Years ago when my husband was starting his maritime career the practice of steering by compass points was still used, particularly in the San Juan Islands. The old salts working for the ferry system clung to this practice far longer than most. A young sailor would demonstrate his ability to steer by boxing the compass, reciting the points on magnetic compass card for a full 360 degrees. Gone are days when an officer would sing out "North by West a quarter West". As gyro compasses became more reliable and less expensive the use of steering by points on a magnetic compass has become a lost art.
The inspiration for my paintings comes from the working side of the maritime world—the colors and textures of tankers, container-ships and rusty old bulk carriers. I've known this environment all my life. The colors and markings on these working ships are endlessly varied and often starkly beautiful, especially at the waterline. The rusted scrapes, drips and smears; the characteristic lettering and numbers, give each vessel a distinct personality. These ships travel the world, and each port they visit leaves its mark, which inscribes the story of each ship on its skin. Most of my work begins with an image from this seldom-painted side of the maritime world. Rather than paint a ship from stem to stern, I focus in “close-up” on its markings.
I keep in mind a favorite saying of my teacher Charles Emerson: “Reality is highly overrated.” I thus manipulate color, perspective, composition, and texture, and as a result, my paintings include realistic images that become abstract canvasses.
View Artwork by Melinda Hannigan in Person
Come see these pieces first hand. We are just a short walk from the ferry and an excellent destination for your visit to San Juan Island.