This painting depicts what it might have been like for a slave to board the Whydah for the first voyage. Chained two-by-two, they are whipped and beaten through town to get to the shore boats, often separated from their own children.
The natives were in various stages of undress. The challenge was to show them realistically, but in such a way as to not offend the sensitivities of a wide range of museum attendees. This meant I would have to be prepared to change what they wore any number of times, depending on the decisions of the client. We all wanted to stay accurate, but there are limitations that had to be considered.
The thumbnails started out showing the captain along the rail of the slaver, Whydah. This was put to better use on the last painting showing the capture of the slave ship by Bellamy.
There was much to get across: the tropical location of the town of Quidah, the slave traders, the natives’ forced march, the action of loading the slaves, and longboats heading out to the Whydah in the harbor. I worked my drawings through several iterations until I raised the camera pov to just above the setting, showing all of the above.
The beginning sequence of painting, starting with the sketch to canvas.
Establishing the values, working dark to light for the overall piece.
Stroking in the first layer of water.
A costume change for the foreground and middle ground figures, and a request to add a small child.
Too much nudity, so a loincloth was added to the middle figure.