Sir Francis Drake Was a Pirate

Plein air painting of Pirate's cove and Cave Landing near Avila Beach on the San Luis Obispo county coast of central California

Artwork Notes:

It’s true, he was a full on sea-sailing, ship-boarding, plunder-stealing, off-with-yer-head-if-you cross him pirate. The Spanish navy hated the guy and he had a personal beef with them as well. He even sailed clear past all of Spanish-settled California and claimed all of northern California for England in 1579. It didn’t stick, but it was still an interesting gesture. 

But that’s all just history. And according to some historians it is believed Drake may have hidden treasure in the caves right here on that headland at the end of this cove. Joined by my friend Wade Koniakowsky, we were stoked to walk up to this scene on a crisp sunny morning after the days of fog I’d been battling previously. Felt like we’d discovered treasure. 

Finding the beach below empty was a great discovery as well, especially since it’s a notorious nude beach. Empty was just fine for us, thanks. Did you know they call the creepers on the cliffs “scalleywags” or “rock monkeys”? They must have enough folks creeping up to oggle the nudies that they have made up names for them. I don’t know if that’s true, but I read in a paper once… so like I said, I don’t know if that’s true. I do know we had a local approach us up there and he seemed a bit agitated at first but then when he saw we were just painting the scene he lightened up. No scallewaggin rock monkeys we, ay? 

What we can say for sure is that even if those caves weren’t used for Drake’s hidden treasure, they were at least used for smuggling moonshine during the prohibition years. The smugglers even carved steps into the rock face out at the end of the point to help run the rum up and down coast. Oh, and Francis Drake was a pirate. We know that too. 

-Matt Beard




Artwork Information:


Artwork Title: "Sir Francis Drake Was a Pirate"
Original Size: 20" x 16"
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Year Painted: 2019

Additional Artwork Information:


Method: Plein Air
Date Painted: 07/14/2019
Region: The California Coast > Central California > San Luis Obispo
Road Trip: SLO 2019

Artwork Logistics:


Travel Logistics: Had to Sleep in My Van
Miles Hiked: Less than 1 Mile
Access Logitics: Sneaky Public Access Easement
Geological Hazards: Steep or Unstable Cliffs
Anthropological Hazards: Other Painters, Sketchy Human Interactions
Weather Logistics: Painted in Full Sun with no Shade
Temperature: Uncomfortably Warm


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