music

Eagles of the World: Bateleur Eagle

The Bateleur Eagle, Terathopius ecaudatus is an interesting colored bird with a very short tail. Found in decreasing numbers across sub-Saharan Africa. They cover large territories of upwards of 250 square miles. They both hunt and scavenge on these vast expanses. Taking small birds and mammals as well as carrion. They seem to prefer snakes, and have developed very rough scaled feet to protect them from bites. 

Bateleur Eagles mate for life, and lay one egg per clutch. Eggs are incubated by the female for 42-43 days. While they are usually found in alone or in pairs, they have been spotted in groups of up to 20 birds. Their closest relatives are the Snake Eagles. 

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This is my first painting in my Raptors of the World series that I’ve completed since moving back to Illinois. I stretched this project out and enjoyed it. Spending the days between brush strokes with family and friends. I was also able to utilize the vast collection of birds at the Field Museum of Natural History.  Eagles have a hold on my imagination a lot lately. Next I’m going to look at Wedge-Tailed Eagles from Australia. 

Thanks for looking at birds with me. 

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Owls of the World: Short-Eared Owl

Six years ago or so, up on the railroad tracks in rural San Luis Obispo county is where I found my first owl while exploring in California.
The eyes were a striking yellow. We looked at each other for a second that sat like an hour.
It flew away to my left without the slightest sound of wind over wing. More like a ghost than anything I’ve ever seen.

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The Short-Eared Owl, Asio flammeus.
Preferring to live in open prairie and fields, this owl can be easier to find than some of the more reclusive owls like Strix nebulosa.
Their range is much of the top half of North America. They have lost a lot of their range in the south due to loss of habitat.
These owls do most their hunting at dawn and dusk. Locating small mammals by ear while in flight. They kill prey with a bite to the back of the head.
Their smaller ear tufts are often not visible. My model for this painting didn’t  seem to have any at all.
Some research I read said they only show when they feel threatened.
I cant confirm that, as my model was a series of photographs from an excellent book.
“Owls” by Floyd Scholz, photographs by Tad Merrick. Stackpole Books. Over 380 pages of awesome. If you love owls, its a great book for you.
I painted this one all the way through while enjoying the livestream from Dead & Company’s show in Washington. Hard to beat having a band like that in your ear while hanging out with an owl.
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Thanks for joining me again to look at birds. There’s some messed up shit happening out there. I’m glad  we could share this together.

Falcons of the World-Alaska/Arctic Circle

Good golly how about that ride from Santiago, Chile to Anchorage, Alaska eh?
7,890 miles as the Toyota crow flies.
We made it though, but I’m still bummed you threw my “80’s dance hits” mix tape out the window while we were flying over Mexico.
And so now here we are in the great beautiful North. Home of the largest falcon of North America, the Gyrfalcon.
In the summer Gyrfalcons can be found from around 60 degrees to 79 degrees North. Their breeding range covers parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
Winter time ranges of Gyrfalcons is still largely unknown. While some birds remain on their breeding range others winter south. In North America occasionally in the United States and in Asia as far south as Central Asia.
Their favorite meal is Ptarmigan, who can blame them? But studies have found they can take just about any other bird it comes across.
Even short eared owls have fallen prey to a Gyrfalcon. With a bill sharp enough to sever the spine of any bird, the menu is bigger.
They are incredible hunters. Utilizing several different techniques to capture prey. From low fast flight, chasing and tiring the prey out.
To breaking the preys breastbone by forcing it into the ground. They strike prey in the air rather than grab with their talons.
They repurpose Ravens nests and tend to a clutch of 3-5.
Gyrfalcons tend to occur in three different morphs, a dark, a white, and a grey. Shown here is an adult white morph.
I really enjoyed the literature study for this painting. The gyrfalcon is really an incredible bird. I recommend Falcons of the World by Tom J. Cade
It has stunning artwork by R. David Digby and well detailed information on each fascinating member of this incredible group of birds. Falco.
Well The flying Toyota is packed up and I made a new mix tape. “Mo-Town Jams” if you throw this mix tape out the window, were stopping till you find it.
We’re heading to Australia to look at an owl there. I’m not sure which one we’ll decide when we get there.
It’s only 7300 miles.
We got this.
Hold on tight.

Owls of the world

Last April I painted 20 warbler species of North America. This April I’m working on a collection of Owls of the world.

My goal with painting these animals has always been to bring their significance to light so that they may be saved for future generations to enjoy. That notion doesn’t know borders or continents and neither does my imagination or paint brush.
So I’ve been collecting books and photographs and making new lists to look at for paintings. To present the wonder of the many species of Owls that inhabit our planet.

The first is the Western Siberian Eagle Owl.
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The western Siberian eagle owl is a top predator in the Arctic pine forests across Siberia.


It took a lot of pencil pushing before I found my eagle owl in this one. You can see by the photos it didn’t unfold at speed. At one point I pulled out the big eraser and took the poor birds head clear off.

But that is what I expect with trying to catch the nuances of these fascinating creatures.  Lots of back and forth. I look at photos in the morning on my way to work of the previous nights sketches and make notes of changes to be made.


I learned even more useful methods for painting on this project. I learned new ways to paint the eyes and the folded wings. Two areas I’ve never felt that I have had a solid technique for.
It was a very productive project in the learning I gained throughout.

I’ve already traveled from Siberia to North Western Africa where I’ve found the Pharaoh Eagle Owl and begun to record.

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Glow with the gold of sunshine.

Hours after the final notes faded from Santa Clara, CA. I’m pondering what it means to me that the boys from the Grateful Dead won’t be playing together anymore and settling into their own final flight paths.
Questions and ideas begin to come to my mind and some get answered, other were all ready many years ago.
Who will help me decipher the whispers of the highway?
Who will translate the despair to beauty?
It’s the reading of the last page of a book read for the first time and the heart ache that comes with it.
While we can always open the book to previous chapters.
it’s a painful walk back to the bookshelf where nothing else seems to measure up.
And it would be selling ourselves short not to look.

There’s plenty there.
Read, listen, and love.
But how to move without the wheels of fragile thunder?
Who will hold their hand out for the rain to pour?
The anticipation of summer on the golden road.
Holding off the relentless to truly laugh our pasts away.
How to make it just one more day?
With the future in one hand and a basket of songs in the other.
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My questions are infinite but the facts are plain. They walked barefoot in the snow and gave the best they had to give.
How much?
We’ll never know.
A huge thank you to all who have accompanied me on this trip down the highway. My friends and the band. The strangers who stopped just to shake my hand.
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Birds and Sisters.

I don’t think there’s anyone who’s rabidly staring at their screen waiting for news of what I’m drawing next. Honestly anybody who follows this corner of the internet can make a safe bet, it’ll be some birds. That’s good.

And when I mention music more often (9 times out of 10) it’s a Grateful Dead note of some sort. While I still intend to deliver your next warbler painting I’d also like to much more directly mention a music group who I think is worth singing from the roof top, or in my case writing by way of the internet tubes while sitting on a bird drawing chair in California.

The T Sisters are a group from Oakland, CA. I saw/heard  them for the first time a month ago at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I don’t like labeling music (warblers are hard enough), but they take me to a place like a modern Carter Family, that pulls from a deep well of Mo-town soul. That being said they certainly have their own very unique approach that stands on it’s own top shelf. Three very strong voices on their own come together to weave a delightful story of music from yesteryears and tomorrow. And do not let me forget the strong instrumental accompaniment found on their records. Really just top notch through and through.

I think what I like most is the roots of family sew into the songs. It’s hard for me to explain to somebody how I can be so close with my family but live thousands of miles away. Their songs come closer than I ever could.

I could ramble on for another good while but i’ll do us all a favor and just tell you what you need to know http://tsisters.com/

A wise man once told me that the beauty of art is the only thing left that can save the world. Whether or not the world needs saving, do your ears and heart a solid one and check them out.

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Shake the dreams from your hair.

The pile of sketches from the last few days keeps falling off the speaker cabinet in the corner of the room. The bass vibrations send them toppling down to the floor. Water color paintings and pencil sketches taking a brief flight to the paint stained rug beneath. Flight seems an appropriate word as many of them are hawks. Screenshots from my own dreamscape television program. Caught in the echoes. No sense seen in turning down the music. For it’s this moments bird with its talons still grappling my imagination tight. Caught on the wing in my childhood, they still never fail at carrying me away.

But I all ready wrote her that poem.

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Again (again).

“Begging your indulgence, We’re going to do yet another song in the key of G”

-Bob Weir, The Grateful Dead

And so begging your indulgence I’m going to do yet another drawing in the key of Owl.

Thanks for bearing with me yet again while I move around the lines on the page.

And sometimes you have to sit on a chair miles away from a rainstorm and hope to see lightning strike the same place twice. With that stubborn persistence, it will. Tonight my personal case-in-point. I put pen to plywood again and got another Great Horned Owl that gave me chills like the one I met in Tahoe some years back.

The one is a map to the other.

The one is a map to the other.

Flight path.

A pose I had sketched a lot in October. Here it finally came to life in pen this evening with the help of a visit from a Red-Tailed Hawk on my way home tonight. Inspiration move me brightly…

Penciled in like an appointment I never planned to keep.

Penciled in like an appointment I never planned to keep.

Turns to splintered sunlight on my page.

Turns to splintered sunlight on my page.

Hawks help me get lost in the meadow of my imagination.

Hawks help me get lost in the meadow of my imagination.

Stop making sense

And sometimes I stay up past midnight to finish a blue hawk. The Talking Heads fill my headphones and smiles ensue.

Penciled out on a 1'x2' piece of 1/8" plywood.

Penciled out on a 1’x2′ piece of 1/8″ plywood.

Rendered in pen in just under three hours.

Rendered in pen in just under three hours.

Mixing fluid acrylic blue with a matte medium and a slo-dri fluid retarder. Applied to the wood with scraps of an old t-shirt.

Mixing fluid acrylic blue with a matte medium and a slo-dri fluid retarder. Applied to the wood with scraps of an old t-shirt.

"She has the smoke in her eyes..."

“She has the smoke in her eyes…”