Picture Profile 1514: ” Sun’s up; time for bed” (Barn Owls Portrait)

View a little Video of the Painting Process for this artwork

1514 “Sun’s up; time for bed” (Barn Owls portrait). Artist Code: 1514. Picture inception and preliminary drawing done in May 2015. Painting started April 2020, completed 8th August 2020. Original Water colour. Unframed Aquarelle Arches 140lb 100% cotton rag paper, 14″ x 20″. [250 Prints available].


In December 2014 I spent the most wonderful 5 hours sitting in an aviary with two beautiful barn owls (Robbie and Suzie). I took over 400 photographs and just watched them (see photographs at the base of this page). What extremely graceful creatures they are and so silent in their flight. I had attended a friend’s 70th birthday party in August 2014 which was lovely, and he showed me his two barn owls, with an open invitation to visit any time to get resource photographs.

In May 2015 I attended an exhibition at Hinchingbrooke Country Park and one visitor to the exhibition on the day that I attended as Artist in Residence commissioned me to secretly paint a portrait of a barn owl for her husband’s birthday. After I had produced the preliminary sketch for approval (which she liked very much), she felt that her husband ought to see it. It wasn’t that he disliked the sketch, he decided that his dear wife should not pay that much for his present, so very reluctantly she decided not to go ahead with the commission. But having drawn the preliminary sketch I thought I might as well paint a picture. I was then fortunate enough to receive a run of commissions, so this painting was relegated to my “Paintings to Do” list, which permanently has about 25 picture ideas on it!

Preliminary Sketch for the Commission which was cancelled.
Revised Sketch for my own painting

After playing tennis on 27th June 2020, I came home and, unusually on a Saturday, decided to do a bit of tidying up. I came across the old commissioned owl sketch, so decided to paint it. As you can see above, in the original sketch there was only one owl, but I thought two would make a nicer portrait. So I re-drew the composition on a larger sheet and added another owl. Males differ from females only by the fact that their coat is paler in colour than the female and I wanted to show this. I had also discovered a lovely big hole in an ash tree whilst on one of my field trips and photographed and used it as a natural backdrop to my painting, rather than the made-up one in the original commission sketch.

Over the following couple of months I made several attempts to complete the painting which I had drawn out and at one time thought I had mucked it up completely, in between worrying about book illustrations and other work. But, at 11.30pm on the balmy night of Saturday 8th August 2020, I finally completed it! This is yet another large water colour (which I promised myself I would not do again), the birds being life-size which can be anywhere between 11″ and 17″ tall. But if needs must….

Here are just four photographs of the myriad taken whilst I sat in the birds’ aviary on that beautiful, crisp December morning in 2014:

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