Tom Benson Creative Writer and Artist
Tom Benson           Creative Writer                                      and Artist

Acrylic - Ship 'Building'

You will have heard the phrase, 'a blank canvas' ...

When I decided to paint the ship in the following sequence it struck me that it would be an ideal subject for demonstrating the stages of 'building' a painting.

My stages may not match those of the experts, but then I'm self-taught so I can make my own stages.

I started work on the piece on 12th May 2013 and I'm giving myself two weeks to have it completed. I hope you enjoy the sequence and the finished article.


(The photo was taken by our son Andrew while he and I visited the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. The view is from one of the large arch doorways.)


1. Take one blank canvas, in this case 30cm x 40cm.

Give it a suitable basecoat of Gesso or Acrylic.

2. Add some sky tones and a hint of sea.

Plot the areas for wispy clouds.

Prepare the foundation of the arched doorway.


3. Bring the sky and sea 'alive' with colour.

Define the archway with a solid foundation.

Highlight the clouds.

4. Represent the ship by using a fine brush and light acrylic mix (which blends into the background).

Can also be done with pencil or soft pastel.

Paint in the hull in an appropriate light mix to guage position and general layout.

5. Apply more foundation but lighten the archway.

Build in some guidelines/recognition points onto the main feature.

Create some depth to produce a 3D effect.

Add foundation for dockside.

6. Apply deeper foundation for dockside.

Add lighter tones to archway and paint around the edges of canvas to 'frame' the feature.

Paint in masts and when satisfied add crow's nests as appropriate.

Apply more depth to hull with bright and dark colours.

Aim to increase the 3D effect.

Go back to archway and lay the foundation for later detail. 

Paint in background to rear right of picture.

7. Increase detail on archway with high/low tones.

Time for mixed media:

Use a fine marker for rigging. Only use a ruler for rope lines that are taut.

If the rope work 'hangs' - do it freehand.

Pencil in the flags - allowing for wind.

Increase detail on the hull and colour over the yellow base with gold.

Have a well-deserved coffee ...


8. To finish off, paint in detail for background on left side. 

Paint in flags with tones to show wind and folding effects. 

Give the dockside a texture.

Give water final texture.  

Add capstans, walkway, people on ship and dockside. 

Highlight gold areas and touch up tones to deepen 3D effects. 

Sign and date in a discreet position.

Varnish/laquer if appropriate.

Have another coffee ...


Saturday 6th January 2018


My most recent publication

A Life of Choie: Part Five

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