Over Christmas I drew some owls in my sketchbook; I thought I’d revisit my Tawny Owl sketches, working on them further paying attention to pattern, colour and simplifying form. I’m using black marker pens for the line and pattern, then blocking in watercolour after. These initial works are trying to get a grip on the form and posture of the bird.
Some facts about Tawny Owls are:
1) Resident of the UK and they prefer woodland, shelter-belts and gardens. Their short wings give them great manoeuvrability to hunt in woodland.
2) They live up to 4 years; they pair up in their first year with a mate and usually stay together for life. Tawny owls prefer to nest in a tree-hole but have been found to use magpie nests, squirrel drey, holes in buildings, and nest boxes. A pair will typically produce 2 to 3 eggs in a clutch.
3) It is thought the contact calls between females (ke-wick) and the answering male (‘hoo-hoo-oo’) is the source of the idea that a tawny owl’s call is ‘twit twoo’. And this misrepresentation may be derived from Shakespeare trying to make the overlapping calls fit into a verse in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
4) They are a nocturnal bird, active at night and roosting in the day. Old names for this owl are: hill hooter, screech owl, wood owl, beech owl and ivy owl. Some of these names are a reminder of the owl’s daytime roosts.
5) The pioneer bird photographer Eric Hosking lost an eye to a tawny owl while trying to photograph it. His biography was aptly titled An eye for a bird.
(© Catherine Cronin)