The Great One ~ Portrait of a Great Blue Heron!

For a number of years before I became a birder I would, on occasion, notice a large prehistoric looking bird flying overhead usually when I was on the golf course. The nearly 7-foot wingspan would cast a huge shadow along the fairway as it flew by. I marveled at its size and became fascinated by the bird. I’ve been photographing them, studying their habits and mannerisms, and painting them for years now.

After just painting a portrait of a Great Egret entitled Henry the Great, I thought it was about time to paint a portrait of a Great Blue Heron. I have painted one in flight, along the shoreline, and in a tree, but never a close-up portrait of the magnificent bird.

Henry the Great stood out among the thousands of egret photographs I’ve taken. I wanted to find an image of a Blue Heron that would embody the many striking characteristics of this large, carnivorous, wading bird. I chose #2237 out of nearly 3000 heron pics I’ve kept on my computer over the years.

    The Great One    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

The Great One by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5100

#2237 I call The Great One! He was standing on his own little island in the middle of a pond, surrounded by dark water and hit by the morning light as if he was on stage. Strong and confident looking, patient and in no hurry, he groomed himself to perfection unaware or uncaring that I was present.

He rested his head on his long, pulled-in curved neck and gazed across the pond. What was he thinking? Would he fly off to another location? After all, he had the perfect spot.

Turns out he spent fifteen minutes enjoying his own little oasis before turning back into the stealth-like predator that he is. Unsuspecting fish soon met with their demise, as The Great One repeatedly plunged his long dagger-like beak into the water spearing its prey.

My painting captures him looking out over the pond, with his beak angled downward, and his eyes keenly aware of all going on around him. His feathers are neatly preened with just a few tufts on his forehead standing up but relaxed. No need for this handsome bird to show off and have a full-headdress of feathers standing at attention.

   The Great One   by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Great One by William R. Beebe, head detail

   The Great One   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

The Great One by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Great Blue Herons have many looks, but this heron stood out among the crowd. I hope you like my painting entitled The Great One.

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I’m enjoying painting bird portraits very much and am already in search of my next subject. Please check back soon to see which bird gets immortalized in oil paint on canvas! ;-)


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