Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
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In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)


Barry Kent MacKay bird painting
(Artwork - 084)
Tawny Owl
(Strix aluco)

The Tawny Owl is a medium-sized, round-headed, dark-eyed owl with various subspecies found throughout parts of Eurasia, mainly in the temperate zone.  It is highly variable in colour, ranging from a fairly greyish-brown colour to a rich rufous.   I painted a bird from Holland (S. a. sylvatica), sometimes called the Common Tawny Owl.   I am not sure that any would qualify as the most “tawny” of the owls, although the colour is one that is loosely defined.
 
Anyway, I have shown the bird with its prey, a young Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the Brown Rat.  It is not native to Norway but apparently originated in Asia (probably China) from where it has spread, ubiquitously, around the world.  Prey includes large invertebrates and smaller vertebrate species, such as mice and voles, some birds and the odd reptile, amphibian or fish.
 
This is the species famously referred to by Shakespeare in Act 5, scene 2, of Love Labour’s Lost:

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
The nightly sings the staring owl :
'Tu-who ;
Tu-whit, To-who ' - A merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
 
We had to learn that in school when I was a kid, but my teacher couldn’t answer the question that was most important to me, what kind of owl has that call?   Those were the days before the internet, and when my parents were struggling to find (and afford) books about birds not only of my region, but around the world.   The day I opened my first copy of the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe as a highlight of my then very young life, and when I looked up “Tawny Owl” in the library, I had my answer.  I finally heard the Tawny Owl for myself, in Portugal, years ago.  But interestingly it may be that the call Shakespeare accurately transcribed into words is a call derived from duet singing by a pair of Tawny Owls, with the female chiming in with her “merry note” at the end. 
 
The painting is part of a number of efforts I am making to try to use oil paints on a wooden panel, in this case birch, after first applying two or three coats of gesso, then lightly sanded, then coated with two or three layers of acrylic, followed finally by oil paints. 
 
The background is all invented, and trying to evoke a sense of light bursting through the edge of a beech forest at the first break of dawn.   These owls are quite nocturnal, so showing one with prey in full daylight would not be accurate.  
 
While oils paints make the painting of detail difficult, they are fun to work with, and I was happy to sacrifice some of the finer details for the richness of colour that, however, my inept photography did not capture.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
See his website: http://barrykentmackay.ca/

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