The night watch

I just created a mixed media illustration using my illustrations and photos. I really like the idea of the sparrows clocking off for the day, huddling together and exchanging stories, while the morepork/ruru (New Zealand native owl) settles down for his night shift.

If you’d like to buy an instant download file, please click on the link which will take you to my Etsy shop.

The night watch illustration by Owen Smith
The night watch © Owen Smith

Mixed media bird art tutorial

Tui (photo)

Here is a quick example of my working style when creating my mixed media bird art. I’m calling a Tui-torial as the bird I have used is a bird native to New Zealand, called a tui. We get them in out garden and they’re quite beautiful. Tui have dual voice boxes, so can belt out some pretty spectacular songs. They also have two white tufts on their neck giving the nickname the parsons bird.

Enough of the ornitholgy, here is the art…

Initially the bird is sketched out on drawing paper, and then I use the stippling technique with a fineliner pen, creating a realistic toned image using tiny dots (Figure 1). The closer the dots are together, the darker the tone.

Pen and ink drawing of a tui
Figure 1
Tui drawn in Adobe Illustrator
Figure 2

Each drawing can take several hours, thus requires a lot of patience. The drawing is then scanned and taken into Adobe Illustrator, a design application, where colour is added to the bird (Figure 2).

An abstract painting (Figure 3) is created for the background, using a variety of media including acrylic paint, watercolour, torn paper, ink and leaf prints. The paintings are designed to match the character and environment of the bird.

I then use watercolour pencils and tracing paper to add a lighter, softer version of the bird (Figure 4) which is then scanned and overlaid onto the image. This gives the artwork a looser feel and adds character to the piece.

Abstract painting by Owen Smith
Figure 3

Figure 4
Figure 4

Figure 5

Once all of these elements are complete, they are brought together in Adobe Photoshop (Figure 5).

A limited edition of 50 giclée fine art prints using high quality German etching paper is then made available for each bird illustration. Each print is numbered and signed by the artist.


Quotes for inspiration

Here is a sneak preview of my latest project. I’ve been taking some of favourite quotes and illustrating them, with the letters designed by hand. The idea of having reminders of goals up on your walls as a work of art really appeals to me.

Inspirational quote artwork

I have had a few printed professionally and given them to friends as gifts, and set up an Etsy shop to make them available as affordable digital downloads for people to buy and print out themselves.

Abstract pen and ink drawing

For the last few months I’ve been drawing this piece using the stippling technique. It has been a challenge for me, as I usually have something specific to draw or paint so abstract is new territory. What I have enjoyed is the ability to go with my instincts, and to let the image appear naturally. It was based on a photo of a fossil I took at a beach years ago, and I have approached it with acrylic and watercolour before so this time I was keen to take a new direction.

Fossil fuelled #3 pen and ink Owen Smith
Fossil fuelled #3 pen and ink © Owen Smith

Art by Owen M Smith

Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoy looking through my artwork.

Prints can be purchased here

If you are interested in original artwork then please feel free to contact me.

© Owen Smith


Becoming - drawing by Owen M Smith
BECOMING by Owen M Smith

Becoming pen and ink on Bristol Board (420mm x 594mm)
Tuatara are a species different to any other reptile that has been on the planet for around 225 million years (give or take). They are born with an extra eye in the middle of their head (which disappears as they mature), and their teeth are solid extensions of the jawbone. They are restricted to a few offshore Islands of New Zealand. With a background like that who needs Godzilla?

The tuatara is often referred to as a living fossil, which inspired me to explore the idea of drawing a creature across time, right from living and breathing to being part of the rock that surrounds it. I named the piece ‘becoming’ as it can be openly interpreted as becoming alive or becoming a fossil.