The Standout ~ A Brown Pelican with Creek Cred!

Not all Brown Pelicans look alike or act alike. They exhibit some human qualities and characteristics, giving each their own personality. I always marvel and wonder as I watch a large formation of pelicans fly along the beach, what makes one the leader and just who is that last pelican bringing up the rear?

Some answers have become clear to me as I started choosing pelicans for my bird portraiture. In selecting ones to paint I spend time watching them interact with each other as they compete for food, vie for a favorite sunny spot, and rest with others or stand alone.

There are leaders who appear to be bigger and stronger. Some are aggressive and some aren’t. There are passive types like The Bystander, who are quite content watching and waiting. The Bystander stood out because he stood alone and had a look of innocence. His brown feathers were going through the transition to adult feather colors, and he was very likeable.

In my latest painting I chose a pelican that definitely stood out in a crowd. He carried himself with stature. His soft yellow head was held up high and turned to the side as one might expect a leader to do as they look out over the ocean or battlefield. His wings were tucked in as if at attention.

The Standout    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on canvas, $6200

The Standout by William R. Beebe, 30 x 24, Oil on canvas, $6200

The Standout   by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Standout by William R. Beebe, head detail

The Standout   by William R. Beebe, feather detail

The Standout by William R. Beebe, feather detail

This pelican definitely had the respect of his comrades. He had the dashing good looks to boot. Other pelicans wanted to stand by his side as he looked out over his mates enjoying their down time at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, SC.

I imagined him being the Top Gun and leader of formations in flight. I would guess he comes from a distinguished pedigree of pelicans and has been a winner his whole life.

My goal was to capture him as he was, in all his glory.

I hope you find him likeable too, for he also had a friendly, approachable look.

Thank you for reading my journal and for your interest in my art. I appreciate it very much. Please check back soon to see what’s next on my easel! Thank you.


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 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

Just who is the Perfectly Perched Pelican???

After doing a little digging, I found out a bit of information on the pelican featured in my painting entitled Perfectly Perched Pelican.  In my journal I took a guess and stated I thought it might be an older bird, one that spent many years cruising the surf over Virginia Beach.  Well I was somewhat right and somewhat wrong!

Now that I’ve painted her, I think we should be on a first name basis.  I’d like to call her Patty.  That’s right it’s a she!  She is actually a young bird, about five years old.  I was told that one could tell by the fact that her head just turned white not too long ago.  She was brought to the Virginia Living Museum by a rehabber in Virginia Beach.  So I was wrong about her age but right about the fact that she used to hang out in Virginia Beach.

Patty the Perfectly Perched Pelican

Patty the Perfectly Perched Pelican

Painting of Patty the    Pelican Perfectly Perched  SOLD

Painting of Patty the Pelican Perfectly Perched SOLD

Unfortunately, Patty has a severe injury to her right wing and can’t flutter very much at all.  Fortunately, the good people at the Living Museum have given her a happy home where she is being well cared for.  

We were just there recently and witnessed Patty enjoying time with the other pelican.  Her friend is a male bird with a strong white/yellow head, roughly around 12 years old.  He sustained frostbite damage on a wing tip and cannot fly well enough to survive in the wild.  They seem happy in their environment, spending time nibbling on each other's beaks, sleeping side-by-side, and enjoying being the center of attention.

So if you want to get to know Patty in person, be sure to visit the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Virginia.  

Thanks as always for being interested in my art and what I’m up to!  I’m just finishing another pelican painting, and will be featuring it in my journal in the near future!


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