Clipper Commission

Clipper Ship Emerald Isle

I just finished this painting of the Emerald Isle, a clipper ship built 1853 in Bath, Main. The client commissioned this to commemorate her ancestors, several of whom immigrated to the United States aboard the Emerald Isle in 1868.

With some information about the ship and the ancestors’ crossing, my first step was to do a series of thumbnails with different perspectives, croppings, and the ship in different attitudes. I sent this sheet with several of those to the client to begin our dialogue about the composition. Over and over I’ve heard artists and illustrators caution not to include any thumbnails you wouldn’t want to paint, because invariably, those will be the ones the client will choose.

Well, of my thumbnails, I didn’t really like the composition or perspective of #3 or #6, but I thought I would include them for variety’s sake. The client liked #6 🙂 With a little discussion about what she liked about 6 and the compositional and dynamic advantages of #2 (my favorite), we were able to make a plan to adjust #2 to suit us both.

Clipper Thumbnails

Next, I prepared a larger sketch and value comp implementing the adjustments from the thumbnail. When the client approved that, I moved on to painting.

Clipper ship Emerald Isle commission value comp.

Though I paint on both canvas and panel, if I have the choice I usually go for panel. Gessoing it myself, I can not only control the overall texture, but also that of specific areas.

Once the board was gessoed, I made my first time-robbing blunder. Every project has to have one or two, so I am happy that this one wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have any transfer paper on hand—so I decided rather than go to the store, I would just make my own. I sprinkled a sheet of thin sketch paper with graphite powder and rubbed it in with isopropyl alcohol. It looked pretty good and I proceeded to make the transfer tracing from a printout of my sketch.

When I pulled the sketch and transfer paper away, it revealed a mess of graphite in which I could sort of make out the crumbly outline of a ship. I had used too much graphite powder and it caked pretty thick in some places. I wiped away of as much as I could and re-gessoed. While the gesso was drying I made a trip to the store to pick up some transfer paper ;).

Process shots of clipper ship Emerald Isle Commission.

Finally with a good transfer, I went over the drawing again by hand, sealed that with matte medium and did some light acrylic washes to establish a little color and value. Then, with the acrylic dried I switched to oils and painted the sky. Next I did the sails, then half the water. I painted the hull before the water on the right side so that I could let it mostly dry before doing the waves that overlap it. Once it was all painted in. I spent time making adjustments etc. and then I did some thin glazing with burnt sienna (my favorite pigment) to help tie the colors together—I think I’ll have to make another post later about my approach to color. I hope you enjoy.

Clipper Ship Emerald Isle commission on Easel.

Schooner: Painting an Old Drawing

Sometimes you get part way into a project and decide to finish it later. Then, you find yourself clearing out space a few years down the road and wondering if there is someone to whom you can gift a half finished painting, or if you’d better just drop it off at the thrift store. Luckily, today’s is not such a story. I finally got around to painting the schooner that I drew several months ago.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner by Jameson Gardner 2014

 

I started the drawing while working on my dimensional illustration project Five Months On the Ice as a way to satisfy my urge to draw something a little bigger after painting a pretty small ship for the backdrop of one of my images. I used some of the same reference I had collected for that backdrop and synthesized it into a new angle and composition.

 

schooner Drawing Progress

 

After the charcoal sketch was complete, I sealed it with matte medium and toned it a little in oil with burnt sienna and ultramarine. That is how it stayed for nine or ten months.

Sketch of schooner on masonite, toned with oil color.

Finally, I decided it might be fun to paint it, so with some of the same old reference, I got to work.

Schooner Ocean and Sky Painted

 

When I am painting over a drawing, I tend to compartmentalize things rather than working everything up together, as I would when painting from life.

Work in progress on schooner painting by Jameson Gardner, 2014

 

Once finished, I went ahead and framed it in this pretty mahogany.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner in mahogony frame by Jameson Gardner 2014

Schooner Sketch

I mentioned previously that painting the schooner for the iceberg scene was frustrating. In spite of that, it kind of made me want to try it again. The texture of the masonite after toning it is so nice that I gessoed up another as soon as I was done and started drawing a schooner at a larger scale.

The sketch is done and the panel is toned. It probably isn’t responsible of me to paint it right now when I have other more important projects. So here it is as it is. Maybe later I will paint it or maybe it will just stay like this.

Sketch of a schooner on gessoed masonite, toned with oil color.

This ship presented it’s own problems too. I used some of the beautiful reference I had collected for the iceberg scene, but none was from the angle I wanted for this drawing. At least that way I am not just copying some photo, though. I also spent at least twice as long toning as I usually do and feel like it came out half as nice as the quick careless ones that I paint right over. I guess that is life though.

progress photo of sketch of schooner on gessoed masonite toned with oil color

Miniature Illustration Scene

Dock scene with man and schooner produced with custom built miniatures and models

Yep, here’s that same old dock scene. All custom built miniatures and painted backdrop. I still haven’t done final touchups, but the foggy and fog-free images are composited. Soon it will be ready for print.

I am also building structural elements for the iceberg scene, photos of that will be forthcoming.