Saturday, May 28, 2011

Owen's Unicorn

Finally I have finished my Unicorn painting.  I really loved working on this piece, so I wanted it to be the best it could be, I reworked and repainted far more than I usual.  There should be a second layer to all my paintings, but I rarely have the time.  I hope this comes off as a good young adult or children's book type piece.
Lately I have been using a very limited palette of Raw Umber, Ult. Blue, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow,  a bit of Burnt Sienna, Titanium White and Ivory Black, and maybe a few other colors for the flowers.  The outcome feels very natural to me.  
If anyone looks at the Unicorn in Captivity Tapestry from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can see that I modeled the flowers, unicorn, and pomegranate tree on that piece.  I still think that's probably the best, most sophisticated unicorn.  My fiance has a poster of it in our living room.  What a great piece.

The Unicorn, 21"x16", Oil on Paper on Masonite, 2011. 


  1. Great job Owen! This definitely looks like something out of a children's book (if the girl had been older, it would easily transition to young adult). The changes you made to your drawing really improved the piece, and your depiction of the unicorn is great in it's noble expression and glowing light (love that tail!), and those flowers are lovely. Two things stand out to me - the girl's right arm (her right, our left) looks a bid odd. I know her shoulder is supposed to be tilting forward, but looks like her shoulder is attached to her body too close to her neck. I'm doing a bad job describing this. Basically the anatomy of that arm looks a bit wonky to me, but it's probably not a huge deal. I would also kind of like to see more foliage on that pomegranate tree. I realize you modeled it after the tapestry, but the tapestry is flat whereas your painting has a lot of depth, so a few more branches and leaves, catching a bit more glow from the unicorn, would enhance your concept of this unicorn which inspires growth, etc.

    Overall really nicely done Owen!

  2. I agree with Becca, this is a nice one. I like how he stands out against the sky. I also think the tree could use a bit of additional foliage and some more noticeable effects from his glow. It is blending into the sky quite a bit if i look at the reduced version. The girl looks a lot better and I like her leaning out the window. I do agree though, that her arm is a bit off. The shoulder is too close to her neck and her hand may be twisted a little awkwardly. Overall really nice though.

  3. Nice! I love the colors in this. The unicorn is wonderful, especially that horn! and i love all the foliage. I also agree with Becca and Scott - some more on the tree would be nice, and the girls shoulder/arm is a bit off. The neck looks really wide so i think if you make the collar of the shirt tighter around her neck (so her neck is thinner) by the right arm (her left) that would help. Would give her more shoulder space.

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  5. This worked out so nicely Owen. I think everyone's comments on the anatomy are important. We all know it's the first thing anyone looks at. Posing someone would probably answer all questions about how her arms and shoulders should look.

    My favorite area is the fence against the unicorn against the sky and all the different contrasts that creates, great layering.

    Light is so tough in fantasy pieces with multiple (sometimes strange) sources. I think in this one the light from the street is just right (maybe a little more shadow on the sill above the girl.) The light inside the house is fine. The way the light from the unicorn hits the tree is right. The glowing Unicorn is tough though. Honestly I don't know what a glowing horse would actually look like (though I think Lis did some smart things like shifting all her Unicorn's colors towards blue and white and lightening them.) Your Unicorn looks like it has a strong light shining ON it. This looks pretty cool and definitely pops him out. It doesn't quite give a "glow" though. Would it be crazy to have a subtle wide shaft of light coming from the upper left bathing him in light? The shaft wouldn't be too light but would imply some otherwordly source streaming down on him. Also on light, the sky is screaming to be some lighter shade. Still dark and rich but I think there's a lot of room for it to be quite a few notches lighter. That beautiful tree is lost in the darkness where it could be this amazing silhouette with detail.

    On your color scheme. I think it's awesome that you experiment with a limited palette. Personally I hate black (and Raw Umber which has black premixed into it.) Burnt Umber is an amazingly rich brown that is essentially "dark orange." If you mix Burnt Umber with a good quality Ult. Blue it creates a very nice black. It is so much richer than black and mixes so well with other colors darkening them without greying them in quite the same way as Ivory Black. And of course you can use them to make a bluish cool black or a brownish warm black by changing proportions. I would be interested to hear if it works for you or if it throws off your way of mixing.

  6. Owen.... I wouldn't change a thing about this painting!! It touches my emotions deeply. The colors are rich and real. He is not just a unicorn...he is every one that doesn't quite fit in. His expression is heart wrenching. I love this painting. I've never been a lover of unicorns, but I love him. Don't change a thing!!!