Owl Perching in the Wind

Owl perching in the wind. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Today somehow was owl day. I wanted to try something a little different and see if I could introduce a background successfully. I wanted to put color in but have a lot of interest in the largely uniform grass region. I think I’m pretty happy. The owl itself came out well and the whole thing has a liveliness and sense of the windy day it was. The gloved arm is James – we were in England and had a great time flying owls at Leeds Castle.

Flying Snowy Owl

It’s been about a year since I did a snowy owl. I had the chance to do a live demo at
Maine Audubon

in January 2018 which was great fun. I didn’t really feel that I’d done the subject justice so I wanted to have another go.

I think he came out very well. The blues and grays define the wings and feathers well without getting too dark and the wings and body have a lovely rhythmic shape to them. Phew!

Saw-Whet Owl Revisited

An owl commission came in last week for a saw-whet owl. There’s always a bit of pressure with commissions as you never know whether the magic will appear at the right moment. After a little bit of a shaky start this little chap came together well. I wanted to keep the intensity of the eyes and everything else a little loose. Very pleased – let’s see if the customer likes it as much as I do.

Something new – Oil Paints!

It was my birthday this week and I treated myself to a set of oil paints.   I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of months and after a trip to Post Road Art for some paints, medium and solvent it was off to the hardware store for cheaper things like gloves,  oil soap and  hand cleaner.     In total I spent around $150 which is more than I planned but I couldn’t really strip it back any more.

For my first time out I thought it best to stick with something I know so of course it was an owl!  Very much a voyage into the unknown here and I just jumped straight in with a few bits of knowledge I’ve picked up from reading various blogs.

First a charcoal drawing and an underpainting in burnt sienna thinned with Gamsol solvent.

Looks ok so far.    Now in with some paint.

This is mostly burnt sienna, ultramarine and yellow ochre with a quick try out of the background with prussian blue.   Still fairly happy here.   It’s very strange not dealing with water and I keep smudging things as I’m not used to the paint drying so slowly.     I do have to say it’s nice to actually know what value you’re putting down on the canvas rather some elaborate guesswork with watercolor.

Further on now – this was the second day.    Things seem to be coming together.  The dark feathers are going in well and the face is looking good.    

Almost at the end now.    The background has gone in simply – it’s my first try so nothing fancy.  The eyes and face have had some more work.  I still need to soften up some edges here as he’s a bit garish.   The body feathers and wings are probably not going to see much more work – I don’t want to mess things up,   The rocks definitely need something doing to them but that can wait until tomorrow.

So all in all I’m pretty chuffed.  I can’t say I like oils better than watercolor.  Watercolor does have a lot of charm that you just can’t get with oil.   But I think this has some potential.   and it was a fun birthday present.

Owl Finished

At least I think this is finished.   As usual I’ll keep him on the easel for a couple of days until I’m happy that no touchups are needed.    Due to travelling and other happenings t’s been a couple of weeks since I painted and it took me a little while to get back in the groove.   I like the end result though – not too cute but with a certain perkiness.    He’s up for sale in the usual place.

A few intermediates.   Unusually this one was done over two days.  Not sure if that helps.

This was the status at the end of yesterday.    I usually don’t put in the eyes so early on birds but I was having a little trouble with values so put them in so I could judge the rest of the plumage.   Happy so far.

Quite a bit further on here.   The feet have gone in – always a bit tense here but they turned out fine.   The branch is in and I tightened up the feathers around the face.

The final thing.   I beefed up the wing feathers to give him a little more zing and added a little interest into the background.   Job done.

Maine Audubon Exhibition and Owl Demo

Michele Clamp painting Maine Audubon’s snowy owl mount

Last autumn I was very happy to receive a request to show some Maine bird paintings at the
Maine Audubon Center

in Portland.    At the time we all thought it a great idea for me to do a watercolor demo of their fabulous new snowy owl mount.    Now producing most of the paintings went very well and some even sold before the opening and had to be replaced which is a nice problem to have.      However the snowy owls were a problem and it took me a few goes before I produced something I could bear to put up.  See the carousel below for my trials and tribulations.

So it’s fair to say I was a little unsure how the demo would turn out.      Or if anyone would turn up!

In the end everything turned out fine.    We had around 40 people come through – at one point around 35 were standing around watching the painting progress.   The shop did great business and I hope everyone had a good time.   I know I certainly did.   

Below is a time-lapse of some of the painting (sadly cut short before the end as we ran out of battery).


And here are a couple of shots during the session.    

So what was the end painting like.  Well – not too bad.    It was hard to keep the concentration going as well as people asking questions but I was pretty pleased in the end.    One thing I did learn,  however, was how much more satisfying it is painting from ‘life’ (or at least something in front of you) rather than a photo.  Even your own photos are rather dead and lacking in detail.