Getting to know the Browns ~ Taking the time to know your subject!

I’m not talking about our neighbors.  I’m talking about the Brown Pelican.  Ever since our close encounter with a single Brown Pelican years ago on the beach in Duck, NC, I’ve been fascinated by the large bird.  I’ve visited several local Aviaries in order to get closer to them and study their mannerisms.  I’ve spent several weeks photographing them from a distance flying over the surf.  Even so, I knew there was so much more to learn about these curious birds!

Having painted the Brown Pelican a number of times already, I find myself becoming attached to each Pelican portrait.  Each Pelican seems to have its own personality.   I’ve discovered that I am not the only one fascinated by this rather large, sometimes ungainly, sometimes graceful bird.

As some of you know, we’re just back from a month long trip to Florida.  While my Pelican and other bird paintings were on exhibit at the Ocean Reef Art League in Key Largo, Jen and I were Pelican watching from Sanibel to Key West, Florida.  My prior somewhat frustrating distant relationship with the Browns, became much more personal.  The once endangered bird was everywhere, from sunbathing on almost every available piling, to diving for fish just offshore, to hanging out on yachts at the Ocean Reef Club marina!  

Many of the 5,000 photographs I took on our trip were of the Brown Pelican.  I snapped images of them from just about every angle.  I witnessed them feeding alone in the surf, as well as waiting in large numbers to be served scraps from the fish cleaning stations at the end of the day.   I saw them resting on pilings, preening on pilings, landing on and taking off from pilings, and stretching on pilings.  I saw them content like lovebirds, and also fighting over fish.  I saw them soaring over palm trees and gliding just above the surf.  I learned so much about the Brown Pelican that I’m even more motivated to paint them.  

I thought I’d share some of the images I took on this trip with you.  Some images I will never paint, but they make great reference material.  By viewing Pelicans from every angle, it helps tremendously when drawing one out and painting in the details.  It helps me better understand the wing anatomy and feather pattern, along with how the wings function (which is not always easy to pick up in a reference book).  Similarly, watching the feeding habits and understanding the use of their large gullets (pouch) is invaluable when trying to capture some personality or mannerisms.  Here are a few of my favorite shots!

Singing Old Man River

Singing Old Man River

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

I'm sorry what did you say?

I'm sorry what did you say?

It's the only way I can scratch my head!

It's the only way I can scratch my head!

Moving on down the canal

Moving on down the canal

Preening the old chest feathers!

Preening the old chest feathers!

Looks like it is fish again for dinner!

Looks like it is fish again for dinner!

Flying the Friendly Skies

Flying the Friendly Skies

Take a load off while I keep a lookout!

Take a load off while I keep a lookout!

I think this is my good side!

I think this is my good side!

Sticking the landing!

Sticking the landing!

I hope there is enough to go around!

I hope there is enough to go around!

Watersports!

Watersports!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my recent photos of the Brown family.  Getting to know them better has been a lot of fun.  You’ll be seeing some of these characters in my upcoming work.

Thanks as always for reading my blog and following all that I’m up to!  I’m already back painting, and I’m painting Browns!  It was a long time not having a brush in hand, but the camera was a good substitute.  ☺


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