Printmaking the Great Horned Owl

Owls are a fascinating bird. They can be elusive and have such a variety of sizes and expressions.

LINDA-COTE-Horned-owlI’ve captured the Burrowing Owl as a handmade art print before, but I am often asked whether I have any owl art cards. After being asked again this week, I figured it was time to create one.

My card is based on a photo I took at a Canmore (Alberta) event The Festival of Eagles we attend each fall. Rescue birds from Alberta Birds of Prey Centre are brought to our town to give people a great up-close look at the birds.

Since I am creating the card in black and white, the challenge with this card is to capture all the different textures of the Great Horned Owl’s feathers with simple line work, without it looking too busy.

LINDA-COTE-owl sketchTo start, I sketch the bird on a piece of tissue paper, then use a very simple transfer method to get the drawing on the block. I draw with a very dark pencil (4B-6B) to sketch the bird, then lay the tissue drawing face-down on the block. Using a bone folder, I trace over the back of the drawing, and the graphite easily transfers (in reverse) to the block.

I use a variety of carving tools (small & medium V-tools and a U-gouge) to make the art.

LINDA-COTE-Horned-owl blockCarving is part following the lines, part intuitive mark-making. For this one, I decided to make it whimsical by adding the swirling pattern in the background.

Here is the fully carved block, before inking. (Click to see it bigger.)

LINDA COTE-Horned owl Block final

Next, it’s time to ink the block and start printing cards. Here is a video of that process from my Instagram account.


Once inked, the cards are placed on my art studio clothesline to dry, held in place by bamboo clothes pegs. This can take several days, but it’s been very hot and dry in Canmore the last several weeks, so the upside is that my prints are drying a lot faster this summer!

LINDA COTE-Owl Cards drying

The next step in the process is preparing the cards for distribution. I hand-sign every card, plus fold it and package it by hand in my art studio. Each card (blank inside) is matched with a white envelope, then placed in an acid-free wrapper. My cards are sold by me online, but also by local stores like Canmore’s Cafe Books and Le Chocolatier.

LINDA COTE-Owl cards

As much as I love creating, there is something really satisfying about sending my art out into the world.

Here is the final hand-printed card “Great horned Owl”.

LINDA COTE-Great Horned Owl Card

“Great Horned Owl”
5″ x 7″ Greeting Card

4 responses to “Printmaking the Great Horned Owl

  1. This print is super cute, I’m sure it will be popular. My one son is in love with owls and trying to carve one.

    I also followed the link to your online shop and it is great. Is it the WordPress upgrade for a shop or something different? I’m thinking seriously about doing a shop for knitting ( seeing as hubby says he’ll deal with the money and shipping……I just want to knit!).

    • Hi Deb, Thanks for enjoying my card and my website! It’s actually a website. I’ve used Wix for about 5 years and really like them. It’s a template drag-and-drop website that I customize quite extensively (being a picky artist) but that’s very easy to do. I pay a premium amount for the e-commerce (info on their site), and I’ve had it for about a year. It really works for me. Check them out — sounds like a great partnership with your husband! I wish I had someone willing to handle the money and shipping! LOL.

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