Barn Owl Detailed Watercolour Painting (tyto alba)
The imposing Barn Owl is one of my favourite birds, so I was looking forward to this painting. I don’t normally see them in the day, but I can hear the Barn Owl screech at dawn and dusk.
Generally I only manage to see Barn Owls late at night. When I go for a moonlit wander I usually see a Barn Owl perched on a field gate. I enjoy a late night wander when the moon is at its fullest. The countryside seems to have a different sound at night.
Beginning to paint
I kept the drawing layout simple. The watercolour brush creates the detail. I started painting the Barn Owl’s feet and claws first. Lots of negative painting (painting everything but the white areas, using the paper to be my white paint).
The Barn Owl has lots of grey and black markings on the ends of its feathers. I have painted every single marking. I had to paint with very tiny brushes to achieve the fine detail in the painting.
No white paint, No masking fluid, the paper is the white
You can see how tiny the brushes are. Small brushstrokes help me preserve the white areas of the paper. The delicate markings of the Barn Owl have been painted and also the light flow and movement of the feathers has been captured.
I do not used masking fluid. The whole painting would have to be mapped out, to use masking fluid. I prefer to have a very loose drawing, then make decisions as I paint. With such delicate paintwork, there are times I seem to hold my breath to keep my hand steady. I cannot correct mistakes with watercolour, compared to using oil or gouache paint.
Close up of the Barn Owl face
Close up of the Barn Owl’s face starting to take shape. I want to keep white areas of the paper to represent the fine white feathers that lie across the dark eyes and the pink beak. To complete the painting I needed a steady hand, because once I’ve applied the paint to the paper, there’s no going back.
There is still a lot more feather texture to paint on the face.
Barn Owl Background
Into the final stages of the painting and I’ve painted the owl emerging from a wooden barn door, it’s natural habitat, that’s sadly, rapidly declining. So not only a detailed Barn Owl, but textured oak barn timbers in the background too. The timber has undertones of pinks and blues, representing the worn silvery tone oak becomes over time. There are lots of layers of watercolour paint applied to the painting. It is a balancing act, knowing how much paint to apply without damaging or removing the lower layers of paint. By adding layers of watercolour, it gives the painting a deeper tone of colours and finer definition.
Three primary colours for all watercolour mixes
It isn’t enough to paint fine detail, with small brushes and not use masking fluid or white paint. I also mixed my colours from three primary transparent watercolours. There is no black paint.
Last but not least the completed Barn Owl watercolour. I love the fine brushwork of the feathers and all the detail.