We’re still celebrating the release of P is for Pirate and the countdown to Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19th).
Today I’ve got sketches and a few work-in-progress photos of Captain William Kidd. Kidd wasn’t a particularly good pirate—as Eve Bunting says: “Captain William Kidd spilled less blood and captured less booty than any other well-known pirate of his time”. Apparently he didn’t get along well with his crew. Our shot of Kidd shows the scene where he infamously brained the ship’s gunner with a bucket.
You’ll notice in the color sketch and early work on the painting the ship’s woodwork is a mustardy yellow. Once I was into the painting I found it too cheerful a color—it didn’t help convey the mood of the action at all. So I changed it to gray. Much better!
As a follow-up to my last post about Queen Anne’s Revenge, here is the man himself—the terrible Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach. I show him in close-up so you can see the slow-match fuses he used to weave into his whiskers and set alight before attacking a ship. You can find him in P is for Pirate, now available in bookstores—or drop me a line in the comments for an autographed copy.
Pirate captains were elected by their crews and could be voted out. To keep his crew in line, Blackbeard constantly showed himself to be more fierce, more outrageous than anyone else on board. Seated with his rogues during dinner, Blackbeard fired a pistol underneath the table and wounded one of the crew, just to remind them who he was.
Blackbeard had to be mindful of his crew’s appetite for liquor—for rum, an ardent spirit distilled from molasses. Without rum, a crew would mutiny, as this excerpt from Blackbeard’s log attests:
‘Such a Day, Rum all out: – Our Company somewhat sober: – A Damned Confusion amongst us! – Rogues a plotting; – great Talk of Separation. – So I looked sharp for a Prize; – such a Day took one, with a great deal of Liquor on Board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all Things went well again.’
Queen Anne’s Revenge, that is. Queen Anne’s Revenge is the name of Blackbeard Teach’s flagship—though I have to admit I don’t know why he chose that name. Queen Anne ruled Great Britain & Ireland while Blackbeard was alive, so maybe he considered himself to be a privateer on behalf of the Crown? Was he not happy with the War of the Spanish Succession? I’d like it if, in the comments, someone could offer a better reason behind Teach’s name for his ship. Writers Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift & pirate aficionado Daniel Defoe flourished under Queen Anne, so maybe her reign really was culture’s balmiest day—but why did she need to be avenged?
Anyway, he only captained Queen Anne’s Revenge for 3 years before she sunk off North Carolina. And so I had the wonderful opportunity to paint a sunken pirate ship for Eve Bunting’s new book, P is for Pirate. It was also a chance to pay tribute to fantastic illustrator Lloyd K. Townsend. When I say ‘pay tribute to’, of course I mean ‘steal shamelessly from’. I’ve admired Townsend since I was a wee lad, seeing his paintings in National Geographic. One in particular, from 1979, shows the sunken Spanish treasure ship Tolosa. This was my—cough—inspiration for R is for Revenge. Hey, at least I turned the ship around to face the other way!
Herewith, work in progress: