After three weeks of intense observation, sketching and photographing of
the Great Grey Owl on my property, I decided it was time to proceed
with a painting. The Great Grey had proven to be a very co-operative
model and I was eager to attempt a portrayal of her majestic beauty.
I began by preparing a rough sketch of the composition on charcoal paper (left). Here I was
able to work out the details of the drawing making any needed adjustments as well as
experimenting with the colours and textures I would use in the finished painting. Once
satisfied with my design, I then transferred this line drawing to a sanded paper, masking
off all sections but the immediate working area (right).
I tend to work from top to bottom and left to right, bringing each section to near completion
to avoid smudging my surface. I block in small areas at a time building layer upon layer until
I've achieved the texture and depth I desire. I also work from dark to light and hard to soft.
For "Lady Grey"my entire palette consisted of only 8 soft pastels and 4 pastel pencils. The
finest detailing in the feathers being done with a very sharp 3H graphite pencil.
I have now finished the final highlights on the owl and begin to block in the middleground
and foreground. Despite their name, Great Grey Owls are not just grey. Rather than
completing her with browns and greys I chose to use maroons, purples, blues and whites.
By repeating these colours in the owl, fence and vine, the surrounding landscape will
determine the atmospheric mood of the painting.
The fenceline area had too much definition so I added a very soft Artworks white and a Schmincke
cobalt blue tone. I blended these over the entire surface with my fingers to lose sme of the
edges and create a blowing snow effect.
The Final Step
The final step was to lay the vine over, around and behind the fence post and owl thus
incorporating my main subject into the overall scene.
This marks the completion of my first attempt at an artistic depiction of the Great Grey's
character. I look forward to developing future artistic tributes to a regal bird I
grew to know and love.