Drawing Hawks for a new book

Back when I was creating the artwork for Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds, I hatched a new plan to create hawks that would fly like the songbirds. They will need to be larger, so there will be some new engineering involved, but they will also represent a new method (for me) of illustrating them.

I’m drawing the individual feathers, and building the hawk from that.

I began with a Rough-Legged hawk, Buteo lagopus. 

Feathers (thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife’s Feather Atlas).

hawk feathers
Feathers from wing. The little one is from up near the alula, the “thumb.”


The feathers are fascinating when you draw them this way. Each part contributes to the patterns you see in the wing when they’re overlaid in regular rows. The feather fibers interlock like velcro to create the smooth aerodynamic surface of a bird’s wing. The rounded, thicker shaft near the base, and the tapering lengths of the feather barbs help create the thickness on the front of the wing and the thin trailing edge.

Here’s the tip of the wing, assembled with feathers. Each feather is not simply a copy – they’re all slightly different sizes, shapes, each is modifed from it’s “template” feather to be unique to its placement and purpose.

Rough-legged hawk wing feathers
The wing shows the primary feathers splayed like fingers.

Drawing the head involves many small feathers, each slightly different, but substantially similar. Feathers overlap like shingles on a roof. The eyes in this view will be hidden once the bird is folded to fly, but they’re kind of fierce anyway, simply by laying the feathers in the way they’re supposed to go.

The head has many overlapping small feathers
The head has many overlapping small feathers. Here I haven’t done the back feathers yet. The black outline will be the cutline in the final book.

The rough-legged hawk is a work in progress. I’ll post more as it emerges.

This is done in Adobe Illustrator on a laptop using the touchpad for drawing. A Dell Inspiron XPS laptop with quad-core Intel i7 processers and 16GB ram allows me to keep enough programs open to handle each one and work efficiently.

This is so much fun!

Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds is here!

My book of 24 realistic birds of the United States, designed to fold and fly, has just been released by Dover Publications!

Local folks can buy it at Blue Hill Books in Blue Hill Maine or order it for $9.99 right here at 3Hawk (that’s me, the author)!

That’s economical enough to buy one to fly and one to keep for birdwatching or just to gaze at the wondrous beauty of birds.

See videos >>

Make great holiday gifts for grownups as well as children!
See my Book Launch page at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) >>

Now available
Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds, my new book from Dover

Be sure to get enough for everyone on your list: these really appeal to the kid in everyone!

Paper airplanes that really fly, and look like real birds? How often have you seen that? Never! That’s how often. This is a first. Enjoy it, give it, fold it, fly it. Local folks can buy it at Blue Hill Books as of Friday November 18 or, order it for $9.99 by emailing the author (that’s me) and providing your phone number. I’ll call you and take your card info until I get my bank account set up for online sales.

Book Launch November 16! Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds

My new book of die-cut press-out birds that you can pop out, fold and fly is coming out November 16 from Dover Publications!
Here’s how Dover describes it:

These realistic, full-color paper bird models could not be easier to make — and they really fly! Simply press along the perforations, fold according to the instructions, add a penny or a dime for weight, then send them skyward in long, straight glides or looping swoops. All of the birds feature captions that include their Latin names and accurate information about their habitats, behaviors, and pointers on where to look for them.
In addition to the fun of making and flying models, this book offers a great way to learn how to identify birds. Author and artist Richard Merrill, a former aerospace design engineer, has created vivid and recognizable depictions of the birds’ plumage. The 24 familiar species in this collection include the Eastern Meadowlark, Baltimore Oriole, and Western Tanager. Some of these birds have decreased in number during recent years and appear on the National Audubon Society’s report on endangered birds. This book provides readers of all ages with an opportunity to learn about birds as well as the chance to play with flying paper toys!

It has 24 birds rendered realistically, great for bird identification and teaching, but mostly for flying fun. Dover priced it so you can buy one to use and one to save (save the birds!).

Here’s a short video showing how great they fly. More coming, I promise!