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"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." ~ Pablo Picasso

The Evolution of a Painting

The Maiden Voyage of the Sea Scout Ship Reliance

I have often been asked how I get from concept to a finished painting.Here I will try to explain my method. Remember though that this is what worked best for me for this particular painting.You will have to experiment to find out works best for you. Just dont loose your individuality in the process.

CONCEPT (What is it and how do you want to portray it?):Once I settle on the subject, I spend a considerable amount of time on research. In this case I have accumulated several photos of the Sea Scout Ship Reliance. Some I have obtained from the Sea Scout website and aclose friend who helped commission her.Others were from various Internet historical sites of when she was the Coast Guard Cutter Sorrel.I have also gathered a lotof historical data to eventually be used in the construction of the back plate. One that I will later adhere to the back of the framed painting.This describes the painting and interesting information on the subject.Having all this information I drew several small ideas.These are very rough pencil sketches to basically give me an idea of composition. Remember to be flexible. (A)

SIZE, SURFACE, and MEDIUM: I have decided to cut a masonite panel 36x24 (as I said, remember to be flexible as you will later see) and will be using Acrylic (my favorite at the moment). I also prime the panel surface with a white Gessothat can be sanded to a smooth surface and is available at most art supply outlets.

ROUGHING-IN: This is the fun part where your small sketch ideascome together in the finished size.I have penciled everything full size but have eliminated the ship. I prefer using a full size tracing so I can position it in several areas as you will see in section 4 below.

PAINTING: In this example I started with the furthest point; the sky and clouds that recede beyond the distant hills. If I get carried away, as I have here with the hues, it can still be corrected later. I think that this is a good point to keep in mind you are building a painting, nearly anything can be changed and/or painted over. Don't be afraid to experiment!The next step for me is the shoreline and receding hills. (B) I put very little detail here because I want the illusion of distance.I also try to find where the light might fall from the placement of the clouds.Some of the hills, as you can see, are dark, others are light.With this complete, I start on the water.My idea was that this ship is traveling up the west coast of Central America.The water therefore should probably besomewhat tropical in color i.e. having an emerald/turquoise/green hue to it.If I were doing the North Atlantic it would be a deep dark blue....sometimes gray. Notice that I don't put any action to the sea at this point.The reason is that I am not really sure how the ship will be sitting.

I next take my full size pencil sketchthat I have put on tracing paper and move it over the water to see what looks best. At this time I found that I didn't like the stern view of her and went back to the drawing board (remember flexible!).I finally settled for a quarter bow view and lightly traced her onto the panel.I know of some artists that use a cardboard cutout for the same purpose. You can also choose to pencil in everything with the foreground being masked out with tape or a liquid masking and then removed when the background has been painted in.I have also scaled the panel down to 24x18 (Yep, still using that word flexible!). It just felt better. (C) Tomorrow I will start painting the hull and superstructure. This is generally where I really get into the painting.I can almost hear her creaking with each gentle roll. I like to bring the painting in from the studio at days end.It really helps if you have a spouse or significant other that can offer constructive criticism.I am very fortunate in this regard.Many changes have been formulated in the evening ready for execution in the morning.

With the hull nearly complete I start on the rest of her.I am continually pouring over the reference material at this point. (There have been times that I have actually had to stop and telephone someone that I know that has been aboard the particular boat or ship that I am working on.)You might notice that I have put some denting on the hull along with a rust spot here and there.All buoy tenders have these.After all, there were a lot of buoys hitting her sides during her 50 year Coast Guard career. I accomplished this with a light wash of watered down white and gray.I used the same method with red, orange and brown for a few abrasion marks. I have also started to give the ocean a little momentum and character.Not a rough sea, just enough to show motion. (D)

I am now ready to start the mast, rigging and other details. The after portholes were more defined and the Sea Scout flag was hoisted to the starboard yardarm.A short time later the U.S. Ensign was gracefully flying from the "pig stick"on the mast (a pig stick is described in nautical terms as "a small spar at the top of the mainmast from which the commissioning pennant usually flies").

Several days have passed without doing any work on the painting.During this time I concentrated on what I could do to embellish the final painting.I have settled on some minute details on the mast and around the boom.I have also "adjusted" the water some more and then added the ever present seagulls, barely visible just aft of the stern.I think the painting is now complete (E) with only the frame remaining. (F)

I hope that this has helped you understand the process that I used for this painting.Not counting the "think time", research time, or the frame making, about 52 hours have elapsed.The average is anywhere from 40 to 80 hours.Many of my paintings have taken hundreds of hours. Although I am no expert, if you have further questions please feel free to e-mail me.Have fun and enjoy your adventure.

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