As for Wotan, she was half-full of water and wallowing; her colour was indeterminate and I had only one faded photo taken some time before the event, to give any idea of her looks. She appeared to have a canoe stern, and the record states that after she rolled, her masts were broken, with stays and gear trailing.
I thought hard about the scene and sketched up several watercolour pictures. These little sketches show the erasures and re-working of ideas but it’s important to set things out before starting – putting the right mark in the right place first time helps tremendously to get a painting going – detail comes later. With a detailed cut-out drawing of Falcon
I thought about the waves, the direction of the light, where to position the boats – even whether Norah Head Lighthouse could be included, to ‘set the scene’.
Should I paint the dramatic moment when the tow-line was cut by the giant wave or when the survivors were being pulled across? Look into the sunset, or out at the storm? The difficulty of making an interesting painting of the trip back to Pittwater, after Wotan had to be cast adrift in howling darkness with no moon to illuminate the scene caused that idea to be abandoned.
What about the scene inside Falcon? – Buster at the helm, fighting to keep the heading and easing the malfunctioning starboard engine over every wave? Boot at the radio/navigation table? Friendly attending to the rescued and injured lying in blankets on the floor? Lots of decisions had to be made.