How to paint an abstract owl: A step-by-step tutorial

Paint with me! Full video tutorial + a step-by-step demonstration.

Art journal tutorial - how to paint an abstracted whimsical owl

There’s something about owls — mysterious, wise creatures of the night with a gaze that can pierce your soul. I end up painting an owl at least once every year in my moon journal, which is where I create an intuitive ritualistic painting every new and full moon. For this tutorial, I’m showing you how to paint an abstracted whimsical owl. Gather your supplies, and let’s begin!

Art supplies used for this art journal page

White gesso

Acrylic paints in your favorite colors. I used the following:

Pebeo paints: Turquoise blue, Fluorescent orange, Fluorescent pink, Azo pink, Payne’s grey, Raw sienna

Camel paints: Permanent yellow deep, Grey, Black

Payne’s grey Derwent Intense pencil

Princeton Catalyst mini blade no. 01

Paintbrushes in different sizes

Catalyst mini blades

Palette knife

Note: All of these links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Watch the process: Abstract owl painting

Join me in my studio as I show you how to paint an abstract owl in your art journal.

If you enjoyed this video, you will also love this abstract art journal tutorial that I shared a while ago. Perhaps you can incorporate techniques from both these tutorials to create something that is unique to you! And if you, like me, love owls, you will love this mytho-philosophical exploration of owl symbolism.

Step-by-step process: Paint an abstract owl

Step-by-step demo of how to paint a whimsical owl

Step 1

Start by laying down a few colors of paint using your Catalyst mini blade or palette knife. Use a mix of broad, loose strokes and color blocking. Add some gestural mark making using a palette knife.

Step 2:

Fill in any white areas of the page, especially the entire border, with grey (I mixed grey with gesso to lighten it). This acts as a frame for your focal image. Lay down some turquoise blue paint with a palette knife and etch into it with the edge of your palette knife to create some texture and interest.

Steps 3 + 4:

Look for any shapes in the layers of paint. I noticed what looked like eyes and a beak, and used that as a starting point to sketch in an owl using a Derwent Inktense pencil.

Step-by-step process to paint an abstract owl

Step 5:

Pop out your focal image from the background. I used some white gesso around the owl, and decided to cover the bottom portion of the owl. Add in some etching for interest and to allow the colors from the background peek through.

Step 6:

I used a Payne’s Grey Derwent Inktense pencil to lightly shade the owl. I used a very light touch because I didn’t want to paint over the colors within the owl.

Step 7:

Use the same Inktense pencil to make some marks. Once you’re happy with your marks, activate the pencil; this gives the doodles a lovely inky quality. If you watch the video, you’ll see that I erased some of the marks and made some changes to the placement of the triangle before I liked the composition.

Step 8:

As a finishing touch, splatter some black ink in the background. You can also use a toothpick and black paint to add additional dots where you would like them.

Ta-da! Your turn!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and will paint your very own abstract owl in your art journal. Tag me at if you share your paintings on Instagram!

If you have any questions on this process or the supplies I used, let me know in the comments!

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More art journaling inspiration

Want to up your art journal game? Then join me for Book of Days 2022, a collaborative e-course that will take you on a deep dive into mixed media art journaling. In this year-long course, we will focus on all the ways that working with journal art can enrich and enhance our lives. The course is suitable for everyone from beginners to advanced artists, and will help you to create and maintain a practice of meeting yourself on the page.

Join Book of Days 2022

If you’re an India-based artist on the lookout for quality art supplies, I highly recommend ArtLounge — I get most of my art supplies from them, going to Amazon only for the few brands that they do not stock.

pain palette

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Weekly notes from an artist’s studio, including pages from my mixed media art journal, works in progress, notes on the creative process, and other ideas that capture my interest, along with regular discussion threads to chat about art.

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I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?

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