Studies for the crucified owl painting and the current one.
Some thoughts on sketching feather coats. Even finding good ways of making thumbnails is hard with all the variety of coats, limbs, etc., but I think that certain feelings which are typical of an animal's appearence should be given even in the crudest doodle. Birds often give the impression that they are covered by few broad sheets rather than many individual feathers, so I prefer to sketch them like that.
The facial mask is the most typical feature of a barn owl. From the front is looks almost flat, but from the side it reveals a quite complex 3D shape.
I don't like drawing anthros with a true beak, so when drawing anthro birds I usually give them a mammal's mouth with the upper part of the beak on top of it. This gives them a very flexible mouth while keeping the appearance of a bird or a gryphon.
But for barn owls the proportions and the shape of the mask are important, they are a big part of the appeal to me. Barn owls also have a few feathers on both sides of the beak which hide away most of the mouth, so that the mask surface is smoother and it can do a better job of focusing sounds. For me small functional details like that one are part of the appeal of animals.
The head shape I've settled on is more or less this: