Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing -Red-Tailed Hawks

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Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Red-Tailed Hawk couple

Any attempt at realistic wildlife art requires careful study of anatomy and textures such as feather, fur and scales especially in the case of portrait art, but it also requires a study of natural history if the subject is to fit believably in its environment. In other words, it must tell a story and it must be credible.

LSpino _Red-Tailed Hawks
LSpino _Red-Tailed Hawks

My red-tailed hawk composition had a bit of a bumpy start!  I originally intended to do a study of faces only.  I may still do that one day, but thanks to Mike Sibley a wonderful graphite artist, teacher and mentor who challenged me to come up with a more interesting composition, the final drawing is one of my favourites!  Mike also generously supplied the reference for the standing hawk.  “Red-Tailed Hawks” was selected for inclusion in Strokes Of Genius 7: Depth, Dimension and Space, North Light Books.

LSpino_Red-Tailed Hawks - combo1
LSpino_Red-Tailed Hawks – Strokes of Genius 7

I started studying all I could about the behaviour and life history of the red-tailed hawk and slowly a story started to form in my mind.  A good composition is one that tells a story so this is a good start, but the challenge was just beginning!  These are the facts that supplied the inspiration:

  • Although they migrate, their winter range is from southern Canada to Central America, so snow is OK
  • They’re monogamous remaining with the same mate for life, so pairs can be sighted outside of nesting season
  • Like all raptors females are larger than males but there is overlap in the size range therefore I chose to draw them at about the same size.  Their plumage is similar
  • Mated red-tailed hawks commonly hunt together, cooperating to capture their prey
  • A common hunting tactic is to find a high perch and scan for prey.  
  • Colour variations depend on range.  Almost all of the eastern North America population is light-morph, with a white under plumage and solid brick-red tail feathers.

A winter scene formed in my mind of a red-tailed hawk pair hunting on a cold and frosty morning, their prey just out of sight of the viewer.  Luckily, being Canadian, references for snowy forest landscapes were readily available!!

Here’s a short time-lapse video of of the work-in progress for this drawing.  Hope you enjoy it!

If you find this kind of background information useful, or if you have any questions at all, please let me know!