A few years ago I went to Minnesota in the hope of seeing Rough-legged Buzzards and Golden Eagles - both of which had escaped me for years. Fortunately I was able to add them to my life list and now feel free to paint them in any way I wish. The adult Rough-legged seen here was just a bird in a landscape as I didn't have my scope with me at the time so it simply became a passing moment in time. Still it was a significant one all the same and this is what I tried to capture in this painting. The time is early winter with snow already on the ground and another snow cloud just beginning to drop moisture heading in from the right. At this point it is just verga but this will be the first of many snowstorms of what is normally a long and hard winter.
Birds in flight are the hardest to do well and there are not many artist in the past who have done it. Thornburn was a typical example, as although his perched birds are quite fabulous, the ones he did in flight just don't look quite right. George Lodge was better but still not quite there. My favorite has to be Bruno Liljefors with Lars Jonsson a close second. Liljefors' eagles in flight are masterpieces with all the careful observation of not only the correct details but more importantly, the correct wing and body positions. I have long been an admirer of his and Lars Jonsson paintings who has also done some amazing work - a quick look through his 'Birds of Europe' field guide (especially the raptors section) - shows equally careful observation with completely natural looking birds in flight. So much so in fact that when I am looking at flying raptors myself, I am often reminded of him!
Now a days we have the benefit of high-speed photography which does help a lot in creating paintings but I have still seen some very strange poses! Really there is no better way than just getting out there and observing birds in their natural surroundings. I find it helpful to follow the bird through my binoculars then put down my impressions from memory. Often a certain pose will stick in my mind and that's the one I'll try and develop to a finished drawing. At this point, I'm not worried about details as photos can usually help with that, I'm just trying to get down the most accurate drawings that I can. To this end, I have started a series of birds in flight in the hope of reaching two goals; 1, getting better at painting flying birds and 2, creating some different and hopefully more interesting paintings. This most recent watercolor is 7.5" X 11". SOLD.