I have been working on another barn owl this week, this time in watercolour. It is an image that I've used before, taken from shots I took of the owl that quietly sits at reception at the British Wildlife Centre in Godstone, Surrey. The previous sketch helped to inform me of the bird's anatomy.
I started with a very rough sketch. I don't always start this way, but for animals I feel it is crucial to spend sometime getting the proportions just right. I then move on to the face. I think that if you fluff the eye, the finished work will never look right!
I do use a few techniques, rock salt sprinkled onto wet paint creates fabulous effects, as well as cling film which is laid over paint a left to dry. This leaves lovely natural 'creases' on the surface. I love to retain as much natural movement in the paint as I can. I work wet into wet, enjoying the habit of watercolour. It is painting on the edge, but without the risk, for me the painting can lose some excitement. I quite often give the painting a bath too, not necessarily to remove mistakes, but to embrace the effect it gives. When the paint is semi-dry, a quick rinse lifts some areas which also gives a natural finish. I always like to combine these methods and use in moderation, for a variety of marks is key.