Henry the Great ~ Shem Creek’s Very Own Great Egret!

Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, SC, is one of my favorite locations to spend some time photographing birds and shrimp boats. Most of my outings are spent photographing Brown Pelicans, but on many occasions I’ve turned my lens on an exceptional Great Egret known to locals as Henry!

    Henry the Great    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 30, Oil on canvas, $5500

Henry the Great by William R. Beebe, 24 x 30, Oil on canvas, $5500

Most egrets tend to fly away when humans approach, but not Henry. He likes to hang out on the boardwalk near fishermen, waiting for them to toss him small fish. He’ll land on shrimp boats and charter boats looking for handouts. He doesn’t even mind it when small children approach and want their picture taken with him.

I’ve watched him for hours, wading in the creek’s Spartina grass, and standing frozen in place for long periods of time while patiently waiting for a fish to swim by. How do I know it’s always the same bird?

It’s because wading birds are creatures of habit and usually like to feed at their favorite watering holes or rest in areas where they feel safe.

One day soon after I discovered Shem Creek as a birding location, I found myself face to face with Henry. I was taking dozens of pictures of him standing on the rail of the boardwalk when a local walked by and announced, “That’s Henry! He’s here all the time.”

I couldn’t believe how friendly and cooperative he was. On another occasion last fall in the late afternoon, after the marsh grasses had turned a golden color, Henry posed for me. With the camera focused closely on Henry the background became a blur. I wanted the shot all about Henry.

The afternoon light gave the golden grasses an orangish color, with blends of yellow-ochre and washes of brownish-green. Although orange isn’t my favorite color, it looked good around Henry. After all, it represents his natural surroundings, where he feels at home, and captures him during the beautiful fall weather in Mount Pleasant.

In one perfect moment, Henry rested his head down on his long curved neck and turned toward the light, instinctively giving me his good side. ☺ At the same moment a gentle breeze blew up some of his feathers as if he was a professional model with the fans turned on him.

   Henry the Great   (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

Henry the Great (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

   Henry the Great   (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

Henry the Great (detail shot) by William R. Beebe

I’ve been wanting to paint his portrait ever since. I painted him relatively large, about life-size from the chest up. He is a handsome Great White Egret. I’ve fondly nicknamed him Henry the Great.

Now when I’m photographing him and people walk by, I’m the local telling them his name is Henry! They are usually fascinated by him and occasionally ask me to take their picture with him.

I enjoyed putting him on canvas for posterity. He is a character, a famous bird in his own right, and it was an honor to be one of his chosen photographers/artists for whom he has posed.

Thank you as always for following my art and reading my journal. I’m currently working on a commissioned piece and planning my next bird portrait. Please check back soon to see which bird’s mugshot makes the final cut! ☺

Here is a short video of my painting in progress!


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

Beyond the Gate ~ The Battery Carriage House Inn

As you walk around the residential areas of downtown Charleston there are many decorative wrought iron gates that are closed to the public, but allow you to peek into secret gardens and down well groomed driveways. In my latest painting, Beyond the Gate, I depict an open gate on South Battery covered by an arch of greenery.

    Beyond the Gate    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 18, Oil on canvas, $2800

Beyond the Gate by William R. Beebe, 14 x 18, Oil on canvas, $2800

The concrete pillars are obviously old, the gate simple compared to many, and the alleyway looks like it leads to an open garden of sorts. I came to the conclusion it is the entrance to an historic old home or Inn, possibly of some importance. The small sign read “Battery Carriage House Inn”.

Because I was taken with the arched gate and the surrounding architecture of the two homes (22 and 20 South Battery), I started the painting without researching the history of the The Battery Carriage House Inn.

As I often do, I posted work-in-progress pics on my Facebook Page. Almost instantly I heard from a good friend and local historian, Mimi Wood, who emphatically wrote these words, “It’s SO haunted!”

If anyone would know, Mimi would. She gives nighttime Ghost tours around downtown Charleston. Turns out room 10 and room 8 of the Battery Carriage House Inn have two different ghosts that have been reported over the years by many of the guests. If you Google ghosts in Charleston, The Battery Carriage House Inn is rated the number one haunted house!!!

The Inn is also known to be a romantic Inn. Another post from one of my followers said that the couple had stayed there on their honeymoon 35 years ago and loved the Inn. Not surprising, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Among the most romantic of Charleston's Inns is The Battery Carriage House.” Elegant Small Hotels describes the Inn as, “Garden-centered, history-laden, romantic and intimate... This is definitely the right spot for a gracious, relaxing, European-style getaway south of the Mason-Dixon line.”

What stopped me from walking by and made me decide I had to paint this particular scene? After all there are endless scenes similar in nature around town, ones more elegant and charming. The fact that the gate was open with potted plants leading to another archway with light beyond made it welcoming.

   Beyond the Gate   by William R. Beebe, arch details

Beyond the Gate by William R. Beebe, arch details

The Elegant Small Hotels review described my first impression of the property, “garden-centered, history-laden, romantic and intimate”.

The fact that it is considered haunted and dates back to the 1840’s with interesting and well-to-do owners is a bonus. You can read about the Inn’s history here.

I enjoyed painting it in a relatively loose style, choosing to focus on lighting, architectural shapes, and colors. The Charleston colors of the two homes along with the white trim, pillars, and rails all combine so well that at first glance you might think it is one large estate, when in reality it is two separate homes.

   Beyond the Gate   by William R. Beebe, architectural details

Beyond the Gate by William R. Beebe, architectural details

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I will be starting something new soon, which is always exciting for me.


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

Lowcountry Evening Light ~ Low Horizons Lead to Big Skies!

In my latest painting, entitled Lowcountry Evening Light, I set out to capture the elements I find captivating when experiencing the beautiful marshland along the South Carolina coast. With very little vegetation other than tall bladed spartina grass, marshes create a flat horizon line, often leading to an expansive view of up to 180 degrees. This simple landscape characteristic leads to big skies, often dramatic at that!

    Lowcountry Evening Light    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, Oil on canvas, $5000

Lowcountry Evening Light by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, Oil on canvas, $5000

I’ve become increasingly interested in studying cloud formations and the effect time of day has on them. This interest has developed from becoming more familiar with the Lowcountry marshes. I love the expansive nature of marsh scenes and the endless possible combinations of cloud formations and ever changing tidal marshes.

Lowcountry Evening Light has the sun descending behind a band of dark clouds. The sun remains strong, casting rays of light over the marsh and up into the sky. The clouds closest to the sun have strong highlights along the upper edges. Clouds lighter in color are the consequence of more direct sunlight (not backlit).

Ironically, this tranquil scene was started before Hurricane Florence and finished just after it. The Lowcountry was in severe danger of bad flooding. This time we lucked out and the storm turned inland instead of down the coast. Sadly, North Carolina was hit hard. We are keeping the victims of the storm in our prayers.

Thank you as always for your interest in my art and for reading my journal. Please check back soon to see what’s next on the easel!


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

Shem Creek Waterfront ~ Mount Pleasant’s connection to the sea!  

Just over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from Charleston off of Coleman Blvd. take a right turn onto Shrimp Boat Lane and you’ve arrived at one of the gems of Mount Pleasant, Shem Creek! There is a long boardwalk, starting at the waterfront businesses, which goes almost all the way out to where the creek empties into the sea. Looking back at the waterfront one is struck by the majestic shrimp boats with their rigging rising up to the sky.  

Shrimpers are a dying breed, but these remaining shrimp boats have weathered many a storm and the shrimpers continue to work the seas on a daily basis. When docked they call Shem Creek home. The sunlight dances off the colorful boats and creates constant creative reflections in the water. 

    Shem Creek Waterfront    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5200

Shem Creek Waterfront by William R. Beebe, 24 x 24, Oil on canvas, $5200

Square and rectangular shapes of windows, angular metal rigging and rooftops, all dominate the complex picture but somehow the scene remains serene. There is a stillness to the moment even though Shem Creek is always full of life. 

I started out very loose and used bigger brushes than usual, not wanting to get mired down in detail work. I wanted the first impression to be one of an Impressionist painting with elements of Abstraction.  

   Shem Creek Waterfront   by William R. Beebe, boat detail

Shem Creek Waterfront by William R. Beebe, boat detail

In the end, the rigging is fairly intricate but not exact. I didn’t want the rigging to be sloppy against the sky, which would have been the easy thing to do. Instead I painted in just enough detail to be representational. 

The lighthouse in the center right of the painting was one of the main reasons I chose this particular image of Shem Creek to paint. It rises above the other buildings and stands as a landmark and beacon for incoming boats. 

Shem Creek will be a frequent subject of mine over the years. I find it offers all of the elements I need in order to become inspired. 

I hope you like Shem Creek Waterfront. I’m grateful that moving to Charleston has reinvigorated my interest in my maritime art.  

Thank you for reading my journal and for following my art. I’m not sure what will be on the easel next. Perhaps another marsh painting of the Lowcountry???  


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