Work-in-Progress ~ The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater!

I’m smack dab in the middle of a large project.  I’ve previously shared through Facebook and our newsletter the first two stages of my painting The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater.  Since the 30 x 40 inch painting will take awhile to finish, I thought I’d share another image of the work in progress and tell you a little bit about where I’m at and where I’m going with the paint.  

The image is one we came across in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There were dozens of Great White Egrets wading in the shallow canal, with others landing and taking off.  I’ve said previously it was almost spiritual in nature. The white birds were everywhere, with their white reflections in the dark water, and rose mallows were in full bloom in the foreground and along the far shore.  

Photograph of Blackwater NWR by William R. Beebe

Photograph of Blackwater NWR by William R. Beebe

We had come across a safe haven for these graceful and majestic birds.  A local wildlife volunteer drove by and informed us that he hadn’t seen anything like it in years!  It was our good fortune, and it was a moment in time I had to paint.  

This painting is starting to make it through its awkward stage.  I’m working with oil paint, which dries notoriously slow.  Having applied the paint relatively thick, I have to wait for certain areas to dry to go back and paint in the details, or layer the paint.  

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

To apply the thick paint I used a palette knife.  To smooth it out and blend the paint I used rounded filbert brushes.  I’m employing the wet on wet technique to blend the transitions of colors in the water.  I’m using the wet on dry technique to build layers of colors and put in detail.  

At this point, I’m starting to develop the reflections in the water.  This will take some time since reflections play a significant role in the overall scene.  

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, Work in Progress by William R. Beebe

The mid-day sun is bouncing off the shoreline and creating strong reflections of the rocky surface.  The six Egrets are joined by their mirrored images.  I want to create a realistic rendering while being creative with the paint.  

I tend to get bored with recreating exactly what I see, so the overall process sometimes takes longer than one might expect.  I have a tendency to want to try mixing colors to create something unique or different.  When it works it’s exciting, and when it doesn’t the paint gets scraped off or wiped off with turpentine.  

When you see this painting next I will have pulled it all together.  It will be much more refined.  Reflections will be more developed, the Egrets will be shaded and softened, and hopefully the light will be dancing off the water.  

I hope you enjoy seeing this painting in progress and reading about it.  It’s always hard for me to share it unfinished because I want to point out all of the areas that still need work.  

Thank you for reading my journal and for your interest in my art.  Please check back soon to see the finished painting.  It may even be the first in a series of paintings of the Egrets of Blackwater!


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