Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ships' logs

Mike and I stopped by the SOWA market down the street a few weekends ago for some veggies, the world's best free range eggs and a treat from Roxy's. As I poked around the vintage vendors I saw a super old (100+ years?) whaling ship's log. It was wayyyy out of my price range (and I would likely have cut it up for collage anyway, not a fate befitting something so historic) but I enjoyed leafing through it for a few minutes, savoring the folky whale illustrations and feeling the texture of a hundred years of paper patina. I know that sounds sort of weird but I guess that's what happens when you spend as much time working with old paper as I do.

As with most old ephemera, I liked thinking about the people who wrote it - captain and sailors and how bluntly or expressively they described the weather and whale sightings, nearby ships after days of flat blue horizon, one or two thoughts or quirks about the ship and crew. Was it a run of the mill sail or a rough, weather-stricken voyage? Who was homesick and who had nothing to miss? What a now-extraordinary idea; to be only where one is, living in that moment and none other, not in any kind of cyber or social media capacity other than maybe a sailor's photo tacked up in a neighborhood pub for good luck, or tucked in a sweetheart's locket.

Anyway, I found some very old ships logs online after that and spent some time in my studio poring over them in my studio and incorporating their energy into the blank canvas from my last post.

The top scan is from the captain's log of ship "Boy" bound for Havana, Cuba out of Newport, Rhode Island in 1822, a merchant ship carrying both regular and illicit merchandise during its month-long voyages. The bottom one is from personal log kept by 16 year old sailor on the Lagrange during its sixteen month whaling expedition in 1850. Imagine spending over a year on a ship in the middle of the northern ocean searching for pods of whales! His accounts of the ship's misadventures are pretty interesting (especially when compared with the working life of today's 16 year olds, as mused by collector Greg Gibson.)

I'm trying out a few new, different arangements of text and material lately.  Here is a peek at the art inspired by these logs...


  1. My great grandfather ran away to sea when he was sixteen, to escape becoming a minister as was the custom for the third son in a missionary family. He spent a year travelling around the world and did eventually become a missionary, but in Africa. Your post today reminded me of his story and inspired me to look up some journals from that time myself - what a great idea. love your work as always. x

  2. Great blog entry :) I feel the same when I leaf through old books and old belongings. There are real people, real lives attached to them. I love how you turn things like this into beautiful, inspiring artworks. xxV

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  4. I love the scroll lettering you used on this. It really stands out and looks so beautiful!