Collaborative Art ~ Working together to develop a concept!

My most recent commissioned painting entitled Blue Morning was just that, a collaborative effort.  A new collector approached me with a concept.  He had taken a photograph of a Great Blue Heron from a distance, shooting into the bright sun with his phone.  The giant bird’s wings were pointing downward, creating a U shape reflection of the wings on the water’s surface.  The image struck him, stayed with him, and he wondered if I could work with him to recreate the scene on canvas.

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

He wanted to surprise his wife with one of my bird paintings for her birthday, and being that she too loves Great Blue Herons he thought that an image that meant something to him and captured by him, would be a gift with meaning and sentiment.  

The only problem was that the image was low-resolution and didn’t blow up well.   The concept was there, a Great Blue Heron flying low over the water, with strong backlighting and a nice reflection.  He didn’t want the bird to dominate the scene, but still wanted it large enough to include the details on the bird.  He wanted it to have a somewhat monochromatic look, with a limited palette, colors mostly blue and gray.  

With the colors of the heron being blue and gray too, he was worried though, that the bird might get lost in the colors of the water.  He wanted the bird to somehow pop in the painting.  

A good discussion of what he was looking for in the painting was most helpful.  I told him I’d look through my extensive collection of Blue Heron photographs to see if I had a similar image.  Fortunately, I came across a photograph I had taken with the wings set in almost the exact same manner.  

I have experienced many moments just like what he had on that early morning looking out over the water; a bird so large and prehistoric looking flying low over the water, with very little sound but the whoosh of the wings.  

I could easily visualize what he was looking for.  I drew up a quick sketch, moving the face of the heron to just over the centerline of the painting.  The only real white in the painting is in the heron’s face, which creates the primary focal point of the painting.  I ran by him the idea of adding a little movement to the otherwise flat water, which I felt would help add a sense of motion and life to the bird.  

Blue Morning (close-up) by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Blue Morning (close-up) by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Working on such a large scale allowed me to get the amount of detail in the heron that he was looking for.   I transitioned the light in the background to just below the bird, allowing the bird to “pop” and then darkened down the water below the bird.  

I loved working on this project.  Being guided by a few parameters is most helpful in commission work.  It helps to know what a collector is looking for.  At the same time, this collector was open-minded to whatever I offered and relied on my judgment as the artist.  It was the best of both worlds.  

I hope you get a sense of the serenity of the moment in Blue Morning.  The beautiful Renaissance, Larson-Juhl frame captures the moment in time and surrounds the heron in elegance.  

Blue Morning, framed, with artist William R. Beebe, commissioned

Blue Morning, framed, with artist William R. Beebe, commissioned

Blue Morning painting ready to go in its rather large Toile wrapped box!  

Blue Morning painting ready to go in its rather large Toile wrapped box!  

Thank you as always for following my art, reading my journal, and for all of your nice comments on Facebook and on my journal.  I would love to hear from you if you have any comments or questions. Thanks again!  


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