Archive for the ‘2008’ Category

I’ve just returned from Brazil, the first trip I’ve taken there since early last year when I found and photographed Wellington and Israel in Salvador. This time I traveled with my good friend Steph, and I must say we made a great team. She’s a bit like Gina in that she’s beautiful and fun and attracts lots of attention! We stopped over in Miami for a couple of days, then flew to Rio.


Steph and myself in Miami at the Palace Bar, before catching an evening flight to Rio.

This was Steph’s first time in Brazil so we saw the sights of Rio for a couple of days before heading by bus to Búzios (a 3-1/2 hour ride). I’d never been to Búzios but had heard lots about it. It turned out to be a beautiful, sophisticated yet rustic little town, and we stayed in a charming, simple-but-beautiful room in a pousada called Passeio das Palmeiras (I recommend it, and the proprietor, Lucas, is pretty charming and beautiful himself).


The morning lifeguard workout in the streets of Búzios---another good reason to visit this little beach town

Our original plan had been to rent a car and drive up the coast from Rio to Salvador, but for various reasons that didn’t work out. Traveling by bus up the coast began to look like a long, hard trek as well—so we wound up going back to Rio by bus so we could fly up to Salvador. From Salvador we would go back south, again by bus, to Itacaré, a place we both wanted to explore.

During our one-night stay in Salvador, I took Steph to one of my favorite restaurants, Caranguejo, and introduced her to Moqueca de Camarão, which is a Bahian seafood bouillabaisse made with coconut milk and dende and shrimp and god knows what else, and is a little bit of heaven. It required just one spoonful to convert Steph. (May I also mention here that, as an inveterate beer drinker, one of the things I love about Brazil is that they are religious about only serving really REALLY cold beer. I love that!)


Steph's first Moqueca de Camarão in Salvador

We didn’t really know what we were in for when we got on the bus from Salvador to Itacaré. Well, actually, you can’t get a bus from Salvador to Itacaré. You have to get a bus for Itabuna or Ilhéus, and then catch ANOTHER bus to Itacaré. So we blithely got on the bus (which I must admit was very comfortable) and settled in for a six-hour journey. Actually it might have been seven—the time zone kept changing and nobody told us, which meant we kept thinking we were either way ahead of schedule or we were about to miss our next bus, which didn’t add to our peace of mind. Anyway, after six or seven hours on the nice bus, we then had to spend two and a half more hours on the not-so-nice bus, and by then it was late at night, so by the time we rolled into Itacaré, we were pretty exhausted.


Views from the bus ride, Salvador-Itabuna

But the next morning when we got up and saw in the full light of day where we’d landed, we were happy. Itacaré is a very cool little hippie-surfer town, with great beaches, great waves, and a lot of charm and atmosphere. we stayed in a pousada called Hanalei (yes, like the beach on Kauai) which was like a Swiss-Family-Robinson treehouse, only not in a tree. Charming and well-managed—and the breakfast itself was worth the price of admission. GREAT food! Another pousada I can heartily recommend, if you ever want to make the trek to Itacaré.


Some views of Itacaré's scenery

—Which you might want to do, because this is one of those places everybody falls in love with. It’s friendly and rustic and has lots of cool places to hang out—and beautiful, with 7 or 8 or 10 beaches, I don’t know how many, all close together and all gorgeous. Some gorgeous people too. We met quite a few of them, and on our second day there, we met a boy named Baiano. I had not been planning to work on this trip, but when I met this boy, I changed my mind. Here was a raw sexiness I felt I had to capture! Everything fell into place very quickly. I met him around noon, and by 3pm we had hiked to a deserted hilltop overlooking a beautiful beach, where Baiano got naked and I made him climb up and down the trails for the next 2 hours.


Left: Baiano with surfboard. Right: Following Baiano up the hill on the way to our photo session.

Just as exciting as the model was the setting. This is the kind of backdrop I just can’t find in Hawaii, because it’s so populated. Itacaré is a small town in the middle of nowhere with a surplus of beaches, so you can shoot a nude model in places like this without worrying about lots of people wandering through your photo shoot. Like most of my models, Baiano is a sexy boy with charm, charisma and an oversupply of testosterone. It’s a combination that works for me. As is usually the case, Baiano was a bit surprised at how much fun it was to model for me, and at the conclusion of the shoot, we were good buddies.


Some shots of Baiano in Itacaré

Steph and I left Itacaré with some reluctance, but it was time to go home. This time we skipped the bus and flew from Ilhéus to Salvador (45 minutes instead of 9 hours). We spent one last day in Salvador, most of it on the beach in Barra, where we ran into Wellington, my model from last year. We took him out for dinner and drinks that night, then went home because we had to get up early for our flight home.

Wellington and Steph on our last day in Bahia

What a wonderful trip, but so great to be home again. I hated to leave Brazil but was overjoyed to get back because I’d been missing painting so much. I’m now happily ensconced in my studio painting and drawing like mad!

While online recently, I discovered a gallery in New York which specializes in contemporary African art. A lot of it really spoke to me, in particular the work of a transplanted Ethiopian named Wosene Worke Kosrof. I saw in his work some of the visions I’ve had in my own head but never quite had a way to get out and onto canvas. Looking at his work has given me a lot of new ideas for expressing things I was previously unable to.

One of the major things that struck me about his work is its calligraphic nature. Yet it’s much more than just letter forms on canvas; it’s calligraphy that has a life of its own. If you google his name and check out his work I think you’ll see what I mean. Anyway, that aspect of his work gave me a key, a way into my own visions I hadn’t had before.


The beginnning of the painting.

I did a lot of sketching and experimenting before beginning a painting using the new ideas I’d gotten from this African artist. I knew the painting itself would also still be very much an experiment, but then every really interesting painting is. I started by laying down a burnt-sienna-and-burnt-umber wash over the entire canvas. Then, with no real plan in mind, I began painting in some dark blocky shapes.


Adding some interesting shapes and colors--still kind of at random.

I had in mind, more or less, the colors I wanted to use, and had already mixed them up, so I wasn’t operating totally by the seat of my pants. Still, as I added shapes I was operating pretty much on gut instinct. Of course every time I add a new element, it defines the painting more and narrows the options for what follows.


The painting starts to define itself.

At this point, I began to add some calligraphy of my own design. I guess you could say I began inventing an alphabet. But it’s not really an alphabet, because the characters don’t correspond to any language or sound, they’re just shapes I like. Rather than putting characters together to signify some specific meaning, I’m putting characters next to each other without regard to meaning but with the intention of creating a visual pattern that’s interesting and provocative. It’s a design which happens to look like writing. And of course, that’s what I like about it!

At the same time as I was creating this pseudo-calligraphy, I was also adding interesting shapes. The most interesting was a horizontal bar filled with multicolored diamond shapes. It reminded me a bit of Australian aboriginal art, as well as African so-called ‘primitive’ art. It immediately became the most interesting thing about the painting so far, and so began to define the look and flavor of the work.


As the painting progressed, I got more comfortable with the calligraphy, while at the same time still being willing to experiment quite a lot with both the calligraphy and the shapes. The horizontal lines made up of short bars which emerge from the right side of the central diamond bar remind me of ritual scarring (not planned, just something I tried, then realized it reminded me of something I hadn’t expected), and I liked that. I also created a rectangle shape (below and to the right of the diamond bar) with some sort of chevron shapes in it, in orange and red outlined by white, and that kind of reminded me a bit of the new South African flag. So lots of tribal, African associations were coming up as I continued letting the painting create itself.


I continued adding shapes and calligraphy because I was having so much fun! This was the closest I have come in a long, long time—maybe ever—to putting on canvas the things I’ve seen in my imagination. So rather than forcing the painting to have a central focus, I decided to let it continue to grow organically. In my mind it was becoming something like an illuminated manuscript, where the purpose is not to create a single compelling image, but rather to offer a beautifully decorated written story meant to be read and savored.


The final result! (Click on image to see this item on my website)

And in the final analysis, that’s kind of what this painting is: a manuscript, or cave painting, where there’s a story being told. I don’t pretend to know what the story is, but when I look at it, I feel it. I couldn’t tell you in words what the manuscript is saying, but I definitely get the meaning deep inside. I call the painting Entry because for me it’s a passageway, my first entry into a whole new language of self-expression.


Here's the photo of Kawai and Sam I began with.

A lot of the work I do as an artist involves making rough sketches. What I usually do is sit down at my drawing table, which is next to the computer,and bring up the photos from a recent photo shoot. I have a nice big screen so it’s pleasant to sit there and draw from the image on the screen. And I can zoom in or out for details, etc. This is how I maintain my skills, and expand them. It’s also one of the ways I generate ideas for new paintings. So the other day I was drawing from the pool shots of Kawai and Sam, and came across an image I really liked, of the two of them lying next to each other on beach towels.


Above is the first color sketch for the proposed painting (click on the image to see this item on my website). I liked everything about the image except the background, so in the first sketch I did I exchanged the rock wall and the pavement for a simple patch of grass and some blue sky. As you can see, I also began simplifying and stylizing the faces and bodies of the figures.


Above is the second sketch (click on image to see item on my website), this time just in black-and-white, where I refined the faces and bodies somewhat, and tried a similar background, but this time with a few palm trees at the right. By now I was deciding this would make an interesting painting.


Here’s the third and final preparatory sketch for the painting. In this one I took things a step further. I continued to refine the figures, experimented some more with the background, and added color. By now I felt ready to begin the painting.


To enlarge the rough sketch and transfer it to canvas, I first scanned it, then opened it in Photoshop, and using my digital projector, projected it onto a piece of canvas I’d tacked up on my workboard. Then I traced it with pencil, except for the background. As you can see from this photograph, I found some old photos I’d taken of Queen’s Surf (a beach in Honolulu near where I live) and decided to use those as reference for the background. I drew the background freehand. Then, now that I’d completed the pencil drawing on canvas, I took some black acrylic paint and a #2 Round acrylic-painting brush and painted all the lines. After letting that dry, I painted a thin earth-brown wash over the whole painting.


Then the fun began! I say it’s fun, but it’s also one of the scariest parts of making a painting. I can usually tell pretty quickly, once I begin laying in the colors, whether or not a painting is going to work. If there’s no magic in the first half-hour of adding color to painting, the prognosis is not good. Fortunately in this case, I started having a good time right away. Putting a big splash of sky blue on Kawai’s shoulder was just the bold, ballsy move I needed to get things going.


Here the colors are beginning to define themselves. I continued painting, using pretty naturalistic colors—well, maybe a bit more vivid than real life!—and letting the colors wander. By that I mean I did something you learn not to do when you’re a kid coloring in a coloring book—I made sure NOT to stay in the lines. I don’t know why I enjoy this approach so much, but for me it gives a painting a certain energy, and even a sense of humor, that it just wouldn’t have if the colors were all nicely contained. Maybe it has something to do with what I have learned (and also sense intuitively) about the physics of the world we live in: edges and separations are illusions we project to give us a sense of order. But in reality there are no separations, it’s all connected and it’s all one. So of course the color from the palm trees would bleed into the sky, and vice versa! And of course your body would pick up the color of the sky and the sand around you. Then again, maybe I am just such a rebellious type that I like not staying in the lines.


Then it was just a matter of finishing it. Which meant completing the still-unpainted areas. I don’t want you to think it’s just a matter of splashing some paint on and standing back, though. Because I began by painting all those black lines and getting them just the way I want them, I have to be careful when I’m filling in the colors to not cover up the black lines. Or cover them in a way that enhances them without destroying them. So it’s a bit tedious and labor-intensive. But worth it. I’m very pleased with the final result, which you see above (click on the image to see it on my website: I’ve titled it “Gay Nude Beach.”


My candidates for a two-guy photo shoot.

I was planning to do a second photo shoot with Sam and about the same time my friend Kawai (pronounced Ka-VYE, rhymes with tie) expressed an interest in modeling. I thought maybe I could entice the two of them to pose together. I’ve always found it a challenge to find two models willing to pose together, but thought maybe this one would work out. And yes, both Sam and Kawai said sure, it sounds like fun. Before this they had known each other from a distance but had never really talked or gotten to know each other. So as always, I decided to just give it a shot and see how things went.


Sam and Kawai arrive at the beach.

We met at my house at sunrise and drove out to a secluded beach I know of on the east side of the island. It was a weekday, and not yet 7am, so I was hoping there would be no one around at the beach. And fortunately there wasn’t. We walked a short distance from the road and we were there.


Sam and Kawai happily peeled off their clothes and headed for the water.

I was also fortunate in that Sam and Kawai seemed to be hitting it off. They clearly liked each other and were comfortable with each other—with just enough mutual attraction going on to make it interesting. Both Sam and Kawai are in their mid-20’s, and both are outgoing, friendly people. I know and like both of them so I wasn’t surprised they liked each other, too.


Wrestling on the beach!

After having the two of them slather each other in sunblock (that helped relax them as well as protecting parts of them not used to the sun), I suggested they do some wrestling and rolling around on the beach—just to see what would happen. Sam was aggressive and playful but Kawai was holding back—I think he was afraid he was going to hurt Sam or something. But he did relax eventually. And I was getting some great shots.


I wanted some affectionate stuff, too, and it was no problem. These two really did like each other and it was a unique situation where it was totally okay to be openly affectionate with another attractive guy, with truly no strings attached. You can tell they both enjoyed it. And we were just getting started.


We were all over that beach that morning. I wanted some action stuff (no, I don’t mean that kind of action) so we went where the waves crashed highest against the biggest rocks—and Sam made his way across the rocks to stand on the highest one in the morning sun—then had a bit of trouble getting back. Fortunately Kawai was there to help.


At Kei and Dick's backyard pool...

After shooting for a couple of hours at the beach, we went to the nearby neighborhood of Mariner’s Ridge where my friends Kei and Dick live. They’ve always been very generous about letting me use their backyard pool for my photo shoots. I had Sam and Kawai jump in the pool, then get out and towel each other off. Toweling off is one of my favorite things to have a model do, and having two models do it for each other made for some great shots.


As I said, the two liked each other and by now they were very comfortable with each other. It was Sam’s second photo shoot so he was very relaxed (Sam is a boisterous, fun guy with a lot of personality anyway), and that helped relax Kawai.


But it wasn’t all laughing and clowning around. I was able to get lots of sweet, affectionate moments—I’d been hoping for that but it’s not something you can engineer…it either happens or it doesn’t. I couldn’t have gotten poses like this if there weren’t some genuine chemistry between the two.


This shot was one of the very last that morning. By this time the two were so at ease with each other they were giggling and playfully affectionate as if they really were lovers in private, with no prying eyes around. This was exactly what I’d hoped for. I engineered things as much as possible but the way things came together was ultimately just my good luck at knowing two such sweet and handsome guys who were willing to be playful in front of my camera. Thank you Sam and Kawai!


This was the candid shot I got of Sam at the pool party that made me think Wow, this boy is model material and I hadn't even seen it 'til now.

I’ve found a new model—Sam. Over the past few months Sam and I have ended up at the same parties and we’ve become friends. After a pool party a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the candid photos I’d taken and for the first time I realized that Sam would make a good model. I’m not used to seeing Caucasian guys that way, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s paid much attention to my art over the years. But I found myself appreciating Sam’s lean, pretty body and his handsome face—and that’s not even to mention his warmth and bright, fun personality. Sam is charismatic, likeable and HOT—and I knew he’d be fun to work with. So I called him and asked him if he wanted to model. He said he’d be honored.


Sam on the loveseat in my living room.

So he came over to my new apartment in Waikiki and we did a photo shoot. I just moved into this place a month ago so this is the first photo shoot I’ve done here. I wasn’t sure how well it would work for that. We started out in the living room, which was where I thought the light would be best.


One of the first shots of Sam I shot on my lanai.

What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that because it was nearly noon, the sun was above the building and only reflected light was shining into the living room. With no direct sun hitting the model, the light tends to be soft and diffused. Which is fine when you want to flatter someone but not so great when you have someone who needs no flattering and in fact looks great with strong dramatic light striking his body.

So we went out onto my lanai, which is long and narrow and at first glance would not seem to be a great location for shooting a model. But almost immediately I realized that, at least at this time of the day, it was better than the living room. The light was more direct, and the pink of the outer walls worked well with Sam’s coloring.


Sam hanging on my front gate.

There’s a cast-iron swinging gate at the entrance of my lanai, with a piece of white plexiglas in it. It’s not very attractive and I’ll probably do something to make it look better at some point but, surprisingly, it turns to be a great backdrop and support for the model! I got some great shots of Sam leaning back and hanging on the gate.


This was shot from outside the back door of my bedroom.

There was another part of my apartment I hadn’t tried—my bedroom. Since it’s not very bright in there I didn’t think it would work very well. But, again, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the light was. I was able to get some fairly dramatic lighting situations in there with Sam standing near the single window.

The back door of my bedroom opens onto a little landing which leads to my neighbors’ back door and the stairwell. Since the neighbors weren’t home I tried shooting Sam in that area, and with the flat-black doors and walls, got a completely different effect, and again, one that worked surprisingly well. I probably shot a couple hundred images in my bedroom and on the landing by my back door.


Through all this, one thing didn’t surprise me, and that was the fact that Sam was at ease and comfortable in front of the camera, and easy and pleasant to work with. I already knew he photographed well from shooting candids of him at all those parties…so that wasn’t a surprise either. This first shoot went so well I’ll probably shoot Sam again. In the meantime I’m very happy to have a lot of new images to work from and you’ll be seeing more of Sam in the near future.