Development Of A Piece: Storm at Sea

So, I've always been interested in how artists come up with their pieces. Sometimes the story behind a work can be just as interesting as the final product. In these "Development Of A Piece" writings, I'm going be self-indulgent and talk about how I came up with different works and why.

This piece is pretty straight forward; it's a boat in water with a dangerous sky and some dark land in the background. It was done with acrylic paint on a frame that my father and I made. The surface is stretched muslin (light-weight cotton) with a priming gesso on it. This makes for a smooth, slightly textured surface.

At the time, I was super into making my own frames and canvas. I haven't made many since, but I plan on it in the future.


My wife and some family were able to go on a cruise that stopped at some awesome places. For the life of me, I can only remember Pompeii. Towards the end of the trip, as we were going from one port to the next, we ran into a storm.

Now, we were out at sea - not super far away from land - but we couldn't really see anything because our room faced away from land. And the ship was rocking. It was a gentle rocking, but still more than we had experienced up to that point.

We all decided to meet for dinner and as we were making our way to the dinning area, the ship began to rock harder. It got to the point were we would have to stop and balance against the walls while waiting for the ship to right itself. It wasn't just my wife and I in the halls either; there were other families going to and coming from the restaurant. As we walked and paused and walked again, I could hear little conversations, "Oh, this storm must be bad," and "We better get back to the room," and "They say it's supposed to get worse," all while we are going to eat.

I was uneasy.

We were seated at a table in the restaurant, ordered, then people started falling down. Like, the waves were hitting the ship, and rocking it so extremely that, if you were standing, there was a good chance you would fall. The chairs were secured to the floor, so sitting wasn't a problem, but walking looked tough.

I don't totally remember what happened to the food we ordered, but judging by the crashing sounds coming from the kitchen, waiters and back of house staff were having a tough time too.

My wife, being full of adventure, talked me into finding a place where we could see the waves.

We found a bar that hadn't closed yet and very carefully opened a door that led to an outside area with high, thick railings.

The top of the outside area was covered, but rain was still whipping in underneath. As the ship continued to rock, we could see huge waves come from the darkness and smack the side.

Then there was a swell.

It was hard to see because it was just so big, but I realized that it wasn't the waves that were throwing the ship around, it the swells!

I was scared. I was seeing a glimpse of the power of nature and I was terrified. All I could do was watch these giant waves and swells do whatever they wanted while the ship was in the way; I mean, I know ships are made to float and planes are made to stay in the sky, but there are times when it seems like the slightest action could cause everything to fall apart. Images of the boat splitting scene from the movie Titanic were racing through my head.

I'm a little bit of a worrier.

Everything ended up fine. We made it back to our room and the storm and waves calmed down. The rest of the trip was amazing, but that night stayed with me...

That's the story behind the subject matter.

The style is impressionistic; I've always loved the impressionists and the way that style gives so much life and movement to the paintings. I knew I wanted to paint a picture that would try to express the danger and excitement I felt during that storm at sea and I knew that creating it in the loose and flowing impressionist style would help try to capture the movement of the moment. When I was finished, I felt lucky that I had gotten as close as I did to creating my feelings that night. This piece has a lot of sentimental value.


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