Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Above is a quick pencil sketch of the Merlin (Falco columbarius), the American Kestrel (F. sparveruis), and the Peregrine Falcon (F. peregrinus). All three are used in falconry there, where the Kestrel is a bit larger than its European cousin.

Friday, 20 February 2009

This bird, the Red-legged Seriema (Seriema cristata) has just bagged his lunch, a Smooth Machete Savane (Chironius scurrulus). The snake's genus is endemic to South America, as is the bird's; however, one might note some similarities to the Houbara (Chlamydotis undulata) and other bustards. That is because they are in fact in the same order, the Gruiformes, along with rails. Speaking of Houbara, I am working on a painting of one meeting a Saker, so there may be an opportunity to compare these two Gruiformes. The individual feather patterning and facial feathering are strikingly similar. Diet and other factors are also shared, so it may be said that the seriemas are a New World equivalent of the bustards.

Monday, 16 February 2009

This is a pencil study of a Peregrine Falcon hunting a Mallard, whose presence is only depicted by the feathers strewn about. Ex unge leonis, or ex plume aves, if my Latin is correct in tranposing the allegory showing the lion by its claw into an ornithological equivalent. It is not generally observed, but this duck has some of the most finely vermiculated feathers in the bird kingdom, and I liked using them for effect, which may not show up in low res imagery.

This is the painting which appears opposite p.1 in Musings of an Afghan Falconer by Sirdar Mohamed Osman. It is an immature European Sparrow-hawk, used to epitomise Gulab Chashim, the yellow-eyed birds of prey, or what we in the West call short-wings. It was painted in 2004.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The California Condor is well on the way to extinction, it is one of the 50 rarest birds of the world. Presently it can only be found in the wild in California, and much of that due only to conservation efforts by the San Diego Zoo. An interesting phenomenon that has been taking place recently is that they join hanggliders in the sky. This was painted several years ago, and has suffered from being a bit too rolled up, but hopefully that can be undone.
As today is Valentine's Day, it was thought it might be good to add this image, even if it is only a study and does not show the idea of the painting, which is love. This is a male quetzal, whose long breeding season tail will dominate the picture. I wanted him to look composed and patient, but in reality, there will be more tension than in any of the life and death scenes depicted in most of my work. There is to be a female quetzal, looking away from the viewer, and the amorous male. She is wary, non-decisive, as are so many courted females of the species, who are at that delicate stage of a relationship where they are not anwering their suitor's emails or phone calls. But this suitor is not annoyed or put off, he is patient, knowing his beloved is the one. The one and only on whom he must wait with masculine gentleness, overcoming her natural wariness. She will pretend for some time not to notice, but he is more persevering than she is hard to get.
This stork is making his exit, thanks to the as yet unpainted Saker (top left). It may have a stay of execution though, as other projects are more in hand, and so it may remain in limbo. Storks are not a Saker's usual prey, they do take large birds, but in the wild usually only up to ducks.

Some creatures only come out at night, such as those members of the Caprimulgidae, a large family of cryptically coloured insectivorous and mainly nocturnal birds. The moon is barely visible top left, and sets the tone of this non-raptorial study. But who knows what else lurks in the moonlight, perhaps an Eagle Owl. Against such their cryptic colouration serves well, and few if any of these are taken by raptors. So this is a bit off my usual theme, but I could not resist. Cryptic colouration is quite artistic, the subtle touches that the Creator has put there for the more observant to pick up on. Expect more nocturnes in the future.
The hunter and the hunted are at it again, this time in Panama, where both of these creatures live out their lives. The curassow is a relative of pheasants and chickens, but much less well known. They do indeed make meals for harpies and other large raptors, and of course for humans as well. This image is now in its sixth year, I will try to finish it this year.
Feathers are now flying and there is a sky, in which the contrast of light and dark is repeated - the sunlit top turning to a grey cloudscape into which the defeated corvid falls, his eye closed forever. Against the sad theme of his demise there is the bright, courageous look of his adversary. An interesting effect is achieved on the underwing of the attacker, but this is purely due to reflection of the lightbulb; painter I am, but photographer is another man's trade. In the future I hope to be able to set up double light sources and improve the images.
The bright spot caused by the bulb is, nonetheless, an interesting touch, and could serve well for light seen through feathers. (see previous posts for more on the development of this painting).
The hawk now has two wings, the contrast between which adds to the dimensionality of the picture. Up till now it has been worked in mainly two dimensions, but now matures into the third.
The image develops, with the crow adding more darkness to the scene, and the hawk starting to show some barring on the underwing. Contrast is beginning between light and dark, perhaps as an unconscious allegory between the two creatures.

November 2008
Painting is now under way, the silky blackness of the crow is starting to set the tone - with the contrast of the grittier talons, grasping at thin air in the throes of death.