I have loved Northern Saw-whet Owls since I first saw one as a little girl. So tiny, yet, they are such nomads – it amazes me how much they travel.
For this painting – I wanted to capture the often “coy” look these little owls seem to have. Fortunately, I have lots of personal experience and access to great reference photos my Dad took to leap off from.
Here is the initial sketch- I decided that I didn’t want to make the background fussy – or some sort of evergreen, which is how they are typically depicted.
The next step was to figure out what to do with the background. I decided that I wanted to paint it first and then layer the owl over the top, vs the other way around, which can be challenging, especially when working on the scale that I was in this painting (8×10″).
I opted to work with colours that reminded me of caramel first – yellow ochre, raw sienna, mixed with some raw umber. After that, I decided to spice things up with a really bright primary red and added in some titan buff to create some highs in the background. I was really pleased with the final effect and was ready to start painting the owl.
The colour on this owl was going to be challenging and I needed to decided how brown and how rust I was going to go as this species can be quite varied in its appearance. I opted for a brighter, rusty colour scheme, which meant I needed to warm up my browns quite a bit. I played with raw and burnt umber to get the main body colour, with a wash of Quinacridone / Nickel Azo Gold.
I ended up adding this to the background as a wash which tied it all together in a way I hadn’t expected. I thought the face was going to be the most challenging part of this painting, but the colour of the rust on the breast proved to be my biggest block. I finally got enough highs and lows in the feathering to become really happy with the progress.
In the end I’m really happy with the final product. Happy creating everyone!