Weekly Sketch – Cactus Collage – 26/03/2017

I’ve been playing around with painting textures and patterns on paper; then used them to make this cactus collage. The very bright green small cactus arm is one of those coffee cup cardboard holders; I used it to print the green zig-zags on the cactus arm behind it, then decided I quite liked it just as it was painted.

(© Catherine Cronin)

 

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Weekly Sketch – Little Owl – 12/02/2017

I’m working on capturing the characteristics of a full set of five English owls. This is the last owl, the Little Owl, which was actually introduced here in the 19th century. I am still paying attention to pattern, colour and simple forms. I have in mind to work up all these owl images into final pen and watercolour pictures and printed editions. I took these photos today in the gloom so there are some shadows on them that I couldn’t fix.

 

Some facts about Little Owls are:

1) As the name suggests the little owl is the smallest owl to be found in Britain, it is only 22cm long and it weighs a third as much as a Tawny Owl.

2) Little Owls can live up to 16 years; but many do not reach maturity being killed by harsh winters, predators and road vehicles, so their average life span is only 3 years.

3) This is the owl that is closely associated with the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman goddess Minerva; representing wisdom and knowledge. The genus name Athene commemorates the goddess, whose original role as a goddess of the night might explain the link to an owl. The species name noctua has, in effect, the same meaning, being the Latin name of an owl sacred to Minerva, Athena’s Roman counterpart.

4) Little Owls feed mostly on insects and small rodents; and they love eating earthworms after it has rained. But they also prey on amphibians, birds and on occasion rabbits! As well as swooping down on prey from an elevated position these owls will also hunt on foot, running to capture their prey.

5) In the UK the Little Owl prefers lowland farmland with hedges and copses, parkland and orchards. Males are sedentary, remaining in their territory throughout the year.

(© Catherine Cronin)

 

Weekly Sketch – Short-eared Owl – 28/01/2017

I’m working towards a full set of five English owls. So far I have captured the characteristics of the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, and Long-eared Owl. This week number four is the Short-eared Owl. I am still paying attention to pattern, colour and simple forms. Unfortunately I ran dry my favourite black markers, so I ended up using green and dark red markers instead.

Some facts about Short-eared Owls are:

1) Short-eared owls are one of the world’s most widely distributed owls, and among the most frequently seen in daylight; often seen hunting over open ground such as grassland. However they do most of their hunting at night; daylight hunting seems to coincide with periods of high-activity in their prey, voles.

2) Their habitats also include coastal grasslands, heathlands, meadows, shrubsteppe, savanna, tundra, marshes, dunes, and agricultural areas.

3) As suggested by their global distribution, these owls travel long distances including navigating oceans; it has been reported that these owls have been seen alighting on ships hundreds of miles from land.

4) These owls nest on the ground. The female will scrape a bowl out of the ground and line it with grasses and feathers; they will often build their nest atop the nest from the previous year. Nests are about 10 inches across and 2 inches tall. They will lay between 1-11 eggs.

5) The Latin name for this owl is Asio flammeus; Asio meaning a type of eared owl and flammeus meaning flame-coloured. This owl has short ear tufts which are hard to see and as in the Long-eared Owl have nothing to do with the owls’ ears!

(© Catherine Cronin)

 

Weekly Sketch – Long-eared Owl – 14/01/2017

I’m still drawing owls, I’m working towards a full set of English owls. This week it is the turn of the Long-eared Owl; in these drawings and paintings I am still paying attention to pattern, colour and simple forms. I’m using black marker pens for the line and pattern, then splashing on watercolour afterwards. I found drawing the essential forms of this owl’s facial features more difficult to capture than my previous owls.

Some facts about Long-eared Owls are:

1) It’s ‘ear tufts’ are nothing to do with the owls ears, and in fact are feathery tufts that the owl raises when it is alarmed.

2) This owl is nocturnal and secretive; and therefore only usually spotted when migrating or travelling back and forth to a communal roost in winter. Communal roosting is an unusual characteristic of this species of owl.

3) These owls roost in dense vegetation and forage in open grasslands or shrublands; also open coniferous or deciduous woodlands.

4) The loud hoot of the male Long-eared Owl can sometimes be heard up to 1 kilometer away.

5) Typical lifespan is 4 years.

 

(© Catherine Cronin)

 

Weekly Sketch – Tawny Owl – 07/01/2017

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)

 

Cardoon Seedheads – Colour & Form Exploration Part 2

I’m working my way towards a linocut print of Cardoon Seedheads. Early drawings blogged here and my first exploration of colour and form in this subject blogged here. I finalised the seedhead forms but wanted to explore the background a bit more. I created different backgounds using gouache paint and then arranged roughly made cut-out seedhead forms on top of each one to see which I preferred. Using cut-outs was a great way to avoid repeatedly drawing and painting the same seedheads for each background. I’m leaning towards a mixture of backgrounds 2 and 3 as seen in the images below – I just need to paint it up. Putting it on the to-do list.

CardoonCollage1CCroninweb CardoonCollage2CCroninweb CardoonCollage3CCroninweb

(© Catherine Cronin)