The Pelican Series ~ Giving the big bird its due!

It was with some consternation that I started working on Sunlit Pelican Basking in the Glow.  Jen actually had to convince me that the Brown Pelican I photographed on the beach would be a great subject to paint.  I always struggle over choosing what to paint next because each painting is such an investment in time and should represent a direction I want to go with my art.  Now that I’ve painted it, it has become one of my favorite paintings.  Why did I question it in the first place, and why did it become one of my favorites?  

Sunlit Pelican Basking in the Glow by William R. Beebe, SOLD

Sunlit Pelican Basking in the Glow by William R. Beebe, SOLD

Could I make the Pelican believable?  So many paintings of pelicans look like cartoons to me.  It’s easy to plop him on a post or on a beach, but how do you keep him from appearing too simplistic and unreal.  I guess these concerns hold true for all bird paintings, but I think for me the pelican has a naturally funny nature to it that makes me think of it as a perfect subject for Pop Art.  

Now that I’ve finished Sunlit Pelican, it’s a painting that I enjoy having around in my studio.  The warm tones remind me of that fun sunny day on the beach spent bird watching.  The Impressionist brushwork I used to create movement in the water and form the beach, I feel adds interest to the bird’s surroundings without taking the focus off the bird.  The painting ended up surprising me in a good way.  

Best of all it recently sold!  It will be migrating to a warmer, southern climate to a beautiful new home.  

I’m already on to my next pelican painting of three Brown Pelicans flying low, just above a rolling wave.  The evening light is going quickly, but they have one more excursion before nighttime.  This is a work-in-progress and has a long way to go.  The pelicans are undeveloped and the sky has more layering and glazing to come.  The water is getting closer to what I’m looking for, but I’ll continue to glaze it in order to gain translucency and movement.  

Pelicans cruising the coastline, WORK IN PROGRESS, by William R. Beebe

Pelicans cruising the coastline, WORK IN PROGRESS, by William R. Beebe

Lastly, while the layers are drying on the three pelicans, I just started this portrait of a Brown Pelican standing on a log.  His big webbed feet curled around the log allow him to plant himself firmly for preening, napping, and keeping an eye open for a meal whenever a fish might swim by.  I find the bird’s look a friendly one, but maybe a little sheepish; like he just ate my pet fish. ☺  

Pelican on a log, WORK IN PROGRESS, by William R. Beebe

Pelican on a log, WORK IN PROGRESS, by William R. Beebe

 Pelicans are mesmerizing birds to watch and a wonderful subject to paint.  Over time, I hope to build on this series of pelican paintings, encompassing a wide range of expressions and poses.  Representing him respectfully on canvas will be my goal, even if I’m chuckling inside!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe