Saturday, June 17, 2017

Talisman ~ Painting an Owl

Every spring we have a big art show at my work, The Wizard of Art. Each student chooses an art piece for the show, frames it, and then the teachers hang all (133 this year!) works the night before the big reception. The faculty each puts a piece in the show as well. 

Here's a little unfinished charcoal demo I did of a snowy owl, for one of my private students.

White Owl Song, on the beautiful Native American flute!

It's nice because when we have the art show, the students can see what their teachers are working on and that can lead to some nice discussions about how we choose our subject matter, and on occasion, how artists sometimes need to be patient about finishing a piece! 

They come for an hour, or an hour and a half class, so after some of the kids have worked on a piece for a month they think it's been forever and I can say, yes but really it's it's only four hours. I often work for 5 hour stretches or more in one sitting and I can show them an example. Usually, the lights come on and they realize that it's not actually taking them "forEVER" as they say. This, of course doesn't work on a 4, 5, 6 year old!  

Anyway, I wanted to do a new piece for the show and for some reason I'd been kind of obsessing on doing an owl, before I'd ever done that charcoal demo (on the grey paper above.) I had taken a photo years ago of Riley, a little Eastern Screech Owl, when I was in Ojai meeting some of the birds that were rehabbed at the Ojai Raptor Center.

I'm still on my "oil on wood panel kick," so one night after work at the Wizard, I sketched in the owl with a little Conté Crayon. (above) Then, I went in with Gamblin's odorless mineral spirits (a paint thinner) and used it to move the Conté around ... 

Then, I started getting in the values (lights and darks) with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue ...

At that point, I went in with slightly heavier layers of paint and more color ... and for some reason this little guy wanted to be on magenta ... though I don't know why, or at the time where I was even going with that.

As I was starting the owl, I began looking online at all the different symbolic meanings of owls. It's fascinating and I thought the need to do an owl might have some deeper meaning for me.

Different cultures have different meanings for the owl, from wisdom (Athena) and protection, to mystery, to death, rebirth and transformation. 

My favorite is that the Owl represents night, the moon and the feminine. So, I'm going with that ... and the truth and honor part. That magenta/red seemed to work with the idea of the feminine, blood and creation ...

My owl palette ...

I was hanging out and painting with one of our old students, Audrey, who started at the Wizard at four years old and is now a fine art major at UCLA. She also teaches at the studio when she's on break. I think I worked a couple nights with her at the studio. Probably in 4 or 5 hour stretches. I loose track when I'm painting.

After that, I took the little guy home to work on it. I showed a picture to my boss who said, "We see owls like that in the desert. Is that a cactus he's on?" And that was it. It was a cactus. I just hadn't known it yet, and I needed someone else to tell me. If you throw something up to the art gods, just pay attention and the answer will come. Often from a smart fellow artist! 

I started doing the detail work at home. As you might have noticed, I love doing detail work. Especially eyes! It's funny because when I look at other artists, I love really loose painting with very expressive brushwork, but when I start working on something, I can't seem to help myself.

It's kind of meditative but at the same time, using a tiny 0000 brush can be tedious and intense. (The smaller the number the smaller the brush!) At that point you take breaks and start photographing your pants!

The claws and the cactus needles were also very detailed. I also added more reds ... Alizarin Crimson, magenta, Cobalt Violet, and Cadmium Red to the cactus.

Here is a National Geographic Documentary on owls ... at 6 minute you'll see one hatch, and you see them grow! 

And here he is! 

9" x 12"

To learn more about the Ojai Raptor Center on their website, click here.
To see my old blog posts about the Raptor Center, click here and here.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
Then I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

~William Shakespeare
The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1


Victoria said...

Hi! What a beautiful journey through your painting and seeing the process..absolutely stunning, such a gorgeous soul! I love all the detailing you did on this beautiful creature and the magenta is so striking and powerful. I too love owl symbolism..thanks for sharing the magic! Your owl spirit is vibing with lots of sacred energy..a truly awesome painting to meditate on!
It must be incredible to see and explore all the paintings and hard work from everyone..fantastic!
Thanks for such a beautiful post!
Wishing you a sparkling Summer Solstice upcoming!

donna baker said...

It's beautiful Lucinda. We have Screech owls at the farm and they are precious. I used to leave my bedroom door open at night and one night though a woman (or banshee) was screaming outside. My hair stood up until I realized it was a Screech Owl.

Loree said...

What a beautiful piece of work. The owl looks very life-like. I've meaning to write and thank you for your postcard which arrived a while ago. But I've been in a bit of a funk due to some things that have happened in this country - which is no excuse. Anyway, hope to get another round of postcards going soon.

rjerdee said...

Wow, Lucinda! You are a paragon of patience...I could never get myself to work through so much detail, let alone paint with a 0000 brush! Congrats on a beautiful result, I totally enjoyed getting to be part of your teaching processes.

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Victoria said...

Hi Lucinda, just checking in on you, hearing about all the fires, so very sad to hear, I am not sure where you are in California, hope you are ok my sweet friend.

Candy said...

Lucinda, I hope all is well. Waiting for a post.

Candy said...

Hi, Lucinda! I miss your lovely posts! Still waiting patiently. Happy New Year!