Posted by: bluelanternstudio | January 17, 2012

Owl paintings

Having always lived in the city, owls are mysterious creatures to me, known mostly through night-time children’s stories. When my son was about two, he insisted there was an owl in the tree outside the bedroom window, which my husband and I chalked up to a vivid imagination. Then, a year or two ago, a large barred owl showed up in that same tree and stayed watching the neighbourhood for a day.  My husband and I were amazed, but our son just kind of shrugged it off as the most natural thing in the world.

Now I’m working on a series of small paintings featuring species identified as being “of conservation concern” in the province of British Columbia. I’m drawn to the owls. I thought I’d paint one, but have done three so far and want to do more. Their eyes are so intense, so clear and sharp. And so big.

I know they’re dangerous birds of prey with strong, sharp claws and beaks, but they move with such purpose and grace.

Spotted owl (artist: Robi Smith; acrylic on wood panel; 6" x 6")

Here in BC, we’re fortunate enough to share territory with many species of owl, though we’re not doing a very good job of protecting their habitat and food sources. The most endangered is the spotted owl, which relies on ever-shrinking stands of mature old-growth forest to survive. It’s unclear how many of these owls are left.

The short-eared owl lives in the southern part of the province, from the Lower Mainland to the Interior. Some of these owls overwinter on Vancouver Island, but most spend the winter months in the Fraser River Delta. Their survival is threatened by the huge urbanization and intensive agriculture in the area. Also, because these owls nest in the ground, their nesting sites are vulnerable to fire, flooding, farm machinery, predators and pesticides. Adults collide with cars, aircraft and barbed wire. We haven’t exactly been owl-centric in our local land-use planning.

Short-eared owl (Artist: Robi Smith; acrylic on wood panel; 8" x 6")

The northern pygmy owl is perhaps my favourite, just because it’s so tiny (adults grow to a maximum of about 18 cm or 7 inches). The swarthi subspecies, which lives on Vancouver Island, is threatened by increasingly fragmented habitat and the loss of preferred places to nest. Other animals prey on them, including barred owls. Raccoons and red squirrels are fond of their eggs, which doesn’t help.

Northern pygmy owl (Artist: Robi Smith; acrylic on wood panel; 6" x 6")

In the end, I’ve fallen in love with these owls. They are one more reason to protect the remaining wild places in our province, and incentive to better manage those territories that we actively share.



  1. I absolutely love these owl paintings. When my grandson was visiting a couple of summers ago, we visited The OWL (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation) Society here in Delta. He loved learning about all the owls and was thrilled when he got to hold one. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  2. Thanks for the great tip, Darlene. I’m going to make a point of taking Owen there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: