Peter Pan Learns to Fly

A series of paintings created to capture the mood of a film about Peter Pan, adapted from Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. 

Making an ocean

When director Gary Ross (I illustrated his first children's book, Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind) asked me to paint a few scenes from a screenplay he was considering, based on a book about Peter Pan, I was excited, and scared. Whenever I get scared, it's a good sign. It means I have something to learn.

Gary didn't have much time, which was good. It forced me to paint quickly, and emotionally, without overworking or overthinking. I made each painting about four feet wide, because it forced me to stand up and move my whole arm, rather than just my wrist.  

Detail of waves and ships. I painted over a dark background, since the scene was at night. The translucent quality was achieved by using washes of thin oil paint, very quickly. Only the white is thick.

Sketch for The Hold.

A background painting of a forest on a lost island.

Sketch for The Duel.

Sketch for Boarding Party.

Escape, before the foreground characters were added. Note also how much lighter the sea is here than in the final image, below.

Escape • Oil on Masonite. Peter gets help, before he learns to fly. Whenever I paint in a realistic way, I use reference photos. The ship was from one source, the flames and waves from other photos. I photographed the models standing up, then altered their poses for the painting.

The Hold • Oil on Masonite. Peter keeps up the spirits of the orphans by telling a story.

The Duel • Oil on Masonite. Peter and Hook are both given magic dust, so they have a sword fight above the rigging of Hook's ship. Obviously, Hook has not yet lost his arm.

Boarding Party • Oil on masonite. This one was a real marathon. I never counted the number of sailors and pirates, but it felt like a million as I was painting.

The Visitor • Peter Pan visits a girl in her cabin.

Detail from The Duel. Note that Peter's arm is raised now, to block Hook's thrust.

Detail from Boarding Party.

Another detail from Boarding Party. Hook is presumably ready to jump.

Another detail from Boarding Party. These waves aren't nearly as successful as in Escape.


None of the art shown on this page has been reproduced in any book or film. All was created on spec, and has no connection to the book Peter and the Starcatchers, its authors, or the publisher.