There are lush watercolors of distant beaches and black-and-white etchings of languid seamen. Fishing trawlers, sloops and dinghies are also intricately rendered.
But the sea, in all its drama, is clearly the star of this show.
The collection of work by local artists forms the fourth annual Nautica contest and exhibit at the Ventura County Maritime Museum. The winner received $300, second place $200 and third place $100, but the biggest draw is exposure.
The top prize in Nautica '01 went to "Sunset Berth" by Don Fay of Oxnard. His watercolor depicting the fishing boat Algiers tied up near Ventura Harbor captured the hearts of the three judges with its composition and vivid colors.
Jacquelyn Cavish took second prize for "Fishing Winter Seas." The Oxnard artist used acrylic paints to create a sweeping portrait of a small squid boat being tossed upon the sea. Robert Sage of Moorpark took third prize for "Old Salts," a meticulous pencil drawing of four turn-of-the-century merchant sailors lounging aboard ship.
"It's the only exhibit of its size outside of Newport Beach where you can see this type of maritime work," said David Leach, the museum's curator and one of the judges.
Leach walked around the museum recently pointing out the themes of the exhibit and some of the more striking pieces. The first thing a painting must do is "draw you in," he said.
There were typical broad-brush watercolor paintings, but some were exceptionally fine and detailed, such as "Malibu Pier" by Oxnard artist Deborah Findley and "Moon on the Dunes," a scratchboard work by Moorpark artist Michele Weise. Weise covered a board with clay and scratched out and dyed a shimmering image of wavy dune grass, beach plants, the moon and a person with a dog.
This year's show, which runs through Aug. 17, received 85 entries, 45 of which went on exhibit.
Fay, 73, a professional artist, said he painted the Algiers because he heard it would be scrapped the next day.
"I was fascinated by the boat; it seemed to be a very noble craft aging the way I am," he said. "It's at the end of the road."
Leach praised the work for capturing the colors of the setting sun as it reflects off the water, calling it a first-class piece.
Cavish, 57, is an artist who teaches classes at Oxnard College.
She did her painting on Silver Strand Beach in Oxnard one day when the sky was oddly colored and the ocean surged.
"The light was so strange. The clouds that sometimes blow through the Oxnard Plain were collecting above the ocean," she said. "It was a really dramatic scene, and there was a squid boat out there in the center."
Sage, assistant art curator at UCLA Medical Center, entered the competition for the first time. He saw the image of the sailors in a newspaper advertisement and, using graphite pencils, added the gangplanks, ropes, pulleys and steamer trunks lying around the deck of a ship.
"My subject matter varies with whatever strikes me. The style I do is photo-realism, which means the drawings look a lot like photographs," he said.
"It's an amazing image, and that's why I liked it," he said. "I liked their faces and the time period."
The maritime museum, at Fisherman's Wharf in Oxnard's Channel Islands Harbor, has been open for 10 years and features model ships, seafaring paraphernalia and traveling shows with marine themes. Between 20,000 and 25,000 people visit annually.
"Sometimes we think we are the best-kept secret in the county," Leach said.