The Bystander ~ Young and Impressionable!

I watched the Brown Pelicans at Shem Creek (Mt. Pleasant, SC) in a feeding frenzy, as fishermen on the docks cleaned their fish and threw the unwanted scraps in the water. Pelicans can get downright vicious fighting over a meal. As the gang wrangled and maneuvered for food, one young pelican stood quietly on the dock taking it all in.

The Bystander    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 20, Oil on canvas, $5200

The Bystander by William R. Beebe, 30 x 20, Oil on canvas, $5200

He had a bright-eyed innocence to him. Some pelicans actually look mischievous or ornery. Not this bird! It was as if he was waiting his turn, hesitant to jump into the fray. I found him likable.

I photographed him from a fairly close distance, studying his movements, realizing that he was definitely painting material. He wasn’t just likable; he was handsome.

His brown neck was starting to turn white, a sign of maturing. Soon his head will become a soft yellow and he will be considered an adult bird. For now he is still impressionable, watching and learning.

My portrait of him is called The Bystander. My goal was to capture that bright-eyed innocence that made him so likable. I want the painting to pull you in and draw you close, as if the pelican is a friend.

Every bird portrait I paint is from my own close encounters with the avian species. Usually the bird chooses me by creating a lasting impression, which in turn leads to inspiration.

I hope you are enjoying my portrait series as much as I am enjoying painting them. Thank you 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

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

Portrait of a Young Great Blue Heron ~ Creating a Likeness!

This bird is etched in my memory. It wasn’t the easiest of birds to photograph. In fact, you could say I went way out on a limb to photograph him. Actually, it was a very narrow long pier, maybe a foot wide that went out over the water about 20 feet to a tall piling at the end. The young Great Blue Heron was 15 feet beyond that on top of a stand-alone piling in the water.

I had my good camera with my zoom lens and I was dressed to go to dinner with some friends. I could get fairly close from the main dock, but if I were to walk the narrow part of the pier I’d be really close. This would require extremely good balance and some nerve! I wasn’t feeling confident and the consequences of falling were unthinkable. :)

If I succeeded in walking the plank and taking the close-up shots I desired, then I’d have to turn around and perform a balancing act all the way back. I chose to go for it! A few wobbles along the way led to wondering if I’d done the right thing. I made it to the end of the pier and proceeded to take dozens of pictures as the bird showed no sign of being afraid or of flying off.

In fact, it dozed off here and there while on one leg. I have pictures of him with his eyes closed, and also with his head tucked way into his body. The sun would shine a little brighter and he would wake up and look around. It appeared to be hunkered down for the evening.

Junior Blue    by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, 24 x 36, Oil on canvas, $7200

Junior Blue   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, feather detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, head detail

Junior Blue by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Great Blue Heron was a young bird, as indicated by his immature coat of feathers and color pattern. Young herons have a black/gray top of the head and an overall brownish/gray pattern to its neck and shoulder feathers. The large primary and secondary feathers have whitish tips to them. The upper beak in a young bird has dark grays and blacks for the most part.

My recent painting entitled The Great One is a good example of what a mature Great Blue Heron looks like in comparison to an immature bird like this one.

After holding onto the end piling and taking way too many pictures, I knew I had to leave to be on time for dinner. I inched my way back to dry land, one step in front of the other, heal to toe, praying the whole time that I didn’t ruin everything by falling sideways into the murky, brown saltwater.

I made it unscathed! I’ve always enjoyed looking back at my photographs of this handsome bird and recalling the efforts I made to get close enough to capture all of the detail in the bird’s feather patterns.

When I decided it was time to paint him, I knew I wanted to include as much detail as necessary to create a likeness. I wanted to be able to look at my painting and have it take me back to the end of that pier.

I enjoyed working on a large scale (24” by 36”), painting in the detail, and looking for subtle changes in color or feather patterns that help identify this particular bird.

I’ve decided to call this painting Junior Blue. He is the son of a Great Blue Heron, handsome, alert, and looks a lot like his father when he was of similar age. :)

Thank you for reading my journal and for following my art! I can foresee another bird portrait coming up in the near future, so please check back soon to see what’s next on the easel.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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

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