One question I get asked a lot by people who learn about what I do is; "Why ships?"
Like many modes of transport, Ships tend to transcend the mere existence of an object and imbue a personality all their own. Steam trains have been an object of fascination to millions since they first appeared, roaring and seemingly breathing fire, way back in the early 19th century. Automobiles have enthralled race-goers and would-be speed fanatics with their blistering pace. Nothing, though, could more capture the public imagination than the spectacular ocean liners of the 20th century.
Initially a means to an ends, ocean liners became a source of national pride and a playground for the rich and famous. Ever bigger, faster and more opulent, the word 'Liner' came to signify luxury, sheer size and inconceivable technological marvel.
For uncountable millions of immigrants, refugees and hopefuls, ocean liners provided sparse accommodations and a lengthy voyage to a new life. Well into the 1960s, as the jet aircraft began to wrest the ship's trans-continental crown, immigrants would leave behind all that was comfortable and familiar to settle in an unfamiliar land; the horizon was really the end of the world and for most, the ship that carried them over it was the last bastion of 'home'.
For that reason, some humble immigrant ships carry an almost mythical status nowadays, beloved by former crew and passengers alike. The Greek carrier Chandris operated the magnificent former-American liner the 'Australis'. The British had P&O's fleet consisting of the four workhorse 'Strath' ships and the newer, slicker 'Chusan', 'Arcadia' and 'Iberia'. The Italian lines Cogedar and Sitmar purchased World War 2-era cargo ships and completely re-built them into the fantastic
fleet of little liners like 'Aurelia', 'Fairsea' and 'Fairsky'. The immigrant ships were almost worked to the death and finished their lives often in a terrible state; rusted, dilapidated and more than a little tired. And finish their lives they did; every single one of those hundreds of proud ships was scrapped, their precious metals used for wiring and the steel of their hulls melted for railroad tracks and car bodies.
Today only a handful of Liners survive in varying states; the Queen Mary was converted into a grand hotel and sits proudly at the quayside in Long Beach, California while the crowning triumph of American shipbuilding, the SS United States, is stripped bare of its luxurious fittings and decays miserably in Philadelphia. Some of the ships that serviced routes to Australia were re-configured as cruise ships and served well up into the 90s and even the early 2000s but none ultimately survived. Chandris' flagship, the stunning 'Australis', was beached while being towed for scrapping and slowly fell apart over the course of two decades. Now only a small 4-foot long chunk of her bow has survived the incessant pounding of waves and the passage of time.
I have a Design background and a deep enjoyment of illustration; in founding Liner Designs & Illustration, I have turned my skills and passions on paying tribute to those beautiful old Liners and can finally offer the opportunity for former passengers and crew to buy a high-quality drawing of 'their' ship. Liner Designs continues to be a labour of love and, above all else, a passion. As a child I would venture to Melbourne's Station Pier to watch the Cunarder 'Queen Elizabeth 2' glide into port. I experienced the wonder and excitement of gazing up at that enormous black hull, dotted with portholes, and dreamt one day of sailing on her as a vaunted passenger.
You may be reading this as a former passenger or perhaps, like me, as an enthusiast. You may have a detailed technical, historical or personal knowledge of these ships or only the most passing interest. It is only my hope that, in studying these ships and drawing them 'as they were' - rusted, sun-worn and well-used - I can inspire within you a sense of awe that these vessels once plowed their way through the world's oceans. This is more than my personal tribute to the great Liners - this is a tribute to their builders, masters and passengers. The Liners are almost all gone but they will never be forgotten so long as one child can still gaze up at a model or a print in fascination and wonder what those man-made leviathans must have been like in the flesh.