The J. E. Boyden was one such vessel. It plied the waters from the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Lake Washington, towing three-masters, whales and Native Americans from about 1886 to 1932. I was provided with historical photographs of the J. E. Boyden, as well as some of the tug resting at the bottom of Lake Union, with the tugboat's name clearly legible. The boat itself had undergone many changes during the course of its lifetime; different paint schemes, repairs, etc. At one point the crew went on strike until adequate quarters were built for them above the cabin.
Using the photographs and other material, I created a series of photomontages and watercolor studies that seemed viable compositions for a representation of the J. E. Boyden as she existed during her long career. Much of the glue that bound the various elements of the painting – wind, sea, atmosphere and ship, needed to come from my imagination.
The painting was executed over a period of months. It followed the traditional phases of cartoon, lay-in, refinement and finish which are depicted in "the painting in stages" section below. It's been an exciting project, and one that has taken me well out of my comfort zone of working directly from nature. This project had more of a sense of picking over the scabs of history to see if there is some blood there. My conclusion is that there is.
Update: At the client's request, some minor changes have been made to this painting, completed in May of 2012. I have updated all final images to reflect these changes.