The art of sailing
Few images lend themselves so well to fine painting as sailboats. From Monet to Manet, from the early masters to contemporary artists, sailboats add something to a painting. Call it depth of field or simple illustration, they change a painting into something more exciting.
Three genres comprise many paintings.
Sunsets are immortal. They convey the end of a day, and if that day was spent on the water, all the better. The romance of the evening combines with the adventure of the boat.
Harbor sare cute. Multiple boats arranged geometrically display a unique community of mariners. Nothing can spoil the view, namely cars, concrete and politics.
Heeling shows speed. We spend most of our time here at Let’s Go Sail. To explain the dynamics of sailing, one has to appreciate the effect of the wind on the boat. It tilts the entire vessel 10 or 15 degrees. When we tack, we heel on the other side. Sailboats are supposed to heel, and they represent the universal look. We find it in paintings, post cards, cocktail napkins, and logos on shirts. It takes a minute or two for a rookie to realize the boat won’t lean any further or tip over on its side. Once a sailor gets a grip on heeling, it becomes addictive. Faster, faster!
Perhaps the most famous contemporary artist of ships is Christopher Blossom, a third-generation one at that. The March/April issue of The Saturday Evening Post featured Blossom on the cover. From the cover story:
“For Blossom, counted today among the greatest marine artists of his generation, [earlier] esteemed illustrators included his own late father, David Blossom, grand dad Earl Blossom, and a broad circle of friends whos resonant work resides in museums and prominent personal collections.” The Blossoms are compared to another American trifecta of artists, the Wyeth family.
“Blossom’s portrayals of near mythic ships have earned him favorable comparisons to master marine painters John Stobart and Montague Dawson. A prime example of Blossom’s talent is a piece titled U.S. Brig Porpoise Transiting Deception Pass, 1841. It portrays the good ship Porpoise finding its way through the coastal waters around the San Juan Islands near Seattle, a course purported to be perilous and unnavigable. Blossom puts the viewer into a fateful scene that proved the premise wrong.”
The other painting
On a much more mundane level, the other painting has to do with the hull of the boat. This is all the Fiberglas from the water line down to the bottom of the keel. In the first illustration of “Heeling to port,” you can see how the waterline of the boat shows up as the boat leans over.
Painting the hull requires hauling the boat at the marina yard in a huge Travel Lift that scoops it up with two big slings. They motor the boat to a nearby place on the hard surface of the yard and prop it up straight with three steel stanchions on each side and one under the bow.
My mission, which starts every other February, is to sand the surface lightly and repaint it with ablative paint that will wash off over time. The paint runs $260 a gallon and the job requires two gallons. You don’t want to accidentally kick over the can. Getting to squeeze under the boat to paint overhead is reminiscent of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, but only for a fleeting moment.
While the boat is out of the water, it’s time to sand down the brass prop and paint it with nine coats of blended bottom paint. Finally, the position of the boat makes it possible to compound and wax the hull, which is nearly impossible while the boat is in the water. The entire three-step process can be done in 10 days, then back into the water to start the new season.
Let’s go sail, artfully
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