Not all paintings happen with ease. I can often observe a bird, its behavior, its habitat, and have good reference photos from which to work before I begin. But that wasn't the case with this painting.
I have always enjoyed painting the close-up views of birds that give you not only a sense of its habitat but also some beautiful detail. But close-up views are not the way we generally see a Northern Harrier, a beautiful raptor species in a family all its own, that hunts in a low glide over open fields and is one of the few birds that can hover over its prey for a prolonged period before striking. If you once see this bird in action, you will thrill every time you encounter one.
A number of years ago, while living in a rural area of east Tennessee, I had the special experience of seeing Northern Harriers that were wintering over. Every evening I took great enjoyment in watching with binoculars as they glided over our fields hunting before roosting for the night. This has endeared this bird to me as one of my favorite species, one that stirred my excitement forward and lead me to to spend more time observing birds.
Next: Sketches and color exploration
Links and References:
More information about Northern Harriers at Cornell
Other sketches of a Northern Harrier in flight
More about the use of sketches in creating a painting in: The Richness of Watercolor