A new medium

I’ve got a new project in the works—something I haven’t done much of at all: painting in three dimensions.

My friend Steve, a carver, asked if I would be interested in painting one of his wooden birds. Most of Steve’s birds are simple, graceful, smooth wood—and I think they look lovely in that form. But the short-eared owl he was offering experienced some issues that required a putty repair, so its face isn’t pristine wood. I couldn’t resist the opportunity!

Here’s the starting point.

My first thought was that I really didn’t want to lose that lovely red-cedar grain. The color and texture works so well as a background pattern for feather markings. So after a little experimentation, I decided to use alcohol-based markers directly on the unfinished wood surface. The wood is dense enough that the markers don’t bleed much, and the markers’ transparency allows the grain to show through nicely.

I started on the face, using thinned white acrylic with a little burnt umber to blend the putty color into the characteristic pale “mask” feathers of the short-eared owl. I added the triangular eye markings and the beak with black acrylic paint, and used my palest tan markers to establish the facial disk feather pattern.

Now I’m laying in the basic body and wing feather patterning with those same very pale markers.

After I get the patterns all on, I’ll add darker brown layers over the top.