Wallis would cut out the top and bottom of an old cardboard box and use the shape as the key to the movement in his painting. The colour and texture of the board would also be key and in Sinking Ship and Lifeboat what remained of the original brown ground, would be deeply as experienced as the remainder of the painting.
'He (Wallis) used very few colours, and one associates with him some lovely dark browns, shiny blacks, fierce greys, strange whites ... The boats are static, the sea and sometimes the clouds appear to move. Wallis would, I think, know exactly the scene of image he wished to portray before starting a picture. He did not paint paintings, he made pictures. I believe he positioned the boats or land first and then filled in the moving elements. He, presumably, would draw in pencil the outline of the static defined linear parts (the boats, the lighthouses, St Ives Harbour and pier) showing each entity from its most important angle ... Then he would, I think, paint in the land and the boats leaving the pencil outlines showing and lastly he would paint in the sea which often covered in part of the objects already painted. Wallis wanted to ''record the old St Ives'' he knew, that is the fishing world that was disappearing.
It is in his own words that give us the best idea about him,''Houses - houses. Give me a ship and you can take all the houses in the world''(see Exhibition catalogue, Alfred Wallis, London, February 1965, intro. Leslie Waddington).