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Accepted to the Wild & Scenic Film festival. “Destination Unknown”, in Ozark earth pigments. The model was a photo by Mike TR Dunn, used by permission. Media is handmade watercolors using real earth pigments on Fabriano 300# and is 16" x 20". The Red-tailed hawk is one of the birds in my ongoing Ozark Birds of Prey project.

Red-tailed Hawk Painting in Earth Pigments

This red-tailed hawk is the subject of my painting in progress.

Follow along as I paint a picture of this red-tailed hawk. It’s part of my Ozark Birds of Prey series. It’s the first of two planned red-tails. Red-tailed hawks are very common in the Ozarks and across the United States. They’re the largest of the hawks found in Arkansas. And they’re commonly used in falconry because they’re good hunters that can take down larger prey.

If you clicked through from Pinterest, it appears that the whole blog post isn’t showing up in the in-app reader. Click all the way through to my website if you can figure out how to do that so you can see all of the images. I don’t know how to tell you to do it… but if you know and would share the steps in the comments below, I’d be forever grateful!

As always, I’m using wild foraged, handcrafted watercolor paints made from my Ozark pigments – otherwise known as Wild Ozark Paleo Paints. The colors I’m using include:

The Red-Tailed Palette

  • creek shale
  • bone black
  • willow char
  • gray-green siltstone
  • earthy delight (brown, from a black sandstone)
  • Cromwell’s Sunrise (from an yellow-orange sandstone)
  • Pink Tequila (a blend from Cromwell and Pink sandstone)
  • Russet lights
  • Yellow Sands
  • Intoxicating (red sandstone with black coating)

But for this one I wanted to do something a little different. It’s the first of my works to have true background and foreground elements. This will hopefully add an element of depth not previously present in my art.

First Step- the Outline

The first step-an outline

I don’t use pencil to draw my outlines, I use one of the colors of my paints and a paint brush. My work is all free-hand. Sometimes I do make ruled lines on the photograph to make sure I have everything in perspective the way it needs to be, but this time I didn’t do that. I might pay for that later.

But the outlines aren’t set in stone… unless I accidentally use a pigment that stains. If it does, then the outline is pretty much set in paper, if not stone. The color I chose for the red-tail outline (Cromwell’s Sunrise) did stain, so it’s pretty much set now. Thankfully, the placement is about right and I think I can make any necessary adjustments going forward without much issue.

The Background

Although I knew I wanted a background and foreground in this one, I didn’t know *what* I wanted. The photo originally just had a solid sky background (I lightened the sky to isolate the bird in the photo at the beginning of this post).

So I just started with the gray, because I did know I wanted clouds eventually. Painting a background around the outlined red-tailed was difficult. It just seemed to get in the way. By the time I quit the sky and moved to the ground, I had the groundwork for the clouds in place.


With the immediate background in place, the foreground looked empty. So I added a few weeds. At this point it was dark outside and I really wished I could go look at some of the dried grasses. Then I remembered I have dried grasses in my studio! I use them for … whatever. I hadn’t found much use for them yet, but I cut them last year because I thought they’d be handy for something decorative eventually. Ha. Now I’m glad I had them.

Original is For Sale

You can order directly from me, unless it is on exhibit in a show somewhere. If you’ll click here, you’ll go to the product listing here at my website shop. If the painting is away on exhibit, I have the notice posted there with details. Usually when a painting is on exhibit, it is for sale and can be transacted through the gallery. If you’re in northwest Arkansas and want to see it in person when it returns home, let me know. Here’s the description:

“Destination Unknown”, in Ozark earth pigments. Media is handmade watercolors using real earth pigments on Fabriano 300# (hot press) and measures 16″ x 20″. The Red-tailed hawk is one of the birds in my ongoing Ozark Birds of Prey project.

Prints are for Sale

Thanks for reading, and come back again! I’m not sure what the next one will be, but rest assured, there will be another raptor on the easel soon 🙂

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Chris Aurora
Chris Aurora
22 August 2019 8:16 pm

That’s amazing

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