How to paint a barn owl

Meet a barn owl: I went to the Andover Hawk Conservancy and met little Echo. Ideally, I would have liked to keep him, but at least I got to take away some amazing photographs!

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Grid up your canvas: On this 20 by 20cm canvas, I went for squares of 5cm each, making sure that my photograph was also gridded up with the same dimensions. Then it’s a simple case of putting the basic shapes from the photograph into the same place on the canvas. Some artists may scorn at this approach, but to me it is just planning for success and avoids abortive work later on.

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Paint the background: For this painting I went for a simple matte violet (violet paint with a hint of white for extra creaminess.)

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Paint the face base coat: I find where you have white fur or feathers, paint a base of a purpley grey, and then use white over the top to add final detail.

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Rim the eyes: use long curled brushstrokes fanning out from around the eyes to create that characteristic heart shaped face.

Eye eye: paint the eyes as squashed circles, with a dark black surround and pupil, and a paler iris. Then put paler grey sheens where the light catches, and white glints.

Paint the beak: I used a pale pink, with a paler stripe down the middle. This then disappears into a darker tip, the same colour as the two (for want of a better word) nostrils. Then use white paint to flick little feathers over the top of the beak.

Body base coat: Start with a base of a slightly darker tan colour, using a mix of sienna, gold and white. Following this, add more white and gold and create areas of highlight and detail.

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Shades of grey: Barn owls have beautiful speckles of grey on their back and upper body. Refer to your photograph and use a mix of black, white and a hint of purple to give the grey an added dimension.

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Speckles on the speckles: I then cross hatched over the grey speckles using a darker grey and a lighter grey watery mix and a teeny tiny paintbrush.

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Finishing touches: Then I put on small black freckles with white tails. Check the photo if you don’t believe me! Bird’s feathers are so detailed and surprising when you look at them up close

Echo ARTbyIMI

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Time lapse Meercats

Hello everybody!
Lots of busy and exciting things happening recently! I have just put a painting into the Society for Wildlife Art’s annual exhibition, I find out next week if it has been selected. It’s my favourite painting so far, really excited to share it with you soon!

I’ll leave you with Mossy… a painting a did a couple of months ago! I have put it into a handy time-lapse video for you, no scrolling – simples!

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How to paint a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

You may have spotted him at the Fayre, or you may just be coming across him now. This is Bertie the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy. Judging by his expression, he knows he is royalty. He has a grumpy ‘superior than thou’ expression and gangly legs. Admit it, he is absolutely adorable!

You will need:

  • A lot of time and patience
  • 30cm x 40cm canvas
  • Photograph to copy
  • Large flat paintbrush
  • Range of smaller round paintbrushes
  • Large playmat
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Masking tape
  • Acrylic Paint:
    • White
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Burnt Umber
    • Raw Umber
    • Rich Gold
    • Mars Black
    • Cadmium Red

1. Choose your composition: I didn’t have to crop my photograph as it was already a closely cropped image. The customer asked me to keep the background exactly as it was. 
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2. Mark up your canvas. For a 30 x 40 canvas it is easiest to do 5cm2 squares. If you grid out your photo on a screen, make sure that your scaled dimensions are the same. You will probably have to crop parts of your photo and expand it to fill the space.

3. Draw the outline shape of your subject onto the canvas, following the corresponding squares on your screen. For a more detailed way of doing this, see here.

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4. Paint the background: The customer wanted the background painted exactly as in the photograph. This was a pink rug and a window. To paint the rug I used various shades of pink and red, and a small round paintbrush to rub the paint in spirals into the canvas. To paint the window, I used a lot of masking tape, a steady hand, and about 50 shades of grey ;-).

5. Begin painting in the beautiful curly ears. This is using a range of rich siennas, raw and burnt umber, gold, flesh tint, etc. Use little round brushes and short curly strokes with a slightly watery paint.

Extend the shades onto the face around the eyes, leaving the nose and a stripe up the forehead in white. Concentrate on the direction of the hairs in the photograph – the top of the ears stick upwards and are paler.

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6. Rim the eyes with a near-black (black mixed with brown or blue or yellow.) Start to paint them in in shades of deep grey to bring out the spherical shape. Put glints in the eyes to bring them to life.

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7.Paint the body in grey. Once you have the grey base you can use paler greys and flesh tint to pick out lighter sections and shadows using a small round brush.

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8. Paint in the nose – make the nostrils a deep black, with a black line up the middle. The rest is a deep grey in a rounded heart shape. Pick out white glints to make it look damp.

Bring out the characteristic downturned mouth. King charles spaniels look grumpy. Really cute, but grumpy. Play on that!
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9. Paint in the collar. If you use metalic paint and a bit of nifty shading, metal rings and disks look very real!

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10. Decide that following the photograph is a bad idea after all and that limbs appear to be going everywhere! Re-paint the legs by researching other photos where dogs are sitting more nicely! *please note, forward planning and a better photo can eliminate this stage!!

Bertie ARTbyIMI

11. Sniff test of approval?

Bertie and painting