Draw a Barn Owl
Draw a Barn Owl

Draw a Barn Owl

Here's a step by step guide to drawing an a Barn Owl - Tyto alba but you can use these same steps to draw any other bird (or any other animal for that matter.

1. Start by faintly drawing the outline of your piece paying attention to the overall shape and proportions. Map out where various parts are going to go, getting down all the important features, the eye, the curve of the wing, the outlines of the feathers etc.

Make sure that this outline is faint because in a real animal it's not actually there, the outline is just a guide for you. Remember that nothing on the animal is flat, the wings are curved and the individual feathers that make up the wings are curved too, the eye isn't a circle, it's a ball etc. It's worth taking the extra time at this stage because the more attention you pay to the shape of your subject now, the more accurate your final piece will look at the end. 

2. Begin adding in the detail, start with a particular feature, perhaps the eye and work that section up to completion to give you a waypoint for the rest of the drawing and then expand outwards from there.

3. With the outline done first bit of detail done, add in the rest of the details, e.g. on the feathers, you've got the outlines, now it's time for the individual barbs that give them their form and to add the shading...

If you've not already, take a look at the 'how to draw a feather' tutorial and use those steps here. Remember that the feathers overlap! you can't see all of each feather.

4. With the pencil work done, it's time to add the colour.  First go over some of the pencil work with fineliners to really darken up the black bits, then use markers to lay down and layer up flat colour that you can still see the linework through.

5. Now that your basic colour is done, use prismacolors and paint / ink to bring in the lighter values and start the highlights before going over the piecre again with fineliners to put back some of the details that that got coloured over. And then sharpen things up by taking a white pen to put in the last highlights... the light spot in the eye, the flash white where the light is reflecting off a talon or the tip of the beak etc.

Things to pay attention to.
- Remember this is an animal there are no perfectly straight lines or totally flat surfaces, everything is curved in some way. Eg each feather curves from it's base towards the tip and the surfaces of each feather are also curved. 
- When it comes to colouring it... remember that none of the colours is just one colour, e.g. the 'Orange' parts are actually a whole range of browns, reds, oranges, yellows and greys. That's what gives them their Warm colouring so have a practise mixing those colours on a separate sheet of paper before adding them to your own drawing.
- The colours are going to be darker in some parts and lighter in others eg darker in the middle of a feather and lighter towards the edges or darker there an area would be in shadow e.g. under the wing or under the body.
- And lastly, with the colour... start light and then build it up. If you go too dark too early you won't be able to get the effect you're looking for.

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To learn more about this species and hundreds of others, check out my books Hidden Planet and Sensational Butterflies, available from Ladybird books.
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