Monday, 2 February 2015

Sparrowhawk studies

Quite a while ago now (last July), one of my work colleagues found a freshly dead juvenile Sparrowhawk outside our offices, which appeared to have flown into a window (its neck was broken). While this was sad, it was a great opportunity to get much closer than would normally be possible and to try drawing this beautiful bird, so I bagged it up and took it home to my freezer (to the consternation of my work colleagues, and also my partner Chris).

Here are a few photos to begin with!

It's taken me a while to get round to finishing my drawings and paintings due to Life getting in the way, but I finally completed the last one this weekend, and buried the poor hawk in my garden. Even though it was dead and obviously didn't care either way, I felt kind of bad about keeping it in my freezer for so long - every time I got him out, the sight of his poor stiff frozen body made me feel a little sad. I guess I am just a bit of a softy! Maybe that was why I found that actually, I didn't enjoy drawing and painting the Sparrowhawk as much as I thought I would - although it was a great chance to really closely observe the details of his feathers and structure of his body, I found it a very different experience to copying a photo of a living bird, or trying to sketch birds from life. The closed eyes and lifeless pose made a much bigger difference than I was expecting.

As I'd never attempted to draw or paint from a dead bird before, I tried a few different approaches, in both pencil and watercolour. Initially I was very unsatisfied with the results but after a few attempts was able to do something I enjoyed producing much more, and was happier with.

My first attempt, in pencil - not too pleased with this.

My second effort, switching to watercolour. I like this even less! It's 'overdone', I've slapped on way too much paint - needed to be more restrained. As it was going badly I stopped halfway through so it's not even finished.

I decided instead to focus in on small details rather than trying to draw the whole bird - these were time-consuming and I found somewhat frustrating to paint (I lack patience) but I'm happier with the results.

Back to pencil, trying to just sketch the structure of the wing feathers without adding any detail at all. I like this much better!

More watercolour details - OK but not great.

Another pencil sketch focussing on the structure of the wings without any other details - again, I like this.

Final drawing, again concentrating on structure of wing feathers. Got really into it and made the lines super-strong!
I'm glad to have had the chance to draw and paint this Sparrowhawk but I know now that I definitely prefer drawing and painting from living birds, both in photos and in real life!

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