Ever since we moved into our new house, the wife has been telling me that the scale of our old barn wood picture frames is not right for our new den. She insisted that we needed one large painting over the couch instead of two small ones. Well, she bought me a beginner painting kit that’s been collecting dust in the basement for a few years, so I decided to paint the artwork myself. How does the saying go? Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
I wanted to do an abstract piece that was a hybrid between classical impressionism, Lichtenstein-esque comic panels, and aboriginal art. I know that sounds unbearably pretentious, but it’s really just a fancy way of saying I wanted to paint with dots. The wife likes owls, so my idea was to paint a horned owl (we have one in our back yard) camouflaged in fading moonlight.
To begin, I painted the background the same color as the rug in our den. This color is also incorporated in a piece on our fireplace mantel.
I found a photo of a horned owl online and ran it through a filter that greatly oversaturated the colors. I changed the aspect ratio to match the canvas and drew a 1″ x 1″ grid on the paper. Next, I drew a corresponding 4″ x 4″ grid on the canvas with chalk. Then I used the gridlines to plot the shape of the owl on the canvas.
Once the outline was drawn, I used sponges and a small brush to fill in the darkest parts on the image. I wanted the entire painting to be made up of dots.
Then I mixed paint hues to give the owl a multi-colored contrast.
It’s really coming together here like a tile mosaic.
Once the owl was finished, I went on vacation. That gave the paint over a week to dry. When I got back, I used a wet towel to remove the chalk and then drew a new grid with my 4′ level. This was for the background coloring.
The idea was to have the background color mimic moonlight in the woods. I decided to use a larger sponge to make dots that transition from white in the top-left to black in the bottom-right.
It was a challenge to maintain a consistent color transition, but I think it came out okay.
The I added colors in the gaps to camouflage the owl, making sure to use darker shades than the owl’s bright yellow eyes.
Finally, I varnished the painting to seal the paint and add some gloss to the colors. It really stands out now, doesn’t it?
Then I built a frame and hung it on the den wall. I should really take pictures in natural light, but it’s hard to do when the days are so short.
In retrospect, it was a little ambitious to do a 4′ x 3′ painting on my first try, but I think it came out okay. It took me ten hours to make the painting and another three to build and stain the frame.