Pre-season at the boat club is almost more exciting than when the boats go in the water. The overlapping shapes and colours in the boatyard— light and dark, bright and muted — make for a great subject.

I have my copy of Edgar Whitney’s The Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting sitting next to me as I write (sometimes I even use it as a weight on my scanner!). I often leaf through it and read a tidbit here or there about composition or design. Coincidentally today, after I scanned my version of a boatyard, I opened it to Ed’s painting of the same subject, titled High and Dry. Here’s what he says about his own work: “The first question to ask in any painting project is, “What am I trying to say?” Make this answer, or “telegram to yourself” succinct. The telegram here was boatyard. The second question should be “what is the best way to say it?” The answer to the second question is found by observing and expressing the characteristics found only in that locale.”

What does that mean? For me, it means trying to convey the forms of the boatyard with an economy of strokes. The focus in this little sketch is the boat shapes — both front and side views — and the masts. Once those are in place, the rest is filler. And if I can manage to cram most of the lights and darks and all the bits of pure colour into that area of focus, then it’s a good day of sketching.


28 Comments on “Boatyard”

  1. wrightottawa says:

    So, it’s not just me with my fascination of boatyards…..and both Mr. Turner and Robert Genn would approve of the splash of red.

    Another one for the wall above my desk Shari


  2. GilZarins says:

    Beautiful! Love the way you design, compose and paint. Great insights!


  3. Lee Kline says:

    Lovely. Unsolicited advice: Do NOT buy a boat, even though they look like fun! If you do, you will experience the second best day of a boat owner…..You can guess what the BEST day for a boat owner is!


    • Lee, my dad would agree. He sold his boat the day after the motor died while we were out on the lake, stranded with no one around for miles. And don’t worry about me. I prefer land to sea any day.


  4. Beautifully said and done.


  5. Les says:

    Shari, I am wondering how you did those white lines in the boat masts and a few other places. Did you use a white pen (like a Uniball SIgno)? Or did you use a sharp object to scratch into the paper? Nice piece!


    • Hi Les. I do sometimes use a white gel pen, but I also carry around a small tube of Titanium White watercolour. Use it in its purest form. I put a rigger brush right into the tube and use that to paint rigging. I have used the scratching technique as well but I prefer to do this.


  6. Marc Lépine says:

    With that watercolour, you announce us that spring is back ! Your favorite theme… and always a new way at looking at things.
    I discovered a great place for USK today. Maisonneuve market in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve: the market, inside and out, the fountain, many very beautiful buildings around, wide view, wide streets, a great view on the Olympic Stadium…


    • Yes, spring is back! Isn’t it wonderful? Thanks for the visit at the exhibition the other day. It was so nice to see you.
      That market sounds like something we need to add to our list. You know I like markets almost as much as I like boatyards.


  7. Alison says:

    Most instructional and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. Wonderful sketch too!


  8. Linda Murray says:

    It was a great day of sketching for you, Shari, because you achieved it all. Love the painting- all the colors, and especially the sky! This is really a nice painting.


  9. timdada says:

    These are the WCs you do that blow my mind. Think about this: the further away you live from the equator the more extreme are your seasons. The more extreme are your seasons, the better are your watercolors. You gotta love that 23% angle. Without which we would have no seasons.




    • Thanks Tim. We love and hate our extreme seasons, don’t we? At least I do. I don’t enjoy the cold, but when I lived in a warm climate for a short time, I really missed it. Hard to believe, but true.


  10. I loved this. The composition, the horizontal lines, vertical lines and the darks and lights.


  11. Louise says:

    This looks so complex. I enlarged the painting to study it, but can’t even imagine how you went about achieving this masterful result. I do have access to harbors, fishing fleets, and boat clubs less than an hour away. Maybe I should make it a sketching destination some day. I agree with “wrightottawa” about all the interesting things around such places … lots of wabi sabi stuff piled around. It can be poetic.


  12. Nice to see the lighted parts of the boats as well as the shadows. Nicely done.


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