Painting the Blues ~ alone and feeling blue?

Most often the Great Blue Heron is seen standing alone dressed in gray and dark blue, or flying solo across the sky. No matter what the weather, nothing seems to bother them. I’ve seen them stand as if frozen in the snow for long lengths of time, out on a limb in inclement weather, sleeping on one leg in the pouring rain, baking on a rock in 100-degree sunshine. If the Great Blue Heron is moody and gets the blues one would never know it. They always appear quite content right where they are and would prefer to just be left alone! ☺

Occasionally you might spot a pair together, especially in the spring during mating season. This fall I’ve witnessed a number of them chasing each other around lake areas, eventually separating and going their own way.

The Great Blue Heron is such an interesting bird to watch, photograph, and paint. It is a sneaky predator and has a stealth-like manner in how it stalks its prey. It glides with grace traveling long distances with relative ease due to its huge wingspan. Takes-offs and landings can be somewhat awkward due to their long, stick-like legs and s-curved neck in flight. Herons will also stand still for long periods of time waiting patiently for fish to swim by, or will rest on one leg for hours.

No matter how they are posed, I always find them fascinating to watch and photograph. It’s always hard for me to choose how I want to portray them in my next Blue painting. Having just completed a close-up portrait of one, entitled The Great One, I thought it would be interesting to look back over my Great Blue Heron paintings, compare them, and write a little bit about each bird.

I’ll start with The Great One. This bird was striking. In one of my photographs I called him The Warrior because his feathers were a little fluffed up from a shake and it looked like he had a coat of armor on. He was a bird you wouldn’t want to mess with. ☺ He was alone, as I watched him groom himself to perfection. He rested-up on one leg for a while and, as if a switch was flicked, turned hunter off in pursuit of his prey.

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

I stumbled upon another solitary Blue on my birthday, January 10th. I was getting skunked on my morning bird outing. I looked up to the sky and kindly said, “It’s my birthday”. I looked down and in front of me and there he was, the Two Rivers Heron, standing in ice-cold water up to his knobby knees. He blended in with the grays, browns, and lavenders of the water surrounding him. I left him where I found him after spending at least a half hour photographing him. He was in no hurry and was appearing to enjoy his lazy, cold, Sunday morning.

Two Rivers Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Two Rivers Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

This next heron, entitled Beach Blue, was standing in the warm, clear waters of Sanibel, Florida. It was living the good life with plenty of fish to nibble on. A fisherman was nearby and he kept looking for the fisherman to toss him the small ones. Island living!

Beach Blue    by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

Beach Blue by William R. Beebe, 12 x 10, Oil on board, SOLD

In The Dance, two Great Blue Herons are depicted performing a springtime mating ritual, dancing around each other with their heads pointed skyward. It was the first time I had seen two herons together enjoying each other’s company. It was as if the entire dance was choreographed.

The Dance    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

The Dance by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Unlike The Dance, this next painting captures the heron in a somewhat awkward moment, Taking Flight. Some birds are more skittish than others. A movement or noise can cause the bird to suddenly take flight. This particular bird loved to hang out on this fallen tree. The tree provided a nice vantage point looking out over the marsh below.

Taking Flight    by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

Taking Flight by William R. Beebe, 10 x 12, Oil on board, $1200

I often spot Blues early in the morning or late in the day. This Blue was an early bird! I took an early morning walk down along the river and there he was already out standing in perfectly calm river water. Usually the river has a flow to it but on that particular morning it was glassy calm and the heron was in his happy place. Morning Calm on the James was inspired by that moment. No place to go, no hurry, no shirt and no shoes! ☺

Morning Calm    on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

Morning Calm on the James by William R. Beebe, 14 x 16, Oil on board, $3400

If it wasn’t for seeing this next Blue flying in overhead and landing on the tree, I might never have spotted him among the Spanish Moss. I think the Lowcountry Heron thought he was undetectable, camouflaged by the hanging moss similar in color and shape. He found a sunny spot to take in the late day sun. What Blues don’t realize is that even though they blend into their surroundings nicely, their white face in the light always gives them away.

Lowcountry Heron    by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lowcountry Heron by William R. Beebe, 14 x 11, Oil on Canvas, $1800

Lastly, this heron flew by low and slow. Prehistoric looking, huge in size and was on a mission. There was a fog over the lake but the bird stayed below radar, wings almost touching the surface. The painting is entitled Blue Morning and captures an early morning serene moment where the only noise around was the swooshing sound of the heron’s wings cutting through the moisture-laden air.

Blue Morning   by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, Oil on Canvas, Commissioned/SOLD

Painting the Great Blue Heron is something I hope to do many more times. I hope those of you who love the Great Blue Heron enjoyed seeing my compilation of work over the last few years and reading about each bird.

I never get the Blues when I’m painting a Blue! Quite on the contrary. It puts me in my happy place.

Thank you as always for reading my journal and for following my art. I would love to hear from you if you would like to comment below. 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

Collaborative Art ~ Working together to develop a concept!

My most recent commissioned painting entitled Blue Morning was just that, a collaborative effort.  A new collector approached me with a concept.  He had taken a photograph of a Great Blue Heron from a distance, shooting into the bright sun with his phone.  The giant bird’s wings were pointing downward, creating a U shape reflection of the wings on the water’s surface.  The image struck him, stayed with him, and he wondered if I could work with him to recreate the scene on canvas.

Blue Morning   by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Blue Morning by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

He wanted to surprise his wife with one of my bird paintings for her birthday, and being that she too loves Great Blue Herons he thought that an image that meant something to him and captured by him, would be a gift with meaning and sentiment.  

The only problem was that the image was low-resolution and didn’t blow up well.   The concept was there, a Great Blue Heron flying low over the water, with strong backlighting and a nice reflection.  He didn’t want the bird to dominate the scene, but still wanted it large enough to include the details on the bird.  He wanted it to have a somewhat monochromatic look, with a limited palette, colors mostly blue and gray.  

With the colors of the heron being blue and gray too, he was worried though, that the bird might get lost in the colors of the water.  He wanted the bird to somehow pop in the painting.  

A good discussion of what he was looking for in the painting was most helpful.  I told him I’d look through my extensive collection of Blue Heron photographs to see if I had a similar image.  Fortunately, I came across a photograph I had taken with the wings set in almost the exact same manner.  

I have experienced many moments just like what he had on that early morning looking out over the water; a bird so large and prehistoric looking flying low over the water, with very little sound but the whoosh of the wings.  

I could easily visualize what he was looking for.  I drew up a quick sketch, moving the face of the heron to just over the centerline of the painting.  The only real white in the painting is in the heron’s face, which creates the primary focal point of the painting.  I ran by him the idea of adding a little movement to the otherwise flat water, which I felt would help add a sense of motion and life to the bird.  

Blue Morning   (close-up) by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Blue Morning (close-up) by William R. Beebe, 24 x 48, oil on canvas, commissioned

Working on such a large scale allowed me to get the amount of detail in the heron that he was looking for.   I transitioned the light in the background to just below the bird, allowing the bird to “pop” and then darkened down the water below the bird.  

I loved working on this project.  Being guided by a few parameters is most helpful in commission work.  It helps to know what a collector is looking for.  At the same time, this collector was open-minded to whatever I offered and relied on my judgment as the artist.  It was the best of both worlds.  

I hope you get a sense of the serenity of the moment in Blue Morning.  The beautiful Renaissance, Larson-Juhl frame captures the moment in time and surrounds the heron in elegance.  

Blue Morning  , framed, with artist William R. Beebe, commissioned

Blue Morning, framed, with artist William R. Beebe, commissioned

Blue Morning   painting ready to go in its rather large Toile wrapped box!  

Blue Morning painting ready to go in its rather large Toile wrapped box!  

Thank you as always for following my art, reading my journal, and for all of your nice comments on Facebook and on my journal.  I would love to hear from you if you have any comments or questions. 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


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