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.
In Celtic mythology "Owls knew the way to the underworld and were fierce defenders of truth and honor."
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.
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.
The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1