flammulated owl nestling

flammulated owl nestling


https://www.maxpixel.net/Portrait-Flammulated-Owl-Nestling-Wildlife-Nature-890638“snuggle into this moment like a bird into her nest,” I wrote in a poem, which prompted me to search online for images of nesting birds. I found this photo of a flammulated owl nestling.

I had a good time with my research. First, to discover that “flammulated” means “flame colored.” Then, to read about flammulated owls. Then, not a good time, to sit with my mourning about habitat and species loss.

Funneling into my inspiration was watching videos of watercolor artists at work (thank you, YouTube). I keep learning about washes and letting colors mix on the paper. Painting while holding the brush in my mouth is not a quick process, so I can’t work wet-into wet the way I might like. Still, I learn by watching and then making reasonable accommodations.


What a lovely creature to contemplate!

I made several test palettes of blues, grays, purples and greens. That helped me understand what was likely and possible with the paints I am using.

Then, I worked background to foreground, concentrating on the nesting fibers around the bird before moving to the bird itself. Then, I worked on giving the body some depth.

Finally (and most nerve-rackingly), I painted the face, including the eyes. Working with my somewhat-unpredictable body makes painting animal expressions tricky. One wrong slip of the brush ruins the painting since watercolor marks can’t be corrected.


it helped for the subject to be a simple shape.

The combination of long thin lines and small, blobby areas fits my brushes and abilities.

I am happy when I am painting. Sharing the product and the process (even if it’s only virtual and therefore somewhat in my imagination) and to my happiness.


Posted on

April 1, 2019


  1. Catharine Wilson Pote

    Kate, this delicate little guy’s expression captivated me from first glance, even before that luminous ‘halo’ – tender vitality! -caught my awareness. All your study paid off all right: wee owl seems to have been breathed onto the paper. This week I’m grieving, and your flammulated (!) fellow lifts my heart. Grateful for this portrait of new life and its light.

    • Kate

      Thank you for your kind words. I am happy that the downy feathers around this outlet’s body became a halo. Be gentle to yourself as you grieve.


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