Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Lurking In The Shadows

We have all had that feeling when we are being watched, where the hairs on your neck tell you something sinister is lurking amongst the shadows. It is a sense that serves us well and evolved for good reason – predation. Predators such as the Goshawk not only bring balance to the food chain, they also breathe fear into an environment. There is a German saying that you know the goshawk is there ‘because you don’t see it’. An arboreal jaguar, the Goshawk is as adept at striking fur as feather and a perfect example of a calculating opportunist. Bang…this bird hits like a hammer and has the skill and nerve to match its lust for killing. It has a wide range in culinary tastes that enable it to take mammals as large as hares (the female Gos is much bigger than the male, so this is gender dependant) to rabbits and squirrels. Feathered quarry range from pheasant and wood pigeon, to corvids and crossbill (yes, I once found the remains on a nest site plucking post) and everything in between.

For such a bold apex predator, very few people have ever seen one. Countrymen with serious knowledge and experience rarely get more than a glimpse if they are lucky, and that includes having the field-craft to even know where its home range lies. Its an apparition, a flash of barred steel grey, an ephemeral glimpse, even then your brain has to try and process the data to comprehend it was what you thought it was, or maybe just a dream-like fantasy where you convinced yourself it could have been a Goshawk? It’s like a Sparrowhawk on steroids - very similar in design but so much larger and bulkier. In contrast to the Spar, the Goshawk in flight has a much deeper chest, rounded tail and more conspicuous head and neck. A true Olympian of the hawking world and if you were to put both the Gos and Spar on the podium, it would be like the clash of the titans between Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu in their heyday!

Certain species evolved over millennia for one purpose only and that's to kill for survival. Predators play a vital balance in the eco-system, and while many people cannot relate to the bloodlust of certain creatures, I have always been fascinated by their intelligence and ability to survive. I have noticed through observation over many years that most predators are more intelligent than herbivores. This is not a given with some of the largest primates like gorillas and orang-utans being highly intelligent, but on the whole it seems to be the case. Regarding food, if you think about most herbivores' requirements, they have not had to develop the skillset to outwit their chlorophyll prey (granted though, they must evade capture). Vegetation grazing at ground level or any other kind of plant matter is a simple process not requiring wit, cunning or premeditative tactics to meet your daily nutritional needs. On the other hand a predator has to make calculated judgements every time it wants to feed, with no two scenarios the same it takes a highly intelligent creature to perform this task each feeding time. Oftentimes, predators such as the Goshawk have no more than a few milliseconds to make an adjustment to achieve success (or failure) resulting in the greatest price for its prey - death. The fear it brings to its environment can also be a good thing as it keeps clever egg and nestling opportunists such as magpies and crows on the move and looking over their shoulders. It is interesting that small birds such as the Goldcrest have been documented breeding extremely close to Goshawk nests due to the protection they afford from such opportunists – obviously they are too small a meal!

The Goshawk embodies all the attributes of an excocet missile and to watch one flash through a woodland glade, ride or boundary edge is nothing short of hair-raising. In fact its turn of speed through close wooded quarters can appear to defy physics. To try and depict this bird in any other way would be an injustice and a complete lack of understanding on my part, it’s like the velociraptor of the bird world...in fact mention the word ‘Goshawk’ to anyone in the know and their response would say it all I guess! If one bird were solely designed for killing its victim with precision and lack of empathy, the Goshawk would be close to pole position. As a sprinter its short broad wings and long tail aid acceleration, pursuit and manoeuvrability in both deciduous and coniferous forest. Combine these attributes with stout legs and extremely powerful talons and you have the recipe for a bird designed for ambush tactics using speed and skill to bring down prey with a very high success rate. I have been more than lucky in my time to witness wild hunting and nesting Goshawks, but on most occasions, nothing more than a ghostly flash. I even have footage of a first year bird with its prey on the ground, along with other close encounters I have witnessed, which have left long lasting memories.

The piece I have put together is 740mm x 340mm (drawing Size)on grey-toned art-board, with mix media consisting of ink pen, graphite and white chalk. I wanted to try and capture elements of the Goshawks energy, from the glazed look of a serial killer, to the ghostly outline passing through a woodland glade, along with powerful talons that show the sheer power this hawk possesses in that pounce of sinew, bone and hook. The piece is for sale professional mounted and framed. 
                                                                     Priced £400

I have also been sketching to try and work out the composition for a large Sparrowhawk drawing I have in-mind this year. This sketch piece is also for sale on A3 paper (drawing Size 190mm x 100mm)                                                           
                                                                          Priced £120

The last drawing for sale is a Peregrine study, once again on A3 paper (Drawing Size 330mm x 290mm) and this time something a little different with an internal border added to the paper - it’s something I have been playing around with and you will be seeing more of this feature incorporated into future pieces. The reference for this drawing was gathered from a wild peregrine that had been injured, which allowed me to spend a day with the bird just before she was released.
                                                                     Priced £200

I hope you enjoy my latest works focused around birds of prey, but once again a big jump on the board over the last month and I'm back drawing fish and fishing related subjects!

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