Moving forward with my ruling pen experiments, I decided to take on a subject loved by all, myself included. As seen in the video above, I drew the magnificent owl.

In my classes, I often mention my “treasure box” of three-dimensional objects and materials, but I also have boxes and files full of flat photos and more for reference. While searching through my archives of photos and portfolio of my own artwork, I came across a sketch I did long ago. It attracted me because it was in profile, looking in one direction and yet looking directly at me almost daring me to try. I can’t turn down a challenge from…well, this time the challenge was from my past self, so I could hardly disappoint me by backing down from the owl’s gaze (that I drew)!

There wasn’t much detail of the owl’s environment in my sketch, so I had options regarding how, when, and where to position it. Should I choose the bare branches of winter? A lush spring bow would be an unexpected choice for the depiction of an owl, and I do love adding the unexpected to my artistic practice. All of the options are so interesting, and yet I chose to give this piece a more traditional (when thinking of an owl, that is) autumn feel. A branch without leaves, but with some color, felt like the right combination for me to achieve that.

Now it was time to go get on the internet and view colors for this owl, get a more realistic feel for it, and get to experimenting. Several new sketches happened during this process. Several color themes were tested too. And I practiced until I was satisfied, until I had it right for me.

I have found it is tricky for me to develop form, texture, and a realistic feel when a subject has white as its primary color. So, because of all these things, I needed to be especially mindful and deliberate about how I could achieve artistic interest and depth while still remining true to the subject. Of course, I could always have gone completely off-the-wall and replace the white feathers with neon green or royal purple for a fantasy-style look, and I would love to see another artist’s interpretation of that idea, but I wanted to practice realism in this particular artwork.

Since I have done several pieces in this style, marker first then detailing with a ruling pen and India Ink, the entire process was accomplished smoothly. The owls I finished each have a different personality, feel, and attitude through the simplest variances, mainly the eyes. Yet a tilt of the head, position of the tail, and how it sits on the branch can each change the overall perception of the owl for the viewer. This is why I always say practice, practice, practice. Find what you like, learn from what you’re not fond of, and your art voyage will ultimately bring you satisfaction and new ideas.