Not all marine artists are fortunate enough to spend time on the vessels they depict in their works. Shane Couch’s lifelong fascination with the great sailing yachts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, has put him on the decks of some of the many classic schooners of the International Schooner Association (ISA), whose member vessels include Puritan and Mariette, both
The British artist’s paintings show the thoroughbreds of the day, from big racing schooners such as Puritan to J Class yachts past and present. These are the vessels that inspired Couch’s artistic journey. Couch, who taught himself to paint while working in the aircraft industry as an engineer, had his first success as an artist in 1995 when he was commissioned for a series of paintings for a book on Kaiser Wilhelm’s five Meteors.
The artist works in oils, focusing on light and movement to convey the detail and power of the big yachts. In Puritan After the Jibe, winner of the Maritime Gallery Yachting Award at the Mystic Seaport International Marine Art Exhibition, the 126-foot, John Alden-designed schooner has turned the downwind mark, with the crew busy trimming the chute in order to give chase to its foe, Mariette. The three-masted schooner Atlantic looms in the distance.
Drawing on his engineering background, Couch uses 3-D computer models built from original lines to create detailed scenes that make viewers feel as if they are experiencing the moment in person. But there’s more to Couch’s paintings than these beautiful yachts; there’s the sea, which is the foundation of his fascination with marine painting.
“The sea in all its forms has long been the focus of my work, be it a wave breaking on a sandy beach or the curling bow wave of a beautiful yacht,” Couch says. “I’m drawn to the interplay of light on the constantly moving and changing surface of the sea.” That, and the big yachts that sail it.
This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.