If painting is a visual form of communication, how exactly, does this language work? What range of expression can be shared with the viewer by using the abstract elements of painting alone – that is, by using only line and shape, colour and texture? Do these abstract elements also come into play when the painting depicts a recognizable image? Among people who look at art, it’s not uncommon to hear them say that certain paintings “engage” them – as if in some kind of silent dialogue within their mind.

How do we get there from here?

- First, try looking from a distance — from the other side of the room.

At a distance, the colour, shapes and lines may start to arrange themselves into something that appears to be three - dimensional. There may even come to be the illusion of movement in the painting.

- Second, give it some time. Go look at some other paintings and come back to see if the painting you were looking at has changed since your first impression. Even if the language of painting is universal, it may take a little time to become familiar with a particular dialect.

- Third, don’t rely on the title to tell you what to see. It’s more about your intuition than thinking so your emotional response to a work of art cannot be wrong. Once you have established “what” a particular painting means to you (and this might be difficult to put into words), you may be interested to see “how” the painting was made.

- Finally, as you walk towards the painting, your first “impression may give way to a second impression. Whatever you had seen at a distance is suddenly gone and now you are looking at a flat surface covered with paint. The surface reveals something new about how the painting was made. From the translucent glazes to the blobs and brush strokes there is something in the “hand writing” that tells of the intensity of the chase. Multiple levels of meaning and interwoven narratives are familiar in literature and film and the possibilities extend into painting as well.

What are we referring to when we say that a piece of art “touches” or even “grabs” us?

As we set out to describe what a painting means to us, there may be very few words that actually fit what we are trying to relate. We seem to need to refer to other senses to describe looking at art.

A person may say that a certain painting “speaks” to them. Describing exactly how it is that we “hear” the message by looking at the painting seems a bit complicated until we remember that all our senses are interconnected. As are the different forms of self-expression that we use to share our experience.



The Reason Of Art

A friend of mine asked me to justify my existence, posing the question "why do you make art and why do you think it is important?"

It's a mysterious process. As I sit in the pristine silence of a winter night in the woods and contemplate a couple of very large paintings, unexplained things start to happen. If I can relinquish my role as an actor and become part of the audience, assemblages of shapes and colors emerge as if the paintings have a mind of their own. Looking at paintings is something that I love to do. I've loved playing with colours since I can remember. It's no more or less rational than getting up in the middle of the night to be in a canoe on some misty lake as the sun rises. We follow our inclinations and that's what defines our individuality, our value as human beings. To me, making art is as natural as picking a stick up off the beach and making marks in the sand. 1.

The Reason of Art 5/2/98
The things that are called feelings
are so rich and vast
that a record of their features,
a map or diagram
might be of value
to those who will tread the same path
lest they fall off the edge

On Making Art
The capacity that
I have access to
is only mine to share.
there is pleasure
in making art
paying homage
to those who have
gone before.

As humans we are curious, we push at boundaries, we explore the world around us and we explore the world within. There are pleasures, delights and surprises along the many paths of learning and like exploring Paris by Metro, we find out that the routes intersect at many different levels. When we marvel at some unexpected achievement and exclaim, "I didn't know I had it in me" we are speaking the truth. If we can quiet the mind and allow the soul to speak, the soul speaks through art. Making art is a way of listening to what is already inside us. A sort of ongoing giving birth to ones self ... away of taking the inner and making it more tangible. When we learn to draw we are learning to draw forth from a well. In art there is a mysterious ability to transcend boundaries. When we look at a painting that Tom Thomson made as he sat in Algonquin park amidst the fleeting colours of a late afternoon in October, how difficult is it to imagine that crisp smell of autumn leaves or the call of the loon? We have been hanging paintings on our walls for centuries because they enable us to travel through our imagination to distant times and places and "speak" across the boundaries of time and space. When I walk into a room full of Rembrants, for example, a self portrait will call me over like a fellow traveler in some exotic place to speak in a language that we share. In art there sensory short circuits. First we have to realize what's going on then we have to stop ourselves from denying it. Making art is a way of exploring our abilities of perception. We learn to hear that which we could not hear and see that which had been invisible to us. Through making art we enhance our critical abilities. This self-education can be applied to every thing we do. It allows us to see not only the needs or opportunities that others wouldn't notice but we develop skills, resourcefulness and confidence. This knowledge expands as we develop the tools and processes of our daily lives. There is no substitute for experience in the school of life and rising to a challenge is an essential part of that experience. Every age needs to be allowed to speak for its self, in whatever languages
it finds necessary.

Our vocabulary expands from the time we are born ( in any number of languages ). The more we are exposed to as children, the richer the possibilities as we begin to take responsibility for ourselves. Go with your kids to art galleries, take some of their friends with you. The wider the range in forms of self expression that we are exposed to the more likely we are to find "our own voice." No matter what we pursue with passion, whether it's hockey, haiku or hang gliding, there will be valuable lessons learned. Warning; the kids in school who are currently being denied "extracurricular activities" are at risk of developing under stimulated imaginations, and will be more inclined to hanging around, not knowing what they want to do, than usual. If involvement in art of any kind prevents boredom that's good because as we know, boredom can become very dangerous. An ability to express ones self clearly is an essential component of democracy because "freedom of speech " requires the ability to express ones self in addition to permission. By contrast, in a dictatorship you control a population by preventing them from sharing ideas. (You undermine native languages, bum books, round up the artists and intellectuals, compost their bodies and recycle their belongings.) During the second world war, when Winston Churchill was asked to cut the arts budget in favor of armaments, his response was , "My God, that's what we're fighting for."

In Art
we may find
temporary relief
from swimming against
the main stream
if we think of depression
as denying ones self expression
then in art there is
the satisfaction
of giving voice to
your frustration.

If "necessity is the mother of invention, " What are the other essential components? Are they not; recognizing a need, imagining a solution and, through your own skills and determination, bringing forth the answer? What could be more satisfying! Imaginative problem solving and creativity, surprisingly enough, are two of the key ingredients of such highly regarded endeavors as scientific research and development as well as entrepreneurship. Yet the parallels are seldom drawn. If the thought processes of artistic endeavor, alone or in combination with more linear (empirical) methods, can bring a quicker solution to any of our society's problems, then the value of art is immeasurable. Don't worry, art education is no more likely to produce artists than math education will produce mathematicians. They are both valuable introductions to different and complimentary learning styles. Art stimulates the imagination and through art, languages expand so that new insights may be shared. Art has been integral to the fabric of society since the beginnings of civilization. From the cave paintings of Lasceaux to the architectural monuments of ancient Greece; from the multidisciplinary achievements of characters like Leonardo and Michelangelo to what ever achievements that future generations deem significant from this age, it's all interwoven.

1. [ If we believe, for example, that there is an inherent beauty in a simpler, "more natural" way of life and strive for integrity, then these values will be reflected in the things we do- whether it's making art or not driving a car ]

Peter Beckett



Damien Hurst recently succeeded in selling his own work at auction in London for hundreds of millions of dollars demonstrating a tangible connection between branding and the art world.

We might well ask: Are his financial rewards in line with his artistic insight? What, exactly, is he saying? (Is this the kind of art that the tax payer might object to funding?)

Damien Hurst, in addition to being the richest, is arguably the most media savvy living artist.

Hurst is observant. He is a student of history and clearly has some insight into the field of human behavior.
It is evident that he has been paying careful attention to recent trends in the contemporary art scene.
He is confident. His confidence perhaps resulting from his ability to see the big picture.

Has art become as simple as whoever gets the most attention wins? Is there an alternative - a salon de refusés?

There have been talented artists like Rubens and Picasso who gained celebrity status in their lifetimes, whereas others, Vermeer and Van Gogh for example, did not.
Celebrity status means an artist's observations will be heard during his or her lifetime.

Contrary to the current "wisdom", if art remains significant, it will be recognized as great art.

Hurst's insight that predicts the behavior of the art world is based on his ability to combine some basic observations.

Combining these elements requires the ability to picture a flow chart with the arrows connecting all the elements in all directions - like an eastern notion of the interconnectedness of all things.

The elements currently include:
No matter what you are marketing, media attention is the key.
A recognizable brand is essential.
Timing is everything.
Greed and envy are among the prime motivators of human behavior.
Competition is part of human nature.
Competition draws a crowd and the higher the stakes the bigger the crowd.
History is written by the victors.

We know that the media is funded by people with something to sell, whether in business or government, and is directed at consumers/citizens, consequently the media is attuned to exactly what gets people's attention.

We all know that sex, violence, disasters, and anything obscene gets attention – including obscenely large sums of money. The more elements that are combined, the more irresistible.

The media loves celebrities, whether building them up or, preferably, taking them down, it's all good for business.

The players in the high-stakes art world want a return on their investment and are surprisingly free to make up the rules as they go along.

Accountability? Are there journals that are not funded by merchants? Are there media outlets that investigate rather than simply parroting headlines. Are there museum curators who are immune to millions and all that attention? Knowing that scandal is good - remember the "Voice of Fire" - and since media attention seems to be the most important element of contemporary art, what have they got to lose? So what if people complain? So much the better.

So, now back to recent trends in the art world.

Having seen that being photographed having sex with porn stars was a good move,
that rotting flesh with the attending flies and maggots not only got a lot of buzz but won the Turner prize.

Pickled animals in jars also draws a crowd, what else?

Based on the success of plundered burial artifacts / as seen in the "treasures of Tutunkamen" exhibition, the uses of precious metals and gemstones tied to human mortality is a predictable winner. Raising the religious ire by the misuse of sacred symbols gets lots of press. Art outraged the Pope a few years ago, more recently it was the Muslims.

Remember that novelty and one-upmanship come into play because to qualify as news the media needs it to be a new stunt ... bonus points for combinations.

By presenting his work at auction - a daring new stunt - Hurst adds a perceived element of risk (what is no one showed up?)

When combined with the "biting the hand element" in reference to his cutting out his gallery's percentage ... With the money/risk/scandal combination drawing all the high rollers into the casino to see if he had the winning hand ...
according to the media rules. Hurst is "news," but ...

Is Damien Hurst's observation worthy of all this attention?

and yes folks... step right up

With his piece entitled "The Golden Calf," is Hurst simply pointing out that the art world is worshiping false idols, Or is he pointing at the entire western world? With the subsequent financial shakedown do his observations not gain weight by appearing prophetic?

(timing is everything) and Damien Hurst takes home the big prize….

Is he the hero or the villain?
It's a new twist on the rebel and the establishment.
Can he be both?

If he puts his money where his mouth is, and change occurs, (remembering Paul Newman) then, yes.

Pointing at problems is assuredly part of art's purpose but what if artists put a little more of their intelligence, creativity and resources into solutions?




draft jan 24-07 … april-4-07 Faring the Charlotte …. More Boat , Less Dust

This glimpse into wooden boat building at Gannon & Benjamin, from the perspective of an interested observer, artist, and cultural anthropologist, may be an enlightening sidebar to the technical notes on faring: "more boat, less dust."

For me, art and wooden boats are inexorably linked, I am an artist, it can’t be helped. I use imagination is a tool. The first thing I drew as a child was boats. Among my earliest memories is being on the foredeck of my uncle’s dragon, and I learned to sail before I can remember. I’m a wooden sailboat nut, and that can’t be helped either. I’ve also been doing woodwork forever.

Sailing into Vineyard Haven on my friend’s wooden ketch, and hanging out on a mooring for a while, felt like coming home.

If I returned in the fall, there was an opportunity to show some paintings,

to try to make myself useful at G&B, and my friend agreed to lend me his boat

to live on for the winter.

Charlotte is a 50 foot wooden schooner, a form of self expression that the yacht designer, Nat Benjamin is building, to sail with his family and friends.

Soon after I began faring the hull of the "Charlotte," I asked Nat if there was a book or article he could recommend on the subject. I was surprised when he said that I should be writing it. I had been reporting back to him with my “discoveries” and the methods that seemed to be working, as they came up. Nat seemed amused. As we went off in different directions in search of lunch one day he said, "I'll see you back at the campus"

When Nat referred to the shop as "the campus," Plato, and my days as artist in residence at the “great books” school came to mind. Sharing ones discoveries is part of my definition of art.

When an educational institution allows ideas and questions to be discussed from multiple perspectives, without the customary, strict divisions between disciplines, surprising discoveries and solutions can result. It’s something akin to "cross pollination." The more I compared making art to wooden boat building, the more they seemed to have in common.

Form and Function

Although it was not a marine architect who coined the phrase,

"form follows function," the remark is seldom more clearly

expressed in any of man's endeavors

than it is in the hull of a sailing vessel.

Training the Senses

In a classical art education, we study sculpture and drawing to learn to see more articulately, to see the object as if we are holding it in our hands.

Having binocular vision allows us to “triangulate” as our eyes dart about the space around us, from one point of focus to the next.

Sculpture: the articulation of mass and space.

Drawing: the two dimensional illusion of mass and space.

Seeing like Touching

It wasn't until Benjamin had made a number of half models, had taken lines from the models and had built the hulls, that he was able to truly see the form that a “lines drawing” represented. From that point on, when he made drawings he was drawing mass in space ... seeing, like touching.

Because Nat's mother was a sculptor, this process may have been instilled or, to some degree been instinctive. In any case, Benjamin has a refreshing regard for art and how it's interwoven with man's other pursuits.

Nat pointed out that it was the blind brother who was handed the half models for final approval in the Herrshoff brothers design team.

Alternating between the vantage points of art and the boatyard provides rich possibilities for comparison.

Having pursued some understanding of art for many years, I have a growing list of ideas about what art is and why it is be of value. I call the list, “another vain attempt at defining art,” in part because art expands to include each new addition

When this list of ideas is applied to the designing and building of wooden boats the similarities become apparent.

On Making Art

The capacity that

I have access to

is only mine to share.

there is pleasure

in making art

paying homage

to those who have

gone before.

"As humans we are curious, we push at boundaries, we explore the world around us

and we explore the world within.

There are pleasures, delights and surprises along the many paths of learning...."

As an artist,

painting is both my vehicle of exploration

and the record of my discoveries.

Once the initial fairing was done and the first paint was applied to the Charlotte I went out looking for a studio.


I have a small studio.... there's no heat of course,

but with the glass on the south side, if the sun's out it warms up in the afternoon Once I got rolling, there were about forty new paintings underway. I'm not a linear thinker.

Exploring a number of tangents simultaneously is part of my nature. It seems make sense to me to work on a number of different paintings at the same time.

After a while, the whole lot seemed to evolve into some kind of unified, multidimensional collage.

I’m doing most of the painting outside. Working in the wind, snow and sunlight

brings some of the urgency of plein air painting to the work. Being able to see what I’m doing from a distance helps. Knowing what a painting will look like at a distance, as it is being made, is part of what makes a painting “engaging”. Think of the impressionist paintings that dissolve into brush strokes as you approach. Seeing the whole from a distance, while working on one particular spot, may be a skill that applies equally to painting as it does to seeing a hull fair in ones mind’s eye. “Visualize” is the current word for it. It relates to, looking ahead so you don’t trip over your feet.

This assemblage came along early and seems to be part of the “backbone” of the “collage”.

There is a section of hull from a 30 foot Malabar that was cut up at the boatyard. I pulled 6 pieces from the dumpster as potential art material, and subsequently used this one to take a spiling lesson. When I started painting, the two squares were among the first “beginnings.” These two have survived, whereas most of the other early “beginnings” have been “finished” and repainted a number of times. When I came to the Vineyard in the summer, there had been a boat in at G&B for some re-planking. The turquoise bottom paint with new mahogany planks and stripes of the bright orange was a colour combination that I’d never seen before “in nature” or in art. I set out to work with that combination. As it happened, the unfortunate Malabar had red bottom paint, a black boot-stripe and white topsides. The two small square paintings were begun side by side. Brushing the cadmium orange oil paint onto the absorbent, unprimed masonite left prominent brush strokes. This texture was revealed a little later on when I dragged the white paint stick across it. Presuming this was just a beginning, I took a tube of thalo turquoise to scratch some lines across the thing so all the lines weren’t going in the same direction. The other square got a splash of turquoise and white, a few drops of accidental orange and the two were set aside as good beginnings.

“Artistic gravity” drew the three elements together.

Wondering how this piece of old boat was going to evolve, I

propped some paintings in front of it to see if it “wanted” to be painted. That’s

how it came together. It seems to tell the tail of faring the Charlotte. Without intention, the orange brush-strokes with white became planking. The lines running across, an echo of the weeks of diagonal planning....The new shutter plank, a curiosity, a division?. The turquoise painting attached in the upper half, seems to be something of wind and sail and wave. However one chooses to describe such “method”: intuitive, subconscious, or accidental? the assemblages, the element of surprise, of discovery, is all part of its attraction for me. It captures surprising elements of my experience and surroundings and lays them out for interpretation.

Living Traditions : a distinction

There seems to be something distinctive about what is going on at G&B.

There’s a rich history of traditional boat building. There is innovative boat building.

Gannon and Benjamin seem to have found a combination that works. Moving the tradition forward, by breaking with tradition.

Angelique 48 x 66 in. oil

Looking at one of my new paintings, a spontaneous painting in a limited range of colors, Nat said it seemed tropical and used the word, "tension" to describe what he liked about it. He connected his use of the word “tension” to yacht design. A friend of Nat’s had used the word "tension" to describe the quality that best designs had in common. After some discussion it became apparent that Nat was not using the word "tension" as it is commonly used in talking about art. It was not the suggestion of movement, of force and resistance. Nor was it the tension between

a flat surface and the illusion of space... The wood in wooden boats, like the wood in acoustic stringed instruments, is “persuaded” into a shape and held in “tension.” ….That wasn’t it either.

This was one of those rare and valuable moments for me to be able to see my work from another’s, visually articulate perspective.

Whether we are looking at a work of art or an inspired hull, there is something that sustains our gaze. Something about exactly how this example departs from the "usual," and engages our imagination.

Something of the necessity to explore, can be detected.

Curiosity, Intention and Integrity

Perhaps we can recognize: curiosity, intention and integrity in the work of others, if we ourselves go about the world with our eyes open.

… Open to exploring what’s beyond a resounding achievement?

…Open to, “what if,” the best example to date was altered … pulled a little further in a particular direction?

Stretching the boundaries may be the kind of “tension” that Nat was referring to.

The Inspired Compromise in Arts and Science.

Nat Benjamin uses the word “compromise” to describe the balancing act that ultimately produces a hull shape.

There’s a tension between the various attributes of a hull that pull the design, first one way, then another.

Stability, speed and pointing ability are the kind of attributes in the balance.

It’s primarily experience and observation that informs this balancing act, but there must be some "art " to this "science."

Coming up with just the right reconciliation, given the infinite number of variables involved, make this an "inspired" compromise.

Inspiration may first come to light

as the half model takes shape

displacing the fluid touch

of the carver's hand.

Sight Sound and Feel

Sailing is a feast for the senses. After sailing a number of boats in a variety of conditions this “sensory input” will become increasingly valuable as it is cross-referenced. Much of this knowledge will be filed under the heading "feel." When this "hands on" experience is added to the theoretical information gleaned from other sources, it enhances the value of the reference.

In designing, building, and sailing wooden vessels, the connections to other fields are limitless. Applying the knowledge gained in what seems to be completely unrelated fields can reveal surprising solutions. Although the dolphin and gull are obvious references in the realm of wind and wave, the knowledge of glaciers and drumlins for example, may also help inform faring a hull, and the shaping of a ballast keel. In that regard, there is "art" in the “breakthrough” when the solution comes “out of the blue”. Necessity being the mother of invention, the hands becomes waves as the experienced sailor picks up a half model to evaluate how that hull will feel in a seaway.

Approaching a Task

Having been given the task of faring the Charlotte, a benchmark Benjamin of yacht design, having neither held, let alone carved a half model. I would need to draw on other experience.

Sculptors speak of seeing the form contained in the shape of the block, and releasing it.

In this case all the information is in the basic shape of the planked hull. Imagination being one of the tools of art, I needed to become the water flowing across the surface of the hull. From my first day with the wooden gouge planes working in the hollow transition from the keel to the broad flats aft, my hands were guided by imagining the water flowing diagonally across the planking. As the wave, I was supporting, the wide flat stern without undue pressure or disturbance. I knew that there would be a harmony between the hull and the wave under the stern. By then the layer of water at the interface would be moving at nearly hull speed. I had learned about the turbulent and laminar flow of water as a student of geomorphology. Woodworking, plastering and reconstructing rusty old trucks were among the skills I had developed working as an artist.

Having used a wide variety of both hand and power tools, in a wide variety applications, enabled me to improvise. I’m afflicted with perfectionism, so there’s something appropriate about making art or wooden boats.

The artist’s eye is also a tool that can connect natural observation, with applied science…

The Big Picture

Being able to see from a distance while working on the particular, is a skill developed in art that finds a new application in fairing a hull.

Faring the Charlotte; More Boat, Less Dust.

In the process of faring a carvel hull, a series of flat planes are transformed into a single smooth shape. When I arrived at G&B around the beginning of November, Nat handed me an assortment of wooden, straight-soled gouge planes and something that looked like a leg-hold trap with a handle on it. He pointed me at the Angelique in the hollow sections aft and said something to the effect of, “see what you can do with these.”

The process of faring normally involves planning diagonally across the planking.

Diagonal planning allows you to maintain the smooth flow of the planking, fore and aft, while transforming the series of facets into a smooth curve across the planking. On the round sections amidships, diagonal planning effectively increases the diameter of the arc to something closer to the arc of the planking fore and aft. The plane, besides not working so well across the grain doesn’t “plane” unless some portion of sole is in contact. It’s the length that gives it control… otherwise you’d have a spoke shave, so bigger arcs are easer to work with. Obviously the plane won’t work in tight hollows, but it’s surprising where you can get into, working at an angle, just slightly off the run of the planks.

Charlotte’s keel and lower planking are of Angelique which a dense tropical hardwood. It will cut with very sharp hand tools but a good deal of force and momentum required to push a gouge plane through it . Because of the “interlocking grain,” it checks in a surprisingly explosive way.

planning diagonally across the inside curves of the dead-rise or the outside curves farther up in the turn of the bilge, the plank edges are vulnerable. Where the grain reversed in the Angelique, from one plank to the next, the plank edges were getting shredded. I presume these traditional tools worked with the wood traditionally used for planking such as Teak, Mahogany and Cedar.

However, Necessity… again, it was time to try a different approach. About that time Nat came by to see what I was up to. He approved, handed me a power plane and said, “see what you can do with this.” There was some discussion of

grinding some gouge shaped blades, and not concentrating on a particular section. As we made our way forward Nat pointed out what wood needed to be removed and described the shapes he wanted in the transition from keel to garboard. There were some cubic feet of wood to be removed from the garboard alone. I was beginning to understand the magnitude of the task at hand. Initially, Nat’s idea was to use the power plane only on the Angelique, the rest of the planking up to the shear plank is Silver Bali, which apparently “sands beautifully.” The shear plank itself and bulwarks are Angelique.

Staging set-up: Long section facilitate flow.

Imagine you are holding the full sized vessel in you hands. One hand

holding the vessel the other becomes the sea it displaces. As you draw the sea passed the hull, the transitions from the slight hollow sections of the bow into the full round sections amidships will become apparent. Knowing the shape of the hull is essential. Knowing where the transition lines from hollow through flat to round shapes are is part of the big picture that should be understood before tooling begins.

Set up the staging starting from the ground to follow a shape along the hull. It helps with the flow, and it helps keep track of where you’ve been. Once you have the power plane set up with a grind and depth set up-for a certain hull shape, take it as far, fore and aft as it works.

Plank thickness

Another objective in fairing, is to arrive at a faIr hull, having removed as little

of the plank thickness as possible.

Keeping track of the thickness is possible because, in a given section of planking the thickness will have to come down thinnest piece of plank stock in that particular section. This holds, whether hollowing or rounding. You can keep track of a few small areas in the centers of round sections and on the edges of hollow sections of planking that remain the original plank thickness.

As luck would have it, my shop is without a jointer, so I am quite familiar with the power plane. I am accustomed to using a power plane to take the shape out of boards before they go through the thickness planer or table saw. I also “cut my teeth” climbing around pole barns with a heavy, worm-drive skilsaw.

Warning…You will be using the power plane to do the opposite to what it was meant to do in all manner of awkward and dangerous contortions.… remember the thing will rip your fingers off faster than you can blink. That being said, Nat was sufficiently impressed by the method the results that he thought I should write it down, to share …. which comes back to one of my definitions of art…

Different tool, Different approach.

Approaching thirty foot, clear, tropical hardwood planking with a tool that can take out a huge bite in an instant requires a plan… some careful trial and observation …

trial and error not being an option.


The plank edges are not flush.

The planking needs to start out in different thicknesses depending what section of the hull it’s intended for. The garboard, because of its width, needed to start out about double the intended thickness so it could be “backed out” to the shape

of the floors on the inside. Whether on inside or outside curves, the planks that require more shaping on both sides need to start out thicker. As a result, not all the plank edges come out flush.

It seemed to make sense to start with a section of “proud” planking in order to work out the procedure, shaping a plank with a small margin of safety. Starting with the hollow sections, having installed curved blades I began to plane down the center of the plank. This particular section of plank needed to end up hollowed-out and the whole surface needed to come down to the level of the adjacent planks. . Once the edges of the proud plank became flush with the adjacent planks, the hollowing could begin on the adjacent planks.


Developing a more articulate sense of touch will be helpful.

If you close your eyes and draw your hand, palm first across a series of planks you will be able to “see” what needs to be done. The task is to transform those broad facets into a smooth curve. As the work progresses, and the facets become smaller, you will soon be able to feel what needs to be done more clearly than you can see it.

A Tool to See Transition:

As you move fore and aft, use a short straight edge at right angles across

2 or 3 planks as a visual aid. It will let you know whether or not you are still in a hollow section, and how hollow that part of the plank needs to be. Remember that the transition from hollow to flat is gradual and that it changes from plank to plank as you move along. Moving fore and aft the length of a staging plank, following the shape that the tool is set up for seemed to work


With the first pass down the center of a plank, it was clear that the planking wasn’t as fair, fore and aft as it first appeared. The good news is that it would become more fare in the process. The process being; several passes down the center, then over lapping passes, working towards the edges to produce a series of slightly hollow facets. The final, very light pass, being down the center of the seam. There will be some diagonal planning to follow so having the plank edges, ever-so-slightly lower, will afford them a little protection.


Drawing one’s hand across a section of planking, hollowed out in this manner indicated that the faring was nearly “there” before any diagonal work had been done and the plank edges were completely intact.

Tool Set-up

Rounding the front corners of the base the power plane a little with some sand-paper will prevent them from digging in.

A chip guide will be needed because you will be working over your head in a shower of chips some of the time, otherwise you will be getting it in the face. I used a paper cup and duct tape,

Power Rabbet

There were places where the keel met the garboard and where the planking forward met the stem that called for a rabbet plane. Angelique being Angelique, I thought that a set of straight blades, shoved over to one side and put in on a bit of an angle might be worth a try. It worked.

The Diagonal Planing Process

As you move up from the tight turn of the tuck into the deadrise another set of blades with less curve will be needed. Keep 2 sets going. Keep them sharp -

twice a day for Angelique.

There’s a delicate balance between too little and too much depth of cut. Too little and the blades pound on the shoulder rather than the cutting edge.

Adjust the staging plank so you can inch along “ comfortably” as you work across 4 or 5 planks.

Adjust the plane to take only the high spots.

Broad, shallow over-lapping strokes is the aim.

The power plane transfers information through your hands.

Rocking back and forth, inching along you will soon be able to tell when it’s fair

and when the plane is tipping over the slightest ridge. Because the previous work was fore and aft, there will be ridges. If the ridge is obvious… check it with your hand… take it down with a few fore and aft strokes and then proceed.

Magical Moments

Planing downward, diagonally from right to left, inching along from right to left.

I was holding the plane on an angle, turned clockwise about 15 degrees so the blade was leading with the plane’s following edge. ( this is were a drawing will help) With slightly more weight given to the BACK hand and the following edge of the plane, the plane was riding the fair curve of the previous stroke and moving it forward.

It was exactly the same feel, motion and result as using a hand plane. The results were both amazing and gratifying. When things were working this well, the results were not just fare but shining. Sanding would only be required to take the shine off – to give it some tooth to hold the paint.

Surprising Results

With Angelique and Silver Bali, the power plane could be set to remove a finer shaving and achieve better results than using any of the hand planes that I tried.

In places, it looked as if the faring had been done with a cabinet scraper.

Of course the power plane needed to be very sharp and set right, and you needed to be in a position where you could bear down on it.

Trying to use a hand plane on ribbon-grain and rising grain sections of the Silver Bali that would produce lifts and tear-out no matter which way they were planed.

It was a relief to see these precariously explosive planks fare and intact without having to resort to the “torture board.”

As the hull gets closer to fare, a new tool is introduced

Tool : The Torture Board

Perhaps from the French…a thin board for removing pies from an oven or…

A piece of flexible piece of quarter inch plywood about 3 feet long and 8 inches wide with two blocks for handles on one side, and 40 grit on the other. I took it for a test drive. It was clearly a fool-proof method of removing the remaining high spots to produce smooth curves and a fare hull…. But with a lot of wood to remove and some of it very hard, I thought there must be a better way.

Because the torture board describes a fare curve as it’s either pushed into a hollow or wrapped around a curve, it occurred to me that something similar might be used to simply mark the high spots.

Tool: The Chalk Board

I scuffed up the surface of a flexible 4 inch wide piece of quarter inch plywood-about 4 feet long, added handles to the other side, added chalk, et voila.

By working it back and forth diagonally, all the high spots were revealed.

A uniform pattern indicated fare. The chalky ridges with adjacent unmarked bits indicated work to do…. with either the power plane or with a hand plane. The German, wood bodied plane with the horn shaped handle worked nicely because it was easy to push or pull. The hand plane was a nice break from the noise but you had to be on a section of the hull where the planking would allow using a hand plane, and where the staging allowed you to lean into it.

Fare didn’t necessarily mean shiny.

After the introduction of the chalk board, I was relieved to be able to see just how fare things were. Knowing that the shine wasn’t necessary and there would be sanding eventually, and that Bali “sands beautifully,” the method evolved.

The Chattermark Method

When the power plane is not held down with sufficient pressure to get a clean cut, it produces closely spaced chop marks rather than a smooth surface.

The surface can be either flat, or a fair curve without being especially smooth. Work in the broad full sections of the hull, where the fore and aft planing had been done, could proceed using the chatter mark method. The power plane is easier to use and more predictable than the hand plane here because of the wider throat. Where the sole of the hand plane would be in contact with the curve in virtually a single line at the blade, the wider throat opening of the powerplane provides two lines of contact. With the curve of the hull protruding into the cutting zone, the necessity of reducing the depth of cut becomes clear. The plane is held lightly against the hull and can remain in contact on both backward and forward stroke. With the plane set for a minimum cut, work in long, overlapping parallel arcs. Move back and forth along the staging plank using the opposite diagonal in each direction. When the chalk board reveals a uniform pattern of very fine diamond shapes, it’s ready for sanding. Because the hull is fair and only

needs to be sanded smooth, a minimal amount of sanding and dust will be necessary.

Diagonal planning Angelique in the hollows of the tuck is difficult with the power plane but it’s much less difficult than using any of the other tools that came to hand.

The Square Pad…. a motorized Torture Board

The next step in the tool department would be the 8 inch grinder with 40 grit on a inch square! of quarter inch ply glued to a flexible pad. This unlikely sounding assemblage has the benefit of not digging in on the edge because the cutting power diminishes with surface area towards the tips of the plywood. It takes some getting used to, not being able to see the outside edge of your effective cutting circle - you have to be careful not to bump into things. It is heavy,

powerful and a brutal thing to try to control using 40 grit on the underside of a curved surface. I gave it a try. I had marked a high spot with a magic marker on the keel. I started it up and leaned on it. After a few seconds I stopped to see just how fast this brute ate wood. The magic marker was still there. I went back to the power plane. Besides being; lighter, easier to control, it doesn’t produce such a choking cloud of dust.

Observation#4 ….Angelique laughs at 40 grit

Resume working with the power plane. There were hollows that were too tight to get into because of the width of the plane base but if one was curious and if one had a spare power plane, aluminum grinds quite easily.

The benefit of using hand tools is having

a break from the noise.

The 4 inch Grinder with a metal buffing wheel can be useful in the tight hollows to smooth out the work of the gouge planes. Push it along like a plane, with the back end pushed down, so you are cutting with the following half of the disc….or a flexible 40 grit disc might also be worth a try.

When you come across a new “inspired” solution, that works out “beautifully,” to some structural problem. …It being an expression of your nature, inclinations, curiosities?

How is that different than sharing some time at Lucy Vincent beach in a painting?

Does this definition of art fit boat building?

Art is: Having as much fun as possible doing what you love to do and making a record to share.