Archive for the ‘2011’ Category

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PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS AND COMMERCIAL WORK BY DOUGLAS SIMONSON


If you’ve seen much of my art, you know I’m pretty versatile.

That’s also true with my portraits and commercial work. I not only paint and draw portraits on commission, I also do custom photo shoots and commercial illustration.

I customarily go into the studio and paint whatever is exciting or inspiring me at the time. Working on commission is obviously quite different, but it’s a challenge I enjoy. As wonderful as it is to be able to paint whatever I want to paint, there are times when it’s really nice to have some specific guidelines, and that’s what I get when I do a portrait commission.


• THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS
• ACRYLIC PORTRAITS
• PENCIL PORTRAITS
• PHOTO SHOOTS
• WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?
• COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION



THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS

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There are 3 basic options when you commission a Douglas Simonson portrait: acrylic painting, pencil drawing and photography.

There are 3 basic options when you’re thinking about a Simonson portrait: acrylic paintings, pencil drawings and photography. The first choice, an acrylic painting, is the most adventurous and least realistic.

If you’re looking for a more realistic approach, a pencil portrait is the way to go. And the most affordable option is a photographic portrait.


PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: ACRYLIC PAINTINGS

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This somewhat Picassoesque approach is one approach I use when painting portraits in acrylic.

Acrylic portraits are the wildest and craziest approach to a Simonson portrait. What I mean is, when I paint acrylics I’m not interested in a strictly realistic approach: I like to get adventurous. So if you’re looking for a straightforwardly realistic portrait, this is not what you want. On the other hand, if you want something exciting, different, and bound to start some conversations, an acrylic portrait is the way to go.

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Here's a different approach that looks quite realistic until you study the painting more closely.

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This acrylic portrait is basically very realistic, but with a bit of stylization.

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This painting of my parents is one of my favorites.


Acrylic Portrait Commission Rates:
$2450 for 1 person
$3950 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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This geometric approach to the patterns of light and shadow is another approach I've used in acrylic portraiture.

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NOT YOUR TYPICAL PORTRAIT: My friends Jeff and Siew commissioned me to do a 'portrait' of their life in Hawaii to keep a taste of the tropics in their new home on the East Coast.




PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: PENCIL DRAWINGS

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This portrait of Doug and Xavier is a good example of the cross-hatch approach I usually use in a pencil portrait.

A Simonson pencil portrait is a realistic black-and-white pencil portrait. If you want a straightforwardly realistic depiction of yourself or your loved one(s), this is the way to go.

Pencil Portrait Commission Rates:
$950 for one person
$1450 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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Pencil is ideal for this type of family portrait.

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This pencil portrait of my friend Randy captures his irreverent sense of humor.

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You have another option when you commission a pencil portrait: I also do white-pencil-on-dark-paper drawings. The price for these dramatic pieces is the same as for a conventional pencil portrait.



PHOTO SHOOTS

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This photo portrait is of my niece Hannah.

I’m available to do photo sessions on commission. What that means is, you and I will discuss what kind of photographs you’d like, a location is chosen, and you and I will work together for approximately 2 hours. This results in several hundred photographs.

Broadly speaking, I do 2 types of photo session. One is a Portrait Session, which results in a photographic portrait (or several) suitable for framing. The other is a Custom Session, a shoot customized to your wishes, whether you need images for professional use (business cards, brochures, websites) or personal (online profiles, fantasies, etc.). In either case, you’ll get to keep the images from the shoot (usually from 500-1000 images) for your personal use, and you’ll own all rights to them.

Below: Some examples from recent portrait photo shoots:

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Keep in mind that a photo session with me is not your typical in-studio shoot. I prefer natural lighting, uncontrived/natural settings, and spontaneity. My objective is to show you at your most joyous and ‘alive.’ I’ve had a lot of years of experience at bringing out the true spirit of even the shyest, most reticent subjects, so I’m good at it. It doesn’t matter how unsure you are of your ability to look good in front of a camera; you can rest assured I will bring out, and capture, you at your very best.

Photo Shoot Rates:

Portrait Session: $500 if client provides location, $650 if I provide the location
(includes photo session, a CD of all images, and up to three 13″x19″ frameable photographs)

Custom Session: $350 if client provides location, $500 if I provide the location
(includes photo session and a CD of all images)

Shoots involving 2 or more persons: Rates on request.


WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?

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Black dots represent recent Simonson travels. Wherever you live in the world, a Simonson portrait commission is within the realm of possibility.

I work only from my own photographs, so your geographic location is a factor in commissioning a portrait. But don’t let that stop you: I travel a lot, and I’m very open to considering some detours to accomplish a photo shoot for a portrait commission. (There may be an additional travel fee, depending on location and my traveling schedule, but not necessarily.) No matter where in the world you live, it’s quite possible for you to set up a portrait commission with me. Just e-mail me me with your questions or request.



COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION

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Some examples of recent commercial illustration work I've done.

My artistic versatility and technical skills are well suited to many kinds of commercial illustration. I’ve successfully produced CD case designs, logos, humorous ilustrations for advertising and product labels, and book illustration, among other types of projects. I utilize both physical-world approaches (painting, drawing on paper, canvas or board) and digital media (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) to create commercial illustration and graphic design.

My rates are competitive. Contact me for further information.

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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


• GRATEFUL TO BE BROKE
• BRAZIL ARRIVAL AND COUCHSURFING FAIL
• THE HOSTEL EXPERIENCE
• DANIELA
• RIO AND PURA VIDA
• OLIVER AND THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
• BYE-BYE BRAZIL



GRATEFUL TO BE BROKE

As you read in the first entry of this “On the Road” blog series, last summer I had a revelation in my kitchen and decided to go traveling for a year.

In that first entry, I talked about how imprisoned I was feeling by the fact that I now owned an apartment, and had to pay a big mortgage every month.

There’s more to the story.

When what is now being called the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2008, I had just bought my apartment AND rented an office, and my monthly expenses had more or less doubled. At almost the same time, or just shortly after, my business began to slow down. A LOT.

My expenses DOUBLED, and then BAM, my income dropped by HALF.

Whoa!

What that meant in practical terms was that suddenly my comfortable life became very UNcomfortable. It became more and more difficult to pay my bills. My income kept dropping, and my expenses stayed high.

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This is pretty much the same thing that happened to my business in mid-2008...

Over the next 2-1/2 years I tried many things to revitalize my art sales, and sometimes they seemed to work, but nothing worked for long. Sales continued to decline, and my financial condition continued to deteriorate. I sold everything I could sell, went deeper into debt, and still the slide continued. The result is, I’ve been going through some very trying times, and it’s been a challenge not to beat myself up for all this, and to maintain my optimism.

It would be easy to blame the global financial crisis for what’s been going on with my business, but what good would that do? And besides, I’ve come to believe that on a deeper level, something entirely different is going on.

My “On the Road” experiment has now been going on for nearly six months and I have to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love this life and its challenges and rewards. I’m growing, changing, getting stronger and more self-aware every day, in a way I simply wouldn’t have if I’d played it safe and stayed in Hawaii.

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It's scary and challenging and never boring. The first 6 months being On the Road have been phenomenal.

So when I look back at my decision from this vantage point, it’s pretty clear to me that if I hadn’t been going through such difficult times financially, if I hadn’t been feeling so up against the wall, I would never have made such a bold, outrageous decision.

The more clearly I see myself and my life (and I’m getting clearer fast out here on the tightrope), the more grateful I am for the trials and tribulations that kicked my ass out of my comfort zone!

At the same time, there are a lot of days when I just wish I had more money and I could pay all my debts right now. Because it’s one thing to be sitting in your apartment in Waikiki and feeling financial pressures. It’s another to be staying in a hostel in Brazil and not knowing how you’re going to pay for another week’s food and lodging! This is the kind of challenge I am now embracing in my life: seeing every trial as a gift.

There are no accidents. If my business had continued to grow and flourish, I wouldn’t now be on one of the greatest adventures of my life.

And the real adventure is not the travel or the daily challenges of living on the road. It’s discovering, over and over again, how powerful I am when I give up the need to control things or change them, and instead practice acceptance and gratitude.

And discovering that the more willing I am to have things stay exactly as they are, the faster they shift!



BRAZIL ARRIVAL AND COUCHSURFING FAIL

I flew to São Paulo on October 27.

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It was my first time in Brazil in 3 years and I was pretty happy to be back. My Hawaii friend David Moyer now lives in São Paulo and kindly offered me a place to stay while I was there. My plan was to stay in São Paulo for about a week, then take off and explore some Brazilian places I hadn’t seen before—and find one or more hot new models to photograph.

Things didn’t quite work out that way.

I belong to a website called couchsurfing.org, and prior to taking off on this trip, I was hosting couchsurfers from all over the world in my Waikiki apartment for several months. I didn’t do this get couchsurfer “cred”, I did it because I thoroughly enjoyed it. But when I did get the idea to go traveling for a year it occurred to me that I could experience the other side of the couchsurfing experience. I was planning to explore more of Brazil by going where the couches were, and letting that help define my travels. So I spent a lot of time on the computer while staying at Dave’s in São Paulo, trying to set up some couches to surf. I was particularly interested in going to Paraty, a beautiful little colonial beach town halfway between São Paulo and Rio.

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Scenes from my time in São Paulo

It was pretty frustrating. Either no response, or they would respond but they were traveling and couldn’t host, one thing after another. I realized that I should have started setting this up months before. I was in São Paulo for over 2 weeks before I realized I was going to have to find another solution.

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Couchsurfing.org is an awesome website and organization and I totally support it. However, it didn't work out so well for me when I was trying to find a place to stay in Paraty...

I was functioning on very little income, so hotels simply weren’t an option. But one of the couchsurfers who hadn’t been able to host me in Paraty had suggested something else: a hostel.

I don’t think I had ever actually stayed in a hostel. I’ve stayed in pousadas, and bed and breakfast places, but I had never shared a single dorm room with 8 or 10 strangers. But I looked at the prices, and I thought, Why not? I’m on an adventure anyway—and I need to get out of São Paulo and start the next phase of this trip! So I booked a $17-a-night dorm room bed in a hostel in Paraty, and spent $40 for the 4-hour bus ride.



THE HOSTEL EXPERIENCE

This turns out to be another gift my financial issues have given me. Staying at the MistiChill Hostel in Paraty was an awesome experience.

Side note here: I was painfully shy when I was younger, and it took me a lot of years and a lot of work to teach myself to be more courageous socially. But I have learned. And one of the things I’ve trained myself to do when faced with a stranger is to march right up to him or her, extend my hand and say “Hi! I’m Douglas.” I do this almost without thinking now. Well, actually, I do it TOTALLY without thinking, because if I thought about it I wouldn’t be able to do it.

I bring this up because this is the perfect approach to hostel life. I walked into the MistiChill Hostel and was immediately confronted with about 10 new people, all milling around the rather small common area. So I did what I do. I introduced myself and learned all their names (remembering names is another thing I’ve trained myself to do). Now I was everybody’s new friend, and when a group began forming to go out to dinner, I was automatically included. Awesome!

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New friends and a party every night when you're staying at a hostel!

(I can’t tell you how many times I’ve traveled alone and been in a hotel in a strange new city and wished I knew someone I could hang out with. Obviously this is not a problem in a hostel!)

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MistiChill Hostel in Paraty. Clockwise from upper left: Looking down from the 2nd floor; breakfast was served on the beach every morning; view from the front door of MistiChill; the common area of the hostel.

I must admit that sleeping in a small room with 7 other people and a tiny bathroom has its challenges. I did not always get a good night’s sleep. But somewhat to my surprise, I handled this all pretty well. One of my goals on this trip is to get more flexible, and I saw this as another opportunity. I did not see it as my right to have a good night’s sleep. Instead, I began to look at a good night’s sleep as a gift that one sometimes gets, and when it happens, you appreciate it profoundly. And when you don’t, it’s really not that big a deal. (But I was happy I had my headphones and my iPod.)

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Scenes of Paraty and nearby beach Trindade.

I spent over a week in Paraty, and I had a new group to hang out with every night, and I enjoyed every night! However, I was a bit frustrated that I was not finding models. I had hoped that the Paraty beach scene would be something like the Rio beach scene, with gorgeous boys running around in speedos. Nope. I had an awesome time in Paraty but I did not find a model, or even get close to it.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to head next, either. I didn’t want to go to Rio because I’ve been there so many times, I was feeling like I was over it. But along came Daniela.



DANIELA

One morning I woke up to a new girl in the room where I was staying. She was in the lower bunk opposite me. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Daniela.”

Daniela is a tall, pretty girl born and raised in Rio de Janeiro who looked like she was from Germany or Holland. Her heritage was German and Italian, so that’s why. But she’s totally Brazilian, with all the expressiveness and extreme social energy that goes with that. As soon as I met her, my new-crowd-every-night thing stopped because we were instant best friends. I started hanging out with her and another girl I really liked a lot, Luciana, who was visiting from São Paulo.

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Daniela and Luciana.

They were a lot of fun, and Daniela solved my problem of where I should go next. “I’m going back to Rio day after tomorrow,” she said. “Why don’t you come with me? I know a great hostel right near where I live in Copacabana and I’ll call them and put in a good word for you.”

I’d been waiting for a sign from the universe and here it was. So two days later Daniela and I took the 4-hour bus ride from Paraty to Rio, and she took me to the hostel she had lined up for me, the Pura Vida Hostel in Copacabana.



RIO AND PURA VIDA

My first impression of the Pura Vida hostel was, Oh my god. It’s beautiful.

It’s up on a hill on a side street in Copacabana and it looks like a castle. I found out later it used to be the Polish Embassy in the 1920’s, back when Rio was still Brazil’s capital. And now it’s a hostel. Like the MistiChill, there was a constant parade of new people and my meeting-people skills were pressed into action once again.

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The Pura Vida Hostel in Rio de Janeiro.

I hadn’t been sure I even wanted to go to Rio, but once I was there, something wonderful and unexpected happened: I fell in love with Rio all over again. It was like running into an old boyfriend after many years and finding out that you’ve both grown and changed, but the old magic is still there, and it’s better now because you’re more relaxed with each other. I felt comfortable and at home in Rio. Yet that teasing flavor of the exotic was still there.

(Plus, and I don’t know why it is, but the men are definitely hotter in Rio. Lots of model material!)

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But I went through some major challenges while in Rio. I was keeping in touch with my assistant via e-mail and Skype, and together we decided what bills we could pay and what we would have to put off. It was a never-ending juggling act. I made a mistake at this point, and I’ve done this before: I put paying bills ahead of my personal well-being. The result of this was, after 3 or 4 days in Rio, I found my pockets empty, and I couldn’t even go to the beach and rent a beach chair and umbrella.

I got pretty depressed at this point.

I went through a couple of pretty difficult days, and I realized something: if I don’t take care of myself first, I won’t be able to pay my bills anyway. I have to take care of myself or I can’t write or create art. Pretty basic, but I hadn’t gotten this yet. This was a good realization. So I stopped doing that.

It meant putting off another couple of bills, and that was uncomfortable, but I had to do it. Once again I was able to go to the beach, which was important, because that was one of the main places where I could scout for models.



OLIVER AND THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

One day on the gay beach in Ipanema I met a boy named Oliver, a tall, skinny black boy with a big afro and a bigger personality.

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Ipanema, looking toward the gay beach.

Oliver is a model and actor, and social butterfly, and very funny and entertaining. He and his friends were a lot of fun and I was really enjoying hanging out with them and trying to understand their rapid-fire Portuguese.

When the sun drops behind Pedra da Gávea, it’s time to head down Farme de Amoedo for after-beach drinks and socializing. So I joined Oliver and his friends and off we went to a place called Tô Nem Ai. This is a sidewalk bar-café where everybody goes after the beach. (Tô Nem Ai is a Brazilian Portuguese expression which basically means “I don’t give a shit” or “Who cares?”)

We had already been drinking at the beach, and we drank more at Tô Nem Ai. I was having a great time. At some point in the evening, and I don’t remember exactly when or how this happened, Oliver and I began kissing. I do remember exactly how his lips felt. This boy was an amazing kisser. Oh my god. I also found out he was 19 years old. Less than one-third my age. Guess what. Tô nem ai.

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Fun with Oliver and friends.

One of Oliver’s friends was named Eder. Eder was model material. I didn’t approach him that night for two reasons: 1, I was busy kissing Oliver. 2, I didn’t want to offer him a modeling job when I was drunk and then find out later that he wasn’t all that hot after all. So I held back.

The next day at the beach, I saw Eder again when I wasn’t drunk, and then I knew. Yes, he’s hot. I started talking to him about modeling.

Eder was one of those people who, when you’re talking to him, seldom looks at you. He was busy looking around at everyone else. This was not a good sign, but I chose to ignore it. He was beautiful and he had a great body, and my time in Brazil was growing short. I needed a model! (I did not have the money to pay him, but I decided to just trust that it would be there when I needed it.)

Eder and I made arrangements to email each other that evening and firm up arrangements for him to come to the hostel the next day where he and I could go over the model agreement and the arrangements for the photo shoot itself.

I emailed him that night. The next day I began checking early for his return email.

It never arrived.

The next day, I went to the beach and Oliver was there, with Eder, and they came up to me and Eder said immediately, “I never got your email.” I told him I’d sent it. At this point it started to become clear to me that this was not going to work out, because rather than engaging me about this and going ahead and planning a photo shoot anyway, Eder simply shrugged and walked away.

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Eder and Oliver.

After many years of dancing the dance with potential models, I recognize the danger signs early. When you’re trying to put together a photo shoot with someone, things usually go one way or the other. Either things flow and fall into place nicely—or they don’t. And when they don’t, it’s a clear sign that nothing is going to be easy here, and it’s best to move on.

It was obvious things weren’t going to flow with Eder, and it was time to move on.

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The weather in Rio was sucking.

Unfortunately I only had a few more days in Rio, and to make matters worse, the weather was sucking. 3 out of every 4 days were rainy and/or cold and cloudy. I began to resign myself to the fact that I was going to have spent 6 weeks in Brazil and not found a model.

I began to think back on all the guys I’d seen on the street in Rio who were hot and might have made great models. I began to beat myself up for not chasing them down the street and stopping them and talking to them and giving them my card. Then I stopped myself. How long is it going to take before I learn to give myself a break and trust the way things are unfolding? If I’d been meant to find a model during this Brazil stay, it would have happened. It’s not the end of the world that I didn’t find one. It will happen when it happens. I’ve been through this before, and a great new model always surfaces. If I’ve learned anything by now, it’s that you can’t control this kind of thing. So I let go and gave myself a break.



BYE-BYE BRAZIL

I spent my final days in Rio just enjoying the place and allowing things to flow the way they flowed.

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On the bus with Adriano.

My final evening in Rio I spent with a friend from Hawaii in Ipanema, and we visited a sauna called G Spa filled with beautiful men (too bad it was my last night or I might’ve found a model!). I did find a new friend, Adriano, and he helped make my final evening in Rio memorable.

The next day I took the 6-hour bus ride to São Paulo where I hung out for a day at Dave Moyer’s, then went to the airport at Guarulhos to catch a midnight flight to Dallas.

I’m now staying at the home of my Hawaii friends Bud and James, who now live in Austin, Texas. I’m catching up on writing and drawing (hard to find space for that kind of thing in a hostel!). Missing Brazil already, but glad to be back in the U.S. too. What a joy to have my own room and bathroom with hot water—and real toilet paper! I am appreciating the little things like never before.

Next, Christmas with the family in Nebraska, and then back to Hawaii in early January. Eager to get back to my studio and do some painting before taking off on the next phase of the adventure.

And who knows? I may find a model in Texas. Or Nebraska. Anything could happen.


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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series

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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


October 25, 2011

When I decided to go traveling for a year I really thought that I could travel for like two and half to three months at a shot, then come back to Hawaii for a week or 10 days, just catch up on stuff, and then take off for another two and half to three months.

Nice plan!

But totally out of touch with reality.

I have now realized, after my first quick Hawaii check-in has turned into a five-week stay, during which I have worked 12 to 14 hour days most of the time, that it’s not that simple.

I forgot that I would have 3 months of stuff to catch up on every time I come home!

Also, when I returned to Hawaii on September 15 after 2+ months of traveling, my apartment in Waikiki still hadn’t been rented. This was puzzling to me. It’s a great apartment, great location, and the property management people seemed to be doing a good job of showing it.

It was frustrating because I’d been counting on that rental income. On the other hand, it
was nice to have a place to stay while back in Hawaii.

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At Hula's with Steph.

Then, about a week after my return, I went out for a drink with my friend Steph (read about Steph and our 2008 Brazil travels together here). I told her I still hadn’t rented my apartment and she got excited. She and her friend Brian had been looking for a place in Waikiki…you can figure out the rest!

(Now I understood why the apartment hadn’t rented for 3 months…it was waiting for Steph!)

That was the perfect solution to one problem, but it created another. They wanted to move in immediately, which meant I no longer had a place to stay, and no immediate prospects for one.

But y’know, I wasn’t worried. One thing about my new lifestyle: it’s making me a lot more comfortable with uncertainty. My first 9 weeks on the road, traveling across North America and back again, was like the path of a tropical storm: unpredictable, erratic, and totally dependent on the winds, temperature and currents for direction and destination.

I’d been kind of apprehensive when I started my long-term traveling, with a make-it-up-as-you-go approach. I wasn’t sure I really had the balls to live this way!

Turns out I do. In fact, so far I’m loving it. One of the best, and least-expected, benefits of living this way, being open to circumstance and trusting rather than knowing what’s coming next, is that wonderful, unexpected things keep coming my way.

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With my friends Richard and Michele in Los Angeles

In LA, standing in line at Whole Foods in Brentwood, I looked behind me to see my publisher friend Richard, an old friend from Hawaii. I’d been trying to reconnect with him online for the past year or so. I got a chance to meet him and his wife Michele, who is lovely and already a friend, for lunch and catching up.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, where I hardly expected it, I met a woman who, like me, is just beginning to discover her abilities as an energy worker and healer. I spent a whole day with Bonnie and we not only did healing work on each other, we both learned a lot.

In New Orleans, I got on the shuttle for the airport in the rainy pitch-black of 3:20 a.m. and met Kath, a beautiful woman from Australia who is a seeker in many of the same ways as I am. She was on her way to an adventure in Cuba. We talked all the way to the airport, then found ourselves on the same flight, in seats next to each other, and again, talked all the way to Miami. We parted with a big hug and we’re now in touch via Facebook.

In LA, I reconnected with an old boyfriend who is now a dear friend, and has been a flight attendant for the past 20 years. When he heard about my new traveling lifestyle, he set me up with a buddy pass on his airline.

A friend I’ve known since my early days in Hawaii happened to be in LA when I was and saw me on Facebook and invited me to lunch. It was a wonderful reconnection and great to see him. When we said goodbye, he gave me an envelope and said, Open this later. When I got home, I opened it, and out fell $1400 in 100-dollar bills. It turns out that 30 years ago in Hawaii, I had loaned him $500 to buy a motorcycle. I’d forgotten long ago, but he not only remembered, he repaid me plus 30 years of interest.

I almost fell over when I opened that envelope, because I’d been wondering how I would manage, moneywise, over the next couple of months.

It seems the more uncertain my life is, the more space there is for unexpected blessings. I thought it would be a challenge to live this way, and certainly at times it is, but mostly I just feel blessed, and I love the way I’m learning to trust.

So I wasn’t worried about finding a place to stay even though it was Sunday night and my new tenants were moving in on Monday and I did not want to be the landlord crashing on the living-room floor! So I decided I would go out that evening, and just trust that things would fall into place.

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At Honolulu's La Mariana Restaurant with friends Allen and Joe a few days before leaving for Brazil. Allen is the angel who gave me a place to stay while in Honolulu

Within a half-hour of my arriving at the bar, I ran into a friend of mine named Allen, who happened to have an empty house that needed housesitting…for 3 weeks, which was just the amount of time I would be on the island. He even had a car I could use.

Believe me when I say this was not the type of thing that used to happen to me when I was living a safe, conservative life, staying in one place and playing it relatively safe.

I spent the next 3 weeks in Honolulu drawing, painting, writing, and doing the million things required of me before taking off again. And today, as I write this from seat 13A on American Airlines flight 162 from Honolulu to LA, I feel ready for the next phase of the adventure.

(Another unexpected plus just now: one of the flight attendants is an old friend, and he’s been sending me free beer and anything else I want.)

ADDENDUM:

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Kurt and Jacob in rainy L.A.

I’m now in the airport waiting for my flight to Dallas where I connect to my flight for São Paulo. I’ve just spent a wonderful couple of days in LA with my friend Kurt Brown. Kurt and I got a chance to work together on his first e-book (watch for that on my site!) It was great spending time with Kurt and his roommate Jacob, despite the rainy weather while I was there.

So I’m about to get on the plane now. I just checked my e-mail and I see that my friend Dave, who’ll be my host in São Paulo, is throwing a party for me day after tomorrow. Can’t wait!

(Be watching for upcoming Letters from Brazil!)

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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


I left Lincoln, Nebraska on September 2 to fly to New Orleans. My father called me the night before to say, “Have you been watching the weather news?” He wanted me to know there was a tropical storm bearing down on New Orleans with lots of flooding predicted. He didn’t think it was a good time to go.

I went anyway.

No way was I going to miss my first Southern Decadence. I figured the experience of a bunch of gay men drinking, dancing and getting decadent in the streets could only be enhanced by additional moisture. As it turned out, I was right–kind of.

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Early afternoon. Things were just getting started on Saturday.




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Taken from upstairs on the outside balcony of Bourbon Pub Parade



I met lots of new friends, I ran into some friends from Hawaii, I got very wet, and I had a lot of fun dancing in the rain. Only thing I didn’t get was laid. But that was as it should be. I love the idea of sleazy sex in the streets, but what I really want is a romantic connection. Things like Southern Decadence are no longer destinations for me–they’re more like speed bumps. But I’m glad I went, for the lessons learned.

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Sunday evening. I ran back to my hotel and arrived totally soaked.

Sunday evening I returned to my hotel room at 10:30pm and packed because my shuttle to the airport was scheduled for an ungodly hour: 3:20am. There was one other passenger in the shuttle, a tall, beautiful woman from Australia named Kath, with whom I felt an immediate connection. Kath was on her way to spend a month in Havana. She and I talked about healing, energy work, and a myriad of other subjects all the way to the airport, then managed to get seats next to each other on the flight to Miami, and again talked the whole way, despite the small amount of sleep we were both functioning on. When I said goodbye to her in the Miami airport, we exchanged email addresses and gave each other a big hug. Interesting that the strongest connection I made with anyone in my Southern Decadence stopover was a spiritual one.

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Ramses in a painting from the early 90s, and how he looks now

I arrived in Baltimore a few hours later, and there was my old friend Ramses to pick me up. I’d seen him just a few weeks before at Gina’s place in LA, and it was great to see him again so soon. Ramses modeled for me almost 20 years ago, and at 40, he still looks so good he could easily model for me again if he wanted to. He’s been trying to get me to visit him in Baltimore for years and I finally made it.

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Ramses in front of his house

Ramses owns a gorgeous old 3-storey brick house built in the 1890s. He gave me my own room and bathroom on the 3rd floor, and he let me set up my drawing station at one end of his dining-room table.

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Me working in Ramses' dining room

I’ve spent my 10 days here in Baltimore working (drawing every day) and hanging out with Ramses in the evenings, going out for food and drink, and meeting lots of new friends.

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With Ramses and some his (and now my) friends

I’ve also been doing yoga almost every day. In the absence of easy transportation to a yoga class in Baltimore, I’ve created a daily at-home routine using the YouTube videos of Yogatic.com featuring Esther Eckart. These are great yoga videos for home use. I created a playlist of 8 of my favorite Yogatic.com videos to follow and it’s almost as good as going to a class. The challenges of being on the road for months at a time mean I must take good care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, and my yoga practice is a big part of that.

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Doing yoga in Ramses' living room

While I was in Baltimore I finished a new colored-pencil drawing of Sam, and filled a good portion of my newest sketchbook. I even did a drawing of Ramses with his beloved (spoiled) cat Maxwell.

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New colored-pencil drawing of Sam I finished while in Baltimore

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Ramses and his cat Maxwell!

Tomorrow I fly back to Hawaii for a 2-week breather, thus wrapping up the first couple of months of my year-long adventure. I’ll stay in Hawaii for about 2 weeks signing prints, doing catch-up work with my assistant, and doing some painting (that’s one thing I haven’t yet found a way do on the road). Then I’m off again, and the plan is to do South America. That’s still taking shape and you’ll be hearing about it soon.

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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


• HANGING OUT WITH KELLY
• DRAWING, WRITING, PUBLISHING
• HEALING STUFF
• WHERE TO NEXT?

HANGING OUT WITH KELLY

I’ve now been in Lincoln, Nebraska staying with my sister Kelly for 2 weeks.

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I like staying with my sister Kelly because she’s very supportive of my art and she always gives me a great space in which to be creative. Plus she likes to hang out, drink beer, listen to music, and talk about art, design, books, being an entrepreneur, cute boys, and other stuff we both like…so we have fun.

My dad has been generous and loaned me his truck so I have transportation. And I’m spending time with my mom, PJ, who is in a memory-care center (more about that below under Healing Stuff).

I’ve also found a yoga studio where I can take classes, and a great YMCA where I can work out. So I’m staying in shape mentally, physically, spiritually…and of course I’m drawing, writing and publishing.


DRAWING, WRITING, PUBLISHING

While in Lincoln, I’ve been very productive. I completed a sketchbook…

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A few pages from my latest sketchbook, 2009-2011, which contains 80 pages of drawings

I’ve produced a new group of rough sketches…

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Some of my latest bunch of rough sketches. Click on the image to see the Rough Sketches Gallery on my website.

and I put together and published my 4th e-book, Brazilian Boys.

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The cover and some of the page spreads from my 4th and latest e-book, Brazilian Boys (don't worry, the images are not censored in the e-book)

And there’s something else I’ve been doing…



HEALING STUFF

While I’m in Lincoln, I’m spending time with my mom, PJ, who is 82, has dementia and is in a memory care facility. Her awareness of the world around her comes and goes. This would be a very sad and frustrating thing for me if it were not for Quantum Touch.

A couple of years ago, I came across a book called Quantum Touch, which claimed anyone could learn how to heal others. I read that and thought, okay, I doubt it, but I’m intrigued. I took the book home and started doing exercises in “running energy”.

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This is the book that turned me on to Quantum Touch

I was surprised to discover I really COULD feel the energy in my body, and could influence it just by intention. I wondered what it would be like to try the Quantum Touch techniques on another person.

A few days after that, my Brazilian Portuguese tutor, Luzia, called me up and said she couldn’t make our scheduled Portuguese lesson because her homeopath had given her an injection and missed the vein. Her right arm and hand were swollen and incredibly painful. I told her, Hey, why don’t you come over anyway? There’s something I’d like to try on you.

She was in so much pain she said okay, I’ll try anything. So she came over to my apartment and I had her sit on my couch and I sat next to her and laid my hands gently on her arm (VERY gently–she was in so much pain she could hardly stand to have me touch it), and “ran energy” into it for the next hour or so.

What happened amazed us both.

I found I could not only feel the energy buzzing in my hands, I could actually feel the energy moving in her body as well. And I could feel the nature of the energy changing as her arm responded.

It took about 45 minutes of “running energy” for the pain to go from a 10 to a 2 and for the swelling to reduce noticeably. (The next day, Luzia told me the pain was almost completely gone and her arm looked and felt normal again.)

I was blown away, not only by the fact that the technique worked, but also by my experience of actually feeling energy move in another person’s body.

That was my first experience with Quantum Touch, and since then, I’ve done it a lot, and learned a lot. And it’s not a totally unselfish thing; the healing happens to me, too. I’ve learned to love the sensation of connection and well-being that happens when I’m acting as a channel for that healing energy.

So when I visit PJ in the memory-care facility, I tell her, I’m going to run some energy on you now. She says okay, and I sit next to her, put my hands on her shoulders or her arms or hold her hands, and begin breathing and focusing. My hands start to buzz and I start to feel her body relaxing and responding. PJ gets very calm. Sometimes she goes to sleep. And sometimes she starts humming. I think of it as purring.

I don’t expect to reverse her dementia or anything like that. One of the things I’ve learned about running energy is that having expectations really gets in the way. I’m just there to provide healing energy and whatever happens, happens. And what happens is, PJ feels calmer, stronger and better for my having been there. That’s a gift, for both of us.


WHERE TO NEXT?

There’s a wild event in New Orleans I’ve always wanted to attend, but living in Hawaii, everything always seemed (and was) so far away. Now that I’m in Nebraska, New Orleans seems so close! So in a few days, I’m going to experience Southern Decadence for the first time. After that experience—and I will report on it!—it’s off to Baltimore, my first time in that city, to visit my friend Ramses. Then in mid-September, back to Hawaii for a few days to check in, sign prints, and get a little dose of the islands before I take off again…

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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


MALIBU PHOTO SHOOT: STEVE CHEN



As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve just embarked on a year-long journey.

I left Hawaii July 10 for Los Angeles, the first stop. I’ve been here for a little over 2 weeks, and I’ve just completed the first male-nude photo shoot of my trip so far.

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Steve Chen in a photograph by David Smith

I met Steve Chen through fellow photographers David Smith (Hawaii) and Kurt Brown (California). I’d seen some of the photographs and thought he looked great! On top of that, both David and Kurt said Steve was a sweetheart, easy to work with and just a really nice guy. I like to hear reports like that. So I was eager to meet him.

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Some of the test shots I took of Steve when we first met.

Steve came to meet me where I was staying, at my friend Gina’s Brentwood apartment. I liked him right away. He’s a very friendly, open, charming guy, and of course he’s handsome and has an amazing body! We talked a bit about the shoot, and other things, and set a date and time.

Two days later we drove to Malibu’s Point Dume State Park. Kurt Brown had recommended this spot, saying it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a nice beach with no one else around. That didn’t turn out to be quite accurate. Maybe it was because it was just getting into the really nice summer weather and Kurt was used to going there in the winter…or maybe we were just unlucky…but we hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and found beach after beach that was beautiful and would have made a great location–but had picnickers and sunbathers already on them.

We were both getting pretty frustrated, but we kept hiking and hiking–I know we covered several miles and I am not a very enthusiastic hiker!–until finally, at a point very far from where we’d begun, we found a spot with no one else around.

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That’s where I was finally able to start shooting in earnest. The sun cooperated by coming out in full force at just about that time, too, so from being very frustrated and tired, I went to being very excited and energized within a few minutes. I ultimately shot over 2000 images of Steve and was very happy with the results.

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Just a few of the over 2000 images I shot of Steve at Point Dume.

We drove back to L.A. late that afternoon, both feeling tired but content: Steve because he felt he’d done a good job (he did) and me because I had so much great new material to work from!

I wasted no time, and within 3 days I had several new rough sketches of Steve, in both pencil and colored pencil. There will be many more! (Click on the sketches to see them on my website.)

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And the first Steve Chen photo shoot gallery went up on the Simonson On Location on July 28. Again, there will be many more!

Letter fm LA

Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


PART 1: ESCAPE from STUFF!

I am in Los Angeles, having finally made my escape from Hawaii.

I don’t mean that quite like it sounds. It’s not about an escape from Hawaii. The “escape” has more to do with getting rid of possessions which had begun to possess me. The final days before I left were all about dealing with all that…STUFF. I was selling stuff, giving away stuff, throwing away stuff, and still keeping way too much stuff. There are boxes and boxes of it at my office.

But there’s a plan to get rid of it.

Each time I come back for a week-long check-in visit to Hawaii (the first one will be in September), I will sort through more of it and get rid of more of it. I’ve realized getting rid of stuff is a major theme for me these days.

So…going on this year-long journey is not so much about the travel as about the LETTING GO and LIGHTENING UP.

And even though I headed for the airport on Sunday with a huge suitcase weighing 60 lbs. and a very stuffed carry-on, it feels great to know this is all the stuff I need to have in my life right now. Plus I will lighten and refine the load during my travels, as it becomes clearer what’s really essential and what’s not.

PART 2: REUNION WITH GINA AND RAMSES IN L.A.

GINA has been a significant part of my artistic life ever since that day in Honolulu in 1986 when the phone rang and I picked it up to hear a female voice saying, “Hi, you don’t know me but I’ve seen your art and my boyfriend would be a PERFECT MODEL for you!” The boyfriend was indeed a perfect model. He is long gone, but Gina and I are still friends 25 years later, and when I’m in LA she is the person I stay with.

One of our best and most memorable times together was in Brazil in 2004 when I did my first Brazilian male-nude photo shoot as a direct result of Gina’s finding a boy on the beach who became my Rio talent scout. My friend Ramses was also on that trip, and the three of us totally bonded as a result of our Brazilian adventure together.

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This is us in Brazil in 2004: Luiz, Gina, Ramses, Douglas. (Luiz, also known as Gui, is the Brazilian boy Gina met by chance on the beach who became my Brazil talent scout and 'events coordinator'. He's an actor in Canada these days.)

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Ramses and Gina on the beach at Ipanema during our Brazil trip.

As it turns out, Ramses is on the West Coast at the moment, and has altered his plans so he can come to LA and hang out with us. So it’s a big reunion and the three of us are having a great time hanging out, catching up, and having some new adventures!

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This is us in LA in 2011. Gina, Gina's cousin AJ, Ramses, Douglas. (Fiesta Cantina on Santa Monica)

PART 3: CREATING ART ON THE ROAD

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On the left, a pencil sketch of some palm trees I saw while walking to get groceries in Brentwood. On the right, a colored-pencil drawing of Nohea I've been working on that's about 60% finished.

It’s been a challenge finding time to draw, since I’m staying with two of my favorite people in the world to hang out with. But I’ve been managing. I’ve started a colored-pencil drawing of Nohea that I really like so far. I spend a few hours on it each day. Also did a little sketch of L.A. palm trees.

PART 4: NEEDING SOME ALONE TIME: SETTING BOUNDARIES

Being on the road means spending a lot more time in other people’s spaces.

I’ve been having a wonderful time hanging with Gina and Ramses but I’m realizing something. I am the kind of person who loves being with people, but I can’t do it for too long at a time. I gather energy and find myself by being alone. I get my best ideas, have my clearest reflections and am at my most creative when I’m by myself. Usually I have a LOT of alone time, and I like it. Now that I’m traveling I find I’m with people much of the time and I’m not used to that.

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Even though I was having an emotional meltdown I still caught some nice images of our evening in Santa Monica on my iPhone.

Last night I had a kind of emotional meltdown because I went out (to the Santa Monica Pier and Promenade area)with Gina and Ramses even though I was already in need of alone time and hadn’t taken it. It was not pretty, but fortunately all was forgiven and we’re all still friends. I’m learning that it’s okay to say, “Guys, I need some alone time,” and go for a walk or to Starbucks or, if one’s available, just shut myself in a room for awhile.

Sometimes I just need to recharge my batteries!

PART 5: PHOTOGRAPHERS AND MODELS

KURT BROWN AND A BEAUTIFUL NEW MODEL


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I went to lunch with my friend Kurt Brown, a terrific photographer who lives here in LA and who also specializes in the male nude. We talked about everything, but especially models and shooting them and marketing ourselves. I told him all about my e-books, how much fun they are to create and how well they’re selling, and I may be working with him on producing an e-book of his photographs. We also shared lunch with Darius Dio, a stunning 26-year-old who models all over the world (see photos above). He’s a very down-to-earth, easy-going guy, and we talked about working together sometime soon.

PHOTO SHOOT WITH STEVE CHEN

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I’m meeting with Steve Chen (shown above in a shot by David Smith), a bodybuilder who lives here in LA, on Monday, and if all goes well, we’ll do a shoot on Wednesday, probably in Malibu. Steve has worked with my friend Kurt Brown in LA and my friend David Smith in Hawaii. I’m looking forward to photographing his beautiful face and body in the California sun.

PART 6: LOS ANGELES IS F**KING COLD!

I am always amazed at how COLD it is in LA. It seems the whole world has this idea that LA is a hot, sunny place where you can run around in a swimsuit all the time. That sure hasn’t ever been my experience. I always pack a jacket and/or a sweater when I’m coming to LA. It’s July and I just went out to get some groceries and even in the middle of a sunny day I got chilly as soon as I stepped into the shade. And at night, forget it. You will need to bundle up.

I’m not like most people, I guess. I actually enjoy 85-90 degrees and high humidity and no breeze.

With Albuquerque in July being my next stop, I will probably get to find out what it’s like at 100 degrees and NO humidity. Bring it!


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