May 17, 2024

Owls, Owls, Owls

         It’s time for some block prints!  Now that I’ve got a little early summer vacation between art shows, I’ve decided to update some of my notecard collections with new designs.  One of these is the “Backyard Birds” note cards, so I thought for today’s blog I’d share some relief block prints of birds by other artists.  But the first thing to catch my eye were a couple of owls, and since there’s no shortage of wonderful owl art, I’m going to set aside all the other birds and focus on owls today.
        Up first is a dark and shadowy owl by Jack Coughlin.  I’ve paired it with an owl by Helen Siegl that has a similar pose, but where Coughlin’s owl is in some dark corner, perhaps in a barn, Siegl’s is isolated without a background.  Although both of these have
wild feathers carved with lots of small strokes, Coughlin’s looks much more controlled and planned, while Siegl’s looks skritchy and rough.  This is the first piece by Coughlin I’ve 
come across, but you can revisit some other wood block prints by Siegl at previous posts Critters by Siegl and Crazier Critters by Siegl.
        The next owl is extremely precise and accurately detailed.  This great horned owl by Nick Wroblewsky uses multiple colors on multiple blocks.  I love how the night sky shows the grain of the wood, and how even with the level of detail, when you look closely Wroblewski’s marks still look like carving.  I shared another piece by him back at Autumnal Block Prints.
        Here's an owl is by one of my favorite current block printmakers, Mary Azarian.  This comes from her Farmer’s Alphabet, which I’ve featured on several occasions.  Here our owl gets even more scenery, in an owl’s-eye view of a small Vermont town.  The upper and lower case O’s seem particularly appropriate to evoke the owl’s round eyes and its call: Ooo oooo!  I love the variety of textures and patterns of feathers, trees, hills, and fields.  You can see a few more letters that I’ve previously posted from The Farmer’s Alphabet: A, B, D, G, H, M, X, and Z.
        Next is a collection of little owls, in a range of styles, but all with similar faces and perching postures.  The first is by another artist who’s new to this blog.  I discovered "Christophski" on Instagram, where he seems to do lots of small prints that all incorporate the little red stamp.  (There’s another owl in the same post where I saw this one, which you can visit from the link in the credits below.)  I’ve given this owl a parliament of peers from some other artists who have appeared in this blog before: Andrew Wightman and Antonio
Frasconi were both featured in the 2023 A to Z Challenge when my theme was block printed alphabets.  You can find more of their work at Animals and Fenning’s Fairy.  The fourth owl in this group is by Thomas Bewick, without whom no discussion of block-printed birds would be complete.  You can see in it why he’s considered the father of modern wood engraving for the accuracy of his observations and his use of detailed textures in shading.  The patterns that make up the branch are especially interesting.  For the full scoop on Bewick (including another of his owls!) check out Master Engraver.
        Finally, we’ll end with a dramatic owl by Christopher Wormell, another artist whose alphabets I’ve featured on numerous occasions before.  He makes excellent use of rich color in his multi-block linoleum prints.  You can do a search for him in the sidebar, or start by checking out what I shared at West Wonder.
        But that’s not all!  People have long been fascinated by owls, and they make such a great subject for art that quite a few of them have appeared on this blog before.  Be sure to click on all the links to find owls you’re sure to love by the following additional artists:

Stephen Alcorn

Anonymous Fourth Grader (styrofoam)

Neil Brigham

Anne E.G. Nydam (me!)

Joe Talirunnilik (stone)

Yoshijiro Urushibara

Scholarly owl (from 1618)

        (As for my new notecard designs which started this whole thing, there is no owl among them.  But you’ll be able to see them on my web site before long.)

[Pictures: Owl, woodcut by Jack Coughlin, 1970 (Image from Davis Museum);

Owl, wood block print by Siegl, from The Birds and the Beasts Were There, The World Publishing Company, 1963;

Owl in Cedars, woodcut by Nick Wroblewski (Image from;

Owl, wood block print by Mary Azarian, from A Farmer's Alphabet, 1981;

Owl, rubber block print by Christophski, (Image from christophski on Instagram);

Owl, linocut by Andrew Wightman, c. 2015 (Image from AndrewWightmanPrints);

O, wood block print by Antonio Frasconi, from Bestiary, 1965;

The Female Short-Eared Owl, wood engraving by Thomas Bewick from A History of British Birds, 1979 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

O, linoleum block print with multiple blocks by Christopher Wormell, from A New Alphabet of Animals, 2002.]


Donna B. McNicol said...

I loved this one. My reader fan group on Facebook is The Hoot Troop and an owl is the mascot.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

As you can probably see from my name, I love owls, so this post was a treat to me. I had a hard time picking a favourite, but in the end Christopher Wormell's dramatically coloured owl won my heart.

Kristin said...

We have owls in our yard. We've seen one teaching a young one to file. Mostly we just hear them hoot or sitting in a tree before taking flight. The 4th graders owls are nice too.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for stopping by and giving these owls some love!
Donna, how fun to have a Hoot Troop!
Kristin, owls are "backyard birds" for us every once in a while, but while we often hear them hooting, they usually seem to be a little farther away and we very seldom see them.