” Bonelli’s Eagles…

We have had the immense pleasure of interviewing Dougalis Paschalis, self-taught artist of Greek origin and resident in Munich especially interested in Europeans birds and mammals, who today is probably one of the best illustrators of birds of Europe.. It is an honor to enjoy his kind collaboration and also enjoy the wonderful and amazing illustrations of this extraordinary wildlife artist. Ladies and gentlemen with all of you … ¡Paschalis Dougalis!

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME:  In the first place we want to thank you that you’ve agreed to share your illustrations of Bonelli’s Eagles with us..

What is the current population status of the species in Greece? Does working the authorities in their protection?

After the Greek Ornithological Society, the current population is estimated at 120 pairs, although there is no current data available. Consequently ,there is no official census regarding the population of the species except of regional actions, just like on Crete for example, where a constant population of 12-15 pairs regularly breeding. As I already wrote before, the rest of the population is dispersed on various islands mainly on Cyclades, Dodecanese and few pairs on Peloponese. Though it is declared as a protected species from the greek law, the reality is that they are not protected at all. Fortunately, because of the geographic mosaic of the country with thousands of Islands and Islets, many pairs breeding in isolated remote areas with minimal human disturbance. This is the main reason to me that this species still survives in Greece

JME: I have worked very closely with the Bonelli’s eagles, and I can affirm that, the precision with which you capture the traits of their behavior is amazing How do you get it and why Boneli’s eagles illustrations have much presence in your catalog?

I`m afraid that I can`t explain that properly, why I became amazed since I saw them for the first time, and this excitement has transformed into a deep admiration. I`ve been watching, sketching, and painting them for the last 12 years now, and I would claim that there is no other species that I know so well. Meanwhile has been created a kind of a personal relationship. I feel these birds so close to me since I had the chance to experience first-hand their family life.

JME: Any idea or proposal you consider essential for the conservation of the Bonelli’s Eagles?

To me, the most important thing is the environmental education, not only for the new generations to become aware of the wonders living out there, but also to approach farmers, hunters and people who are spending time in nature trying to “awake” in them the fascination about this raptor. Direct persecution will be always a problem , but trying to reduce this and other threats , (wind turbines for example )to a minimum  as well trying to guard well known nests during breeding period could be a huge step forwards in case species protection & conservation.


…and other stories”

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME: Since when you develop your artistic ability and as you become a professional in the illustration of the nature? Are there any event that has been a determining factor in your career?

According to my parents I took a pencil and start sketching a rooster when I was four years old. I never stop ever since.. It was 1995 when I`ve been commissioned to illustrate a series on endangered species in Greece. Two years before in 1993, I had my first solo exhibition in my home town in Greece with birds and animals of the region. But the turning point in my career was first to buy a book illustrated by Carl Brenders in 1995, followed by the Lars Jonsson`s bird guide, and “The art of Robert Bateman” in 1996. I realized then very well the importance of fieldwork and that I had a long way to go. These three books helped me to change the way I was looking at things.

JME: Make all the illustrations for the modern edition of a classic of the identification guides such as “Birds of Europe (European Bird Guide)” next to the author Peter H. Barthel, in addition to assume a huge effort, must be a challenge isn’t it?

It was more than a challenge! Having to illustrate all the European species in various plumages within two years was a huge undertaking which has been a very hard test for me mentally and physically. The biggest problems for me were the tight deadlines.

JME: What characteristics must have a good field guide?551778_460370647357025_934328603_n

First of all accurate drawings, natural poses, avoiding showing details not really visible in the field, presenting the  species as they look like from a certain distance and pay attention on their most important ID features.

 JME: And what are the key features that must have a good illustrator of birds and a good illustration?

He must be a good artist who knows his subject and medium very well, and because such books require cooperation of more people, should have the willingness to learn and have always his eyes and ears open. These two years have been despite the pressure a valuable time of learning and improving my illustration style.. Finally, a good illustration should have all the features already mentioned answering the former question (3) in order to fulfil the needs of the certain guide.

JME: What are you trying to capture in your pictures of animals?

I`ve been asked often to answer similar questions and it is easy to say that my aim is not just to portray an average image of a species but the particular individual, I`m drawing at that moment. And if I managed to complete an alive, very similar to the “model” drawing, that satisfies me most!

 JAS: As we look through facebook, your production work is really impressive, how much time do you dedicate to painting / drawing a day?

To be honest I never counting the hours I`m  ́working a day, they are just countless particularly at times when a commission has to be delivered soon and the pressure is exceptionally high.

JAS: What is your “modus operandi” to start a new painting?

It`s always different. But the common within is the source of inspiration. I’m looking for interesting postures or behaviour, browsing through sketchbooks or videos and trying to create a believable situation. On the other hand in case of a commission after an intense research I`m preparing a series of Bic pen preliminary sketches or even a small watercolour in order to show them first to the client.

JME: Acrylic, watercolor, gouache, sketches … You work many different techniques, with which do you feel more comfortable? What is the most appropriate to draw birds?

Meanwhile after years of drawing and painting I wouldn`t prefer a medium as my favorite but I would say that rather every medium has been adapted to every single situation. Bic pen, watercolours, mainly in use while working outdoors or in case of Illustrations, Gouache for Illustrations and paintings, and Acrylics solely for Paintings.

JAS: The Bic pen is one of your most usual techniques in drawing, do you feel comfortable with a technique in which errors can not be corrected?

Absolutely! Looking for a cheap medium to work outdoors and because I found out that sharpening of pencils-coloured pencils is time consuming, I`ve tested many pens of various brands and the Bic pen with the fine tip fulfilled my expectations. After 15 years of sketching with it is a matter of training that eliminates the possible mistakes.

JAS: What has been the place, by moisture, discomfort, danger, heat, cold, etc … where you found more difficult to paint?

I recall my first encounter with the Bonelli’s eagles in late March of 2001. Hidden in a camouflaged tent up at the edge of a cliff I`ve been surprised by a heavy rainstorm. For almost two hours I was “battling” against the wind and rain trying to protect my equipment and materials from getting wet. Last year on a hot May day at Saltmarshes of Korinos (Northern Greece), while sketching Collared pratincoles, and though the birds were absolutely cooperative, the wind start getting stronger and various insects, including countless mosquitos came from the open windows into the car and attacked me again and again .The “torture” lasted almost three hours at that hot day but the willingness to come to an successful result was stronger.

JAS: What drives you to draw above all animals and not other elements such as architecture, people, etc…?

Though animals-birds dominate my artwork now, there have been periods in my life where people faces were the main subject of my interest. On the other hand I`ve been always surrounded by animals, domestic first, since I grew up in a village and they were always there. The excitement about wildlife grew rapidly when I bought my first animal book with fantastic illustrations of Robert Dallet . I presume that there are the myriads of life forms , colours, shapes, behaviours, different environment types that excites me most , and I`m sure that I will never get bored or tired sketching and painting nature.

© Paschalis Dougalis

JME: Do you feel predilection for drawing some group or species of birds in particular?

Oh, yes! They are the raptors first, followed by Larks and Galliformes. I guess, I don`t have to explain why I feel so fascinated by raptors!

 JAS: Who are the artists that have influenced your work as an artist of nature?

They are so many that it’s impossible to name all of them. But I recall the first encounters with work of Robert Dallet, Carl Brenders, Lars Jonsson, Robert Bateman, Ray Harris Ching , Bob Kuhn, Keith Brockie, Vadim Gorbatov and Ian Lewington, fantastic artists and Illustrators all of them…

JME: Books about animals, posters and information material for LIFE projects, bird guides, monographs, exhibitions, countless paintings and illustrations … and several awards: What do you think has been your most notable work or you feel especially satisfied and how it can purchase your work?

First came the awards, in Britain and Germany, and then the commisions. Definitely , the European Bird guide, has been the most important project for my career as an Illustrator, ,because since then my work has been widely known, but it is the forthcoming Breeding Bird Atlas of Germany I enjoyed most. Check out:
Every one can purchase or order an artwork by contacting me directly via E-Mail.

JME: From our point of view and from many other birdwatchers and illustrators your work has achieved a great prestige and recognition do you feel lucky that you can enjoy professionally to your passion?

I feel lucky having found my own way and I know well that despite any kind of recognition there is no time to lie back and enjoy a possible professional success. To be a professional Artist-Illustrator means to me a life long dedication, hard work, and trying to improve my abilities day by day. And because you mentioned recognition I feel that there were the fellow artists across Europe who contributed to this, with their excitment about art and sensibilty . In this point I would like to thank in particular the Spanish nature artists for their support and friendship along the way.

Interview by: José Manuel Escarabajal & José Antonio Sencianes


The images that appear in this article are the property of Dougalis Paschalis is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.
“Birders Around The World” is an idea promoted by the Association Southeast Alive (Sureste Vivo) through the Project Birdingmurcia