the second drawing, experimenting with contrast, texture, and stroke direction. The eyes in the second sketch remind me a bit of Raggedy Ann, an aspect which I enjoy in the drawing, but I didn’t wish to emphasize it in my final piece (below). I painted lots of dots and feathery details around the eyes, but not in the same eyelash pattern as in the drawing.

scalloped owl barred bird painting watercolor

In my final work, I combined my favorite aspects of the photograph and both the sketches. I exaggerated the rounded body, head, halves of the face, and eyes. This round quality kept the owl looking cute, which I wanted to achieve with this painting because that was my first reaction to the photograph I saw. I kept my palette limited to balance detail with simplicity. The photograph had a dark background, which I included in the second sketch, but in my final painting I chose to keep the darkest tones in the foreground and left the background light and subdued.

I plan to add more owls to my bird series. This one was a joy to paint, and I’d like to explore owls in flight, sleeping, in multiples, and perhaps even hunting. Do you have a favorite owl?

(I painted another owl, which you can read about here.)

*Update* The show at Lucy’s Art Emporium is over, but this painting is now available in my Etsy shop, matted to 8″x10″!

*Update* This painting has been purchased, but it is now available as a greeting card in my Etsy shop!