Harbours and moorings are often not the easiest places to sketch and paint when you find a mass of boats, masts and other nautical paraphernalia confronting you. How can you work out which mast is attached to which craft, and is that an oversized cabin or a bouncy castle in the distance – this can be especially difficult to work out in poor lighting.
This is part of a watercolour painting of Heybridge Basin in Essex. There were many more boats than I’ve shown, but I’ve eliminated much of the visual clutter, concentrating on the more handsome vessels. This is the best way of avoiding the effect of a jungle of massed detail. When you want to identify the important and most attractive boats it helps to move around and sketch and photograph from slightly different angles. This helps to see which feature belongs to which boat. A pair of binoculars can help if you are some distance away, and watch for changes of light which can give further clues.
In your rendering of the scene try to keep the background fairly simple, otherwise too much detail will confuse the composition. Harbours can be notorious places for strong background features that can
dominate if you are not careful. In this scene I have kept the background trees devoid of any detail so that the emphasis is on the boats.
You can see the whole of this painting in my exhibition at Lincoln Joyce Fine Art, at 40 Church Road, Great Bookham, in Surrey telephone 01372 458481. The exhibition continues until 9th November and is open 10am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Saturday. There are more details on my website.