Floating art class at Sea

What is the set-up for the art classes you give on ocean liners, isn’t it hard to paint in rough seas?” someone asked.

Back in 1974 in my pioneering days of Enrichment Programs of teaching and lecturing art at sea (I was the first-ever professional artist to do this), we had to cope with many novel situations. Natasha and I had to constantly improvise.

First, where to find a reliable and safe class space o/b the elegant Norwegian “ms Royal Viking Sky”. A lengthy voyage of 4 months, so we’d encounter all kinds of weather while circumnavigating the seven seas.

Next we negotiated with cruise director and consult officers to ensure nothing would interfere with onboard discipline.

We found a nice quiet spot, with good daylight. One drawback, no source of water. So Natasha had to take two buckets and walk down one deck to fetch the water. (Our students later dubbed her “Gunga Din”.)

Next problem, no tables. The only suitable ones were being used by the bridge players two decks below. These were not easily surrendered, but after some friendly persuasion, we got use of them for an hour..

Thus after our first “around the world” experience, we knew what to do in just about any situation.

Our recent sailings were o/b the venerable QE2. Classses were held near the Theatre and Crystal Bar. For each class, crew set up five banquet tables. If seas were rough, Natasha taped the plastic water cups, to keep everything sturdy. (But often we’d have several absent students who themselves were feeling wobbly, on what the Captain reminded us was after all, just a “moving platform”.)

We always start off with an exploration of Colour. Maximum results with minimum use of materials using only the three primary colours: Red, Yellow and Blue.

At the end of voyage we’d host an exhibition of their work to share with all aboard, including the Captain, who would usually pass by to give his compliments. Most were impressed by quality of work the students created, many of whom had hardly ever painted before. All done under our baton on the “floating art class”.