Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pirate Paintings for National Geographic Pt.5


Gregory Manchess

This painting depicts what it might have been like for a slave to board the Whydah for the first voyage. Chained two-by-two, they are whipped and beaten through town to get to the shore boats, often separated from their own children.

The natives were in various stages of undress. The challenge was to show them realistically, but in such a way as to not offend the sensitivities of a wide range of museum attendees. This meant I would have to be prepared to change what they wore any number of times, depending on the decisions of the client. We all wanted to stay accurate, but there are limitations that had to be considered.

The thumbnails started out showing the captain along the rail of the slaver, Whydah. This was put to better use on the last painting showing the capture of the slave ship by Bellamy.

There was much to get across: the tropical location of the town of Quidah, the slave traders, the natives’ forced march, the action of loading the slaves, and longboats heading out to the Whydah in the harbor. I worked my drawings through several iterations until I raised the camera pov to just above the setting, showing all of the above.

The beginning sequence of painting, starting with the sketch to canvas.

Establishing the values, working dark to light for the overall piece.

Stroking in the first layer of water.

A costume change for the foreground and middle ground figures, and a request to add a small child.

Too much nudity, so a loincloth was added to the middle figure.


  1. I have been following your blog for some time, and I enjoy every single post. Thanks for showing your work in progress it is very inspiring to see!


  2. Lovely coastal atmosphere, especially like the darkening of the sky far off, indicating an uncertain future. Still amazed how you paint an image like this, piece-by-piece. Good work!

  3. I love this series, and the glimpses into your process and thinking - and I every time I read one of these, I keep hearing you in the "Timberline" video saying, "Nobody get pirate jobs anymore!"...

    Speaking of, are we going to see another video like that with you, Greg? I'd buy it without hesitation...

  4. Wow Greg - these are just amazing. Thank you so much for posting your process-it is really appreciated. I am absolutely blown away by how fresh you keep your colors and the beautiful skin tones. (ok and the brushwork,and composition, color in the shadows...;))

  5. I love this blog! Thank you Greg for posting all your step by step pieces, they are very appreciated. And, thank you to all the other contributors. This blog is a one stop shop for constant inspiration and badly needed guidance! Ian.

  6. Awesome! Beautiful painting, thanks for sharing your process.

  7. Thanks for sharing your process with us, Greg! You make it look so easy. I've tried to match your process a few times and it's bloody hard! You're a true master, sir.

    Are these paintings collected in a book, by chance? If not, they should be.

    Speaking of books....why aren't all of your paintings collected in a book? I'd be first in line to buy an "Art of Greg Manchess"....

  8. I agree with Michael. I would love an "Art of Greg Manchess" book.

  9. I think it's interesting how you painted some of the foreground first before the background. It was wonderful to see your process! Thanks!


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