Painting at Sea

Painting at sea.  Is it even possible?  Actually, when you are an older gentleman working alone in your small boat, the answer must be no.  If you mean, “Can you set up and work at your easel while gently motoring along?” No.  Even if you have a friend along to do the steering you still can’t paint successfully if your subject is passing by at five or six miles per hour.

For me, painting at sea means finding a secluded and enchanting cove, anchoring for a couple of hours, and working from the cockpit.  Inevitably the tide must be helpful, the light constant, and the wind subdued.  Fortunately these are also the conditions that make for a pleasant lunch spot.

One other important consideration is the need to stop the boat from swinging around the anchor.  This means having either a stern line to shore, or a second anchor.  I have made up a simple “lunch hook” which is a line with a length of chain attached to a small Danforth anchor.

Usually I motor slowly around a likely area, usually in a bay, until I find what I want.  One of the interesting challenges in finding a subject is that you never really know what you are looking for, but you will recognise it when you see it.

Everything changes surprisingly from hour to hour and from one perspective to another.  Sometimes you motor in one direction and can see nothing interesting or worth stopping for, then you turn and look back over your shoulder and there it is!

At this point you have to work fast.  My standard practise is to stop the motor, go out into the cockpit and lower the lunch hook over the side.  Since I’m cruising in a bay it will be normally be reasonably shallow.  Then I hook on my life line, again standard practise when leaving the cockpit, and go forward to drop the main anchor.  I then return to the cockpit and set up.

From the time I cut the motor until the first brushstrokes are placed on the panel is generally less than 15 minutes.  From then until I’m finished is usually less than an hour.  I work fast as everything moves and changes constantly while at sea.  I can expect that nothing too much will change in that time, but after that who knows?

The small panel of Hippolite Point was scrubbed in quickly, with accompanying photos and sketch notes.  I altered it quite a bit in the studio before starting the big panel.

I will post the big canvas in studio five when it is finished.

Cheers, Ross.