travel

Raptors of the World: Harpy Eagle

I wanted to paint this bird to scale but didn’t have any panels large enough so I settled for a portrait on a 16×20″.  With talons as long as a grizzly bears claws and a wingspan of over 5 feet. The Harpy Eagle is an apex predator and can be found hunting in the treetops of tropical and subtropical forests. From southern Mexico south to Brazil and Argentina. Their diet consists largely of various sloth species and monkey species, including capuchin, howler, spider, and squirrel monkeys.

If you’re not in South America and you want to see these birds in action then check out “The Hunt” on Netflix. Another great nature doc narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Season 1 episode 3 has a great segment on Harpy Eagles. The whole show is awesome and in the same episode is a great segment on Cooper’s Hawks.

I just picked up some great books on African birds of prey and I’m excited to get lost in them. I’ll find us some good birds. Thanks again for looking at birds with me.

HARPY EAGLESPAIRED

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Owls of the World: Black-banded Owl

Here’s a Black-banded Owl, Strix huhula.

These owls have an extensive range in northern and central South America. Preferring tropical and subtropical forests. Also found in banana and coffee plantations. They feed at night primarily on insects such as mantises, beetles, and locusts that it catches in flight. Little is known of breeding and nesting habits. They grow to be 12-14 inches tall with a wing span of 16 inches.

Black-banded pair

Owls of the World: Spotted Wood Owl.

Strix seloputo.

The Spotted Wood Owl is a medium sized owl. Averaging 18 inches tall. They are found across Southeast Asia. Its diet consists of rats, mice, small birds, and large insects. They roost by day, often close to the trunks of trees in dense foliage to avoid detection from other birds. They nest high up in trees, and lay up to three eggs at a time. They prefer nesting in partially clear forests and hunt in open areas. They can be found in populated areas, as well  as remote regions and areas not easily accessed like swamp forests and mangroves.

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My plan was to hold off on painting more in this series until I was settled in Chicago. But I found this old panel while packing and cleaned it up and went for what could best be described as an encore. It was such a privilege to get to paint all these here in Oakland, and I’m very excited for the projects to come in Chicago. Another huge thank you to all my friends and family for all the support. My goal with all this is simple; Share the birds of the world with you all. Now my easel is packed and my brushes too. Stay tuned for a Bateleur Eagle, found in Zimbabwe, Africa. Coming to you from the city by the lake.

And once more for good measure, thank you for looking at birds with me.

Owls of the World: Spotted Eagle Owl

Bubo africanus.

We made it back to Africa. I’m going to be spending more time on African raptors in the coming months.
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The spotted eagle owl is found across the southern regions of Africa.
It’s the smallest species of eagle owl, but by no means a small bird. With a height of up to 18-20 inches and a wing span of 30 inches.
It prefers a diet of mice, frogs, insects, and small birds.  Hunting primarily at night but occasionally at dusk. Habitats include open and scattered woodland. They mate for life and lay 2-4 eggs at a time. Nesting on rocky outcrops or cliff sides. Spending daytime in trees close to the trunk, doing their best to blend in and not be disturbed by diurnal birds.
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Thanks for looking at birds with me again. Before I get going on all those cool African raptors, we’re heading far north to look at a bird I’m really excited about painting.
Grab your coat, it’s gonna be snowy….

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.

On the wing

A defining moment I can still see clearly after the years. When I was 9 my Dad took the family to Oregon to visit our Aunt. That was my first time on an airplane. I remember looking out the window at the clouds underneath us. It dawned on me then, that even on cloudy days, the sun was always shinning somewhere overhead.

That’s something I try to remember on the days when my piece of mind is cloudy or things just aren’t lining up.

Cheesy? sure, but just go look out the window.

A drawing made beneath the windowsill tonight.

A drawing made beneath the windowsill tonight.

If I could, I’d give you the world in its own wings.

In July I had completed my first large (2’x4′) hawk drawing on plywood when it occurred to me, I could put words into the wings. The question I had was, what words?
It seemed Two words would be the best place to start. A word for each wing. Ok that was easy enough, but which two words?
So I thought it over for a few months. It got pushed to the back burner for a while.
Other interesting projects came and went across my drawing desk.
A recent voyage across the United States, took me from California, to Denver, to the prairies of northern Illinois.
I met my newborn Nephew, and forged many great new connections. I also connected with the roots from which I grew.
I was standing on the East bank of the Fox River, when the proper two words found me.
I didn’t bother to write them down, Instead with my mind I put them in my back pocket. Because I knew since they had arisen, they would never leave, or fall out of my pocket.
So I took the two words home with me back to California, where I put them into a hawks wings and let it go back into the world.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this with you. It absolutely means the world to me.

Holding still.

That one summer I made all those hawk drawings.
 
Hiding from the drought with a glass of wine and a veil of feathers over her head.
 
She had a halo like a red-tailed hawk.
 
It could make me stop in midsentence.
 
Pulling the car to the curb 236 miles from Los Angeles.

My Illinois

My Illinois has grown into a place it couldn’t be until I left it. I was too preoccupied with plotting my escape to truly sink into its beauty. That’s not to say I didn’t look for it before I left. In the plots of restored prairie around Kane county Illinois I found the greatest beauty, and came to fall in love with grasslands.
My first large paintings were of mountain ranges, rather cartoon like, they captured the image of where I was heading. I painted them on the walls of my room (to my mother’s delight).
That feeling when you’re driving in towards Denver from Nebraska. To put the grasslands and corn in your rearview mirror and the mountains right on ahead. I was making a break for it, running for my life, cool and calm doing 65mph on Highway 76.
Illinois out the basement window.

Illinois out the basement window.

 

It was to just be another summer job at a kids camp in Tahoe and then return. Though that wasn’t to be the case at all. Here I am 6 years later, I’m putting my eyes on the rearview mirror and revisiting some old familiar plants and animals. All the while sitting on a chair in California drawing birds.
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I wanted to do a page called “Raptors of the Illinois Prairie”.  I chose the American Kestrel and Sharp-shinned Hawk. And after sketching a few old friends from the plots of Kane County. I went with one of my top three favorite plants, the Compass Plant. They stand a good 6-8 feet tall and their roots go almost twice as deep. Part of my love for the flowers they put out is tied to the roots they send so deep. Escaping the full wrath of the fires that recycled the prairie.
I will put a good many more hours into this drawing. To explore it further in pencil and pen, before coloring with watercolor.
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I remember it well standing in the driveway saying goodbye to my Dad that May morning. The dogwood was blooming.  I was sad to leave home I told him. “Home is where ever you go” he told me. Those words put a smile on my face whenever my heart grows heavy.
He knew I wasn’t coming right back to Illinois before I did.