Burrowing Owl – Athene cunicularia. 11 x 17″ prismacolor on bristol
When I first began illustrating birds seriously almost three years ago, I spent the majority of my time on owls. For whatever reason, I was fascinated in the way their faces translated onto both canvas and paper. I remember when I realized the power that the eyes have for communicating the spirit of life within a creature. The exercise of illustrating owls taught me the importance of light and detail in the eyes of birds, especially raptors.
In the past I was focused on illustrating the face and busts of birds of prey. I stayed away from illustrating the full body of birds due in part to my fascination with the face, but also because I felt that I couldn’t create a proper and natural bird. Now I’ve started a campaign with myself to overcome my weaknesses and illustrate birds as a whole, either perched or in flight. While the exercise is to properly portray a bird in whole, I’ve made it a priority to take the lessons I learned from illustrating a birds face and invoke the same sense of life and attitude in the full-bodied bird.
Creating images of living creatures has more to it than I’ve ever thought. I see incredible paintings of Gyrfalcons in flight pursuing prey, or a Great Blue Heron stalking something in shallow water, and I can’t help but marvel at the mastery the artist holds over both their medium and their subject. I hope to reach even a fraction of the ability of some artists, but at the same time I’ve realized that perhaps the process is more enlightening and more worthwhile than the product. In the end, I’ll understand birds to a greater degree simply because I have put energy and focus into their details, and attempted to communicate their life and spirit through my own creative ability.