Every couple of days I spend an hour or so preparing the next photoset for my Simonson on Location photography website.
This is always an opportunity for me to review past photo shoots, and occasionally I run across images that surprise me. By that I mean I see an image differently than I had before. I see some possibility that had not previously struck me. When that happens, I tag the photograph so I can come back to it later and maybe do something with it.
That’s what happened a recently when I was putting together a photoset of Israel and Wellington, the two models I photographed in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil a few years ago. There was a photograph of the two of them on the beach at Massarandupió that intrigued me. I especially liked the way Wellington was sprawled in the wet sand, looking out at the ocean. I thought it was very strong and a painting could be built around it. So a few days ago I went back to that photograph and started making sketches of it.
I started by sketching the figures separately until I liked what I had. Then I scanned them both and put them up on the computer screen. I wasn’t sure about the composition of the original photograph and I wanted to experiment with moving the figures around in relation to each other, plus changing their relative sizes. I could have done this by sketching and re-sketching but it’s much faster and easier to do it on the computer.
After trying out all sorts of combinations/compositions, I decided to reverse the positions of the figures. I actually kind of liked the original composition of the photograph, with its unconventional arrangement of the figures, one looking out of frame to the left, the other walking out of frame to the right—but it was a little too unconventional, I decided, and also said things about separation and isolation, and I didn’t really want to go there with this painting. So I rearranged things for a less edgy, more appealing composition.
For the next step I also used the computer. I wanted to do a color sketch and again, doing this sort of thing on the computer is much easier because you can change the colors easily and try out all sorts of possibilities without having to do sketch after sketch. After completing the above digital color sketch, I decided I was ready to tackle the actual painting.
The painting itself was kind of an anticlimax, which is both good and bad. When I’ve planned a painting this well, the final execution tends to be fairly straightforward, although there will always be some surprises. I like that. But I also like to take chances and work without a net sometimes, too. This time, though, I liked the fact that the painting played out pretty much as I’d planned it. I spent 3 days completing the actual painting process, so this entire painting took about a week. I call it “Surf Boys.”