Striking a Pose ~ Portrait of a Brown Pelican!

When my golfing buddy asked me if I would like to paint a commissioned portrait of a pelican for his wife’s surprise Christmas present, I was thrilled. One of our favorite birds is the Brown Pelican. I’ve taken thousands of photographs of them and have painted many pelican paintings. He said he’d like it to be all about the pelican, just his long face with no background distractions. I got a kick out of the fact that he loves pelicans so much that he would want a relatively large portrait of one in his home. We have a lot in common! :-)

After looking through all of my pelican pics, one in particular stood out from all the rest.

Striking a Pose   by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned painting

Striking a Pose by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned painting

This handsome Brown Pelican was posing on top of a piling, soaking in the sun, with no particular place to go. He was very aware of my camera and me and as he turned from side to side, casually preening, I was aware that he was watching me. I think he figured out that I was taking his picture and that someday I might paint him! :-)

I found him to be unusually striking, with the sun hitting the top of his yellow head and lighting up his dark brown belly feathers. He gave me his good side (I don’t think he had a bad side). :-)

In order to keep it all about the bird, I decided a white background would be sharp, create an almost illustrative look to the portrait and make the bird pop. The background has multiple coats of Titanium White paint covering the canvas. The pelican’s white neck feathers are outlined against the background and dappled with grays to create a feathery look.

This is a mature bird as identified by his colorings. The yellow head and white neck indicates that the pelican is a mature adult. Immature, or juvenile, Brown Pelicans are all brown in color.

Perhaps because he was so mature he wasn’t afraid of me. In the end, I left him right where I found him. He did, however, decide it was time to take a break from his modeling and laid down on top of the post and closed his eyes. The session was over but I got my shot!

This 30” by 24” painting entitled Striking a Pose, was so enjoyable to paint it inspired me to create a series of bird portraits. Henry the Great, The Great One, and Junior Blue are all a direct result of the inspiration drawn from having painted Striking a Pose.

I’m so grateful to my friend and client for giving me such a wonderful opportunity and for having the vision he had that day on the golf course.

I hope you all like Striking a Pose and hopefully see some of his remarkable personality traits and characteristics in the painting; handsome, mischievous, beguiling, and well groomed. :-)

Thank you for following my art, reading my journal and for all of your thoughtful comments on Facebook and Instagram. If you would like to comment on the painting I’d love to hear what you think! 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