The paintings and sketches
My first painting was fun to do – it described an exciting event, the ‘escape’ of the little boat and her crew from the entrance of Lake Illawarra on the night tide. Then, as I studied the maps and descriptions of their voyaging, I created an illustrated map of the whole journey. (This full-page watercolour ‘map picture’ was purchased and then donated to the Wollongong City Gallery by a very generous collector.) The project just grew from there and finally totalled eleven paintings, and with a view to one day offering them for sale or having prints made I wrote a short description of the action each one illustrated, to accompany each work.
By the time there were half a dozen pictures, I was beginning to think it should be a little book. Work continued – Providential Cove, then Port Hacking were completed. The final painting was to have been a scene of the Tom Thumb II sailing out of the Hacking River estuary on a clear morning. This was not to be, because my Editor suggested (very strongly) that there needed to be one more painting – a picture of the very end of the journey, of the Tom Thumb II coming alongside the ship HMS Reliance “just after sunset” on the last day of the voyage.
This turned out to be more tricky than any other illustration in the set – what did the Reliance look like? No photos of course, and apparently no genuine illustrations from the time. I asked my friends in the Australian Society of Marine Artists, for there are many sailing-ship experts amongst the membership, and sure enough Karl Marquardt who is very knowledgeable about 18th century Royal Naval ships gave me some important information: the HMS Reliance used to be called The Prince of Wales, and had been one of the ships of the First Fleet. She had already been to NSW in 1788 before being purchased by the Royal Navy in 1793 and her name changed! That made all the difference, and in no time at all I found a fairly reliable image of The Prince of Wales and was able to compose an image of ‘just after sunset’ in Port Jackson, March 1796.
Had I known the paintings would eventually be going into a picture-book, I would have chosen to keep them all in the same style and the same size. This is something to know before starting any future illustrated books!