Simple OWL drawing lesson using kid-grade felt pens

[Film by Anna Thorsen]

I teach OWL drawing for most, if not all, of my creative engagement workshops.  I use the OWL image as it is easy to break it down into simple geometric shapes on which to build form.

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I usually use china marker.


But we don’t always have the “right” material.


We have to work with what we have. Below are OWL drawings by SFU Restorative Justice students using just dollar store felt pens.


Working with what you have. Freedom within limits. That’s when magic happens.

See also:

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The Trout Lake Youth Council owls! @HELPPBP outreach project #education

Last night, I had the pleasure of facilitating an introductory session to the Trout Lake Youth Council as part of the HELP YOUTH CANADA Outreach Project.  I am using creative engagement in order to dialogue on EDUCATION with youth and program leaders at a variety of organizations in the Lower Mainland- to learn from the participants, gather data and to build connection and awareness about HELP YOUTH CANADA’s bursary program.

My main creative engagement tool for this project continues to be sock monkey making as a means to create safe space for dialogue– but last night, as it was a short intro session, we improvised and using only felt pens and crayons, speed-drew OWLS and then wrote answers to pertinent questions.  I will be transcribing the outcomes, but needed to share these images right now!  The owls from last night are absolutely charming.

The youth will be signing up for three different projects:

• Project Backpack

• Sock Monkey Workshop

• In-depths youth forum on education

I obsess about the power of drawing, the mark making by any of my participants and the beauty of the results.  ALWAYS.


Huge thank you to Bernie Dionne and the council for hosting me and to my friend, Beverley, for assisting me!


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Sock owls and creative engagement



These crazy little sock owls are wonderful for creating dialogue around the craft table!




OWL talking piece for tomorrow’s professional development day at a local middle school.  The owl feathers- a gift from Kevin Cowan








Our intergenerational sock owls will be on display next week at Mulberry PARC’s Ignite Your Passion event (September 28, 2017 2-4 PM) as part of ACTIVE AGING WEEK!

See also:

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Teachable moment during drawing session! 


I have been incorporating How to Draw an OWL in my creative engagement for years.

My must-bring tools always include:

The china marker is the essential drawing tool.  It is not only my favorite medium, but a great teaching tool as you can’t erase it.  This encourages participants to let go and quiet down the inner critic.

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Yesterday, I co-facilitated a session with SFU Restorative Justice students with Miko Philip, as part of the YOUTH INCLUSION PROJECT (more on that later).

I love using the creative process as an empathy tool, to illustrate the type of emotions the students will experience in their work.  For example, the angst the students may feel as we start a drawing lesson is a reminder of the angst their clients may feel in victim-offender mediation.

OWL was a big part of the agenda last night.  As we were setting up, I looked in my supply bag and only saw a hell of a lot of felt pens– NO CHINA MARKERS!

But I am old enough now not to sweat it.  So Miko and I had a quick dialogue and we handed out materials.  I had no idea how we could draw this:


using kid felt pens…

TEACHABLE MOMENT: MAGIC always HAPPENS when you throw your agenda over your shoulder and pull things out of your ass.

The results?


Change your perception — see the root cause as a blessing in disguise. – Tiny Buddha

Huge thank you to Asad and all the students for a wonderful experience.  The room was infused with safe space, restorative practices and inclusion.  The closing circle, led by Asad, was one of the most moving circles I have ever participated in.

Same tools, same instructions, all equal, all different. O.W.L.

The OWL is a POWERFUL image and I use it all the time in my work.


The form of the OWL itself is very conducive to teaching the principles of drawing.

The direction quickly create an engaging and intense gaze, drawing both the student and the observer in.

By Aug 24, I’ll have led approx 225 people ages 10-92 through the O.W.L. drawing exercise since June 2!  It’s not just about drawing… It’s about paying attention to the inner critic and anxiety, about empathy. Connection.  It’s about observe/wait/listen and reflective listening.  We share the room, use the same tools, hear the same instructions, all equal, and yet delight in all the differences.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau



Photo by Rick Magnell


The OWL often appears in my personal work-

In process piece for Molly, a true crime analysis

“Wrapped up in yourself like a spool, Trawling your dark, as owls do.” – Sylvia Plath

Owl wisdom

Taking a somewhat silent retreat today to regroup and prepare for transitions.  Picked up an old sweater (80% merino wool, 20% cashmere) and created these little one inch plus tall baby owls. Perfect for holding in the palm while figuring stuff out.

I have always found that sewing and drawing owls is a powerful experience.

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Stay tuned for a special tutorial series on drawing and crafting birds and reflecting on their symbolism.



Sunday #journalexercise. Boundaries and Owl Wisdom- come from a place of wholeness.

I’ve been thinking about boundaries and the wisdom in defining them.  The image of the owl came to mind as I journaled this AM.


Because owls and all creatures of the animal realm are pure energy, and they come from a place of wholeness. As such, they communicate in a unified voice. They speak in the language of the trees, the wind, the moon, the sky, etc.


I found a great article which helped me process the importance of boundaries in my own life.  The advice has the silent wisdom I saw in a tiny owl I watched in a tree at 1:30 AM a few months back.

I stood for 30 minutes just watching this little guy stare back at me.  I knew I was receiving a message.  I didn’t quite know yet what that message was.  I feel now that the message is to listen to MY OWN INNER QUIET WISDOM.  It’s there if I just stay quiet and listen.

I have been searching for the kind of owl it was and finally saw the kind in this video:

The article:

One of the biggest mistakes I have when it comes to setting boundaries is thinking (or hoping) that the person I am attempting to set limits with will understand me (and why I have the values I have).

They do not need to understand me, I need to understand myself…

What setting boundaries means:

  • Setting boundaries means you are taking responsibility and standing by your personal code of ethics and values.
  • Setting boundaries reflect your right to say NO to things that are not right for you.
  • Setting boundaries means you are learning the importance of self-care, self respect, and self love.
  • Setting boundaries emerge when we learn to go within, listen to our authentic selves, value our own decisions and trust ourselves.
  • Setting boundaries emerge from knowing what you believe, dislike, or like is important and relevant.
  • Setting boundaries emerge from  deep introspection and the realization of what you deserve and do not deserve.


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Spend some time looking at owls.

Draw them.

Read the article on boundaries.

Listen to your inner wisdom.


THIS WEEK on artist exploration/journaling series: #LisaLarson #arttherapy

Journaling is really helping me stay focused.  Personal art therapy.

WEEK 3 INTRO: Lisa Larson

I am so inspired by the brilliant Swedish designer, Lisa Larson at Gustavsberg and I can’t wait to explore her work and my relationship to it this week.

Lisa Larson, 1959

As I’m busy with my art event today, I’ll do part 1 tomorrow!

As an intro, I wanted to share the visual connection I just discovered between Picasso and Lisa this past week.

See also:

35 PART daily journal exercise

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series INTRO

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series Week 1 parts 1-6 FRIDA KAHLO

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series Week 2 parts 1-6 PICASSO