I’ve just finished reading Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington. Aside from having a gorgeously illustrated cover featuring a magical barn owl and a shower of gold foil sparks…it’s also a rich and soothing read!
I’m sometimes put off by nature books that can be a little dry and factual in their descriptions, but Miriam’s writing is full of life. Each chapter focusses on a different species of owl and her journey to viewing it in the wild. As the adventures unfold, she shares her in depth research into the habitats, biology, history and mysteries of each creature. At the start of each chapter we’re also treated to an illustration of the owl in question, including; Snowy, Barn, Tawny, Pygmy, Eagle Owls and more…
Miriam explores our fascination with owls throughout history. She delves into folklore and literature where the owl is sometimes revered – but often times feared as a portent of death and doom. She perfectly conjures up images of dense forest and icy plains and weaves in her personal encounters with bird lovers and experts that she encounters on her quest.
But throughout, there is a steady respect for the wildness of the owl that I very much appreciated. Miriam reminds us that these magnificent creatures belong to nature. We shouldn’t make the mistake of cute-ifying them or imagining them as cuddly Potter-style pets. Nor does she shy away from climate change and how our actions as humans are endangering these precious birds. But even with its urgent messages and heavier thoughts, I found Owl Sense to be a calming book for the soul. And I loved learning more about some of my favourite animals!
Owl Sense jacket illustrations are by Talya Baldwin (owl) and Peter Fitzpatrick (tree).
A rare sighting of an Owl Cat. Part owl – part cat, it dwells in trees, curls up in the sun and stares regally down at lesser species…I’ve been enjoying experimenting with Indian Ink in my sketchbook lately! You can get a variety of shades from mixing the ink with water. Using a range of brushes can create very different textures too.
I enjoy trying out different kinds of illustration. If I stick with one style for too long I find I start to get itchy feet (or hands I guess?) and want to change things up again. Even if it’s revisiting a style I’ve enjoyed previously it just feels good to keep moving. This little piece was the result of some computer dabbling after the Birthday Owls shenanigans. I created it using the original drawings as a start point then working back over them with a collaged layers in Photoshop. I quite like the way it came out anyway, further experimenting required : >)
Instructed to keep my eyes closed, I was led (quite literally) up the garden path of my parent’s homestead. Having been told nothing more than ‘pack some drawing stuff’ I naturally had a few suspicions about the nature of this belated birthday surprise. I’d thought perhaps a trip to a stately home, or some spot of natural beauty for a sketch and a picnic. It had crossed my mind as a fancy that my favorite winged creatures might be in some way involved, but I didn’t dare hope too hard in case of disappointment…
I opened my eyes and a parliament of three owls looked up at me.
My family had arranged for an owl specialist to bring three of her finest specimens to me, for an afternoon of drawing and cooing! I was a kid in my own miniature, personal, owlery store. If you love owls (and I’m almost certain you do) then you’ll appreciate that being so close to something so beautiful, intelligent and wild feels pretty special. So time being of the essence (we didn’t want to keep them too long) I started sketching. Each beast had a very distinct personality. Willow the calm, elegant barn owl. Magic, the little owl, an erratic, energetic fluff ball and Bracken the brown wood owl intimidating but very sophisticated and aware of her beauty. Each feathered head whipping round impatiently as I tried to capture their likenesses.
I’d hate to pick a favorite owl but I did feel that my drawings of Magic turned out the best. Here’s a selection of my sketches and photos from the day.
These owls are extremely well cared for and loved by the ‘Owls Out and About’ team who put on displays and raise money for charity by sharing owl love. If you are interested in having an owl experience of your own, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org