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  • Writer's pictureDanny McShane

Half Rigged Clipper

Updated: Jun 12


Artist painting at a table easel.
Painting a full sheet indoors.

I've taken some pictures while painting this larger (for me) painting on a full imperial sheet (30x22"). I find this size quite challenging for the subjects I paint as lines tend to be long and I find keeping the whole picture in view surprisingly tricky. Anyhoo, the idea is of a Clipper ship of some sort with sails partially furled, seen from high up in the rigging. I'd doodled a few sketches in an A4 jotter and liked the idea of a full size painting.




The paper I'm using is Bockingford 250lb cold pressed. It's thick enough to cope without being taped or stretched so it's simply propped on a plywood board then clipped with bulldog clips to keep it clear of the gutter.

My workspace
"The orderly clutter of genius"... I keep telling myself

I'm working from imagination so I've made a few guidelines for the sails and hull shapes with a water soluble 4B pencil and put in raw sienna for the bright timbers. The pencil lines simply wash away when I paint over them so I don't get stuck "colouring in" but they help me start each feature in the right place.

1st paint on the paper
First strokes, often the hardest.

I've indicated to myself where I want to preserve white paper for figures, sails etc so I don't get lost and paint over them. It happens.




Then onto the blues for the sea. I've brushed clear water onto the paper around the ship hull so the blues can bleed into it and give a soft surf transition. The sails I left dry to get a hard edge against the sea below.

Painting a surf line
Getting a surf line with wet paper.

And on to the sea's first wash with greens and blues. I'm aware this will be very much an underpainting for the sea and I'm really concentrating on cutting out the sails by painting around the white paper. I'm always surprised how much paint I need for this size of paper.

Negative painting the sails.
Adding the sea underpainting and leaving the sails bare.

Adding some darker timbers and inventing some detail for the deck. At this stage I'm leaving a few white spaces for figure highlights and thinking about how much detail I might need. I love this stage as I'm just following whims as they occur to me. While painting the two deck boats I thought it might be fun to have one under a tarp and the other being made ready. The deck gratings felt a bit implausible at this stage. I'm thinking of having two rows of sailors pulling halyards for the mainsail so hope that works. The cartoonish look is a bit off-putting but I'm hoping texture, shadow and general clutter will deliver the atmosphere I want in the end.

Adding deck details
Adding some deck details

Moving on to some rigging. There's no way I can paint this in detail freehand so it's a case of going ahead, wobbles and all, aiming for an impression of 'lots of purposeful rope' even though I'm making it up as I go. I've also added some form shadows on the sails and some cast shadows from the sails onto the sea and from features across the deck.

Freehand rigging (liner brush), figures and shadows.

I'd wondered if the shadow of the boat's hull on the sea should have an irregular edge to give the impression of the sea state, but I don't like the look. I've also rationalised that I'd be looking almost vertically down on it so it could be reasoably straight so I've straightened it. I've also lifted some colour to indicate white foam in the shadow region. It was also time to deepen the sea colour in places to get a workable look overall. I also increased the width of the gunwhale shadow across the deck.


Almost done, once fully dry I took some white gouache on a liner brush and added some pale rope lines and few highlights and final tweaks.


And that's it. Stopping is often the hardest bit. Apart from signing... I really don't like signing paintings, so I only sign the front if a buyer wants it. Or put my initials in Morse Code or diguised as a text on the painting like a reg number or ship name, or even grafitti once. This one isn't signed yet (to save you searching).


Thanks for reading!



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