How Former Deckhand Jess Douglas Became 'The Yacht Artist'

8 August 2021 By Aileen Mack

At the age of two, Jessie Douglas set sail on her parents’ 33-foot sailing yacht with her child seat strapped to the mast while they navigated from the UK to Ibiza. This began her lifelong interest in yachts. While her time as crew on board was cut short by unprecedented circumstances, her passion for the industry persists through her work as the Yacht Artist, painting yachts on navigational charts of the areas they cruise — mainly as gifts for yacht owners or captains or the homes of clients.

After growing up in Ibiza until she was 13, she returned to the UK to carry out her education in the English schooling system. But she continued to be involved in boating, getting her powerboat and boat captain qualifications. After graduating with a first in design and illustration from the University of Plymouth, Douglas wanted a complete change in direction. She started working on commercial fishing boats and got her STCW95 and completed a superyacht course in 2013.

Then she ventured to Antibes in hopes of being a deckhand, which she discovered was a difficult task, but she caught a break when she met M/Y Harle’s relief Capt. Veronica who gave her daywork and later a month’s work covering for a deckhand during a busy charter season. Thrown in at the deep end, she was given her uniform and walked straight onto the passerelle to greet high-profile guests before they boarded for an all-night party. She crawled into her bunk at 9 a.m. with an alarm set for 1 p.m. to start a washdown — she “was well and truly ‘living the dream’ and loving it!”

Douglas then landed a position on the neighboring yacht, M/Y Blade, where she remained for 10 months until the time came in early 2014 for her to leave after her mother developed a chronic illness. She needed to help care for her alongside her elderly father.

She kept up with all her qualifications in case her situation changed. “I found myself searching for a new purpose, now finding myself stuck in my hometown in a factory job I hated,” Douglas says. “I’d not drawn or painted anything since leaving university in 2009 and was very much suffering from ‘artist’s block.’”

One of the local fishermen brought his new boat into the harbor and she asked if she could paint it. He requested to see the finished painting and ended up purchasing it from her for £200 and suggested she share a photo of it on a fisherman Facebook page asking if anyone else would be interested in a painting. Within a week, Douglas had seven orders.

“I had an old yachting contact who asked me to paint their boat — M/Y St David — for the captain’s wedding present,” she says. “Off the back of this painting, I had loads of crew enquiring about costs.”

Early on, she suggested a piece be painted on an old chart she had of where the boat was from, which received a great response, and the rest is history. Nearly five years later, she now finds herself with a waiting list of more than six months for paintings, consisting of fishing boats and superyachts. Depending on the vessel’s size, each one takes anywhere from three to seven days.

“I’m so very privileged to be in the position I’m in today,” Douglas says. “I hope to continually grow as an artist, and I strive to have my name recognized within the yachting industry.”

Based in Lyme Regis, a little seaside fishing town on the South Dorset coast of England, Douglas paints two different sizes onto a standard size chart (large at 42 by 60 cm and extra-large at 60 by 84 cm). Prices vary depending on the yacht, and each painting is a private commission that isn’t posted online without the client’s permission. For more info, visit:; @theyachtartist on Instagram.