Monday, January 17, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat - Step by Step


One last thing from The Runcible Spoon blog before I take it down. A lot of people seemed to enjoy my take on The Owl and the Pussycat. So I posted a 'here's how I did it' stage by stage explanation. Here it is again if you missed it.

I decided to illustrate the first verse of the poem and, as a kind of humorous back story, I thought it would be funny to have the owl serenading the 'beautiful pussy' while the poor cat is suffering a bout of seasickness. Cats and water? A classic mismatch. Here's my initial sketch:


I decided to paint the picture in acrylics (Boldmere, Crawford and Black, Daler Rowney) onto canvas with some Winsor and Newton inks and Posca pen highlights. The first stage was to block out the large areas of the canvas (sky and sea). I decided on a fairly stormy sky so that the reason for the cat's seasickness was self-evident. If your painting aims to tell a story, you have to provide some of the narrative.
As the Owl was meant to be looking at 'the stars above' I left an area free of cloud for them to twinkle through. A basic green was applied to the boat.

Waves were added to the choppy sea using a fan-shaped brush. I then began blocking in the Owl and the Pussycat. Almost immediately, I found myself disatisfied with the animals' faces. So I went away and found some good photo reference and redesigned both. I also agonised over the Owl's 'fingers' wrapped around the neck of the guitar. How could I make them look like fingers and feathers? Lots of sketches ensued ...

I'm not sure I really ever got the Owl's 'hand' right but it worked for the composition and I've kept it. I now started on the honey pot and baggage and did some work on the boat, adding detail with Winsor and Newton inks and Posca pens. Work on the cat was disastrous though. I really hated the way he/she was working so I decided to paint over the face and start again.
I did find some photos on the internet that helped me to finally get the Pussycat's face and expression right:
Almost there. I was now happy with sky, sea, boat and Owl. The honey pot was looking nicely stoeware and the Pussycat's head and face was much better. Still didn't like Pussy's draped leg but carried on to see where the painting took me.

And here's the final piece with the addition of a mast, sail, ropes and a wake cut into the sea. I was quite pleased with it overall ... but aren't we always our own worst critics? I'm still haunted by the Owl's left hand and the Pussycat's dangling leg. But these are quibbles. It was a piece I thoroughly enjoyed doing.
I hope you like it too.

1 comment:

Julie said...

That poem (and song) have been in my head ever since you started this blog. It's one of the songs I sang to my boy in his coma. I'm going to show him these pics next time I visit him x