After many months of watching the nesting activities of Big Red and Ezra on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web cam, I finally decided it was time to turn my fondness for these Red-tailed Hawks into a watercolor. Since I paint only occasionally I find that every painting is a warm-up activity rather than a continuous progression of skill acquisitions. In addition, every time I attempt to work in this media I seem to pick an overly complicated composition. This requires more preparatory drawing and also tends to tighten up my delivery of the paint to the paper. Once again, my somewhat irrational need to get a reasonable arrangement of the whole bird family required that I piece images from different photographs that I took on the web cam. As it turned out I didn’t have a photo of Ezra, the father bird, and ended up using a close-up of one of the hawk fledglings taken when he/she was fairly adult looking. Big Red, the mother bird, resides in the center of the painting alongside her three chicks. The chicks ended up larger than they actually were at the particular time in their development when the photo was taken. Their feathers had just begun to grow and some dark spots were showing up against the white down. The painting’s location is a nest high up on a light post on one of the Cornell athletic fields. The parents have returned for a number of years to nest in the same spot.
As I already mentioned, my facility with watercolor does not benefit from long periods of inactivity with the medium. Big Red and her family deserved some attention and although I would have preferred to do a painting of my dog Bella and her brother Oliver, I forced myself to give it a try. Aside from the fact that the chicks are too large and are lacking their pantaloons I am relatively pleased with parts of the painting. For your viewing enjoyment I eliminated all traces of the mealtime “kill” and the dismembered remains frequently left in the nest. It was difficult to see so many like my backyard wildlife friends being offered up to the growing chicks. The parent hawks are experienced hunters and taught their offspring well. I’m sure they are on the Cornell campus practicing their skills on many a chipmunk, rabbit or squirrel.
Hunting, painting, or any activity that requires regular activity is bound to improve with practice. It is probably time for me to abandon the bigger compositions and focus on the actual paint application, even if it means simplifying the overall image. Reminding myself that the process, or the practice, is more important than the product is something I still need to do.