Flying High~ the Great White Egret in flight!

Egrets are often depicted along the water’s edge or perched on a branch, because they spend a lot of time feeding and resting. Since I’ve been working on a series of in-flight aviary paintings, I chose to paint an egret in flight from an unusual vantage point.

The Great White Egret has a very large wingspan of almost five feet. In my just completed painting entitled, Flying High, the wings are outstretched against a dramatic sky, as the graceful white bird soars among the clouds. It is a scene I photographed and always liked because of the strong lighting.

Flying High    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 30, Oil on canvas, $4000

Flying High by William R. Beebe, 30 x 30, Oil on canvas, $4000

It is a 30” by 30” oil painting on canvas. It is a study in tones. With the exception of the strong blue in the sky and the egret’s orange/yellow beak, there is very little saturation of color. Light areas have subtle yellowish tones to indicate the warmth of the sun. Variations of warm and cool grays were used to develop the clouds and the bird.  

I also applied multiple layers of paint using glazing techniques in order to create a smooth transition between lights and darks. Very little canvas shows through the paint layers, which creates a nice smooth surface.  

The Great White Egret is a beautiful bird with its long S curved neck and all white feathers. It is majestic and graceful in flight and always a joy to watch, study, and paint. 

I hope you like Flying High.  Thank you for reading my journal and for your interest in my art.  I will be returning to my series of Charleston paintings next, and I’m anxious to get started.  Please check back soon to see what’s 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 Return of the Great White ~ Egret in flight!  

Every afternoon for many days it was almost like clockwork, a Great White Egret would fly in from over the treetops, circle the pond and descend to its favorite fishing spot. On this one particular occasion I was ready with camera in hand.  As it banked its wings for landing its right wing almost touched the water and strong backlighting highlighted every feather. My latest painting entitled Great White features this particular bird.

Great White    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 36, Oil on canvas, $4500

Great White by William R. Beebe, 30 x 36, Oil on canvas, $4500

I was struck by the translucency in the one wing caused by the warmth of the sun, while the other wing was opaque and cooler in color from being more shaded.  In a previous blog I wrote about the challenges of painting white subjects.  I decided to take on that challenge in this painting!

I started the translucent wing with a light orange undertone, worked in some Cadmium Yellow-medium and white to lighten the whitest of the feathers and darkened the shaded feathers while still keeping them warm in color. The shaded wing is defined with shades of lavender and Cerulean blue, picking up reflected colors from the water and sky.

The water completely surrounding the bird was another reason for choosing this composition. The darker area of water is where the eye sees through the surface into the mystery of what lies below, while the colorful water represents the reflection of the sky above. The movement in the water helps create the illusion of movement in the bird as it descends slowly.  

The simplicity of having the white egret surrounded by water reflecting the afternoon blue sky, in my mind, helps capture the serenity of the large bird’s graceful return to a place it returns to time after time. 

I enjoyed painting this large (30”by 36”) bird in-flight painting very much and am looking forward to starting another one very soon.  In fact, it might even lead to a series of in-flight paintings! 

I hope you like the painting and enjoyed reading the backstory on what my inspiration was. Thank you as always for reading my journal and for following my art!  I appreciate it very much!!!


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