There is one specific bird that has long stirred my spirit to move paint across page after page. To call it my muse wouldn’t be completely unfair. Buteo jamaicensis. North America’s Red-tailed Hawk.
Since my youth Red-tailed Hawks have captured my imagination. One of my earliest memories regarding birds was my father pointing out a perched Red-tailed Hawk in the field by our house. Then later a school visit to a wildlife rehabilitation center where I met my first hawk. And years later while I explored California’s central coast seeing them float on thermals inspired me to take all I’d learned from my sister about painting and use it to try and catch their wonder.
“The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master”
-Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead.
Red-tailed Hawks are found across almost all of North America. I’ve been across almost all of North America from one time or another and enjoyed these hawks on my travels. I put together this panel to demonstrate the incredible variety of colors they occur in.
Once again I’m proud to paint on a panel my father made for me. The same man who gave me my introduction to this great world of wildlife puts the pages right under my paintbrush.
We’ve looked at this falcon several times here. From its astounding 200+ mph dives to its serrated knife of a bill that it utilizes to sever the spines of its prey. This bird is in a league of its own.
After the last panel painting I still had these speedy murder birds fresh in mind so I put together another panel. Thanks for looking at birds with me again.
A large and powerful eagle found in forested regions of Central and Southeastern Africa. Feeds primarily on mammals including monkeys, forest antelope, hyraxes, mongooses, and bushbabies. Large lizards and snakes are also on the menu, as is the occasional bird.
North America’s most widespread raptor. Found in open regions of Mexico all the way north to Alaska and just about every point between. They prefer grasslands, fields, deserts, roadsides, parks, farmland, and broken forests. They feed primarily on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and swarming insects. They hunt from a perch like utility poles and trees. They also hunt on the wing, soaring in circles, gliding on thermals. These hawks mate for life, nesting in treetops, cliff sides, and man made structures. They lay a clutch of between 1 and 5 eggs. Incubation time varies from 28-35 days.
It’s no secret this is my favorite bird to study. In the field or in the studio they never fail to capture my imagination. They embody a sense of exploration and beauty to me. They were a common sight in my 20s when I was exploring California by bicycle and have remained a common sight as I enjoy my home near the prairie remnants of Illinois.
I put together these two paintings over the last couple weeks on panels my father made for me in his workshop. I can’t begin to express what a great gift it is to be able to paint on a panel he made, and to have his generous support all my life.
I’m so glad I get to share these birds and art with you all, thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
Here’s an aptly named raptor found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Feeds primarily on mammals, birds, large lizards, and snakes. They often hunt still from a perch then dive down after prey that’s passing by. They are also very strong flyers that can chase down prey that’s escaping.
I first learned about these fine birds from a book when I was in second grade. Every time my class visited the library I went straight to the wildlife section and dove in. Fast forward some 20 some years and I’m still fascinated by these fine falcons.
I’m grateful to have had many different experiences with them in the wild. From California to Illinois in a number of different habitats. There’s really nothing quite like watching them fly, hunt, dive, and dine.
I’ve made a few different Peregrine panels over the last five years. This pose is among my favorites and so I duplicated it. I’m proud to be working on panels my father made for me in his wood shop.
Thanks Dad, and thanks to you for looking at birds with me.
Cooper’s hawks are definitely high in the ranks of my favorite birds to watch, draw, and paint. Always a difficult bird to id from it’s cousin the Sharp shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus). I’ve shared other paintings here of this fighter jet-like song bird hunter. This is the first painting I’ve shared of one I’ve put together on a panel my amazing wood-working father had assembled. When I started these panel paintings years back, I was living in Oakland, Ca. I bought my panels from an art supply store. I imagined how cool it’d be to be able to live close to home and paint on panels my dad made. Or at least commandeer his wood shop to make my own panels. Fast forward some five years and here we are. My dad turns out 10 panels a week for me. I’m sitting on an amazing back-stock of high quality panels and all I have to do is decide which bird to paint.
So I went to the Cooper’s Hawk. One of the first I saw upon my return to my home town four years ago and one I’ve seen plenty of since. In fact one I enjoy so much upon finishing this last one, I started fresh again with another. A feat only easily accomplished by having the wonderfully supportive friends and family I have, and a fine stock of papa-made wood panels.
So I thank you for looking at hawks with me, and my father for providing me with the supplies I need to keep my heart soaring through the branches after birds like the Cooper’s Hawk does.
Hawks have been a focus of mine since the beginning of this decade that’s now closing down. Catching a glimpse of a red tailed hawk coasting on the thermals while I rode my bike in the hills of California. That’s where my interest was first peaked. I feel I’ve lived a lifetime since then. Though that same situation still occurs while I’m exploring the shores of Lake Michigan or the very same prairies I did long before my love affair with painting hawks began.
It became important to me to learn how to paint those birds and all the countless others that I’ve crossed paths with. While this decade is coming to a close my journey as an artist is just beginning. I’m proud to share another hawk painting with you.
With this blog as I developed it, I made a point to steer away from the poetic and just share the science and while I still intend to share more species and information with you. Forgive me while I take but a moment to reflect on the miles and years we’ve all come to get to today.
This one is for our friends who can’t be here with us tonight. Thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
I’ve painted plenty of adult Red-tailed Hawks and wanted to do a panel painting of a first year hawk. Even more specifically a light morph. Red-tailed hawks don’t gain their namesake red tail feathers until their second and even sometimes third year.
This was painted on a panel that’s been used for a few different paintings and has been sanded down many times and washed with several different background colors. That’s what gave it the unique coloring you see here.
I’ve probably painted more of these birds than any other. They hold a special place in my heart. Thank you so much for looking at birds with me.