More often than not I hear, "Oh I just love your boat and ship paintings!" or something similar. One might ask (and rightly so), "What is up with THAT?!". In case you don't know, many years ago before tackling the goal of learning how to paint I was a merchant seaman. In fact, that is precisely what I went to school for at the Merchant Marine Academy in Massachusetts graduating in 1971.
I find it somewhat perplexing that many Americans, at least, haven't a clue as what that profession is all about. Unlike England with its complete dependency on mastering sea trade and its historic counterpart of naval supremacy, our maritime heritage is really not so old or as profound. My years as a seagoing engineer working on freighters and tankers and even a couple of old tugboats were glorious years of excitement, lasting impressions and challenges.
Years later and to this day, after "coming ashore", getting married and starting a family I often reflect back on my days at sea or in port recalling many close calls, near misses or just those compelling impressions. All of that is fodder for artwork..... or writing. I tried writing but haven't the patience for the craft. I have built model ships and still do so but not as much anymore. That is an art/craft I can and do get lost in where hours pass quickly when working. You do need time for model shipbuilding.....much time! An average size model of museum quality can take easily 2000-3000 manhours of effort to complete. When you're all done they are a hard sell especially if you need compensation for the hours you expended!
So we have my marine art to consider. Much of this genre is truly boring or at best, tedious to ponder. I understand this and that much of the genre seems to lack any soul or feeling. A lot of it, too, is just plain "old hat".....I mean....how many clipper ships bounding through white foam sea or catboats sitting languidly in a protected cove can you really look at and get captivated? I have had experiences on the ships and tugs and even a salvage vessel that I wish to share with the unknowing public. My goal in all of this is to catch those eyes with my work not so much the maritime public per se. I want my marine artwork to please and to inform. Not just one or the other.
In order to express my experiences in my art and especially this genre I find that the choice of color, more than composition or any of the other artistic milestones, to be the single most critical component required in creating a successful work. This doesn't come easy! I have many discarded, used watercolor sheets and old canvases with unsuccessful work. These pieces just did not express my emotion correctly. I have produced studies that have had far more success than their follow up, full sized, full blown artworks! The used canvases can be gone over with new work but used and unsuccessful watercolor works are a "get it right the first time" deal (unless you flip the paper over to use the backside!....not recommended but I have done this in a pinch).
Occasionally, and more so of late, I have "wandered off the reservation", as it were, and executed work in oils and watercolors depicting city and country scenes, people and even flowers. Again, these works are based on compelling impressions and/or experiences I have visually absorbed.
I don't have a large palette but use the primaries, red, blue and yellow intermixing to get all the color variations I need. I may introduce one or two new, none primary colors into a work but this is the exception not the norm. I find that there is an extreme sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in work that turns out successful and catches the eye(s) of somebody other than me! Most times "less is more" and with me, less colors means more freedom!