Are you drawn to the mesmerizing world of wildlife and keen to capture its beauty through art?
Painting a burrowing owl perching on a stump with soft pastels and pastel pencils is a delicate and rewarding process that will bring to life one of nature’s most fascinating creatures.
This instructional post is a comprehensive guide for pastel artists of all levels – from beginners to seasoned wildlife enthusiasts.
By following these steps, you can unleash your creativity and master the technique of painting a burrowing owl with the depth and vibrancy that pastels can offer.
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Before starting your artistic journey, gather the following materials:
- Pastel paper or sanded pastel paper for better grip
- An array of soft pastels in various shades
- Pastel pencils for fine details
- Blending tools such as your fingers, blending stumps, or tortillons
- A soft brush for dusting off pastel particles
- A fixative to set your pastel layers if desired
- A reference photo of a burrowing owl perching on a stump
To begin, you need a clear photo of a burrowing owl. Ensure you can see details of the owl’s feathers and the texture of the stump. Lighting is crucial for capturing the colors and shadows. Consider the composition and background, too, as these elements will set the scene for your painting.
It is essential to know that you can not sell your art if you use a reference photo you do not own is essential. You must take your own photo, get written permission from a photographer, purchase the rights for a reference photo or use reference photos from a royalty-free website.
Watch this time laps video on how to paint an owl with pastels.
Sketching and Composition
Use a light, neutral pastel to sketch the basic shapes of the owl and stump on your paper. Position the owl so it interestingly fills the space. Pay attention to the direction the owl is facing and any elements like its head’s tilt and the stump’s curvature. This initial sketch will be your guide, but don’t worry about achieving perfect outlines at this stage.
Use the grid method to accurately transfer the reference photo’s proportions to your paper if you struggle with sketching free-hand. Divide both the photo and your paper into equal squares, then lightly sketch each square’s content onto your paper.
Start With The Background
Begin by filling in the background with soft pastels. Use light, loose strokes to create a sense of depth and texture. Combine different colors like blues, greens, or browns to add interest and mimic the natural environment. Don’t worry about covering every inch of your paper as you will blend and layer more pastels on top.
Start by filling in the basic shapes of color on the owl, using soft pastels in light layers. Observe where the light is hitting and where the shadows are. Use reference photos to guide you on which colors and values to use.
Next, use darker shades of pastel pencils to add details like feathers’ edges. You can also create texture by using a lighter shade over the darker one with short, flicking strokes. Keep building layers of different colors to achieve depth and dimension.
Step 4: Adding Details with Pastel Pencils
Switch to pastel pencils for finer details with the base layer in place. Start by defining the feathers, paying attention to their direction and the color variations. Move onto the stump, adding texture with careful strokes. Remember, details can be built up, so keep a light hand at this stage.
Blending and Layering
Use your blending tools to mix the colors and soften any harsh lines to create a smooth appearance. Layering is an essential technique in pastel work. Apply additional layers of pastels to the areas where you want more saturation and depth, gradually building up the detail and contrast to make your owl and stump come alive.
Step 6: Final Touches
As you near completion, step back and assess the overall look of your painting. Add any final details, like highlights in the owl’s eyes or changes to the surrounding environment, that will bring the painting to its full potential. Consider accentuating shadows and using a small, pointed brush for precision work in these final stages.
This guide gives you the framework to create a stunning pastel painting of a burrowing owl on a stump, but remember that art is as much about personal expression as it is technique. Don’t be afraid to veer from the plan if inspiration strikes. Wildlife painting with pastels is a journey of continual learning and discovery. Embrace the process, experiment with your style, and most importantly, enjoy the creation of something truly special. Create, breathe life into your artwork, and let the spirit of the burrowing owl inspire the artist within you.