Time Lapse - Phantom of the North
Updated: Mar 30
I don't usually have a name for my paintings before I begin but this painting has been speaking to be for a while now. It started with a picture I took over 25 years ago of a Great Grey Owl near our old home in Your Region. The photo of the owl and it's surroundings didn't make for a great composition but I knew the angle of the owl's head and her piercing eye's would serve as a great reference for a future painting. Fast forward 25 years and I think I finally have the setting and composition worked out. This little time-lapse video is just the first part of the project. With my rough sketch completed, I begin the painting by blocking in the grey/blue background birch trees.
The birch trees play a significant supporting role in this painting not only offering a perch for this Great Grey, but also in providing elements of balance and flow. When I was a small kid I used to call these trees, rabbit trees, due to their unique colouring and markings. The bark on birch trees provides a lot of options to an artist when painting as the pealing bark and scarring create a lot of variations and points of interest. In this little time-lapse video I block in the trees and build depth by adding shadows and detail to the tree trunks and branches in the foreground and creating a more faded look for those further back.
The silent hunter comes alive in this stage as I start on the Grey Owl's head. A lot of time and attention is initially spent on the eyes before I move to the small feathers that form the dish-like face of this beautiful creature. As mentioned previously, for the owl's head I'm working from a photo that I took more than 25 year ago. What I liked about this particular photo was how focused the owl looked, even with me in his presence and I wanted to capture that intense focus in this painting. Just like our human faces, the owl's face is asymmetrical. There are slight variations in the feathering around the eyes and it's important to capture these little nuances in order to give the owl a more realistic and natural look.
After a bit of a break during the Holidays it's back to the studio to continue work on Phantom of the North. This is the fourth installment with work continuing on the Gray Owl's chest. The feathers here are very smooth and flowing, difficult to see where one feather stops and the next one starts which is a nice transition from the stiffer facial and wing feathers (which are yet to come).
The last stages of this painting involved blocking in the main feather groups of the wing and then adding in the variegated feather details. Once that was completed I go over the entire painting adding in highlights and shadows to bring out more depth.
The last Gray Owl painting I did was 20 years ago and as I had mentioned in the first post for this project, this new painting is, in part, based on a photograph I took more than 25 years ago. so I'm am really excited to be painting this magnificent owl once again and bring her back to life.
I'm also thrilled that this painting will be hanging in the home of good friends of mine, John Shanks and Kathy Soule. Thank you John & Kathy! Title: Phantom of the North Detail: 24" x 18", Acrylic in Canvas