Animal portrait of an owl - painted with HORADAM® watercolours - by Carolin Behnke (@vitas_artworks)

Painting portraits of people or animals is a special kind of art and requires special painting skills. The artist Carolin Behnke, an experienced animal portraitist, shows us step by step how she uses HORADAM® watercolour and finest colour applications to make an owl - the Schmincke heraldic animal - appear alive.

You will need:

  •  Watercolours: HORADAM® watercolour pure yellow (216), ruby red (351), perylene violet (371), cerulean blue hue (481), gold brown (654), burnt umber (668), lamp black (781) and a Special Editioncolour of the Supergranulation Watercolours - deep sea green (954)
  • Brushes: daVinci Casaneo wash brush size 0,Casaneo round brush size 6 and Jax Hair round brush size 3
  • Paper: Hahnemühle Expression 300g/m2
  • Fineliner: Micron 0,4 Liner and UniPosca 0,7mm white liner
  • Other: carbon paper and knead-eraser


Step 1 and 2

First the pattern is transferred to the watercolour paper with the help of carbon paper. The pencil traces are lightened with the knead-eraser to be less visible. With the wet-on-wet technique the first layer is painted. This works especially well with the washing brush. I use the following colours: deep sea green, perylene violet, goldbrown, burnt umber, pure yellow and ruby red. First I work out the blue-violet areas in wet-on-wet technique. When these are dry, I apply the orange-yellow-brownish areas in the same way. I already indicate the pupils now, they will be worked out later.


Step 3 and 4

Now the wings are worked out in three stages, always using the wet-on-wet technique with intermediate drying times to ensure that the wing parts are clearly separated. The legs and claws are also designed in this flowing painting technique. All mentioned colours are used except for the lamp black. For the details I work wet-on-dry and use a small round brush with which the fine feathers can be worked out very well. I also darken the pupil and leave a light reflex in the previous shading. So everything gets more depth. For the details I use the colours perylene violet, deep sea green, gold brown, ruby red, pure yellow and lamp black.


Step 5 and 6

Now, I add indicated feathers in the chest area of the owl. For this I use the washing brush also wet-on-dry. Here I use a mixture of perylene violet, burnt umber and gold brown, then I use a little lamp black (diluted with water) to darken the part under the wings. For the wing I use perylene violet to indicate feathers with a small round brush.




Step 7 and 8

With a small round brush the wing is further worked out wet-on-dry with the colours deep sea green, perylene violet, ruby red and gold brown. I leave some areas a little bit lighter. For the finishing of the wing I use again the small round brush and the colours perylene violet, ruby red and deep sea green. With burnt umber I add more details to the claws.




Step 9 and 10

The stake is painted wet-on-wet. Therefore, the watercolour paper is moistened with the washing brush and the colour is applied in a flowing manner (lamp black, perylene violet, deep sea green and gold brown). After good drying I add some last fine details in lamp black and let the painting dry again. With a black and a white fineliner last details are painted into the painting.