Barn Owl by Sue Irving
It began last year with a friend giving me the semi-circular leaf of an old table. “I’m sure you can do something with it.” she said.
It was a beautiful piece of maple wood and we both felt it would be a shame to just throw it out. I had long envisioned painting something on my barn wall in that particular shape but had not done so as my barn wall is not in good condition and it would have involved using a ladder.
So here was my perfect solution. I had my husband sand it and I gave it 2 coats of gesso. Then it sat for months, until COVID 19 appeared. With nowhere else to go and nothing much else to do I decided to get on with it. But first I had to decide on a design.
I wanted something that would look right in any season. Eventually I decided on a folk-art style that had something to do with barns. As my barn is full of mice, my plan was to paint silhouettes of mice dancing on a moon made of cheese against a starry sky. I painted the stars in the sky and the moon as a half wheel of cheese. Then I began to transfer the drawings of the dancing mice. But those large mice looked really creepy somehow, so change of plan.
My husband suggested an owl. At this point I did not want to get into changing the moon and stars, so I decided on an owl in flight with a bit of landscape silhouetted at the bottom. I was unsure whether it was finished so asked many of my fellow artists here and in Ottawa what they thought.
Some said leave it and others suggested some sort of outlining. I decided to try the outlining. So as not to ruin the piece I spread cling film over it and painted the changes on the cling film. I went through several sheets of cling film before I came up with giving the owl a bit more definition by outlining the feathers and face with the same colour I had used on the moon. This, to me, gave it almost the look of a totem and I was happy with it.
I then brushed 2 coats of good quality outdoor craft varnish on it and now it is hung on the barn wall from a sturdy chain. It will be interesting to see how it withstands the weather over the winter and hopefully beyond before I will have to take it down and refurbish
It is 40″ long by 12″ at its highest point.
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