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

Mixing it up ~ Finding your artistic range!

One good way to remain enthusiastic about painting every day is to mix it up a little.   If I were to paint the same birds over and over again the same way, I would become bored and get burned out.    By approaching every painting differently and working within a range of styles, I still find painting day in and day out a joy!

Keeping within a “reasonable” range of styles is important for an artist.  You don’t want to go too wild or off the wall with a painting if the work you are known for is realistic or traditional in nature.  You want your work to be recognizable (in my case, as “a Beebe”).  At the same time, creative people don’t like to be pigeonholed and expected to paint the same subject in the same style time and time again.  

For me, I consider myself a realist, but I enjoy pushing the boundaries toward Impressionism, with a rare bent toward the Abstract.  By allowing myself a range to work within, I can approach painting every day as something new and exciting.  I don’t know where the day will lead me and I like that.  

My series of Sanderling, Sandpiper and Plover paintings are a good example of the range that I’m talking about.  Below you will see a progression of paintings starting with a painting entitled Working All the Angles having elements of the Abstract, leading to several more Impressionistic pieces, and continuing on toward the final painting Beach Boys, which some might consider the most Realistic. 

Working all the Angles    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 15, oil on board, $2400

Working all the Angles by William R. Beebe, 12 x 15, oil on board, $2400

Reflections    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

Reflections by William R. Beebe, 12 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

Me and My Peeps    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

Me and My Peeps by William R. Beebe, 12 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

The Sanderling Six    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 20, oil on board, $2500

The Sanderling Six by William R. Beebe, 12 x 20, oil on board, $2500

Sanderling Strut    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 18, oil on board, $2400

Sanderling Strut by William R. Beebe, 12 x 18, oil on board, $2400

A Pondering Moment    by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

A Pondering Moment by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, oil on board, SOLD

A Pair of Pipers    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 14, oil on board, SOLD

A Pair of Pipers by William R. Beebe, 12 x 14, oil on board, SOLD

Beach Boys    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, SOLD

Beach Boys by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, oil on board, SOLD

I think finding one’s range, as an artist is important.  Some artists are quite content with painting in the same style day in and day out.  It can lead to being quite confident in your process and make the outcome of each painting predictable.  Many artists might find that preferable.  Other artists, like me, need to feel creative and like variety.   Having a range of styles is not always the most efficient method of painting, but for me it is the most satisfying.
    
Thank you as always for your interest in my art and my journal.  I am in the process of finishing a few paintings so please check back soon to see what is 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

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater ~ Safe Haven!

In a prior blog, I wrote about this painting in progress and how I would post the final image once I refined the painting and put on the finishing touches.  Here is the image of the finished painting!

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, oil on canvas, $6500

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, oil on canvas, $6500

I liked most of what I had painted in the last work-in-progress image.  Much of what I had left to do was with the water.  I spent many hours blending and layering paint to eliminate the canvas weave in the water. I left some canvas weave apparent in certain areas for effect.  

Finishing touches included defining each Great White Egret’s face, painting in their legs and the reflections of their legs, smoothing out the white reflections, and adding washes across the reflections to indicate a ripple or two, and I refined the mallow blossoms.  

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater   , detail shot, by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, detail shot, by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater,    detail shot, by William R. Beebe

The Egrets and Mallows of Blackwater, detail shot, by William R. Beebe

I gave a lot of consideration to the darkness of the water in order to make the White Egrets stand out.  In real life the Egrets were very prominent, as if they were dancers on stage with a spotlight on them.

Even though the Egrets were in their safe haven, they appeared to be on high alert.  There were many more Egrets in either direction, all along the wide canal.  The sky was graced with Egrets in flight.  Frequent takeoffs and landings rearranged the groupings every few seconds.  

I decided to paint it on a 30 by 40 inch canvas to give it some scale.  I wanted this piece to be sizeable in order to help bring the large birds to life.  

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for your interest in my art!  I hope you like my painting and can get a sense of the magic we felt that day at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.  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

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