Sailing shapes

When I looked at this scene early this morning the first thing I thought was “how do I make sense of this confusion?” I’ve painted it before — last summer, and the summer before — but not in the early morning like this and perhaps with fewer boats in the bay. If you think about it, it’s impossible to draw in all the details on the boats, unless of course you have all day and besides, why draw details that you can just as easily add in with a brush? In a scene like this there are three repeating motifs: the sail covers, the masts and the shapes of the foreground boats. The rest is just filler. Bits of lights and darks between those shapes that convey more rows of boats.

So here’s what I did. I drew the foreground boats, the sail covers, the horizon line and the line of trees. When it came time to paint, I started with the sky and water and left a good chunk of unpainted (white) shapes in the middle. If you look carefully, there are no boats behind that first row. Just masts, sail covers and little dark and light shapes. I painted the reflections fairly early on in the process and it’s a good thing I did since the wind picked up not long after and changed the scene considerably. The last thing I did was the masts, trying to connect them with the sails, and not always succeeding.


28 Comments on “Sailing shapes”

  1. Dee says:

    Love this…spontaneous and GOOD!


  2. Shari,
    I think this is quite successful. It is about pattern and reasonable likeness. It is very believable!


  3. Impressive – planning, discipline, patience, talent, artistry – all come together in this.


  4. Sue says:

    This is a great picture! It looks so complicated to make it all look so believable!


  5. marctaro says:

    Bravo! That is an amazing analysis of a scene. Really spot on observation. Seeing the colored sail covers as more important than the boats in back was genius.


  6. It is just perfect

    Sent from my iPhone



  7. Ron Wodaski says:

    That approach really worked well. 🙂


  8. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful painting and also for the helpful explanations, Shari! It is important to understand the painting process….Kind regards from Germany, Nadia


  9. Genine says:

    Wow Shari, this is amazing!
    Appreciate you breaking down the steps you took. I would have had no idea where to start.


  10. Andre Savard. says:

    Shari, you did a very good job beyond the first row, if you had not mentioned it nobody, would have noticed it. the water réflexion is amazing.


  11. Louise says:

    Shari, beautifull ! Did you use ink for the drawing? Can you guide me in buying a good ink pen?
    To use in watercolor painting…I saw some Waterman ink pens from $100.00 up…would you recommend these?…Is it better to use a pen with ink in tubes or a bottle to dip in?
    I was also told that if you don’t use your pen every day, the ink will dry and clog it?


  12. Elizabeth says:

    What I find so successful is that by defining only the first line of boats and merely suggesting those behind with shapes and color, you convey the message clearly, but by leaving the viewer’s brain to do the heavy lifting.


  13. carol says:

    wow!!! you made sense of the confusion and i am still overwhelmed as to where i would begin if i were trying it myself. beautiful!


  14. sandidureice says:

    Love this. And thankyou for the detailed instruction.


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