March 2020
Nearly every evening when I go outside to feed the horse and put the ducks and chicken safely in their 'house' for the night I hear an owl. Then, sleeping with my bedroom window open a crack, nearly every morning I hear him or her again. Some would say this is bad luck, but I say it's wonderful, and I dedicate this issue to that amazing bird!
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The Ubiquitous Barn Owl
When I think of owls, it is the barn owl that comes to mind with its distinctive heart-shaped facial disc and hisses and screeches. There are only two families of owl – the barn owls (Tytonidae) and the common owls (the Strigidae). Although there are many more species of common owls than barn owls, the common owl is the most widely distributed owl - and one of the most widespread of all birds.

The first half of my adult life, my husband and I lived on a property with an old well house. It was a big structure and originally housed a storage tank on the upper floor. Long fallen into disuse, it was the perfect home for barn owls, and a family occupied it the whole time we lived there. Anytime I wanted to see a barn owl, all I had to do was go to the well house and look up. In the spring, I’d see the young ones as well as the adults. What odd-looking but endearing creatures. And great neighbors!

Then we moved. Nearly 20 years ago on our new property, we built an owl box and, full of hope, installed it in an oak tree near the garden. But it took fifteen years until I first saw any evidence of habitation: sadly, the box had crashed to the ground in a storm and there were three owlets inside. Only one had survived. We took him/her to our local wildlife rehab group and they successfully raised and released him. Through that experience I learned that barn owl moms lay eggs every other day and they hatch that same interval apart. Owlets in a single clutch can vary in age by a couple of weeks.

Another interesting fact about barn owls is their ears as asymmetrical. One is higher than the other, and one more forward on the head than the other. This gives them excellent hearing, That, combined with their sharp eyesight, makes them expert silent night hunters. I imagine the sight of a barn owl is a far more positive thing to me than to a mouse!

An Owl or an Elf?.
Being an elf owl (Micrathene whitneyi), it's both! Amazingly, these owls are only about the size of a sparrow! Possibly of the cutest owls ever, those of us who live in Southwestern US, central Mexico, or the Baja peninsula are lucky to have them as neighbors. Enchanted by the elf owl, I decided to make this one the subject of a collage.
I completed the collage background as the first step, using printed tissue papers, pages torn from books, and deli paper on which I had painted linear black ink designs. To begin, I added some collage pieces to a gesso-ed board, then washed color over them. Continuing in this way until I had several layers and a beautiful build up of color.

The next step was to add the owl. I drew its outline, filled in with white gesso, then painted the owl with acrylics.
I knew I wanted to add a strong element to balance the owl and also provide a transition between the cool colors of the background and the warm colors in the owl. I made the round medallion from paper clay and once it was dry painted it with copper metallic paint then patina'd it. Weldbond glue holds it securely in place.

The night colors of the background invited me to view the medallion as an asteroid, and that gave me the idea of painting all the stars, including the falling ones. Here's how I did the cluster of tiny dots. I smeared the area with glass bead gel and when it was dry, dipped my fingertip in silver paint and brushed lightly over the beads. The paint only caught on the tops of the tiny glass beads.

The final touch was the wavy lines radiating from the owl's head. They're silver paint and I think they give the piece a mystic feel.
Head Gear for an Owl
Although I like to create art that is symbolic, I can't really claim to be a student of symbolism. Instead, the symbolism is person to me. In this piece I wanted to give the owl a Celtic feeling, so I placed the Celtic cross on her chest. Then I was inspired to give her a woodland crown vaguely suggestive of mistletoe, a plant sacred to the Druids.

I wish I could say that glazing is a fun part of clay sculpture, but, since it requires three laboriously applied coats of glaze, I can't! So I chose an owl without terribly complex plumage. Although she is clearly an owl, it would be difficult to say what type!

The larger leaves in her crown are clay and part of the original sculpture. But the crown also includes glass leaves and translucent glass beads. Before the clay dried, I punched a few holes around the clay leaves and that allowed me to glue to glass bead pieces in after she was glazed and fired. I've done a few other pieces that are clay sculptures with bead accents and it's a combination I really like.

March Coupon

I'm offering you, my precious subscribers, a 15% discount in my Etsy shop.  (Please note this discount does not apply to any of the items in the bear section because I donate the proceeds from sales from this section to Idaho Black Bear Rehab.) The offer applies to everything else in the shop - all items hand made by me.  From March 1 to March 15, just use discount code MARCHOFF15 at checkout.  I ship the day after I receive your order, and shipping is free.  Click on the image above to go to my shop!
This Month's Free Downloadable Art

This barn owl is one of 30 6"x6" pieces I made representing animals of the American southwest. They are collages on cradled boards featuring my pencil drawing and coordinating collage elements. I made the pieces for a gallery show but in the end decided not to submit them because I didn't want them split up. They now live happily together in my dining room. Click on the image and it will open in a new window (from  You’ll see the image, and at the upper right of the window you’ll see three little dots.  Click on them to open a menu, then choose “download.” Please note that this image is copyright protected. I’m sharing it for your personal use only. Also, it's 5 mb.
Next time?
The Crocodile Issue!
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