Over the weekend we had fairly windy and rainy weather so I decided to have a 'Hibernation Day' indoors and re-watch my favourite film: Labyrinth. As I've previously mentioned, I love everything about this film.
If you've never seen it (Why?!), David Bowie's Goblin King is able to turn into a barn owl. As you do. According to IMDB, this was actually the first attempt at including a CGI creature in a film.
Re-watching the film reminded me of how much I love barn owls. In English folklore they have been seen as quite menacing creatures and have even been linked to death. I think they were just misunderstood because they look so beautifully other-worldly. If you want to read more about them, I found a really interesting website here.
So, inspired by my favourite film, I decided to create my own barn owl illustration today.
I often get asked what I use in my illustrations, as well as how long each one takes me. The short answer to this is that it varies from piece to piece, and I'm often enjoying myself so much that I don't actually know how much time I've spent on something by the time I've finished. A large scale piece, like the one I started today, usually takes at least 3 days of actual painting and drawing time.
I thought I would share the first few stages of a piece with you today.
All of my work begins with mapping out a very rough sketch in pencil. I try to do this very quickly and not over-think it, but just try to capture a bit of life in what I'm drawing. I then do my main sketching with an old fashioned dip pen and Chinese black ink.
|Dip pen and ink sketch detail|
The next stage is my favourite. It's really important to me that I capture the feel of something rather than perfect details, so I like to make a mess here. I work over my dip pen and ink sketch with washes of water and different sized paint brushes to begin adding shading and some details. I usually chuck a bit of water on the paper and let it run down (I work on an easel). You can see this in the picture below, as well as where I've flicked the paintbrush on the wing. By this point I have permanent ink all over my clothes and face!
|Adding wash details|
I keep working over what I've done using water, ink and brushes until I'm happy with the first layer. It was getting quite dark by the time I'd reached this stage (below), so my spotlight was adding a touch of spooky lighting, which I actually really like!
|Current stage. First layer of ink complete.|
It'll be another 6 or 7 layers of different colours and materials before I add the final details to the illustration.