The Wise Old Owl

Did you know…? Today is the official celebration for Draw-a-Bird Day.

I’m not sure why it is that we’ve come to associate owls with wisdom. Personally I think it has to do with their wide, round eyes. They appear both curious and sage, observant and knowledgeable.

All right, so now my own curiosity was aroused and I had to go look this up. Here’s what I found:

In Greek mythology, the goddess Athene was thought to symbolize wisdom and was often depicted with an owl nearby. That probably was inspired by the owls‘ big eyes and solemn appearance. The Greeks also thought owls had some sort of inner light that let them see at night.

From – Ask Clay

Before you click on that link, be forewarned. You might find things you don’t want to know about owls and their past history. The Romans, apparently, took a much different view of these nocturnal visitors.

I like owls. I rarely see them, but sometimes we hear them, and I love the sound of the “hoot-hooting.” Oh, we do have an owl who is a permanent fixture at our house — quite literally. His name is “Hooty Hoot” — the grandsons decided on that — and he came from Amazon years ago. We were having problems with birds getting into the garage, so Hooty Hoot was there to frighten them away, solving the problem without doing any real harm to the other feathered creatures.

Today, at our new property, Hooty Hoot sits on the front porch steps. As far as I know he hasn’t frightened anyone away yet. We think of him as being a very observant guard, always keeping his eyes open and protecting our home.

Today I’m sharing “Betsy” — no idea where the name came from. She’s a whimsical owl who was inspired by several sources. She began as part of a Sketchbook Revival project with Tamara LaPorte, a “fantasy” artist who creates gorgeous, colorful, playful creatures, including owls.

I followed along at a workshop session, using my comfortable gansai paints and a regular sheet of copy paper. Now, here’s something very useful I’ve learned through the Sketchbook Revival event. It’s all right to play with ideas, and if you make a mistake on a project, so be it. Your first attempt at a project is not the only attempt you can make. So maybe your first whimsical owl isn’t quite what you imagined. It’s not the only one you’ll ever do; it’s simply your first. With that in mind, I felt free to play, to just put water on a plain piece of paper, and not worry about the results. I still came away with a fun-looking bird. My next critter — maybe another owl, maybe a bunny, maybe something completely different — will be on better paper.

Those faint “streaks” you see behind her aren’t really there, by the way. They’re just indications of how the page buckled a bit from the water.

I drew inspiration for “Betsy” from several different sources. First, from Tamara LaPorte and the Sketchbook Revival project, second, from Jill Kuhn of Jill’s Art Journal whose delightful “weird birds” always bring a smile to my face, and third, from an owl-themed coloring book I purchased years ago for one of my owl-loving daughters.

Of all the projects I’ve done recently, I have to say that this was probably the most fun of all. It’s a chance to play with colors, to let watercolors run and bleed, to add in lots of doodles and just go wherever you feel like going with the design. There is much, much more I could do — more swirls, more patterns, more intricate doodles, and lots of shading — but I chose not to go there with Betsy. She is simply my first, not my only. With future critters, I’ll try more techniques.

When you do playful creatures like this, you’re not limited to watercolors, of course. I also used acrylic markers for my doodling, along with a white gel pen. You can grab water-soluble crayons, gelato, watercolor pencils, pastels — anything in your art room can be used. You can create patterns of your own, or maybe you want to go with collage.

I believe Betsy is a very wise owl, and I think she has a lot to teach me about flying high, spreading my wings, and flying free. Come soar along with me! It’s really fun.




  1. I love owls. Ojibwe culture views them as a death omen, but my nokomis (grandma) passed her love of them to me. She’d always say “not all of them are bad omens, you’ll know when one is”. She was right. I love your owl painting. Very pretty & pink. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. Yes, the Romans held similar views, and I don’t like thinking of owls as bad omens. I see too much wisdom and beauty in them. For me, they’ve always appeared as very positive spiritual guides. I think your grandmother was right, and I appreciate you passing her wisdom on to me. I’m glad you like “Betsy”. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL… yes, feathers can get really detailed, so I chose to just have a little fun with a metallic marker. I love her eyelashes, too. I really did have fun drawing and painting her.


  2. Hi Judith, I love Betsy! I haven’t done this lesson yet with Sketchbook Revival. Sure loving all the lessons I have done! 😍 Thanks again for mentioning my blog. Like you, I like to see my art as an experiment (I think I learned this from Carla Sonheim), it helps take away the preciousness and just have fun! I try to do this with my weird birds. 🐦❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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