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Anna Cattermole: From The Loft Floor

From The Loft Floor is a series of reportage drawings that I made at a boatyard in Cornwall during 2010 to 2012. They record the building of a traditional wooden sailing boat, the 42 foot long pilot cutter 'Freja', by Luke Powell of 'Working Sail'. The aim was to capture the different stages of the build as it progressed. I wanted to show how a wooden boat is constructed, highlighting the skills and knowledge necessary, and to capture the atmosphere of a working boatyard and bring some clarity to what is a complex scene.

I turned up one September morning and asked Luke Powell if he would mind if I watched what he was doing and perhaps make a few drawings and he graciously agreed to allow me to get under his feet while he worked. At the time I had no idea that I was committing myself to 20 months of work, drawing in the pouring rain and the freezing cold. Once I had started the process of watching how a stack of timber is transformed into a boat, I realised I would not be able to walk away and, that like Luke, I was now committed until the bitter end.

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All these reportage drawings were made on the spot, while I sat for hours at a time, in the rain, snow and sun. Water dripped onto my page and sawdust blew around and into my paint. The smoke and ash from the fire under Luke’s patented plank steamer made my eyes smart. I listened to the radio blaring in the shed and the shouts and banter of the boys working, the deafening sound of chainsaws and electric planers and the philosophical conversations held over dinner breaks. There was the smell of fresh sawdust, arc welding, Stockholm tar, linseed oil, turpentine and damp earth; occasionally the smell of an electrical fire when Jim-Bob accidentally cut through the electric cable for his plane, and always the smell of the freshly brewed coffee that Luke and Jim-Bob favoured. All these things were absorbed while I drew, and I hope are captured in these drawings. I loved being in Luke’s yard immersed in everything that was going on, a part of what was happening, but outside of it, observing and recording. It has been a privilege to watch the craftsmanship of Luke Powell, Johnny Albrecht and James ‘Jim-Bob’ Baker.

These drawings have been exhibited at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and at Somerset House in London, they won an AOI illustration Award in 2013.