For today’s prompt of “Sailing,” I wasn’t motivated to sketch a sailboat at first, so I thought about reinterpreting the meaning of the prompt as I’m often prone to do. As I was about to give up, the idea of pirates popped to mind and, mostly due to that little boy inside, I was far more inspired. I’ve only sketched a handful of boats in my life, and they’re not really my normal subject matter, so attempting to scribble an entire pirate’s ship was a bit more of an adventure. It was super fun, in the end, and I’m glad I pushed myself to try something a little different. I liked stories with pirates when I was a kid, but mostly because they were all the swashbuckling family-friendly stories that omitted all of the truly horrible aspects, beyond the occasional bit of scurvy. But there was no doubting they were the villains in the story, yet that made them the most interesting. Long John Silver from Treasure Island was certainly most interesting character in the book. Although it’s rather easy to stand out with a peg leg and a parrot. As I kid, I didn’t want to actually be a bad person, but pirates got all of the best lines in stories, so I did eventually want to play one on TV.
As it happened, I never became a television actor, and though I did stage plays for a time, I never got to be a pirate. I did get to play D’Artagnan once in The Three Musketeers, and learned a bit of fencing and sword play for the role, so that was pretty cool. I remember none of it today, of course, so I now live in secret hope that nobody ever challenges me to a duel. Thinking back, I do think there was definitely a moment as a kid when I thought being a pirate would be cool. They seemed so free and able to do anything they liked, including breaking a lot of rules. And as I got older, I realized that the freedom to sail the open seas, did indeed come with scurvy, so the whole prospect of actually being a pirate became much less alluring. But sometimes, I still find myself enjoying bending and breaking rules a bit. None of the golden ones that make us human, but the silly ones that were written by others before I got a chance to weigh in myself. For some reason, painting with watercolor seems to come with lots of rules, for example. And, I do break many of them, but I learned all of the rules first. I think it’s important to know and try following the rules before taking the pirate’s path.
Yet, once you feel confident in doing something the “right” way, then it’s time to travel a bit and visit someplace new. When I started sketching and painting, I was actually in between jobs so I had two full months where I had a few hours to paint each day. Then I started my new job and found myself with only 30-45 minutes per day. So, I first tried a little A6 sketchbook to keep things quick and small, but that felt a bit too constraining after awhile. Then, I switched to my current A5 sketchbook, which I love most. Instead of worrying about trying to dutifully set aside hours to practice techniques, I looked inward and realized what Dorothy realizes at the end of the Wizard of Oz. I had the power all along to come home. And home, in this case, is simply going back to the beginning to when I was a child. Each time I sit down to make something, I don’t worry about following any one technique or set of rules, I just scribble, doodle, color, like I did back then. Little Charlie knows exactly how to draw and color a pirate’s ship, after all, so I just let him. Granted, his adult self has been sketching every day now for over four years, and has a lot more practice. The combo is a magical thing indeed. And though it sort of defies the rule of always trying to move forward, it’s often an even better thing to move backward and experience the true thrill of a pirate adventure.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Terra Cotta, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!