The art of Michael Lees

A commission to paint a trading schooner

I see the Kathleen and May frequently in Appledore - the last of the trading schooners. I have a commission to paint her off Appledore, and I first start with a sketch which captures the feel of the scene. I think there are two possibilities that inspire me and, hopefully, captures the spirit of the ship and the port. As I am painting for a client I ask their preference.

The sketch chosen is the second one. Now for the painting!

First I paint the background, beginning the sky and clouds - drawing on my past flying experience in clouds and then I move to put some detail in the houses.

Then I go for the detail in the main picture. The sea colour and pattern of waves is vital as it is entirely different in different depths of water, with different sea bottoms and different wind speeds. I have sailed my dinghy here so know it well - and have sailed (and nearly sunk her!) in this weather.

The rigging took me several days to do - it has to be right or is very irritating to those who understand boats and sail.

Having much of the middle ground detail I have a go at the foreground and then I am nearing the finished work.

The detail is right because I love researching the history and meeting personalities with memories of how this area used to be. I enjoy going aboard the Kathleen and May, still sailing from Appledore, and I learn from my own boats - which are in the painting.

But the detail, though vital, is subordinate to capturing the vitality and feel of the crew of the ship, the sailors in the choppy seas in the small boats and the waving watchers at Gribble Point. I put luminosity in the sky and depth in the sea. I rig the ship.

Then it is finished - I hope you find it evocative.

'Under Full Sail'

©2007 The art of Michael Lees