I recently visited the little town of Calabash, NC, where seafood restaurants abound and fishing boats tie up just feet from dining tables. It was a crisp sunny day with just enough wind to make me want shelter for my task of doing a plein air painting of a well-worn fishing boat or two. Finding a sheltered spot at the end of the dock, I was setting up my chair when along comes a handsome man who seemed to belong here. "Is it OK if I set up here to paint?" I asked. "Of course," he said. "Sit any where you like." I asked if he owned the nearby boat. He promptly pointed at each of the half dozen or so vessels and said "I own this one, and this one and this one and..." I was obviously talking to the owner of the Calabash Fishing Fleet and I liked him instantly. "Make yourself at home, if you need anything, my name is Bob." And a fine Bob he was. While my other half, Bill, went off exploring this end-of-the-road place, I began my somewhat intimidating pencil sketch of the Miss Serena (named after Bob's wife, I later learned). There are so many bits and pieces to a fishing boat...lines (called rope elsewhere, on the boat they are called lines), colorful round floats, radar, lights, windows, signs, booms and buckets, winches and whatevers. I knew I could not capture them all, but I needed to get enough of it in there to show the complexity, the danger, the incredible knowledge and experience needed to run this boat safely and bring it home full.
I quickly started at the bow of the boat which was pointed outward toward the river and marsh. I was using my Strathmore sketchbook which provided a long, two-page format which would be good for getting a wide view of the marsh. I have learned not to agonize over the details too much; get the pencil down quickly, then pull out my Micron pens and do my first inking, keeping my fingers far back from the point in order to make it easier for me to stay loose. I don't know when I start where I will end up and let the drawing develop as I go. Weird as it sounds, I believe the drawing somehow tells me what is needed next.
Just as I start applying the watercolor to the sky, marsh and water, two young girls come around the corner and see me painting. Instantly interested, they stand beside me to watch and ask questions. They are ages 11 and seven. They have no techno in front of their pretty faces and they are ENGAGED! Engaged in the beautiful day, the fascinating place and my art. I love them right away and start to teach them as I paint, explaining what I am doing and why. One asked if they were bothering me. Absolutely not, I tell them, I am happy to have such an interested audience. Over the next half hour or more, they come and go, telling me they are checking in to see how much further I have gone on the painting. It was a joy to meet these young ladies who have obviously been raised very well by their parents. They are at home on the docks where their dad is doing electrical work for the fleet owner, Bob, and their mom is along to enjoy the day and watch over them.
Before we leave the docks, I look for the kids again in hopes of a photo with them. Their mom agrees to be the photographer and does a great job of it. My day in Calabash is complete. My faith in today's children is restored, my painting awaits one more treatment with my ink pens and the fishing fleet and restaurant owner and cook shares his way of steaming shrimp with me. We try it a couple days later and it was wonderful! The waterfront at Calabash is now one of my favorite places. And my fishing boat painting? I love it!