Seeing the wrong boat

I missed the obvious, but my student was more observant.
Becca & Meagan iced in at Rockport Harbor in 2015.

My class was drawing at Rockport Harbor yesterday. A red lobster boat was pulled up along the dock near Rockport Marine. There’s been a red lobster boat in Rockport harbor for as long as I can remember. I paid it little mind, even when a student said she didn’t like the red hull paired with a green waterline, which is not how I remember it being painted.

Since that boat has a mooring in the harbor, I figured it was only at the dock for a few moments. I cautioned my students not choose it as their subject, but, instead, to focus on the dinghies at their feet.
Of course, the dinghy they chose left not half an hour after they started drawing. The red lobster boat stayed in place all morning. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that it isn’t the boat I assumed. That was the Becca & Meagan. This is its replacement, the Hemingway, and it was built by Rockport fisherman Kenny Dodge. If you like boats, you should read this wonderful piece from the PenBay Pilot. It’s Dodge’s own design, built of wood from his home and blending features from Nova Scotia and Maine lobster boats. It’s a behemoth: 47 feet long, almost 15 feet in the beam.
Hemingway at the dock.
Which is why I should have looked closer when my student was having trouble drawing it. She had already pointed out the waterline was different, and she was telling me it was like nothing she’d seen before. I was looking right at it, and still I didn’t notice that it wasn’t, in fact, Becca & Meagan.
This is her second summer with me and she’s made good, resolute progress. Yesterday, something clicked with her.
Carefully measured drawing by my student.
Boats, in general, are hard to draw, which is why so many artists avoid them. You can’t get away with a general swirl of activity, as you can with a farm field or a marsh. You must measure, measure, measure, and when you’re done, you end up adjusting all those measurements another time.
Yesterday, S. measured like a pro, and observed better than a pro. She corrected herself and me repeatedly. By doing that, she got a good representation of the dinghy at her feet and of the lobster boat in the distance. They’re not refined, nuanced, shaded drawings, but they have the most important principle down: the parts line up according to their real-world counterparts. A lot of experienced painters can’t seem to do that.
Carefully measured drawing by my student.
Becca & Meaganis a beautiful boat of traditional Maine design. I’ve seen it so often I’ve stopped really looking. Shame on me. I missed the obvious, but my student was more observant.