Friday, February 27, 2009

Barn Owl Detail

The barn owl painting is almost complete, and this will be the last work in progress before the painting is complete. As mentioned in my first thesis post, I will not be posting the finished paintings online until after I complete my thesis. However, once that is complete (in May), I will post all the finished paintings here for everyone to see. And, as always, I will continually be posting sketches and works in progress of each thesis painting as I work on it.

These owls are not done yet, but they are very close!

And, as I was waiting for one of my stretched sheets of watercolor paper to dry, I did a quick, miniature painting of a barn owl as more practice. This is actually in ATC/ACEO format (2.5 X 2.5 inches). If your monitor resolution is 1024 X 768, then the size on your screen is close to the painting's actual size.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barn Owl - Work in Progress 2

Well, I have the wood in the barn and hay bales almost finished. Now it's time to work on the owls.

The wood isn't nearly as 'whitewashed,' but due to the size of the piece (and it being mounted on a board), I had to photograph it instead of scan it. Thus, there are some strange light things going on. There's still much more work to be done, but I think it's coming along nicely.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Illustration Portfolio Reviews - A Realization

Today I received portfolio reviews from two very talented and well-established illustrators, who reminded me of a few things that I seem to have forgotten about in the past year. I hesitate to name them here, since I respect the suggestions they gave me and I would prefer to keep their identities private.

One of these suggestions was that I work on more humans. My portfolio was all birds, except for a couple of pieces. Last year, when Yuko Shimizu visited SCAD-Atlanta, she said the same exact thing about my portfolio, and it was a bit disheartening for me to realize that for an entire year, I haven't created anything non-bird related that I was pleased with enough to place in my portfolio. My plan for this year (aside from completing my thesis), is to work on more human-figure work.

The two artists I spoke with had no problems with my work having fantasy elements - in fact, one of the illustrators has worked for Tor Books, and his own portfolio has a bit of fantasy. As the other illustrator said, "you're great at birds. You've got the birds down. Now lets see some people."

I am going to listen to her advice. I'm quite excited with the ideas that are coming to mind.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Barn Owl - Study and Work in Progress

A study of a barn owl, just for plumage practice:

I started the background washes for the barn owls. At first, I had in my mind to paint it as a moonlit scene. The owls would be illuminated by white moonlight, as would part of the interior of the barn. However, I as started working on the study, I realized that in order to really bring out the rich colors of this owl, I should place it in daylight. I thought the hazy, yet yellow light of sunrise would work well. It's even more fitting, since barn owls hunt at dawn, as well as at sunset and midnight.

There will be much more detail, but for now, I am establishing tones based on the light and its source. The owls are also masked with masking fluid, so I don't have to worry about the dark background washes interfering with their lighter tones.

An Important Message about Hiring Illustrators

This post is temporarily in storage. It is cross-posted in my Livejournal under a friend's lock.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thesis Paintings - Barn Owl

I have started work on my M.F.A. Illustration thesis - a bit early actually, but with the amount of research and artwork that are required for such a massive project, it is necessary. The subject of my thesis will be an illustrative look at birds of prey and their influence on human life, history, and culture. In addition, I will look at the place of raptor artists such as John James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, Roger Bateman, and Peter Parnall and explore how their work affected peoples' perception of birds of prey.

Subjects I will look at include golden eagles as used by the Mongolian eagle hunters, falconry in the Middle East, Europe, and North America, owls and hawks as natural 'rodent control' on farms, and the place of birds of prey as deities, such as the harpy eagle in South America, the bald and golden eagles by Native Americans, and the vulture and falcon in ancient Egypt.

I have completed the first painting of 15, which depicts the golden eagle of the Mongolian eagle hunters. As I will be showing these for my thesis exhibition, I have chosen not to publish them online until after my exhibition. However, I will continuously be uploading the sketches and works in progress here as I complete them.

The second painting I am working on depicts the barn owl. A nice quote I found concerning the hunting skill of this intriguing bird is summed up quite well by Ted Andrews in his book, Animal Speak: "A barn owl can kill ten times the amount of mice than a cat in a single night and more if there are young to be fed.” This fact has been reiterated in a number of texts, including Iain Taylor's "Barn Owls: Predator-Prey Relationships and Conservation and Angus Cameron and Peter Parnall's The Nightwatchers. The fact that barn owls are simply excellent at hunting mice seems pervasive. Unfortunately, this knowledge wasn't always so widespread. Owls, as well as many buteos have historically been shot, trapped, and poisoned by farmers who incorrectly believe them to be poultry hunters. The ironic truth is that without these birds to control rodent populations, many a farmer finds his crops overrun by mice, voles, and other small mammals.

Here is one page of rough sketches:

For my final painting, I combined aspects of the bottom two. I liked the almost-profile view of the owl in flight, but I also wanted an owl perched, in the bottom left corner. I also found several problems with light sources (such as the moon behind the owl, which is illuminated from the other side), which I fixed in the final sketch.

This is the final drawing on the stretched watercolor paper (about 10.5 X 17 inches). I have purposefully left the owls undetailed, as I will be masking them with masking fluid to keep their edges crisp and white for when I do the first, broad washes for the background.

I have developed a fondness for barn owls after doing all this research on them. Their lifespans are strangely short for a bird of prey (under 8 years for most - owls in general usually live at least 10 to 15 years, and many hawks and eagles live up to 30 years in the wild). Paired with their almost ethereal appearance and presence, they seem almost otherworldly. Spiritual. Every time I look at the gray, white, and brown plumage of a barn owl, I cannot help but think of how these birds have such a natural aesthetic! I look forward to painting this one.