Worcestershire, UK, Snowy Owl, oil, 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm)
As someone whose main leisure activity, along with my artwork, is walking in local countryside and whenever possible in the upland and coastal areas around the country, I get plenty of inspiration from nature. Much of my work is based around the landscapes and wild animals I encounter when I am out on these walks. Some of the most rewarding and best-received paintings I have done are of birds so when my daughter asked me to paint a snowy owl for her I took on the challenge with enthusiasm.
My Design Strategy
This painting was to complement a previous one I had done for my daughter of a wolf, which had a red- based background and a busy blue-grey main subject. For this painting I chose the same canvas size and was able to use a green-based background and calmer main subject to give a sharp contrast between the paintings. The dark background needed to be soft and distant and the white owl created a stark contrast to give the painting impact. I am a realist painter at heart but still like my work to look like a painting not a photograph. I wanted areas of detail and worked looser and softened others for contrast and depth.
My Working Process
I prepared the canvas with extra coats of gesso primer and a good sanding down, so it was smooth and easy to work on. I did a detailed sketch in pencil, which involved measuring for accuracy of the key features. I put the background colours down with thinned paints and then blended them with watercolour fan brushes as the softness gave the smoothness I wanted. The owl was then added with lightest colours first and steadily built up with lots of levels of blue, purple and green-grey combinations. The final phase involved putting on the strong white highlights, the eye detail and the leaves in the background.