How do you draw boats? Ask your pencil….

I picked up my best no.6 paintbrush yesterday and gave it a good talking to.

“Now look here, this has gone on long enough. You’ve been painting nothing but cartoon windsurfers for weeks now – good, solid work, admittedly, and at around 6 images a page and 50 pages done for ‘Go Windsurfing’ so far, that’s….. a lot of paintings of cartoon windsurfers.  But we’ve done nothing arty for weeks.  Months, even.  Not a single splash of colour has flicked onto a sheet of RWS 140lb NOT with creative intent for so long I think you’ve forgotten how.”

I licked the brush and it came to a fine point. Still well up to the job. Putting it back in its pot, I picked up my lucky green clutch pencil with its 2b leads and addressed it sternly.  “And as for you – when was the last time you drew me a boat for fun?  When was the last time you even managed a little sketch of a well heeled cutter bouncing over a sparkling sea?”

The pencil did not reply. The tubes of watercolour stayed silent in the paintbox.  A scary unopened bank statement mocked me from the in-tray. “Call yourself an artist?” it said.  I hid it at the bottom of the pile and focussed attention on the sheet of paper untouched on the drawing board.

“Right, you lot. Enough is enough.  Back to basics we go……”

So back to basics we went.  After a few warm ups during which everything including computer and unopened bank statement became happily splashed with paint, I reminded pencil, brush and paint about the joys of painting a well heeled cutter bouncing over the sparkling etc etc. I decided, for my own benefit as well as for anyone else suffering from reluctant pencil syndrome, to photograph it stage by stage. Hopefully it may be helpful to all you budding marine artists out there, and the plan eventually is to make a few how-to videos if I get my act together.  Anyway, let me know what you think.  I haven’t explained here how to draw the boat in the first place; that’s a whole separate – and fascinating – series of lessons!

Stage one:  a small pencil sketch, loosely copied from a photo of smack ‘Ellen’.  I’ve used the angle of the boat but not done justice to Ellen’s sleek lines as I would if doing a proper portrait.

Stage two:  hmm, looks the same as stage one in the photo, but what I’ve done is go over the pencil lines very lightly with a 0.1 sketching pen.  And I do mean lightly – the secret is to let the pen dance on the page.

Stage three:  now for the colour – a mix of cobalt blue, windsor blue (green shade) and a touch of alazarin crimson around the bottom.  To get the soft edges, I wet the whole sky area first (leaving the boat dry) and made sure the colour didn’t go all the way to the edge of the wet bit.  I didn’t wet the sea, just a few brushstrokes to suggest waves.

Stage four:  once the sky is dry, I can add colour to sails and hull.  Cadmium red with a touch of cobalt (and a bit of light red) for the sails.  Light red and ultramarine for the hull (mixed blacks are far nicer than tube blacks!)

Stage five:  adding more colour – shadows to the jib and topsail (using the puddle of neutral colour which has by now formed mid-palette), cadmium red for the topstrake and antifoul (with a drop of blue touched in to the antifoul where the curve of the hull forms a shadow).

Stage six:  shadows in the sails (cobalt blue) and a bit of colour on the figures.  I also added a few more flicks of different blues to the sea (my no. 6 brush seems to be recovering from its long bout of amnesia…)

Stage seven:  finishing touches – dilute touches of raw sienna on jib and topsail, a few more touches on the sea and raw sienna on the bowsprit and topmast.  Then it was back to the drawing pen to sketch in a few more details, particularly rigging (just a few touches) and a few splashes of acrylic white on the bow wave.  Not a copy of the photo, just a sketch of your actual lively cutter bouncing over sparkling sea.

And the overall size? Just a few centimetres across.

When you lose your way, it helps to go back to where you were before you got lost.

“I could have told you that!” said my no. 6 paintbrush.

2 thoughts on “How do you draw boats? Ask your pencil….”

  1. Ally says:

    Beginning to have just a few tinsy niggling doubts about you here Claudia. Is it the solitude or the communing with all those welsh sheep?

    Lovely picture tho’.

    (oh, sorry. Gtg have a natter with my trowel about the planting that didn’t get done today)

  2. Claudia says:

    Ah, don’t give me that, Ally – I’ve heard you talking to the plants on your allotment! Anyway, as an artist I’m allowed to be slightly batty. Aren’t I?

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