Being Drawn to the Water ~ Living near it and painting it!

What is it that draws me to the water causing me to want to live near it, experience it and paint it?  Is it that it’s in my blood, being a descendant of ship builders and ship captains?  Or is it from early childhood experiences growing up near the C & O Canal, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay?  

Maybe it’s the combination that draws me to the water like a magnet.  I must qualify that statement by admitting I have a tremendous fear of sharks; so I enjoy being near or on the water (in a boat), but not in the water.  The fear of going in the ocean is easily explainable by me having seen the movie Jaws in the 70’s, along with the fact that I tend to sink like a stone when swimming!  ☺

I discovered I’m not the only maritime artist with this quirky phobia.  When talking to a gallery owner one time about an accomplished maritime artist,  Vern Broe, I was surprised to learn that he too was afraid of the water, so much so that he wouldn’t even go out in a boat!  He painted boats all the time.  I figured he must be out there experiencing it first hand, but I was wrong.  

Even with my fear of the deep, I’ve been known to stand up on the front of a rubber-rafted motorboat or a small whaler under very inclement weather conditions, to photograph schooners in action.  In order to “get the shot” in the name of art, I’ve lived more dangerously than I would normally in my personal life.  ☺

So naturally, water has become a big part of my art.  You might even call it a common thread that links my different genres.  With my landscapes I tend to seek out subjects with a stream running through it, or a pond with reflections, or a marsh with cattails.  Many of the bird paintings I do are of shorebirds with water in the background.  My maritime work depicts a range of waters from flat calm to rolling seas.  

My most recent painting of pelicans was inspired by one day having watched three Brown Pelicans buzzing along the crest of a wave, during rough surf at the beach.  It wasn’t just the birds that captivated me.  The water was a huge part of what called me to paint the scene.  

Water isn’t usually easy to paint.  It’s always challenging, and can be frustrating, maddening, and cause you to doubt yourself.  On the other hand it can be most rewarding when you hear someone say, “I can just smell the salty sea air!”

So I thought I’d share some close-ups of some of the different styles I’ve used to paint water over the years.  Most of the waters were painted without knowing in advance how I was going to attack it when I started.  Half of the fun is being creative, allowing yourself to be surprised by the paint!  Which style is your favorite???

Storm Approaching  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36,  oil on board, Artist's collection

Storm Approaching  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36,  oil on board, Artist's collection

Offshore Challenge (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 24 x 28, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Offshore Challenge (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 24 x 28, oil on board, AVAILABLE

The Lettie G. Howard  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe,  24 x 24, oil on board, AVAILABLE

The Lettie G. Howard  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe,  24 x 24, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Flags Abound (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe,  24 x 30, oil on canvas, SOLD

Flags Abound (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe,  24 x 30, oil on canvas, SOLD

Camden's Inner Harbor  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 11 x 14, oil on canvas, SOLD

Camden's Inner Harbor  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 11 x 14, oil on canvas, SOLD

The Dog Days of Summer on North Haven  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 11 x 15, oil on board, SOLD

The Dog Days of Summer on North Haven  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 11 x 15, oil on board, SOLD

Upon Reflection  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 20 x 30, oil on board, SOLD

Upon Reflection  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 20 x 30, oil on board, SOLD

Standing Guard  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 12 x 18, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Standing Guard  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 12 x 18, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Snowy Egret Slow Walking  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Snowy Egret Slow Walking  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Two Rivers Heron  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Two Rivers Heron  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, AVAILABLE

Sunlit Pelican Basking in the Glow  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, SOLD

Sunlit Pelican Basking in the Glow  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, SOLD

Sunrise Over the Salt Marsh  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE

Sunrise Over the Salt Marsh  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE

Semur-en-Auxois, France  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 20 x 24, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE

Semur-en-Auxois, France  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 20 x 24, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE

Venice by Gondola  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 30 x 36, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE

Venice by Gondola  (DETAIL SHOT), by William R. Beebe, 30 x 36, oil on canvas, AVAILABLE


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