I found the Victorian painting a bit uninteresting, and dull in colour because of the old brown varnish. I wanted to give the composition more energy and suggest the speed of a schooner, which was one of the fastest ships of its time. Looking through stock photographs of modern schooners to find something similar, I was surprised at the variety of size of vessel and type of rigging, but I managed to find a few that were similar topsail schooners; so-called because they have square-rigged sails at the top of the mast. With a few pencil sketches, I explored different ideas and made myself familiar with the way the ships were rigged. I also worked out a background representing the Caithness coastline, which had the outline of the mountain, Scaraben, and some characteristic cliffs. I finished with a full-sized drawing which I squared-up for transferring to the watercolour paper, and at the same time I reversed the image, because for some reason I felt happier with the ship sailing from left to right.
I had a bit of trouble with the flags: they had to be the same because one is the ensign of the Merchant Navy and the other is probably a company emblem, but when I painted them in a strong red colour they immediately drew the eye to the top left. My solution was to make them more faded, especially the top one, and I included some arbitrary red features on the deck to provide balance.
I hope my painting of the schooner has depicted the original vessel, but given it a greater sense of movement and a brighter, more modern appearance.