Tyto Alba (Barn Owl)

Tyto Alba (Barn Owl)

Tyto Alba (Barn Owl)

IMG_4247 copy

Watercolor & gold leaf on Arches archival wc paper 11 X 11.5

I LOVE Owls!  When I was very little, there was an owl in our basement….(my brother practiced taxidermy.)  It was a scary place to go for a little girl. But the owl had always captured my imagination. I heard owls hooting and screaming in the woods in back of our house. They were always so mysteriously beautiful to me. . .I wanted to try and capture some of that if I could. I need more practice, so more owls to come… But for now, here are some of the progress shots of this one.
I used my iPad to display the photo (it fit nicely on my drafting table) and lightly sketched in the shape. I like to use a Berol-Verithin black pencil with a very sharp point. It makes a finer line than a regular graphite pencil. That’s just a preference, they are a tad harder to erase if you press too hard.


Just some light washes of color next, with Windsor & Newton cerulean blue, rose madder and burnt sienna.


I knew I was going to gild the background, so after finishing the next layers of washes, and the detail work, I laid in an intense ultramarine, rose madder and burnt sienna wash.


(c)2014 C Henle All Rights Reserved

(c)2014 C Henle All Rights Reserved

I had fun playing around with this, because I knew that the leaf would be covering much of it. I tried to concentrate the brightest blues in areas I knew I’d leave more of it showing through the leaf.


After the gilding was complete, I went back in and finessed some edges and more details. I will admit, I kind of fall in love with every piece while I am engaged with it. Everyone is different, but  I have found that I need to walk away and come back to see it in a few days, when I can be more critical. That’s when I add or subtract details, soften or lighten, or darken any areas that need it.  Then, the fun part: peeling away the tape to reveal clean edges, gazing at this newborn to see if it requires anything else of me, then considering how it would best like to be matted and framed. I also enjoy sending them out into the world – after all, they aren’t really children, even though it can feel a bit similar at times. Soon, I will be invested in another, and giving it all my attention.

I was surprised to learn that the barn owl is considered endangered in some places.  In the USA, Barn Owls are listed as endangered species in seven Midwestern states, and in the European Community they are considered a Species of European Concern.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 5.10.20 AM

Reason for Decline: Land use changes, particularly the decrease in the number of farms, have contributed to the decline of this species.Not only has foraging habitat been reduced, but the increased use of rodent poisons has resulted in a smaller food base. Natural nest sites in hollow trees are often limited, and human disturbance of the nest during incubation may cause nest abandonment. One common cause of mortality is predation of young barn owls by raccoons. Other mortality factors include exposure to harsh weather, electrocution by power lines, predation by dogs and great-horned owls, and accidental entanglement in farm and industrial machinery.




Click to enlarge


Pink: Endangered; these states may have already suffered such losses of barn owls that habitat restoration combined with nest box programs may be necessary to bring back any numbers.

Yellow: Species of Special Concern; these states have seen declining populations. They are excellent states for conservation oriented nest box erection programs in areas of good barn owl habitat.

Light Blue: Fair populations; these states offer excellent opportunities to establish robust populations of barn owls for natural rodent control and integrated pest management.

Dark Blue: Good populations; these states have such high populations of barn owls that nest boxes are inhabited relatively quickly and occupied at relatively high rates. In such states, barn owls will tend to have more than one brood per year. Excellent states to use barn owls in sophisticated rodent control programs.