Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pirate Paintings for National Geographic Pt. 6

Gregory Manchess

The Whydah went down in a storm not far off the coast of Cape Cod in April 1717. Seven survivors were rounded up when they made it to shore. They were held in prison for some time, wearing the same clothes as when they were captured. They got pretty raggedy by trial time.

Most of them were hanged. Two were made slaves again. Second from the left is Hendrick Quintor, whose portrait I did for the first post of this series.

The title is "FATE." I designed the trial scene from a couple of thumbnails. Again, moving very fast as the deadline was approaching.

The sequence of painting. I modeled for many of the figures, just to get the anatomy and attitude right. Definition of insanity: painting a gazillion faces in a crowd from 1717.

At the last, I realized I had to change one of the faces from a black man to a Mojito Indian man, third pirate from the right. And I really liked that black guy’s face, too.

The Puritan minister in front of the podium is Cotton Mather, son of Increase Mather, notorious minister of the Salem Witch Trials.


  1. Damn Greg - Are you insane? This one would have kept me up at night... hey wait a minute? That's when I'm usually up!

    Great approach and end result!


  2. I remember one time you said to me that it took you years of professional work to get used to putting multiple people into compositions. Seeing you compose such complected piece like this humbles and inspires me that I can do better.

  3. Stunning, Greg. It never ceases to amaze me how well you compose pieces with multiple figures, and I don't think I've seen one of yours with as many as this one.

  4. Woohoo, a pirate day! The foreground body attitudes are great, and I love that back row of onlookers where they meet the windows. Reverse atmospheric perspective pushes it all over the top...

    An amazing crowd scene.... here I was sweating about working on a piece with five or six figures in it - now I know I actually have it easy!

    ... but what happened to the kid?

  5. Thanks all! This does put it over the top for figures, but by far not the most I've had to paint. I did the crowd scene for Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address years ago. I put 1/4" faces on hundreds of figures. Arg.

    Designing multiple figures in a scene and have it read easily is probably one of the highest levels to shoot for, and I'm constantly working on that. But I think painting water might be the penultimate. So many moods.

    Funny you should ask about the kid, David! John King died when the Whydah went down, likely crushed by the cannon in the holds. The whole ship inverted and the cannon broke through the decks on their way to the bottom, pushing the pirates' treasures deep into the sand. They're still finding artifacts from the wreckage.

    But King isn't completely gone. Divers found his shoe, a sock, and a piece of his leg bone. All are on exhibit in the show.

  6. Incredible! So many peeople to deal with. Love how the black dude looks all defiant and the one on the far right almost seems to be looking out the windows. With some regret, no doubt.

    Really, really like the first thumbnail, but see the broader use of the final composition.

    Very well done!

  7. Fine art Mr. Manchess, in every sense of the phrase :)

  8. you make it looks so easy!
    inspiring job. :)

  9. Brilliance on the canvas. Still amazed by how well you sinc all of the different elements in each piece.

    I guess that comes back to "30 freakin' years" of practice right?

  10. I am such an anal detail oriented painter/drawing person still. I'd have taken years to figure out how to do the eyes, mouth, nose, wrinkles and expressions just right on each and every person. Trying hard to get away from that anal-tivity at open figure drawing sessions at Amherst College. Making progress, but I have a long way to go. I have always been amazed at how so few lines can express so much but at how hard it can be to find those so few lines. Thanks Greg.... fantastic to see how you defined those condemned men in the center. Cheers Mike P.

  11. What did you do before the last piece ? Any kind of dark colored wash over the painting ? Especially the bg got way darker or is that just part of the digitalizing?

  12. wow it is so amazing to see step by step of the process of painting because it is very educative and interesting to see how the painter thought of the light since the first time


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search