Crowd. Ship sails used to draw portraits of a city

by Pete Codling in Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom

Crowd. Ship sails used to draw portraits of a city

Total raised £15,233

raised so far



Raising the sails! Life-size portraits of a crew, drawn on huge canvases. Inspired by the HMS Victory sails at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

by Pete Codling in Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 7th October 2020 we'd raised £15,090 with 116 supporters in 42 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.

 New stretch target

Smashing the original target before the deadline allows us to go for a 'Stretch Goal', more money and more time, to make the most of the momentum. It will all help develop the artwork and residency relationships established in this unique environment. It is a massive and ambitious project with many possibilities. More money means more art, more people involved with a greater audience and profile for the artwork.

This Crowdfunder sets the pace for other grant applications, as match funding, and shows the project has public support. Please take a minute to read some of the great comments left by people who have chipped in so far. 

Read through the information below to find out more and choose your pledge to be part of the art. Anything you can do is much appreciated. Best wishes Pete

* We have now reached our original target but you can still join in and be part of the art. This page will remain open as a way of signing up.

The idea.

Motley crew needed for a crowd funder!

Imagine yourself on board one of these historic ships, a member of the crew. I want to illustrate the actual number of people crammed on board these ships by drawing a contemporary 'Crowd' using portraits from the local community, the Dockyard staff and visitors and real crew from Royal Navy, old and new. It will be a portrait of our city as an imagined, motley crew at sea in the tempest of 2020. 1598239787_20200824_042826.jpg

You can be on board, with this Crowdfunder. Or press gang someone you know to take part in the art by sponsoring their portrait? 

1598240100_20200824_042839.jpgThese are real sails from HMS Victory after The Battle of Trafalgar 1805. The public artwork will be the same size, with hundreds of local people drawn on them. Hopefully, we can fund a whole set of sails from one of the historic ships.

Pete Codling the Artist. 

The artwork will be created over several years as Artist in Residence, hosted by The Royal Portsmouth Dockyard Trust. 

I am a local artist with 30 years' experience creating public art and I know my hometown of Portsmouth, inside out. I am well placed to create a gutsy and real portrait of our city. You can find out more about me as an artist via the links at the bottom of the page.

I do appreciate many of us will struggle financially during this Pandemic and for many years after. I know it is not a great time to ask, but artists in particular, will feel that economic impact. On the bright side, I feel inspired to engage and express the zeitgeist, to create hope, through art. And this will be epic, as well as optimistic.

However, I have been challenged to raise some of the project budget by crowdfunding to prove public support, as match funding. This in turn will help access larger grants and sponsorship to make and exhibit the finished artwork to the public. This is now common practice for commissioning public art.

Crowdfunder UK and Portsmouth City Council are helping to kickstart this great project as part of their Covid-19 business grant scheme 'Pay it Forward', but I need to raise the rest myself, with your help. The Dockyard stakeholders are generously supporting in kind with studio space and access all areas for research and exhibition, which is an invaluable opportunity. 

This is your chance to help get a local artist into safe harbour and avoid the economic storm heading our way. 

Detail from Soup of Souls. Artist Residency Portsmouth Cathedral of The Sea 2109.

Detail from Soup of Souls. Artist Residency Portsmouth Cathedral 2109.

Last year I took refuge in the 'Cathedral of The Sea', St Thomas's in Old Portsmouth, and created the award-winning Soup of Souls drawing and Shipshape crowd photos. (See the links below)

This year I have an even bigger idea, bigger venue, and bigger audience.

Raise the sails!

This Crowdfunder will secure the first stage of the project and studio space in a unique opportunity to work in this special environment. In turn, I am offering you the opportunity to take part in some monumental artworks; a portrait of Pompey drawn on life size sails from our historic ships. 


The Historic Dockyard is full of inspiration with great spaces to work and interesting people to meet but I will also be working with the local community to be inspired by your nautical stories. Do you know someone who should definitely be onboard? The Crowd drawings we make together represent the actual number of crew on the ships and become a contemporary portrait of the city's population.


Artist's sketch project proposal. (A4 - For sale £POA)

Motley crew needed for a crowd funder! 


Up All hands! This is how we do it crew.

  • Buy a portrait in the Rewards Section. It can be for you, or someone else.
  • If we cant meet up, send me a decent photo, with your maritime or dockyard story and I will put you into my crowd compositions. This can also be from your imagination, but should be someone from the Portsmouth, or connected. 
  • You can gift this to someone, relatives or friends, or just donate towards the overall costs of the crowd drawing and exhibition. If you are a business perhaps your team or customers? See 'The Life Raft' Reward.
  • 'Pay it Forward', commission a new drawing from me, buy a print or book of previous work, or come on a guided tour of some of the public art commissions and sculptures I have made in the city over the last 25 years. Check out my website link at the bottom of the page.
  • Understandably, for many the cost may be prohibitive, but please put yourself or nominee forward anyway, and I will include you within one of the bigger donations or sponsors. I'd rather you were included than not.
  • Perhaps you are a philanthropic art collector and want to buy one the original Crowd drawings in advance, covering the cost of everyone involved in that piece?

  • 1597736804_crowd_crops3.jpgThis is your chance to be a sailor, soldier, a dockyard worker or maritime character from the local community. The tangled crowd will have head and shoulders or full bodies used in the composition. The price of the portraits are for full bodies, head and shoulders etc. The idea is for it to be crowded, as if all crowded onto a ship's deck, reflecting the nature of the old ships but also to reflect on our city, which remains one of the most crowded in Europe. Even with social distancing!

Imagine Portsea Island as a ship and the crew representing a true demographic of our city ( Inc. the PO postcodes beyond ). I will be working with PCC to get a fair representation of the people in Portsmouth in 2020. The drawings will have people from all walks of life, posing as the crew of an imaginary ship. The sails will be the same size as those from HMS Victory or Mary Rose. Ultimately if funding allows, the drawings will be reproduced on printed scaffolding mesh, as a building wrap, or projected onto local buildings on a touring public exhibition of the 'Crowd'.


To fund this artwork I need lots of people to be included as paid sketch portraits. The life size drawings will form the crews of Mary Rose and HMS Victory, approximately 515 and 822 respectively. That is at least 1337 people to draw, less than 1% of the city but I want it to be fair representation of the population and our true multicultural history. Ideally I would like to create a full set of life size sails.

Exciting1597816761_men-of-the-mary-rose-group.jpg research revealed last year about the genealogy of the crew of the Mary Rose has raised many interesting questions about the cultural make up of the city as well as the ship's crew. I am hoping this artwork will also capture cosmopolitan Portsmouth that traditional historic depictions of maritime history have not. 1597750917_mary_rose_sails.jpg

Who are we looking for? It could be you, or one of them?


Characters will be in action pose and dress that suggest old and new roles for modern sailors, dockyard workers or related community. This should be as much a portrait of the contemporary city as it is the crew of an old ship. 

There will be several drawings each themed around the dockyard communities; naval, military, dockers, civilians and local community. You might be in either or think this might be a nice way to remember a family member or friend who has maritime or a dockyard connection. I love my drawings to have local stories and ownership within the local community. The hundreds of portrait sketches will be archived with the City Museum. Some will be for sale or printed to raise funds.


The Artist Residency

The Dockyard has formed the modern city of Portsmouth with over 800 years of Naval history going back to King John. Tudor England and King Henry VIII created the first dry dock in 1495 and the coastal defenses that followed, define our architectural heritage, and contribute significantly to our broader national cultural identity.

The Dockyard is home to the Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior as well as The Royal Naval Museum and the Boat House 4 International Boatbuilding Training College Portsmouth. All of this is available to me in search of inspiration during my Residency. Great things will come of this time.1591111123_picture3.jpg

My Studio Space is in the empty west wing of South Office Block, overlooking HMS Victory and Mary Rose. Wow, what a view from the round window (picture below) looking straight out over 500 years of dockyard and naval history, and the Royal Naval Museum literally on my doorstep. I cannot wait to get started. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


Find out more about me on my website 

You will also find lots of other work on my Instagram pages:

Main page:

Project pages:

Check out the website sculpture page to see some of the artworks that will be on the guided tour. ( Socially distanced and using your own transport)

Here are some letters of support from my Host and our community leaders:




This project offered rewards

£10 or more

Poop Deck - donation only

This will help cover the 'anonymous' people in the crowd drawings. The back of heads, the arms and hands, feet and artefacts that will help build the composition.

£25 or more

Lower Deck

Pledge £25 today and we'll reward you with a life size head and shoulder portrait for inclusion in the crowd drawings. It maybe possible to put you next to or close to a friend, family or relative if you book together.

£25 or more

Guided Tour of Public Art in Portsmouth by Pete.

A minimum of ten people needed for this whistle stop tour of five public artworks in the city. Booking to be coordinated for group numbers and weather etc. A day visiting different sites around Portsmouth to hear the artist story and inspiration behind the works. You will need your own, or shared transport. Perhaps book with friends and family or a community group.

£30 or more

Artist book on the Crowd Project. Early bird price

Buying a book in advance will help fund the work to be done this year. I will produce a signed, full colour, substantial, hardback document of the project. This is a bargain early bird price with 50% off for a limited edition signed handed over in person by the artist. Some of you may have one of my other books from previous artworks like Dust to Dust or Soup of Souls. It will be similar quality to those but bigger, in size and content.

£50 or more

Upper Deck

Pledge £50 today and we'll reward you with a life size upper body, arms, chest, head and shoulders portrait for inclusion in the crowd drawings PLEDGE NOW> CLAIM LATER

£100 or more

Bridge Deck

Pledge £100 today and we'll reward you with a full body, life size portrait in an action or static pose in the front row/foreground of the crowd. The uniform clothing, positioning etc. will be from my imagination but should still be easily recognizable as you. These are loose charcoal, impressionistic sketches that put you at the foreground of the crowd. You will also be identifiable through a map of the drawings in the publication.

£200 or more

Quarter Deck

Get the full portrait, a book about the project, a signed A4 giclee print of yourself in the composition and a separate a full image of the crowd drawing.

£1,000 or more

The Life Raft

This generous donation to the project will cover the cost of people who would love to be involved but can not afford to, or characters from history and my imagination that I will use to fill the crowd composition. You will also receive a book on the project, giclee prints and invitation to the Private View of the artworks at the the Dockyard.

£10,000 or more

The Ship

This could be a commission for your home or donated to a public collection or building. Details to be discussed with the artist. For £25K+ you can own or sponsor one of the original large drawings when complete. They will be huge... lets talk about how this might happen.

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