Since owls are mainly nocturnal, seeing them up close, the way I painted this one, is almost impossible. It is a challenge for me to paint what seems impossible to get in reality. Several times, I’ve had the opportunity to hold a tame barred owl on my hand (with a glove!). When you’re one to one with that animal, only one foot away from its wonderful eyes, the feeling you get is indescribable. I tried to depict that feeling in my painting. I wanted to concentrate on the face of the owl and leave the background simple. It may seem a little bizarre to paint an animal twice the natural size, but that’s the impression one gets when being so close to it.

Among all the North American owl species, I have a weakness for the barred owl since he reminds me so much of our European tawny owl. Both are from the “Strix” family — Strix varia for the barred owl and Strix aluco for the tawny owl. (The endangered spotted owl of the Pacific Northwest, Strix occidentalis caurina, also belongs to this family.) Among the characteristics these species have in common is their appearance. They lack the “ear tufts” common in other owl species, such as the great horned owl. And, unlike most species of owls that have yellow, almost cat-like eyes, both the barred owl and its European cousin, the tawny owl, have moist, dark eyes. Not surprisingly, their habitat and prey are also very similar. Both inhabit woodlands, feeding on unsuspecting small rodents, birds and insects that they capture on their silent, nightly flights.

— Carl Brenders