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In breaking from my many years working in the aviation business commercially I wanted a debut piece to have some real impact. I had created a piece for a company that manufactured night vision goggles used in aircraft not long before I left my former job. Their company logo was a Great Horned Owl. I painted a flight helmet used in helicopters that had a night vision mount and I painted the big owl eyes above where the goggles attached. That helmet was taken to a national law enforcement conference (ALEA) and to my surprise, their trade show booth was mobbed with people trying to get a look at the helmet. I chalk it up to being a big fish in a small bowl, most law enforcement and related companies are not known for their dazzling imagery so my beautiful helmet really stood out among other artwork of badge images and reflective tape.
I also love owls and birds of prey. I live in a rural area of Colorado and I have a Great Horned Owl that lives behind my house. I see him almost every night. The combination of my access to owl reference material and the former success of the helicopter helmet is why I chose a Great Horned Owl as my first major subject to paint since flying solo. I started with the eyes because if you don't absolutely nail the eyes then there is no use continuing. I do much of my work airbrushing acrylic so for an extremely hard line as in around the eyes and beak I designed line art in the computer and cut a mask to shoot through using computer graphics software and a plotter like what is used in the sign industry. Then while leaving the background covered I painted the yellow of the eyes. Then I painted the black in the center. I put in imperfections and graduated tones to give the eyes depth and realism. Finally I added the reflection which was done using a loose mask technique and freehand airbrush. Once I was happy with the eyes I covered them up and moved on to the beak. To be continued...