How to paint a Tawny… Owl by yourself!

As promised, I have been a busy bee over the bank holiday weekend as it is now officially April, my Month of Paint! I finished off painting this little cutie today. His name is Nelson, not after Mandela, but my Grannie, who loved all owls.

If you pay particular attention throughout this guide, you can see me sporting a lovely range of pyjamas. I really am spoiling you.

You will need:

  • About 30 hours!
  • 30cm x 40cm canvas
  • Photograph to copy
  • Large flat paintbrush
  • Range of smaller round paintbrushes
  • Large playmat
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Masking tape
  • Background Acrylic Paint:
    • Cadmium Red
    • Burgandy
  • Owl Acrylic Paint:
    • White
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Burnt Umber
    • Raw Umber
    • Rich Gold
    • Mars Black
    • Hooker Green (small amount)

Canvas Preparation

1. Choose your composition. I cropped my photograph really close so I could focus on the face and feathers and have as little background as possible.

Nelson the tawny photo
I grid up my photographs using microsoft word

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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I just draw the main lines and markings

Painting the background

1. Mix Cadmium Red and double quantities of Burgundy together with a bit of water. This creates a beautiful rich damson colour. You can add a hint of white to make it more creamy.

2. Paint about four layers of paint over your background area. This will create a solid matte colour. Hold it up to the light. Can you see through it? If so, paint another layer!

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You can overlap the foreground as you will paint over this later.

Painting the owl

At first glance, I thought… how on earth am I going to get everything in the right place?! There is so much going on!
Then I chilled out a bit and decided to take a little bit at a time. What a life lesson.

1. Use masking tape to section off areas to paint: I started from the bottom taking the right hand corner, and gradually worked my way up the canvas in 5cm strips, completing each strip before moving onto the next.
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My art gear of choice was blue striped pyjamas. 

2.  Start with a wash of Burnt Umber mixed with white. This creates a brilliant basis to build up layers of white feathers over the top.
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The more layers you build up, the fluffier it will look

3. Use a cocktail stick to create finer lines and texture in the feathers. Scratch the black bards into place using a near black. Scratch little flicks of white feathers. Some feathers will look softer and fluffier, so use a little paintbrush to achieve this look.

Who would think my pyjamas would be so famous!
Who would think my pyjamas would be so famous!

4. Complete the whole strip using the same techniques, making sure the black and brown bards are painted into the right place. Keep referring back to your photograph – it’s only a little section, you can get everything in the right place easily!

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My photography skills are second to none.

5. Section off the strip above using masking tape. Paint on any bards and darker areas of feathers, blending them into the finished part below.

Be careful to blend the two sections together or you will get a visible line.
Be careful to blend the two sections together or you will get a visible line.

6. Build up layers using streaks of white and tan colours, using your cocktail stick to make texture and individual feathers. The body of the owl is generally paler and greyer, and becomes more coloured and brown towards the face.

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You can see that by taking it section by section, you can get it really accurate.

7. Introduce browns and golds to the upper chest area, below the face. The feathers here are darker, with more golden pigments than the lower belly (all very technical terms!). Make the paint really nice and thick, building up the layers with differing shades. Use your cocktail stick to introduce little speckles to the feathers.  Please keep referring to your photograph to get markings in exactly the right place. I assure you that patience is the only way to get a photo-realistic finish.

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With a little patience, the feathers are not as daunting as they first seem.

8. Begin on the facial disk. Below the face is a white fluffy curve, framing the cute little face. Use really thick white paint here and score shapes into it using a cocktail stick. Then add black, gold and brown mottles to it on top of the thick wet white paint.
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You can see the glints of gold I am starting to work in. 

9. Paint the area surrounding the beak a pale browny grey. Then score thin white and darker grey hairs into it to make it textured and fluffy.
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Use a cocktail stick to create texture.

10. Surround the eyes with tan, white and pale brown paint, using longer curved brush strokes  Continue to build up layer upon layer, with paler colours on the top layers. Paint the brown strip down the middle of the face, and overlap the face hairs to create a semi-symmetrical pattern.
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Keep painting on layer after layer for thick fluffy fur.

11. Paint the eyes deep black, then rim them with pale grey. Create pale grey glints in the eyes to make them look glassy and real. Put grey lines above and below to define the eye socket.
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He just came to life when I painted in the eyes.

12. Paint the disk surrounding the face, using small dabs of tans, browns and black. Again, continue to build up layers, joining the face and the surrounding disk with a darker join. Put dabs of gold into it to make the painting really eye catching.
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At this point, my dad normally starts going “its very clever”

13. Paint the visible wing with a brown wash, then dab several layers in shades of light brown and tan into it.
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Do you see the resemblance?!

14. Mix up a pale yellowy green for the beak. Put shadows in a more grey green and a highlight in a paler colour down the middle of the beak, then paint on little nostrils using near black paint.
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Are they called nostrils??

15. Neaten up any smudges on the background and then SIGN!
Nelson ARTbyIMI
I am a little bit in love with little Nelson 

Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for lots of updates throughout April, my Month of Paint! 

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Every day motivation

Aside

This quote really struck a chord with me today, and I am sure it will with a lot of people.
It motivated me to do the things I have been meaning to, instead of letting life get in the way.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money in order to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and he dies having never really lived.”

Thank you to Noora for sharing that.

It motivated me to finally buy marketing materials for my business. When they arrive I will put on my wellies and my biggest smile and go out on dog walks and meet people and their lovely animals. I will be able to reach more people and let them know how much I enjoy painting and how good I am.  I will gain new custom, and maybe even new friends that I wouldn’t have got otherwise. One day, I will accomplish my dream of spending my days painting and making a comfortable living from it. One day, I will own my own dog and paint him too. 

For the meantime, its the little things I do which keep me in balance of health, calm and presence, and I have to admit, I haven’t quite managed it today. I am looking forward to this weekend, when I can pretend that one day is today and will turn:
Image

into:

  Image

How to paint a golden pheasant

I painted a golden pheasant to enter into the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition 2013. It is on a 70cm x 70cm canvas, and it used a lot of paint! But I am pleased with it, so thought I would share with you today how it was born.

 You will need:

  • A 70cm x 70cm canvas
  • Your photograph with gridlines drawn on, (this can be on your laptop screen)
  • Lots and lots of colours of acrylic paint (including GOLD, purple and yellow 🙂
  • A palette (I use empty foil dishes from quiches. My parents are quiche fans!)
  • Water
  • Masking tape
  • A variety of sizes of paintbrushes (large flat ones, a set of varying sizes of little rounded ones)
  • A playmat!
  1. Firstly I drew up my canvas, gridding on the main outlines of the bird and the many different sections of feathers to the corresponding square on my photograph.

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  2. Next I did a thin colour wash on each section. A bit like painting by numbers!
    IMAG0793[1]
  3. With the section of thin yellow feathers on his back, I firstly painted the section a darkish yellowy browny colour. I then used a little round brush and pale yellows and oranges to swipe little feathers onto the canvas. This part took ages as I really wanted it to match the photograph totally.
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  4. With the orange feathers with purple tips, I firstly painted it orange. I then sectioned off parts using masking tape as it all looked the same! This enabled me to paint the purple patterns onto the canvas in exactly the right place.

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  5. After I had finished this, I proceeded to go over and over this section with swipes of white, yellow, orange and gold to make the feathers look 3D. I used blue, purple and metalic blue on the tips, again using a little rounded brush.

    IMAG0811[1]

  6. With the blue feathers at the bottom, I used varying shades of blues and purple and white to create large feather shapes.
  7. With the pink feathers, I used the little rounded brush again, with a mix of purple, magenta and white feathers, constantly referring to the photograph to get areas of light and dark in the correct place

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  8. With the narrow blue feathers above the yellow section and below the orange section (I am losing track too!) I firstly painted it dark blue. Then I used metallic blue mixed with normal blue and a touch of white to create a 3D effect when I painted each feather shape.
  9. Next I concentrated on the face , using my littlest brush, and a range of browns and purples and my favourite colour, flesh tint! I used little curly brush strokes to make the face fluffy.
    IMAG0813[1]
  10. I painted the eye using white with a hint of green, to create a pale aqua. I made sure to put a little white gleam on the pupil.
  11. I used a fairly large round brush and thick yellow paint to create the mohawk, using long sweeping brushstrokes in varying shades of yellow. I then used white paint to create strands of hair caught by the light.
    IMAG0818[1]
  12. Finally, with the beak, I used browns and gold paint to create a shiny pointy beak.
  13. Its not my normal style, but I painted the background last! Im normally a firm believer in painting backgrounds first. However, I really couldnt decide what to do with it. I plumped with a base of sap green, using my hands to rub in lighter areas with white and yellow and darker areas with purple to create a soft focus.
    goldenpheasantjan13wm

Ta daaa – Hope you liked the guide and let me know what you think!
I will keep you posted on how I do in the competition!