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Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier
18 x 26 cm

Hen Harriers have suffered a lot from persecution in Britain. Their diet of small moorland birds, hasn't endeared them to gamekeepers concerned with maintaining large populations of grouse. We are lucky here in Caithness that this is one of the areas where they still breed, probably helped by the large RSPB Reserve at Forsinard Flows, and another at Broubster Leans. They are a magnificent sight, skimming over the moors looking for prey. The females are a dull brown colour, but the males are pale grey and can look almost white in bright sunlight. This was painted from a sketch I made earlier in the summer.


  1. Good morning Keith... Am really enjoying my Saturday morning ritual and cup o' java... looking at yet another fine Tilley original!

    Your Harrier really does visually command attention... and offers great prpose to the painting... as does your sensitive description of the state of things on the moors in reference to this lovely creature!

    Isn't it both strange... and sad as well, that Man can project that the creature is too much a menace to the "natural" ecosystem he is managing... when perhaps the same can be said about "Man"... himself in that same ecosystem. I wonder?

    But, I believe that Nature is well ahead of Man with its own plans to... "manage" the problem. Too bad for mankind!

    A lovely painting and thoughtful post as well Keith! Enjoyed my visit!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  2. Good evening Bruce, your comment reminds me of the saying that "there are no such things as a weeds; just flowers growing where we don't want them to"!

    Following your perceptive thoughts: Maybe mankind is the 'weed' in the grand scheme of things.

    Hope your afternoon was as good as the morning,

  3. Hi Keith, what colours did you use for your painting? Do you lay one strong wash of paint onto the paper or do you work in layers of paint. There is a freshness in your painting which looks to me as if you painted it with a very large wash brush which allows the painting to remain bright looking and bonny.

  4. Another lovely painting and informative post Keith, thank you. As a keen amateur photographer I often consider the rule of thirds when composing a shot. I've never felt it has a place in art (personal opinion) but this painting, with the Harrier perfectly placed off-centre and low, makes me think that maybe it does. Nice job. ;-)

  5. i love paintings with a story and birds and your work keith!!

  6. Hi Caroline, the palette for this painting was:

    Raw Sienna
    Burnt Sienna
    Permanent Rose
    French Ultramarine
    Winsor Blue (green shade)

    Most of the painting was completed in one wash, with the colours running together in places. That's what gives the rich and glowing effect. The second application was limited to small brush-strokes to define the forms.

  7. Thanks John. I always start with the thirds rule for photographs or paintings; the difference with the latter is that you can tweak it a bit. There is a problem with subjects like this, where the horizon is also best to be a third of the way up from the bottom. I spent some time thinking about the position of the bird and, in the end, I compromised with the horizon.

  8. Ha, ha, glad to meet all your requirements, Rob!

  9. I know Windsor blue both green and red shade, lovely colours. I think James Fletcher Watson used them. I still have to try the permanent rose! I am so fond of my rose madder even though you said it fades. I have watercolours in my home that are still good in colours. We are having mild weather here hope all is well with you in the wildnerness.

  10. Hi Caroline, it's just occurred to me that I have been talking about Rose Madder in watercolours, where the permanence is unreliable. Winsor and Newton give it a 'B' rating. However they also say that it is more permanent when applied at full strength.

    It's a different matter with oils, where the thicker paint gives some protection. Winsor and Newton give their Rose Madder oil colour a rating of 'A'.

    I think it would still be worth trying some of the Quinacridone colours though; they are beautiful hues.

    The mild weather is holding on here as well. Maybe winter won't come so early this year.

  11. Haunting and captivating painting.

    My heart goes out to them!



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