Owl on Illustration Board- A Tutorial



Late last year I was working with a friend (Kyle Allen Grover) who was using liquid acrylic inks on illustration board to paint American-Traditional tattoo designs.  I was impressed with their versatility whether used straight from the bottle or thinned down to be used as a wash so I figured I’d give them a try.

For this owl painting I used J.W. Rowley Burnt Umber ink, Talens Drawing ink and a bit of thinned out copic white for the highlights.  For the surface I used 110lb cold pressed illustration board made by Crescent.  I used two different sized water color brushes for the owl (one for the larger areas, one for finer detail) and a fine tipped brush for adding small hints of white.

For my initial lay-in I usually thin down a bit of my mail color and do a wash across the surface.  I dislike working on while surfaces ad I feel its harder for the eye to accurately judge value relationships; darks will always appear too dark and colors will always appear too bright.  I used a large sponge brush to apply the wash, and a bit of paper towel to keep it even and not oversaturating the board.  If you get the surface too wet it will tend to buckle.  For reference, the size of the piece is 30×40″.

After this dried I scrubbed a bit of charcoal across the back of my reference, flipped it over and lightly traces the major shapes onto the board.  Its important to not use graphite as it can and will show through subsequent layers of ink or paint.  Its also important to only trace out as much as you need.  trying to trace every value shift and shape will muddy your overall composition and make it impossible for the piece to have any originality or flavor.

I’d also like to stress that you will get a richer color, with fewer dry margins if you layer your ink slowly, with varying  strengths over time.  simply applying what you think is the right value in one go will make your work patchy and will make transitioning areas a lot harder.  I usually work with 3-5 different strengths, the lightest one being just a bit stronger than my background tint.  Another not of caution would be to not let too much ink sit on the brush.  I have a habit of lightly dragging a freshly dipped brush across a paper towel,  you dont want he ink to sit on the surface too long without penetrating.

After deciding that everything was in place, I began with the first area.  keep in mind this painting took over 30 hours to complete, with each area being painted several times to get just the right amount of detail.

In this picture you can see that the amount of detail in the tracing isnt too great.  This initial sitting took something like 3 hours.  Most areas of this piece took several sittings each to get the best feel.  compare this to the next shot, or even the final above and you can see how much richness is acheived if youre willing to take the time.
Went back into the wing again, worked on the head and body and started to work on the other wing.
Worked back into the tail and body and added some more to the wing
Getting close to donezo here.  You can see that nearly every step I went back into previous areas and usually added more mids and darks.  The final step is to add actual blacks in the darkest areas and add some white highlights.  I also went into the background to give it a bit of a darker feel and some vertical elements to suggest trees.
All finished.  Owl. 30×40″ Ink on Illustration board.  I usually varnish with a spray matte finish.  Thanks for taking the time to read and look.

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