Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

Click on the image to go to the blog entry.

Header letter stodomingo 1
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 1:
Arrival in the Dominican Republic,
and Photo Shoot with Muscleboy Jeison

Letter fm sto domingo part2 B
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 2:
Dominican Boys Gone Wild

Ltr fm sto domingo part3
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 3:
Javier: The Boy Can’t Help It

Ltr fm sto domingo part4
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 4:
TROUBLE, and Getting Wet in Cabarete

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

Ltr fm sto domingo part4

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

December 3, 2012



Lasterrenas beach shot


This is the story of my final photo shoot in the Dominican Republic in December 2012.

After 3 successful photo shoots, I felt like I had accomplished everything I’d set out to do in the Dominican Republic, and more. I planned to spend the last few days on the island just hanging out at the hostel and doing some sketches from all my new material.

But I kept thinking about Manuel.

Manuel was the beautiful boy Julio and I had discovered just a few hours before leaving Las Terrenas to return to Santo Domingo.

Javier manuel

Javier (left) and his friend Manuel, whom we met on the way back from Javier's photo shoot.

I didn’t know if I wanted to make the trek (4 hours each way, which means spending the night there) to Las Terrenas, just to photograph one model. And Julio had to work, so I wouldn’t have his company and his assistance. But Manuel kept calling, so I knew there was a good chance that if I went back, the photo shoot would really happen. Finally, I decided I would kick myself if I passed this up. I called Manuel to make sure he would be available, and the next morning caught a bus to Las Terrenas.

2 shot manuel

I arrived in the late afternoon, and almost as soon as I stepped off the bus, there was Manuel, who just happened to be riding his motorbike near the bus station. We arranged to meet for a beer later to discuss the details of tomorrow’s photo shoot.

By now I knew Las Terrenas fairly well and checked into the place where I’d stayed a couple of weeks before on my first visit. That evening I went to Big Dan’s and hung out with some of my Las Terrenas friends, and when Manuel showed up we sat down and talked. (We were able to communicate as soon as I made him understand that he had to speak to me S-L-O-W-L-Y. I was still far from understanding rapid-fire Dominican Spanish.)

I’d been glad to see that Manuel had his own motorbike, so transportation would be no problem.

Except, I found out, it wasn’t his.

It was borrowed from a friend, and he would have to rent one. But that was no problem, he said, just give me 300 pesos and another 150 pesos for gas and then I can drive us to the beach and back. I had a feeling I was being played, but I also knew that 450 pesos for transportation to and from the beach was not a bad deal. So I said okay and gave him the money and we agreed he would pick me up at 8am the next morning in front of my hotel.


Right on time

Manuel showed up just 5 minutes late, which in Dominican time is 25 minutes early.

From long experience, I know how challenging it can be to get models to show up for a photoshoot. But once again my luck held. The next morning, at just 5 minutes after 8, Manuel pulled up on his motoconcho, ready to go. And off we went.

There was just one little problem.


We were about halfway to the beach when it started sprinkling. Then it started to rain harder. We were on the back of a motorbike with no protection so I had Manuel stop and we took shelter under a tree.

Manuel in rain 1

Taking shelter from the rain #1

While we waited for the rain to stop, I figured, what the hell, I’m gonna start shooting. No rule says it has to be at the beach and it has to be sunny. The diffused light of a cloudy/rainy day can be quite beautiful. And a back road in Las Terrenas was not a bad backdrop.

Manuel in rain2

Taking shelter from the rain #2

So I told Manuel where to stand, and started taking photographs. I shot over 100 photographs (some pretty nice!) while the rain played itself out, then we hopped back on the bike and went to the beach.

On the trail

On the trail to Playa Escondida.

When we got there we hiked to Playa Escondida, the place I’d discovered through Javier. Manuel, who’d lived in Las Terrenas his whole life, claimed he’d never been there and hadn’t even known it existed. (That could very well be the truth, since from what I’ve seen, the Dominican culture on the whole is anything but beach-oriented. Most Dominicans never go in the ocean and don’t even know how to swim. With rare exceptions, like Javier, the only people we saw on the beach and in the ocean were tourists.)


Just arrived

Just arrived at Playa Escondida.

By now the rainclouds had mostly dissipated and while it was still a bit overcast, it was turning out to be a fairly nice day. Manuel was looking beautiful, although there were some hints of diva behavior. I could tell it was not going to be an easy shoot. I got the feeling that Manuel had gotten everything he ever wanted in life just by batting those beautiful long-lashed eyes and acting helpless.

Diva 2up

I prefer to work with beautiful boys who don’t really KNOW how beautiful they are. When I have to work with someone who THINKS he’s beautiful enough that he can charm his way into or out of anything, it’s more work.

But I’m a professional and I’ve worked with all kinds of guys. With the right mix of teasing, cajoling, and scolding, I was able to get some good stuff out of Manuel. He really does have a beautiful face and body, and every once in a while I was able to see the beautiful soul underneath all the adolescent delusions. So while it was more work than any of the photo shoots I’d done in the D.R. up to that point, it was still well within my area of expertise.

Manuel collage

Just the same, I was glad when the shoot was over and we headed back to town. Like many very-good-looking people, Manuel was a lot of work.

But overall, worth the trouble. (And I’m looking forward to translating all that “trouble” into drawings and paintings.)


Back in Santo Domingo, I had one week remaining of my 5-week stay. I had wanted to go to Cabarete, the kite-surfing capital of the Caribbean, for several weeks. At the last minute Julio said he couldn’t make it. I didn’t relish the idea of the 5-hour trip to and from by myself, but I also know how good I am at making new friends. So off I went to Cabarete on a Tuesday morning.

Cabarete bch hostel

Some shots I found online of the Cabarete Beach Hostel, where I reserved a room. These very appealing pictures were taken when it was sunny and warm and there were actually people staying there.

I did meet some interesting people on the bus. I sat next to this 30ish Dominican guy named Diego who was kind of cute, and we started talking. Turns out he is a sculptor and he was very interested in art. So I pulled out the computer and showed him some of my work. I thought he might be gay and maybe something would happen, so I figured showing him my male-nude art would be a good litmus test. Imagine my surprise when after about a half hour of his admiring my art, he turned to me and suggested I paint some female nudes instead of just male ones. He continued by telling me he thought I was a nice guy and he just felt it was his duty to do what he could to help me keep from burning in Hell.

This is something I found interesting and surprising in the D.R.—the degree to which Christian beliefs dominate the culture. And I mean, they really BELIEVE. I am not a Christian, and in fact I have some strong feelings about it, but I’m also more compassionate and accepting than I was in my younger days—better at “live and let live.” So I wasn’t offended or upset by Diego’s wanting to save me…just disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to fool around with him. Anyway, he got off the bus about halfway through the journey.

It’s a long way from Santo Domingo to Cabarete: about 4-1/2 hours on the bus, then another twenty minutes or so in a cab or a smaller bus before you’re finally in Cabarete.

I forgot to mention that during this whole long day it’s been raining, and the rain has gotten heavier as we’ve neared the northern coast. I’d hoped the rain would lessen as I got nearer my destination, but instead it got heavier. So when I finally arrived in Cabarete at the beach hostel where I’d made reservations, it was chilly, dark, and pouring rain.

Like the weather, the Cabarete Beach Hostel was also not quite what I’d been hoping for.

From the photos I’d seen online, it looked great for the price—$12 a night! And I’m sure at almost any other time it would have been. But with the wind and the rain and the dark clouds, and the fact that it had recently flooded, and the fact that there was NO ONE around, I found it disappointing and depressing.

Cabarete bch hostel in rain

What the place looked like on the day I arrived.

Brenda, the staffperson on duty when I arrived, was very nice and showed me to my room. It was spartan, to say the least, but I expected that. The real problem was that they’d had several days of rain and everything was wet. Either downright wet, or just damp. Even the sheets, while not really WET, were kind of…damp. Not totally damp, just damp enough that when you sat on them it was not pleasant. I didn’t want to think about sleeping on them.

My room cabarete bch hostel

My room. I did like the colors…

On top of that, there was supposed to be wi-fi but I couldn’t seem to get online. After about 20 minutes of trying to connect, sitting on the edge of my damp bed in my damp, chilly little closet, the power went off completely. I decided to take that as a sign. I packed up and left.

(I don’t want to dump too much on the Cabarete Beach Hostel. I actually like the rustic beach-shack feeling of the place, and in hot sunny weather, with lots of other guests, I’m sure I would’ve been very happy there.)

It was a short walk down the road (which was good because it was still raining) to an area with more hotels.

Other hotel

This is the place I chose instead of the beach hostel.

New room

My room at the hotel, which was just great, except for that painting.

The first one I walked into was $25 a night, which was definitely within my budget, and was nice, with DRY sheets on the bed AND a bathroom AND wi-fi that worked AND a place to have breakfast…I said YES, and moved right in.

So now I had a dry room and wi-fi, but I was not going to just sit in my room. I didn’t care how rainy it was, I was going out, dammit! So I did. Cabarete was not exactly hopping, but I found a pseudo-Irish pub right on the beach, and ended up making friends with all 5 people who were there. Later more people arrived, and I had a fun evening and met some very interesting people.

I went back to my room about 11pm and went to bed. Interestingly, I had one of the most restful nights of my whole Dominican stay. Two things: no mosquitoes, and a cool enough evening that I actually was comfortable under the covers. And the bed was just the right firmness. Who knew?

The next morning I woke up in my comfy, dry room and looked out onto a wet world. It was still raining.

I’d had enough. Especially after checking the online weather report and seeing a forecast of at least two more days of rain. I decided I was going back to Santo Domingo on the noon bus.

Cabarete bch scene

Cabarete bch scene2

The rain stopped for a couple of hours and allowed me to see Cabarete the way it should be.

Before I left, though, I wanted to get some beach shots, and miraculously, the clouds parted for a couple of hours and I got some nice photographs—before it started raining again. I think Cabarete is beautiful, I like the vibe, and I just know it would be lots of fun when the weather’s nice and there are more people around. I definitely want to visit again sometime in the future.


I went back to Santo Domingo and spent a relaxing final week. Well, not all relaxing—during my final weekend, I partied like a rock star with both old and new friends. I danced the night away at a couple of bars I’d never been to before, and I don’t even remember everything that happened. I’m pretty sure I had a really good time.

Julio took me out to dinner the night before I left and we talked about what a great time it had been, and how many wonderful people we’d both met and what great experiences we had. He made me promise to come back soon.

I left the Dominican Republic on December 11. As I write this, I’m back in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the snow is piled high around my house. No problem…I’m snug in my cozy studio and I’ve already begun painting warm tropical scenes from the wealth of new images I brought back with me.

And, of course, planning my next tropical adventure.

If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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

Ltr fm sto domingo part3 B

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

November 26, 2012




Albachiara pool


After my successful Dominican-boys-gone-wild photo shoot in Las Terrenas, I was ready to relax around the pool.

I’d accomplished what I set out to do and I was feeling good. So our last full day in Las Terrenas was going to be a quiet, restful one.

Julio and Grischa decided to take a dip in the ocean, since the beach was right in front of our hotel and it was a beautiful day. I had toyed with the idea of taking my computer down to the pool to catch up on work. But then I looked out from the terrace and caught a glimpse of the ocean and I thought, the hell with this. I’m gonna go hang out with the guys at the beach.

Following grischa and julio

I followed Julio and Grischa as they strolled down the beach. It was a perfect day for relaxing.

So I walked down to the beach and jumped into the ocean with Julio and Grischa. The water was warm and the sun was hot. Perfect, I thought. Then the guys decided to take a walk down the beach and explore, and I followed with my camera, getting some great landscape shots.

Javier first sighting

My eagle eyes spotted a perfect body at the other end of the beach…

There were some nice-looking guys on the beach, too. One in particular. I saw him from a distance and thought, Wow. That’s a nice shape. Beautiful body. As we got closer he still looked good. I shot some photos on the sly, but then walked on and dismissed the guy from my mind. No work today.

Javier first sighting XCU

This is a closeup.


Next thing I know, I turn around and Julio is chatting the guy up. He brings him over to me and says, “This is Javier. He wants to model.”

Oh, wow. I was going to rest today.

But I hadn’t reckoned with Julio. Or with Javier!

Javier posing before

Javier is a jewel: he’s cute, he has a great smile, a warm personality, and of course that body.

On top of that, he has his own motorbike so we not only have the model, we also have transportation to the beach. And he has no problem with our going rate for a photo session. And he’s ready to go. Right now!

How could I turn that down?

Ds w javier before

Here I'm chatting with Javier just before Julio and I climbed onto the back of his motoconcho for a ride to a secluded beach.


Just arrived

Here we've just arrived at the spot where we started our hike to the hidden beach.

Julio and I climb on Javier’s bike and a few minutes later we’re at a beach I had visited earlier in my location search, Playa Bonita. We dismount, and Javier leads us into the jungle, up over a little ridge, and down a rocky trail to a beach I didn’t even know was there, called Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach).

Playa escondida

First view of Playa Escondida.

I was sticking to my previous winning strategy: I told Javier he didn’t have to do full frontal nudity. He could hide his privates with his suit or a towel or his hand, whatever was available at the moment. He was fine with that.

Ds works w javier

By this point (3 weeks into my stay in the D.R.) my Spanish had kicked in sufficiently that I was able to direct Javier pretty easily, although there were times when I was glad Julio was there to translate.

Javier collage sized

Even though I’d felt like spending the day relaxing, of course I got into it, and had a great time shooting Javier. He was as much fun as the 4 guys had been on the previous day’s shoot, with the difference that it’s much easier to photograph one guy than trying to coordinate four guys.

We’d brought beer, so the already-relaxed Javier was getting even more relaxed as the shoot continued.


Javier intent

Javier very intent on something.

After a couple of hours, just as I was running out of ideas and thinking it was almost time to finish up, I was taking some random shots of Javier just sitting and relaxing on a rock on the beach. Except he didn’t really seem relaxed. He didn’t seem tense, either…just INTENT. He kept looking down at the hand that was covering his crotch. Except it didn’t seem to be doing a very good job of covering everything, because everything was growing.

The next thing I knew, he opened his hand a bit and a big erection popped out. And Javier started laughing. He wasn’t at all embarrassed or mortified that he had gotten excited—he thought it was hilarious! And he was enjoying being photographed in his excited state.

Javier laughing censored

Javier's big surprise.

Needless to say, Julio and I were enjoying it too. Who would’ve thought this kind of happy surprise would happen in a “no-frontal-nudity” photo shoot?

Javier lettingallhangout

Letting it all hang out is a lot more fun than holding it all in.

I proceeded to get as many shots as possible of Javier in this condition, and I got quite a few. He said, Does this mean I get paid extra? I said Yeah, I think that can be arranged.

NOTE ABOUT THE CENSORED IMAGES: My practice is to not show full-frontal nudity on this blog. But you can see uncensored images of Javier by purchasing any or all of the selection of photographic prints of him I released a few weeks after I returned from my Dominican trip. Because the selection on my website rotates, I can’t guarantee they’ll be online at this moment, but sooner or later they’ll pop up (no pun intended!). Just click here to visit my website and navigate to the photographs section.

And that was that. Another exciting day in Las Terrenas. Javier got dressed, we all packed up, and hiked back to his motorbike, and then rode back into town.

As we were riding down the back streets of Las Terrenas on the way back to our hotel, I was thinking, Wow, two photo shoots in two days. I’m so glad Julio is around or this wouldn’t have happened. The next thing I know, Julio has yelled “Stop!” and Javier has stopped the motorbike. What’s going on? I asked.

Turns out Julio just couldn’t quit. He had seen another potential model and said, We have to talk to this guy!

And that’s how we met Manuel.


Javier manuel

Javier and his friend Manuel.

Manuel was just gorgeous, with a beautiful body and a beautiful face with dark eyes and long, dark lashes. He turned out to be a friend of Javier’s (Las Terrenas is not a big town). Julio began talking to him about modeling, and Javier was also very helpful, letting Manuel know that he had just done some modeling for me and it was great! And you don’t even have to show everything, he said. This from a guy who had just shown us everything and more. Hilarious!

Manuel was very interested in modeling. And I was interested in photographing him. But it was already late afternoon and we were leaving early the next morning.

I got his number, but didn’t really think anything would happen…I couldn’t imagine making the long trek back to Las Terrenas for a third time before leaving the Dominican Republic.

Little did I know.


If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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

Letter fm sto domingo part2 B

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

November 25, 2012



IMG 0533


I was feeling great.

I had just completed my first model shoot in the Dominican Republic, with a very hot guy named Jeison. I had some of my confidence back after well over a year with no new models. Plus I had several hundred exciting new images for drawing and painting from.

So of course I started worrying.

You know how the mind works. It’s never happy with what just happened. It has to look for problems. I heard it asking, “What will you do now? Where will you find more models? You have no idea what you’re going to do next! What if you don’t find any? What if nothing works??”

I used to believe all the bullshit my mind comes up with.

But I have developed skills over the years. I have learned to take a deep breath and say, “Thank you for sharing, Mind” and return my focus to my body, where peace and calm live, rather than staying in my head where everything is fear and dread and worry, worry, worry.


So…I decided it was time to go scouting for locations.

Sometimes you look for models first, sometimes locations. I don’t have a rule for this. I just do what seems to be up for me at the moment, and what came up was, go to Las Terrenas.

The more I heard about this little beach town on the northeast shore of the Dominican Republic, the more intrigued I became. I’d seen photographs of beautiful, deserted beaches, and I dared to hope I could find one. Maybe even several.

I also had a feeling that if I could find the location, I could find the model. Or models.

* * * * *

Okay. Now I’m on a bus from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas. We’re 3 hours into the 3-1/2 hour trip, and we’re coming down out of the lush green mountains and I catch my first glimpse of the northern shore of the island.

Firstglimpse las terrenas

My first glimpse of the coastline from the bus.

And a long, long, palm-fringed beach with blue-green ocean behind.

My breath catches in my throat.

It’s exactly what I had been dreaming of. It’s picture-perfect. I can’t wait to get closer to it.

Playa coson closer

Another look at that long, long beach from slightly closer.

Once I arrive in Las Terrenas, I check into a hotel for the night, and the next morning I go looking for a motoconcho (motorcycle taxi) to take me back to that amazing-looking beach.

This turned out to be harder than I thought.

All the motoconcho guys have these standard places they like to take you—all places where all the tourists like going, which means they’re exactly the places I don’t want to go.

But try explaining that to someone who has this standard routine and thinks he knows what you want so he isn’t really listening, and he doesn’t understand your fractured Spanish anyway.

Even when I eventually managed to explain (I thought) what I wanted to the guy (his name was Jorge), he still wound up taking me places I didn’t want to go. But finally, after much fruitless riding around to the wrong places and more explanation, he understood. And I got him to take me to the beach I’d seen from the bus.

Jorge on bike

Jorge, who finally took me to the beach I'd been asking him to take me to all along.

It was called Playa Cosón.

I called it fabulous. It was exactly what I was looking for, and it wasn’t even that far from town.

Playa coson upclose

Playa Cosón. I finally got there, and it was gorgeous. And empty!

I had a location! I got back on the bus that afternoon and returned to Santo Domingo. I couldn’t wait to tell Julio, my new comrade-in-arms and fellow model-hunter, what I’d found. He was excited, too, since he was also new to the island and wanted to explore some new places and have a little adventure.

Which was just what was in store.


One of the things I love about hostels is all the interesting new people I meet. As I was having breakfast on Monday morning prior to going to catch the bus for Las Terrenas with Julio, my new German friend Grischa sat down next to me. When I told him what I was doing that day, he took another bite, chewed, thought for a moment and then said: “You know, I’d love to come with you guys on the bus, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” I said. “Fine with me. But you have to be ready in 20 minutes.”

He was. Soon Julio, Grischa and I were on the bus headed north to Las Terrenas.

Julio grischa on bus

Grischa and Julio on the bus.

During the trip, the three of us—the two gay guys from the U.S. and Mexico, and the straight guy from Germany—got to know each other. Grischa had been looking at the free tourist guide from Las Terrenas and found this beautiful (and expensive-looking) hotel. He thought the three of us should pool our resources and get a room there.

This was not sounding good to me. I was on a budget. And I had to have money to pay models, assuming I could find some. How could I afford an expensive hotel?

Not to mention I had already made reservations for Julio and myself at the inexpensive place where I’d stayed on the previous visit.


Let's just take a look.

But Grischa is a salesman, and a good one. When we arrived he said, “Let’s just go look at the place.” Of course then it was all over. They showed us a two-story, 3-bedroom Playboy Mansion of a suite with a wide terrace overlooking perfectly manicured grounds and a big pool with coconut palms around it. Grischa charmed the female manager, Josefina, and got us a we-can’t-possibly-pass-this-up price.

It cost me a one-night cancellation fee at the cheaper place. But it was worth it. Once again I was reminded by the universe that I don’t have to live small.

3musketeers 5up

The three musketeers in their new luxury apartment; lunch in Las Terrenas; Grischa charming Josefina; the view; our terrace.

I was also reminded how great it is to be open to making new friends and having fun with them. We went out for dinner, then went drinking, and by the end of the night we were best friends—the Three Musketeers on a wild weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week adventure.


Meanwhile, I had been thinking about my next photo shoot and I’d started picturing something crazy:

Frat boys getting drunk and naked during Spring Break.

This is a theme that’s always intrigued me. Yes, I have bought those Boys Gone Wild DVDs where two girls go around with a video camera during Spring Break and ask guys to get naked for the camera. And yes, I love those online photos where a bunch of guys are swimming naked or streaking or just drunk and naked at a party, holding their beer bottles in front of their crotches. I’m not one of those gay men who pursues straight men, but I still get excited looking at pictures of the wild straight boy in his native habitat.


Boys gone wild!

But of course this was not something I could actually SET UP. Especially in the Dominican Republic.

Was it?

My new willingness to do a not-so-nude photo shoot, like the previous week’s shoot with Jeison, had started me thinking about the possibilities. Seems like when you tell a straight boy it’s not a totally nude photo shoot, that he doesn’t have to “show everything”, all of a sudden it seems okay. It’s no longer threatening. He gets to protect his private parts!

What if I found 4 or 5 young Dominican guys who wanted to make a little money and told them their job was just to let me photograph them carousing and having a good time on the beach, mostly naked but they never had to show their dicks?

It could work.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought, I HAVE to try this.

Of course meanwhile my Mind is going OFF. “You’re disgusting. You are a pervert. You are a pedophile. You are SICK.”

Thank you for sharing, Mind.


The next morning we got up and had a big, delicious breakfast and coffee brought up to our luxury apartment. It was a gorgeous day and we surveyed our beautiful tropical grounds and huge pool and we were kings of the world. (Well, maybe a king, a queen and a princess, LOL.)

Then the Mind started in again.

“You’re such an idiot. You think you’re just gonna go out there and find models? In one day? This will never work. You might as well just give up. You’ve failed before, you’re gonna fail again. Just give up, it’s never gonna happen.”

See how my mind works? You see the shit I have to put up with to do my job?

I’m telling you this so you don’t think I’m any different from anybody else. We all have this stuff going on. If you don’t, I’d like to meet you.

Thank you for sharing, Mind! Now excuse me, I have things to do!

Julio w motoconcho guy

Julio talking with motoconcho guys.

As soon as we finished our coffee, Julio and I went out to the street across from our hotel and found a couple of motoconcho guys, and explained to them what we wanted to do. It was much easier with native-Spanish-speaker Julio along, and pretty soon we were bouncing along the bumpy streets of Las Terrenas, stalking the wild model!

Benito jorge nino julio

Model hunting via motoconcho. From left: Benito, Jorge, Nino, Julio. (Jorge and Nino were our two motoconcho drivers.)

Like being on safari. Only we didn’t need weapons or nets. I would just yell “Stop!” (to the motoconcho driver, not the guy!) when I saw a cute guy, and then we would hop off and go talk to the guy. Well, Julio would talk to the guy. And I would help.

I couldn’t believe how ballsy I was being. But we didn’t have a lot of time, and I figured if anything would work, this would. Plus, having Julio along made me braver.

Jorge talking to potential

Jorge talking to a potential model.

After an hour or so of cruising around the town, we had talked to about a dozen different guys, and we had 4 or 5 of them lined up to come to the hotel room at noon for an interview. We just had time to get back and grab a bite before they started showing up.

Ds luis

The last guy we met was Luis. Here I'm telling him what I had in mind for the photo shoot.

A lot of them started showing up.

Turns out word had gotten out that this American photographer was looking for male models, and now we had TOO MANY guys. But hey, better to have too many than too few. So we sat them down and started the interview.


I made them take off their shirts and twirl for me. (The two whose faces you can see are Jochi, 3rd from left, and Benito, 4th from left.)

I was wondering, as I talked to them and Julio translated, how we were going to whittle down the number. But then we told them our pay scale. About half of them decided to leave at that point. They had obviously gotten the wrong idea about the scope and resources of this production!

But that was fine with me. These tended to be the guys with attitude anyway, and that was not what I was looking for. The guys I needed for this shoot had to be cute and appealing, but they didn’t have to be drop-dead gorgeous. I was more interested in the chemistry than the surface.

After a half-hour of interviews with the remaining guys we were down to just two, Benito and Jochi (HO-chee). Neither was gorgeous, but they were both cute and had decent bodies and had a nice energy.

Still, things were not looking great. Two models wasn’t enough. I did have hopes that another guy we had talked to would show up at 2, but didn’t know if that was going to happen. And even if he did show up, and he was suitable, we would still only have 3 models.

I sat down and resolved not to worry about it.

And then, a few minutes later, Luis showed up. With his friend Leandro!

Luis leandro

Luis and his friend Leandro.

We sat them down and had a short talk, and they were both fine with the payscale, and they both had a good energy, and they were both cute.

Oh my god! I had my four models! And they were all available for the rest of the afternoon!

Julio said, “Are you sure you want to try to do the photo shoot now? Wouldn’t it be better to wait until tomorrow morning?” I had to explain something to him. In this particular game, getting everything in place at one time is a bit of a miracle. You don’t let that moment pass by…you jump on it!

And that’s what we did.

In the van

We're all loaded up in the van, about to leave for the beach.

Buying booze

On the way to the beach we stopped for beer and rum. This is Leandro.

Thirty minutes later we were at the beach, with a case of Presidente beer, a bottle of rum, and some towels. We piled out of the van (which would be waiting for us while we did the shoot) and started hiking down the beach…that same long, beautiful beach I had seen from the bus several days before.


As we hiked, I started photographing. I had them take off their shirts, which is not something most Dominican boys will do in public. But they were already getting into the spirit of things.

Taking off shirts

On the way to the location…

We had to hike through some unexpectedly challenging areas.

Unexpectedly rugged

This is me keeping my clothes and camera equipment dry on the way to the location.

Almost there

Almost there.

Then we arrived and made a toast to a successful photo shoot.


We're there!

Soon I had them running into the water with instructions to pull off each other’s shorts, and come out of the water naked and holding their shorts in front of them. With a lot of shouting and laughing, they did exactly that, and I thought: BINGO!


I love these guys.

Ds shooting el grupo collage

This turned into a nearly-3-hour session where the guys just kept getting more relaxed with each other and having more fun. The beer and rum certainly helped, but a lot of it was just the fact that I had weeded out the guys who wouldn’t have been fun, and kept the ones who had a nice chemistry. The four of them were perfect together and I got exactly the kind of energy I had been hoping for.


Just the kind of crazy fun I had been hoping for.


When it got too dark to take more shots, we all hiked back to the van and drove back to town, where I took the whole bunch out for pizza, which they devoured happily. It was a perfect day, filled with unexpected synchronicities.

Pizza after

I felt like I’d gotten good stuff, but it was only when I looked at the photographs at length that evening in our apartment that I saw what I had done: I had created exactly the photo shoot I had been picturing in my mind. Only better!

It was a triumph so great my Mind actually shut up for a while.

The next day was going to be all about resting. With Julio’s help, I had accomplished everything I’d wanted to on my trip to Las Terrenas, and more. I was looking forward to a restful, relaxing day lying by the pool at the hotel.

But that was not to be.


If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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Header letter stodomingo 1

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

November 18, 2012



I’m back in the brown-boy latitudes.

I got out of Nebraska just in time. I flew out of Omaha November 6 in pre-dawn frigid cold. I arrived in Santo Domingo later that day in 90-degrees-plus heat. Sweaty but happy.

Ds zapote batida

Having a zapote batida (kind of like a papaya smoothie) in a restaurant near my hostel.

I’ve rented a room in a hostel in the city’s Zona Colonial. The place is called the Hostel Condo Parque and although I was only going to be here for the first week, I like it so much I’m staying the whole 5 weeks.

Zonacolonial scenes

Some random scenes of the Zona Colonial.

The 5 weeks was a pretty random decision. When I purchased my ticket, I looked at the calendar and just chose a departure date and a return date, doing my best to trust my instincts and not overthink it. This is what works for me these days.

Ds in hostel office

My office-away-from-home in the common area of the Hostal Condo Parque.

The Condo Parque is in most respects a typical no-frills third-world hostel, except that it’s owned and managed by a Swiss expatriate named Walter, who is just the kind of low-key, solid, reliable guy you need running a hostel in the Dominican Republic. The place is clean, well-managed, friendly, affordable and convenient. I recommend it highly. (I first stayed in a shared dorm room with 3 beds so I had roommates, and that was fine, but when I decided I was staying longer, I talked to Walter and got a great deal on a nice, big private room with a kitchenette.)

Fruitstand etc

As soon as I’d dumped my stuff at the hostel, I went exploring.

One of the things I love about Latin American places is the street life, and Santo Domingo has a lot of it. I walked out of the hostel and into a bright, humid tropical afternoon filled with shouting street vendors, loud traffic, lots of people on the sidewalks and lots of color, both literally and figuratively. I breathed it in like a tonic, and strolled down the sidewalks, loving it.

And promptly had a panic attack.

I always conveniently forget how scary it can be the first time in a new, unfamiliar country. I’m excited, of course, but there’s a thin line between excitement and fear. So I’m walking around Santo Domingo and I notice how shallow my breathing is and how fast my heart is beating. When I recognize this, I stop, I breathe, I focus, and I do my best to step outside myself. From there I’m able to see the fear for the illusion that it is. This works most of the time (well, I’ve been practicing for a lot of years). Then, calmer and more centered, I continue on my way, able once again to be present and appreciate the adventure.


But I’m not in the D.R. just to soak up a new culture and have adventures. I’m also here to do what I didn’t manage to do last time I was in Brazil: find some hot new models!

I feel like I’m on a make-or-break with the model thing. I got seriously down on myself after not finding a model after 6 weeks in Brazil a year ago (read about that here.) Of course I had no money at the time and no way to pay models even if I’d found one, or several. It just wasn’t meant to be, and I’m not beating myself up about it so much now, but still…I will feel much better on several levels when I manage to once again capture some naked pix of a hot new boy.


After my experience at the MistiChill Hostel in Paraty, Brazil, last year (read about that here), as well as Pura Vida in Rio, I’ve become a confirmed hostel-goer. My introduce-myself-to-everyone-with-no-hesitation method of creating instant new social circles works very well in hostels, and the Condo Parque was no exception. After 24 hours in Santo Domingo I already had a dozen new friends and was having a great time.

Newfriends collage

Fun with new friends I've met at the hostel.


I tried going out to the gay bars in Santo Domingo as soon as I arrived, but it was early in the week, and it’s a weekends-only scene here, unless you are interested in hustlers, which I’m not. I had some encounters with the very aggressive hustlers but I have enough experience in this area (think Brazil) that I know how to rid myself of them pretty easily.

But I was looking forward to a place where I could meet some regular non-hustler gay people.

I went to a bar called NYC on Thursday night, which is the first night of the weekend here, I guess, and was so turned off by the heavy hustler presence all around the front door that I didn’t even go in. But across the street was the other bar I wanted to check out, Esedeku (the phonetic spelling of SDQ, the Santo Domingo airport code). So I went over there, and to my relief, there were no hustlers, just regular, friendly people. Right away I started talking to the tall, good-looking guy behind the bar. His name was Julio.


My new friend Julio.

It turned out Julio was the owner of the bar. He’s Mexican, from Puerto Vallarta, and he was new to the Dominican Republic—he had just bought the bar and moved to Santo Domingo two months before, from San Francisco. I told him about my model hunt, and he said he’d love to help me in any way he could. In fact, he immediately suggested I consider his bartender Jeison, who is a bodybuilder and is actually pretty hot.


This is Julio's bar, Esedeku, in the light of day. The terrace on top is where I interviewed my first potential model.

Lots of people tell me they would love to help me with my model shoots, and usually they’re not very serious. To my surprise, Julio turned out to be the exception. The next day, he called and invited me to come with him to his gym and we could see if there’s anybody there that I like, and if so, he could introduce us.

That’s what we did, and I met a couple of guys right away through Julio. He was happy to go up to them and do the talking. I loved it! Even after all these years, the initial moment of going up to guys and talking to them about modeling still scares me and ties my stomach up in knots, and when I have somebody who’s happy to go up and meet the guys and do the hard work for me, I’m thrilled.

Over the next couple of days Julio and I spent a lot of time together talking about everything under the sun. He’s happy and excited to help me with the model hunt, and I’m happy to give him advice about running a business, which is something he’s doing for the first time. We enjoy each other’s company and it’s great having a new friend who’s not only fun to hang out with, but is excited about joining me in my D.R. model-hunt adventure.


One of the issues of being a male-nudes photographer on a severe budget in a foreign country is, where do I interview the models? It’s often difficult to bring them into my lodgings, especially when I’m staying in a hostel.

Julio, bless him, came to the rescue. He told me he’d be happy to let me use his bar as an interview location. He has a terrace atop the bar, so we decided to use that as an interview setting, and we scheduled an interview with bartender Jeison.

Jeison testshots collage vertical

I interviewed Jeison and took some test shots of him on the terrace of Julio's bar.

We set the interview for 1pm and Jeison showed up at 2pm. I wasn’t pleased about that, but when he started taking off his clothes and revealing that amazing physique, I began to forgive him. As Julio had said, Jeison had a really beautiful body. The more I saw of him, the more I liked him.

Something I always insist on during the interview is that the model get totally naked. I want him to be okay with full nudity, or it’s a dealbreaker. I’ve been doing it this way for over 30 years.

But once again, I find myself changing in unexpected ways.


As you may know if you’re a regular follower of my art, I’ve recently been doing fewer full-frontal nudes. In my career it’s been almost a point of honor for me to never be afraid to show what seemed to frighten most other artists (and gallery owners)–the penis!

But I’m mellowing. I no longer feel the need to make that same statement, over and over again. If full frontal nudity feels natural and right in the work, great, I obviously have no problem with it. But I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure it’s always present.

I may sound casual as I say this, but it’s a BIG shift in my perspective.

I already knew, through Julio, that Jeison was not willing to “show everything.” Even in the recent past, I would have said, Okay, goodbye, not interested. But now, I look at Jeison and I think, hmmm, how would this work? And I began to get an idea.

I’m a big fan of those online photos where you see (presumably) straight boys in drunken weekend parties getting naked in front of each other and everybody else, sometimes baring all and sometimes hiding their privates with a hand or a hat or a bottle of beer. I love the mix of innocent fun and sexual tease. And as I thought about it, I thought it might be fun to do a photo shoot like that, and Jeison seemed like a good place to start.


I found these images online and used them as examples to show Jeison what I had in mind for our photo shoot. (By the way, if I'm infringing anyone's rights by using any of these images, please notify me and I'll remove them.)

So when we did the interview, I told him the plan was to do a “no completamente desnudo” (not completely nude) photo shoot. He would hide his privates with a towel, his hand, shorts, or whatever, and there would be lots of almost-naked-shots but nothing completely naked. He liked the sound of that, I thought it would be an intriguing experiment, and it was also going to cost me less than full nudity.

Now all we needed was a location.


Finding the model(s) is always a challenge. But after that you have two more challenges: finding a location, and finding transportation to and from the location. I’d recently met the owner of a Santo Domingo gay hotel (Adam Suites), a guy named Gilbert originally from Miami, and he gave me a good price for a van and driver. So that part was taken care of. Now I just needed a nice, secluded beach close to the city.

All the beaches within an hour or two of Santo Domingo are touristy and overbuilt, but I thought there must be a little cove or inlet or something somewhere along that long coastline where we could find some privacy. So Julio, myself, Jeison and the driver piled into the van, and went looking for that beach I was picturing.

But it was not happening. After we wasted an hour and a half of precious time trying to find a place that met my expections, we were all getting very frustrated. It was getting so late we had to stop somewhere and shoot some pictures, or I would have wasted the whole excursion.

Getting to guayacanes collage 2

Top left, myself and Julio waiting for the model to arrive; top right, Gilbert, Jeison and Julio pose on the balcony of the Adam Suites Hotel; lower left, Jeison arrives; lower right, we arrive at Guayacanes Beach.

So finally I said to the driver, Stop here, and the “here” was a place called Playa Guayacanes. It was typical of the beaches near Santo Domingo, by which I mean touristy and overpopulated, but because it was mid-morning on a weekend, the only people around were a few vendors and some fishermen. I looked around at the palm trees and the fishing boats and thought, you know, this is kind of picturesque. And it’s not a completely nude shoot anyway. Maybe I can make this work.

So we unloaded our gear and Jeison stripped down and we got started. As the session unfolded over the course of about 3 hours, I was surprised again and again by what great shots I was finding with the beach chairs, the fishing boats, the kiosks—all the stuff I had been so adamant about avoiding. In the end I was really happy I’d been able to let go of my preconceptions and trust that things were working the way they were for a reason.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that shooting an almost-nude gorgeous man was just as stimulating and interesting as shooting a totally nude gorgeous man. Not better, not worse, just a different set of challenges and possibilities.

Guayacanes jeison collagevert bigger

A few of the nearly 1000 shots I got of Jeison at Guayacanes Beach.

Another plus: usually we’re in a secluded spot, the model is completely nude, and I’m always a bit on edge with the concern that we’ll be interrupted. It was nice not to have that worry for a change.

Julio jeison walking

Julio (left) and Jeison walking as we moved from section of the beach to another about halfway through the shoot.

Through all this, Julio was a great asset. He’s the one who introduced me to the model, he supplied the setting for the interview, and he came along on the photo shoot to help out. I couldn’t believe my luck: not only did I have a new friend I really enjoyed being around, I also had a terrific volunteer assistant. Thanks Julio!

Jeison ds eating

With my first Dominican photo shoot in the can, I relax and have some chicken on the beach with the model.

When we got back to the city in the early afternoon, I was exhausted (I always am after a photo shoot). But I felt great! I felt like I’d broken the model-hunt jinx and I was back in the saddle again. Plus I was over the moon about all the great new images I’d gotten! It was a great beginning to my Dominican adventure.

NOTE: If you’re reading this blog soon after it was posted, some of the first sketches I did of Jeison from the photo shoot described above may still be online and available.You can check by clicking here.


If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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

Palmsprings6pm heading

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

October 18, 2012

I had such a good experience painting “Steve with Towel” using sponges (see Painting Without Brushes), I decided to undertake something more challenging.

I was looking through my photos of Rob in Palm Springs and found one that I really liked. Not a nude, but that’s okay with me; these days I’m thinking more about gallery shows and I’m liking the idea of doing works with a broader appeal. I’ve painted so many frontal nudes in my career I finally feel I can do something less confronting without feeling like I’ve compromised.

Source 1

Above is the photograph I decided to use for my next painting. This is an image I wouldn’t have undertaken not too long ago. You know I love painting the figure with just a plain blue (or yellow or orange or whatever) background, so all I have to deal with is the face and figure. There’s a whole lot more going on in this one.

But there’s been a tectonic shift in my painter’s view of the world in the last several weeks, and that’s because of my new understanding of color. The previous two paintings and lots of practice pieces in between have really cemented my new awareness of color temperature (warm vs. cool).

Because of this, I look at this image and see relationships I wouldn’t have seen in the past. Instead of just seeing dark greens in the background, I now see COOL dark greens. And I see the warmer greens against the cooler ones. In the middle ground I see the cool purples and the warmer greens and oranges. In the pool I see the difference between the cool blues and the warmer blue-greens. And on the figure, I see the purples and greens in the shadow areas. What used to be a sea of complexity that overwhelmed me is now a set of puzzle pieces I feel competent to put together!

Source 2

But to make it even easier for me to see and deal with all the puzzle pieces, I did my usual Photoshop tweaking of the image. Using the Posterize filter, I altered the image so that I had a clearer breakdown of both values (light and dark) and hue (colors). Then, with both the unaltered photo and the tweaked version as references, I have more information available. (Compare the water in the pool in the unaltered photo and the tweaked one and see how much easier it is to see what’s going on. Now it’s possible to see it as abstract colored shapes. That is the way you have to see it in order to paint it.)

This was to be another big, bold sponge painting, so I cut myself a piece of canvas that would give me plenty of room to work. The dimensions for the painting are 36×48 (91x121cm), or 3 feet by 4 feet. A big painting, for me.

(One of the issues for me in the past with attempting a complex image like this was that there was a lot of detail, and a lot of differing kinds of detail. That’s no fun when you’re painting small. But until recently I hadn’t even allowed myself to consider painting really big. Thank goodness I got over that! Because an image like this becomes MUCH easier (and more fun) when it’s big enough that you’re not having to work into tiny, detailed areas to get something right. Of course with sponges you don’t even have the option of doing tiny, detailed areas—and that’s a good thing.)



Above you can see the initial reference drawing, then the next stage where I’ve done a brownish wash over the whole painting, then begun laying in the background and some of the water in the pool. I’m using sponges for all of this and doing my best to keep it really loose—although I got a little carried away and did more detail than I intended on some of the plants. They didn’t need to be that finished this early in the game. But that’s okay; that will all be changed when the painting is more complete anyway.



In the above in-progress photos you can see I’ve blocked in more of the pool and begun laying in some flesh tones to see how it’s all going to fit together. It’s never a good idea to finish one area of a painting at a time—it’s much better to skip around and work in several areas of the painting, because every time you add color or values to one area, it changes the areas around it. A painting is a dynamic thing; you can’t expect it to ‘hold still’ while you’re finishing one area of it. When you work all over the painting there’s a much better chance it will all work well together in the end.


At this point I have been working on the painting for a couple of days. You can see it’s starting to come together. Mixing the colors has been a challenge. Knowing what I now know about warm and cool and how they alternate, it’s been much easier than it would have been in the past. But it’s still been challenging, and often I’ve found when I apply the shade I’ve just mixed on my palette, it’s not right and I have to try again. This has been especially true of the fleshtones, because in this painting, mostly they’re not what we think of as flesh tones at all. Instead, they’re cool blue-greens and warm lavenders, with a bit of orange and some yellows in the highlights.


The next day, I bring the work further toward completion by finishing more of the background, the water in the pool (notice I’ve added the white splashes), and continuing to work on Rob’s flesh tones. I had to paint, and repaint, and repaint again, to get just the right colors and values in his body. The light is rather complicated, plus with acrylics they always dry darker so sometimes it’ll look right when it’s wet, but then it dries and you realize you have to repaint it—AGAIN.

Approximately 5 days after beginning it, I finish the painting.


The finished painting, entitled 'Palm Springs, 6 PM.'

Final touches included getting the flesh tones just right (FINALLY!), adding the chrome railing, and adding some final touches in the foliage in the background. I’ve decided to call it ‘Palm Springs 6pm’. I feel it’s a big breakthrough in several ways: the size of it, the fact that I did such a complex work using only sponges (and not getting caught up in detail!), and the fact that I was able to use my increasing awareness of color temperature to bring more life to the image.

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

Letter from banff header

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

October 27, 2012

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Canada in over 25 years!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, my “traveling the world lifestyle” has not been going exactly according to plan. My April move to Nebraska was supposed to facilitate full-time travel. But finances got in the way.

Which, as I’ve also mentioned before, was perfect, because it’s allowed me to focus on my painting–and that has been, and continues to be, a wild, exciting trip all its own.

Anyway, my original vision was to spend a couple of months getting settled in Nebraska, then taking off again to someplace with palm trees and beaches and beautiful brown-skinned men.

I had not pictured a trip to the not-so-tropical Canadian Rockies.

But there you go. If I’ve learned anything since I started this “On the Road” blog, it’s that plans are just something you make so the surprises are more exciting.

I have a new collector named John who lives in Banff, Alberta. Over the past few months John and I have developed quite a correspondence. He works in a gallery, he is an aspiring artist himself, and he also writes great letters. I was intrigued by his insights into the whole artist-gallery-marketing thing.

The more we “talked” via e-mail, the more I thought it would be great if I could just hang out with John for a few days and brainstorm, talk painting, etc. I also wanted to visit the gallery where he works. So, since I’ve recently overcome a lot of my inhibitions regarding asking my friends and supporters to host me, I wrote to him and invited myself to visit for a week. Fortunately, he said yes!

That’s how, at the beginning of October, I found myself flying north to Calgary instead of south to the tropics.

Bus to banff 1

Bus to banff 2

Bus to banff 3

This was my third time to Canada and my first time in Alberta. From the airport in Calgary it was a 2-hour bus ride to Banff. The photos above were shot from the bus, starting with leaving Calgary with the mountains in the distance, then gradualy approaching the foothills, then starting to get into the Rockies themselves.

Ds outside hotel

Myself outside the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

I was dropped off at the door of a huge old Scottish castle of a hotel called the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, where John met me.

John showed me around a bit, and the day after I arrived, he took me to work with him. This involved standing outside in the cold while John and another staffer worked out the engineering problems of transferring a 9-foot 900-pound sculpture of an eagle from one vehicle to another. This was actually fairly interesting (I had, after all, wanted to know more about the inner workings of a successful gallery), but just the same it was too f***ing cold!

I also spent some time in the gallery, where it was NOT so cold, and enjoyed a lot of great art.

John was scheduled to drive the van with the eagle sculpture in it to another gallery in Jasper a couple of days after that, and I was going along for the ride. Jasper is about 4 hours’ drive north of Banff, even deeper in the mountains, and even colder. I felt like I was really venturing farther and farther into the Great White North. But it was beautiful, and an adventure, and I looked forward to it.

Ds by lake

On the road to Jasper, we stopped and took pictures. By the way, John, thanks for the loan of the coat!

As things turned out, John drove the van to Jasper, and I followed him in his car. It was an amazingly scenic drive, and we stopped fairly often so I could take pictures.


Pyramid Lake in Jasper.

Jasper, like Banff, is beautiful and COLD. There I accompanied John to a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on October 8 at the home of the owner of the gallery, and it was a wonderful evening. I got to meet more artists and more gallery people, and absorbed a lot more gallery-inner-workings lore. The next day we drove back to Banff just in time to help put together an event at the hotel.


Here's a shot of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel I took during a scenic drive around Banff.

To promote the gallery, two of their best-known painters were going to be part of the “entertainment” for a conference of urban planners. This turned out to be fun for me in an unexpected way. When I was traveling all over the U.S. in the early 1990s doing lectures and art shows, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when you’re doing art-related events in hotel ballrooms. As we were setting up for the event I realized my experience could be useful here…and, well, to be honest, I kind of took over. But it was exactly what was needed, and after the event, everybody thanked me and said they were glad I’d been there. I was happy because the event had been a big success and I’d been able to contribute significantly.

Hotel event 1

Linda Wilder (left) and Alice Helwig, the painters at the event. In the center is a canvas to which we invited conference guests to contribute a few brushstrokes each. That was also a hit.

Hotel event 2

The artists, Linda Wilder and Alice Helwig, were both terrific landscape painters and did a great job of painting while also interacting with interested observers. Afterward, John and I and the two artists went out for beer and pizza and I totally enjoyed spending time with them. I’ve never really hung out with artists, but after this trip I think I should do more of it.

Overall, my experience of being an unofficial part-time employee of the gallery was interesting and, as I realized once I was there and involved, exactly the kind of experience I was hoping for.

This “I didn’t know I had planned it until it was happening” thing is a recurring theme for me, and I learn more about myself every time I write another chapter in this blog…I seem to be able to create great experiences for myself on a subconscious level, by trusting my gut and making plans that may not even make sense to me on the face of it…but then as they’re playing out, I realize they were just what I intended, without knowing it consciously.

This happened in another way on the Banff trip as well, via the “mini-workshops” I gave John.

In our e-mail correspondence I’d been giving John some tips on painting. I had a vague idea of giving him a kind of workshop while I was there, though I hadn’t done any planning or anything. But, again, it worked out exactly as my subconscious had intended.

Ds mixing paints

This was the 'mixing paints' portion of the mini-workshop. The reason I look like a chef is because I didn't want to get paint on my clothes, so John loaned me something to cover up with.

It’s been a lot of years since I have taught drawing, and I’ve never really taught painting. But I had a lot of fun doing these ‘workshops’ (we did 3 of them during the week I was there, each lasting about 3 hours), and from the results, I’d say I was pretty effective as a teacher. I realized I could easily do a year’s worth of workshops and still have tons of material to impart. Hmmm…I’m getting ideas!

As I write this, I’m thinking about my age, and how I sometimes forget how many years of experience I’ve accumulated. Then I have experiences like the hotel event and the workshops I did with John, where abilities and skills I’d forgotten I had come to the fore, and I just slip back into that role, but with the added confidence that age brings.

The same thing is happening to me a lot these days when I paint. Over and over I realize, I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS. There is always more to learn, and god knows I still have failed paintings, but now, after over 30 years of doing this, I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. And it’s a nice solid feeling, this confidence that comes to a large degree simply from the accumulation of experiences.

So overall, I’d have to say my excursion to the Frozen North was worth the (minor) discomfort. I had some great experiences and, despite the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies in October, I am more confirmed than ever in my love of the tropics and my feeling that that’s where I belong. Which is why I’m headed to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in the next couple of weeks. Watch for that report!

If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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