Let’s Paint the Cooper’s Hawk!

Obsessed with the hawk every minute of the day since he stopped by for a visit, I just had to make a painting…so let’s go!

Step 1: I never sketch out my painting on a separate piece of paper, butย  just sketch it right on the “canvas” (wallis pastel paper). This time was different. I had some cool ideas and a new approach so I was too timid to just jump in. I carefully laid out a plan with paper and a ball point pen.

Even though I’ve seen a Cooper’s Hawk before, everytime I witness a non-regular, I have to do a bunch of research on it and learn all that I can….again. Inspired by that, I decided to do a “study of” painting. This painting will have the subject and sub-subjects of interest.

Step 2: Another new step for me is adding gesso! I wanted the background to be interesting and have some texture. I mixed acrylic gesso, a little water and applied with a bristle brush, making sure I had different lines, scratches, and thicknesses. Before it dries…

Step 3: With a toothpick, before it dries, I wrote, “Accipiter Cooperii”, Accipiter means Birds of Prey and Cooperii refers to William Cooper. I’m hoping the paint will settle into the scratched out name and be darker than the surrounding…we’ll see. Let the gesso dry forever…it will take forever. I was afraid to dry it with a hair dryer because I didn’t want the acrylic to crack under the heat.

Step 4: This is my background painted in watercolors. It doesn’t look that great right now, but don’t get discouraged…this step never looks good and always makes you feel like you should not be holding a paint brush. My background has limited color this time, just some blobs of indigo, a little cobalt, and raw ocher. The paint resisted the gesso a bit and as a result looks lighter and has texture. The paint did not pool in the name like I wanted, so I just went over it with a Micron pen. I used Derwent Graphitint watercolor pencils to write some stats; wingspan, length, # of eggs, talon and tail info, and eye info. I ran some water over them to fade them out and when dry went over them again with Micron ink. I’ve never done that to a painting on pastel paper only a sketch.

Step 5: With pastels now and not watercolors…The MOST IMPORTANT thing to do right now is establish a good eye ball. If your subject’s eye does not have life or is not proportionate and believable it’s a do over. No joke. Start over. This step is soooo important…it’s all in the eyes. Tips for eyes: have a little white spot where the light reflects, make shadow under the upper lid going over the eye, and don’t forget the bottom lid too.

Step 6: Add a whole bunch of stuff! With a graphite pencil I drew a gliding Cooper’s Hawk and wrote “flap and glide”, with charcoal I drew and eye and wrote, “red=adult, yellow=juvenile”. With pastels I painted blueish-green eggs with brown spots and wrote, “4-5 egg & incubation time”. I have blood spots under the talon for special effects and a light as a feather, feather in the top corner done with graphite and white charcoal.

This painting is definitely mixed media! Here is the final:

This painting is called, “Study of the Cooper’s Hawk”. It is 12×18 and will be framed into a 18×24 frame. It will be on display in February at the LaGrange Art Gallery’s 75th Anniversary party event. More info later.

The subject came directly from the first picture in the last post. I am so happy with this painting, I’ve decided to do many “study of” paintings in the future! Nature Rocks!!!


  1. This is really awesome! Thank you for sharing. The way you have shown the step by step really helps me to learn. I really like the concept of mixed media. It makes a lot of sense. Also the critical tips about doing the eyes. I am a beginner, and that is the first time I have read about anything like that.

  2. I really like this idea. It reminds me of some of the Audubon prints where he shows the same birds doing different things. You did a perfect job on the eye. I’ve had hawks around my feeder, seen them miss a few times, and found a few piles of feathers, but have never been lucky (?) enough to see what you did! Good job Chris!!

  3. Can I tell you how awesome I think this is??? It is super awesome. Thanks for sharing your process. I am in the middle of a study of the juncos that are always in my feeder and I actually started a watercolor yesterday…now I have some exciting things to add.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  4. Willow: Thanks so much! I’m glad to hear that you’re a beginning artist…never give up your art no matter how crazy life gets, a talent is too precious to waist! I hope this site has helped you and I’ll be happy to answer any art questions you may have ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jim: Thanks pal! Yes…a bunch of feathers are a sure sign someone had dinner in your yard…ha, ha. I bet you’ll see a hawk in action one day soon! Let’s hope ๐Ÿ™‚

    Barb: Thank you!!! can’t wait to see your junco! Don’t you just love studing nature that way…..WEEEE, I get so excited ๐Ÿ˜€ !!!

  5. Lana: Thanks! I do not seal it with anything, but when framing I always use a spacer so the artwork does not touch the glass. I also pound the heck out of it before framing as well, to release any extra pastel ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi there, I live in Southern Spain and I LOVE going on your site and looking at your tutorials—-they are alays so helpful to a keen learner such as myself.Long may you keep doing them. Thanks. Val Fuller

    1. Valerie: Hi! Welcome, I’m so glad you find the information usefull. I love to help artists and budding artists. Keep up your painting and never stop! I bet Southern Spain is just beautiful!!!

  7. That is so creative! I love how you have so many different things in the same painting! Will your other “study of” paintings be like this one? IT’S GREAT!!

    1. StarryOne: Thank you! That was the first time I did a “study of” painting, when I do more, I hope to follow this same pattern, it’s a bunch of fun! Maybe you can try one too? Thanks for all the encouraging words ๐Ÿ™‚

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