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Birds have intrigued me all my life, particularly birds of prey – watching them gives me such an incredible
sense of contentment, appreciation, and by closing my eyes I can imagine that I’m flying side by side with them,
I can almost hear the silence with just a faint ruffling sound of their feathers through the air.

I love their precise design - their feathers and all the wonderful markings, their characters and their striking features.
They are so highly adapted for their purpose and function, whether a kestrel for high speed air chases or Black
Eagle soaring gracefully in the thermals with minimum effort. Birds of Prey are specialized hunters often relying
on incredible eyesight, strength and agility to catch their prey. Watching them in full flight, effortlessly soaring
through the air is truly breathtaking, they portray a sense of freedom and thus painting them becomes an urge
that I must fulfil.

Yellow Billed Hornbill
Acrylic on board (78cm X 58cm) - © Craig Bertram Smith 2015
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"Black Sparrowhawk" - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2013)
Acrylic on Board (75cm X 42.5cm)

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Hunting Kestrel - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Board (130cm X 95cm)
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“Hunting Kestrel” was quite a large painting (130cm x 95cm) but this didn’t stop me from not using my small brushes. I painted every square centimetre with equal fine detail from the individual birds to the background clouds.

The reference for the clouds was as a result of a series of photographs that were taken moments before a huge electrical thunder storm broke out, just at the precise time that the sun was setting. I knew by using storm clouds, I would create a dramatic mood to the painting. Peregrine Falcons and some Kestrels are hunters of the air, often seen chasing smaller birds at very high speeds. At the climax, seen here, the kestrel closes in on a dove, I painted both birds with high definition and ensured that every feather was as realistic as possible. I had done a great deal of research sketching and drawing and was even lucky enough to find a dove that had been killed by some road vehicle, but it’s wings were unblemished which helped to accurately portray the dove as life-like as possible. This painting was done using oil paint on board.

 

 

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Preliminary Drawing

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Soaring Marshall Eagle - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (75cm X 61cm)
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“Soaring Marshall Eagle” I had painted Marshal Eagle before but never one soaring at high altitude. The eagle intrigued me so much, with it’s speckled appearance but even more interesting, their outstretched wings showed other markings which contrasted against their white chest and thighs. I was drawn into this painting finding it hard to put down my brushes for a break. I put a great amount of detail into the feathers, giving the bird a three dimensional feel which would bring the eagle out from the rest of the picture – note the hazy background. I wanted to give the viewer the feeling that he or she were up there with the eagle.

You get the impression that it has just eyed out something hundreds of meters below as it turns effortlessly to get in range. I didn’t want to paint less detail in the background gorge, but I wanted to show the shear scale and majesty of it’s habitat, so careful I added very subtle tones giving an atmospheric effect of immense depth. I wanted to be absolutely certain of the composition of this piece and sketched a detailed drawing of the painting before I started which I used as my guide line (see the drawing). - This painting was done on a 75cm x 61cm canvas using oil paint

 

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Darter Pose - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (91cm X 91cm)

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The Darter – You can be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen a large snake sticking its head out of the water, these sightings are evidence of Dater (family of the Cormorant). They can often be seen basking in the late morning sunlight to dry out their wings from their earlier fishing session.

They are expert freshwater fishermen, extremely agile and fast. In sub-tropical Africa where the rivers are wild and untouched, thick papyrus margin the river’s banks making it impossible to access from land, unless you’re a large lumbering Hippopotamus. So the safest option to explore the river closely is in a boat. If you’re an avid Tiger fisherman, this sight might be familiar to you, especially since they are up at the crack of dawn to catch the morning hungry Tigers. Also taking advantage of this early morning activity are Darter. After they’ve caught there fill they find a rock or half submerged tree to stretch their wings to dry.

This is the story behind the Darter in this painting – you can see its morning with thick mist as the papyrus reeds disappear in the distance. I painted this painting showing mood and atmosphere as I feel a painting should invoke a feeling or response and not just another pretty picture. Again I put a lot of emphasis and time into the detail of the bird’s feathers as this is the focal point of the painting, the background is more hazy and misty which gives the piece a good feeling of depth and space. This Painting was painted with oil paint on a 91cm x 61cm stretched canvas.

 

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Grey Heron - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Oil on Canvas (55cm X 75cm)

What an amazing looking bird – the Grey Heron – with its long dagger like orange beak, its silver grey body with a black marking running from its head down its neck and it orange eyes. It is an accomplished spear fisherman catching anything from smallish fish to frogs to insects and lizards. It stands on its long orange stilts, motionless, focussing on something moving, then, like a loaded crossbow it thrusts its head and neck toward its prey with its beak piercing clean through the unsuspecting prey.

In this painting I wanted to indicate a typical Grey Heron pose, showing its striking features, and although being quite colourless, it has almost luminescent orange-yellow beak, legs and eyes. I fussed a bit getting the feathers and markings just right. This painting was done using oil paint and I used a 75cm x 55cm primed board to paint on.

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All artwork and text is copyright 2009 Craig Bertram Smith. All rights reserved.

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