The Process of: Wisdom in the Forest

Wisdom in the Forest took quite a while to complete. Mainly because of the background. It’s always interesting to do a piece when the main focus isn’t the hardest or longest part of the piece. To achieve a look I was happy with I had to take my time with this one. More so than I have before.

To keep the entire piece interesting, I used several types of greens, yellows and brown in the background. I also included some various blues.

The reference photo is from 

Paper Used: Stonehenge Drawing Paper (piece size 14×9)

Tools Used:

















The Background

Wisdom 1
Pictured here is about 2 layers of light pencil blended out with odorless mineral spirits.


After a light sketch of the Barn Owl, I went in with a light wash of greens and yellows. At this stage, everything looks fairly messy and sketchy. For now, I’m not worried about it since I am just looking for placement of the colors. Details will come later after all. I leave the owl alone until the background is done.

Wisdom 2
Although the owl is the focus, getting the background in first and correct is extremely important.



To get to this stage it took a lot of layers, patience and time. For the background I went with about 5-6 layers of color. With each pass, I use more pressure to put down more color. I work in chucks for the background. Taking small bits like this makes things less overwhelming. As the colors swoop up the colors get lighter and brighter. Over time, I use more light greens and yellows. I started with the darks since I know they will take the longest to complete.

Wisdom 3
Doing an out of focus background is a great way to learn blending of colors as well. To see if the colors work well together, keep a scrap of paper next to you to do a test.



The background by this point is almost complete. I still bounce around the image to smooth out the colors and do this even when I work on the owl. Because the background is out of focus, I want to keep that blurry look. At the same time it needs to make sense. I’m not going in any particular order with the colors either. The only main thing I remember is to keep the brightest areas bright and darken them last.

The Owl


Wisdom 4
Placing white down first also creates a softer look, perfect for feathers.



Most of this little guy is white. First I cover him in white pencil. Why when the paper is already white? White is never truly white, there is usually some other hints of color. By placing white down first, you can go over that with other colors lightly without loosing that white color. Once that’s done it’s time to place in the colors around his face (or her). The face is done to near completion before moving onto the rest of the body.

Wisdom 5
The wing was the hardest part of the owl. Also keep in mind the direction of the feathers when doing birds. If done wrong, the whole piece looks off.



When I got to the wing I had to break up the process that was similar to how I worked the background. There’s more detail in the wing which is handled with care. I bounce around the entire owl while doing the wing so things balance out more. The main colors I use here are browns, blues and purples.

The Final Piece



Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper; 14x9; $200.00
Colored Pencil on Stonehenge Paper; 14×9; $200.00

And here is the final piece! Better image as well. To finalize the whole piece I softened the edges around the owl so the bird doesn’t look like a cut out. The last part of the whole piece was the details in the feathers and the stump he is perched on.


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