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Behind the Scene: An Unknown Story

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

"Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,

and many goodly states and kingdoms seen,"

John Keats

Once when I was about 14 I took down an antique book from a shelf in the house.

It was rather worn with a blank, dark cover, and I had no memory of where it'd come from.

However, before I got to reading it I was instantly distracted by the picture printed on the overleaf. It had nothing at all to do with the book (which was Pride and Predjudice, but that doesn't come into this story); it was a pen drawing or etching of a harbor between two cliffs. The buildings were vaguely European, Italian perhaps, and many ships were sailing into the harbor. I could tell that in the picture it was the height of summer, that a fresh breeze must be blowing to cool the muted red domes ( I knew somehow they were red) of the buildings. It seemed so bright and majestic and far away.

A preliminary sketch

I used to take down that book just to stare at that picture. Was it a real place? Or was it some fabled city found only in the "realms of gold?" Was there a story behind it? I never knew. Even the artist's name was a mystery.

We moved from that house, and in time the book was lost. But I retained the image and the impression it had made on me, the memory of which was the source of inspiration for this painting.

Watercolor study

Getting started...

I must have sketched this scene a dozen times in various ways before I finally got to painting it. It was after doing this street painting, and getting so much good feedback on it, that I decided to make a version which wouldn't be washed away by the rain!

Did you notice the captain?

The ship was the most complicated to do, with all of the tackle. As you can see, I originally made the "crow's nest" too low. I'd actually nearly finished the painting before I realized this. (Such a nuisance!) I looked at dozens of photos, models and books and made several studies. I even visited a couple of ships too!

A few studies

Onboard the HMS Victory

Well, this one's actually a prop; the actual ship is out of frame...!)

I often listen to music when I'm working, and I like to associate a certain piece of music with my pictures, which helps determine the mood or story of the work. In this case it was Sibelius' 5th symphony, (specifically the 1st movement) which for me perfectly conveys struggle and discovery, glory and grandeur.

(Those of you who know Sibelius' work may perhaps notice my nod to this symphony in the painting. Let me know if you know ;-D )

In my rendition I wanted to convey more of a sense of the fantastic, of a place which is hidden, veiled behind a bright mist, so that you wouldn't know that you were near it until you were almost upon it... A place you could only find if you searched long and hard, and had been through many adventures along the way...

All for now,

Catch you later!


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This is beautiful work, Dominique. Your are a truly gifted lady and it is so great to see all of the work, passion and the different steps that went into this lovely portrait! Keep posting your work here and we will continue to visit and admire! God bless! -Mark and Becky Densmore

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