Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

Lanscapes bigshapes header

June 29, 2013

CONTENTS


• PLAYA BONITA 2
• TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS



PLAYA BONITA 2



I find I’m getting better at painting landscapes these days,
and mostly I think that’s due to the fact that I’m getting better at seeing the big shapes. Or maybe I should say I’m being more disciplined about ONLY looking at the big shapes. Because you can see the big shapes and still get seduced into overworking and over-detail-ing the painting.

Playabonita1

Here's the first painting I did of Playa Bonita in the Dominican Republic. It was a positive experience for me in learning to see the big shapes.

I really liked what happened with the painting “Playa Bonita,” so I chose another photograph I took the same day, but looking another direction. Like the image I used for the first painting, this one also had some nice shapes, particularly the shadows.

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Source image for my second Playa Bonita painting.

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Here's the same image tweaked in Photoshop to give me a better idea of values and big shapes.

I did my usual tweaking with Photoshop, but this time I did something else digital as well: I did a digital painting of the image, not as a finished artwork, but as a way of exploring the image. I wanted to make sure I was only working with the big shapes, and I thought it would be interesting to try doing it digitally. One of the great advantages of doing it that way is that by using Photoshop’s sampling and fill tools, I can lay out the big shapes and quickly color them using exactly the right hues and values. It’s a quick way to see if what I have in mind will work, without all the time and trouble of mixing up a bunch of paint.

Playabonita2 digitalptg

Above is the digital painting I did based on the source photo. I used the Lasso tool which, if you hold down the option key while applying it, allows you to draw straight-sided shapes as simply or with as much complexity as you want. Then I sampled the color I wanted right from the source photo, and used the Fill tool to fill the shape I’d just drawn with that color.

As you can see, reducing the image to its basic shapes in this way gives you a powerfully different way to look at it, and in this case it sets me up perfectly for the approach I want to take with the actual painting.

Here’s a great thing about working with big shapes: painting goes a lot faster. I’m a big fan of paintings that happen quickly. I am not a work-on-it-for-weeks-and-weeks kind of painter. Not at all! If it isn’t happening in the first hour, I usually abandon it and move on to something else. I have nothing against people who like to spend months on a single painting, it’s just not me. Maybe it’s just a short attention span. But I’ve learned I do better work when I don’t torture myself. And I’m a lot happier!

Another thing about working fast is that I have a better chance of keeping the energy level high. And lately I’ve gotten clearer about the fact that I want my paintings to be explosions of energy. Not for me the quiet, considered painting. I want action, vitality, life! I want bold brushstrokes and excitement. It’s what I want in life, and it’s what I want in my paintings.

Playabonita2 inprog

Here's the painting about 75% completed.

In this case, there were very few hiccups and the painting came together nicely—and I kept the energy high! I especially like what happened when I laid in those cool bluish shadow shapes at middle right. They turned out to be just the cool contrast all those warms in the foreground needed. That’s the warm vs. cool magic that can happen when it’s done right, and if you’ve been reading this blog you know I’ve gotten a lot better at managing warms and cools in the past year. Here’s the completed painting:

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It’s entitled “Playa Bonita 2.”


TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS


A few days later I decided to try another landscape painting with a similar approach, but a different type of subject matter: buildings.

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Here's the photo of beach shacks in Tiririca I chose to work from.

I chose a photo of some beach shacks I snapped while walking along the road between the guesthouse where Steph and I were staying in Tiririca, and the town of Itacaré (for more on that trip, go to Brazil Trip with an Unexpected Male Nude Photo Shoot.) It looked like it would be a good opportunity to just see the big shapes.

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Same photo tweaked in Photoshop.

I did my usual Photoshop tweaking to remove detail and enhance color, then I posterized the image to make the values clearer. And again, as I did with Playa Bonita 2, I sat down at the computer with my Wacom tablet and did a digital study to reduce the image to its main shapes.

Digitalpaintingversion

And again, preparing in this way made a world of difference. I think it’s not only that one gets to know the subject matter better, it also builds confidence. Seeing that the image works well with just the big shapes and no detail at all, I feel a lot more confident when I step up to the easel and start slinging paint around.

Inprog on easel

The painting went so quickly and so smoothly I only remembered to stop and snap an in-progress photo (above) once, when the painting was almost done. Below is the finished work followed by some details (close-ups) which give you a chance to see the brushwork and appreciate the fact that there really is almost no detail.

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The finished painting: Tiririca Beach Shacks.


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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 1


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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 2



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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 3

The Complete ON THE ROAD Blog Series (So Far)

Click on image to go to blog entry

Chapter 1, Early June 2011:
On Chucking It All and Going On the Road
Ontheroad1 chucking it all
Chapter 2, Mid-June 2011:
Prepping for the Road
Prepping for road blkborder
Chapter 3, Late June 2011:
Before I Take Off
Before i take off
Chapter 4, July 2011:
Letter from L.A.
Letter fm LA
Chapter 5, July 2011:
Malibu Photo Shoot with Steve Chen
Malibu w stevechen
Chapter 6, August 2011:
Letter from Lincoln
Lincoln w type
Chapter 7, September 2011:
Letter from Baltimore
Baltimore
Chapter 8, October 2011:
Letter from Honolulu
Honolulu hawaii beach
Chapter 9, November-December 2011:
Letter from Brazil
Letterfrombrazil
Chapter 10, February 2012:
Leaving Home…Going Home
Leavinghome goinghome
Chapter 11, July 2012:
Letter from Dakota Street
Ds instudio
Chapter 12, October 2012:
Letter from Banff
Letter from banff header
Chapter 13, November 2012:
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 1:
Arrival in the Dominican Republic,
and Photo Shoot with Muscleboy Jeison
Header letter stodomingo 1
Chapter 14, November 2012:
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 2:
Dominican Boys Gone Wild
Letter fm sto domingo part2 B
Chapter 15, November 2012:
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 3:
Javier: The Boy Can’t Help It
Ltr fm sto domingo part3 B
Chapter 16, December 2012:
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 4:
TROUBLE, and Getting Wet in Cabarete
Ltr fm sto domingo part4
Chapter 17, December 2013:
Winter 2013: Everything Changes

Winter2013 everythingchanges cropped
Chapter 18, February 2014:
On The Road: Walking The Tightrope

Walkingthetightrope header

letterfrombrazil.jpg

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


Let me warn you ahead of time, this is a longer-than-usual post. But if you’re interested in the real nuts and bolts of how a very realistic painting like this gets done—plus the stuff I had to go through in my own mind to get myself through it—you’ll find it here.

I got the idea to do this painting because lately I’ve been online a lot looking at other artists’ work, especially others who do male nudes, and there were some I saw who were doing really amazingly realistic paintings and really pulling it off. Their technique was mind-boggling. I thought, I could do that.

What I mean is, with a bit of work and focus, I can do that kind of work. But generally I don’t. That’s because every time I look at someone else’s super-realistic painting, I think, Jeez, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that kind of detail. I usually see it as incredibly tedious. And being a realist painter is not my goal in life. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it from time to time, but usually I just don’t go there.

Still, I kept looking at these guys’ work and thinking, I would still like to test myself in this area, because it’s been years since I went down that super-realist road, and I’ve grown and changed and it would be interesting to see how it would be. So I was starting to get excited about the idea.

Then I went looking for a photograph to use as source material, and I came back to my favorites, among them Marcus at Angra Dos Reis—our first photo shoot there. There are still a lot of images in that bunch that have promise, and I found one I really liked.

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However! I began examining the photograph in detail, thinking about what was going to be required of me, and I found a LOT of things I did not want to have to mess with, especially the kind of detail work it takes to make a dripping-wet body realistic. It’s not just more highlights because the body is wet; there are all these incredibly complex patterns of water on skin, droplets, shadows of droplets, reflections WITHIN each tiny droplet, droplet TRAILS that get lighter and darker in incredibly subtle ways, etc., etc.—it’s an incredible thicket of visual complexity.

And that’s not even mentioning the swirling water around the model!

I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I decided there was no way I would be able to maintain my momentum over the amount of time and work it would take to do a highly realistic painting from this photograph.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, a few hours later, I don’t even remember exactly what gave me the idea, but I thought, hey, maybe I could try something like this: paint the whole thing pretty quickly, in a fairly crude, unfinished way, but with all the basic lights and darks and colors in place and fairly accurate as far as they went. It would look finished to someone who wasn’t looking for much detail. THEN, I could go in and, one area at a time, and in a fairly relaxed manner (meaning not a day or two, but weeks), I could refine the surface. I could finish each area to a high degree of precision at my own pace.

Now this was a way of conceptualizing the operation that made me think, maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off.

Because as much as I hate the tedium of doing a lot of detail in a painting, there’s still a real pleasure and reward in really capturing a particularly beautiful piece of visual reality. So I decided to go for it.

Before I proceeded, however, I did something else—I cropped the image. This was partly out of laziness. I didn’t want to have to do all that detail. But the truth is, cropping it made for a better composition and a stronger image overall. So cropping worked for me on a couple of levels.

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I also pumped up the contrast and saturation some (left), then made a copy where I posterized the image (right). This is my usual procedure—using the computer (Photoshop) to give myself different ways of seeing and conceptualizing the image before I even begin painting.

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Now the fun began. I transferred the image to canvas (just doing a pencil outline), then painted over that with a neutral brown wash. While that was drying, I began mixing colors. Then I started the first phase, the crude unfinished painting which would serve as the underpainting for all the detail that was to come later.

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This was fairly undemanding and I did it pretty quickly—maybe 2 or 3 hours—because the whole objective was to keep it simple and just get the basics down so the refinement could begin.

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The next day, I started the refining process. I began with the background on the upper left because it looked the most doable, and because it’s generally better to start at the top and work down so your hand is less likely to smear something under it. Over the next couple of days I brought the painting to the condition shown above: the tree shadows and the shallow water behind Marcus are mostly done, as is the slightly deeper water swirling around him on the right.

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The next 3-4 days were spent on, in this order: Marcus’ face and hair (this turned out to be harder than I anticipated because his face is almost entirely in shadow, plus the whole photograph is in sharp focus except for his face), his right shoulder (on our left), the necklace, and his left shoulder (on our right). You can see the progression in the image above. Let me just say that water droplets on a human body are a real challenge. The problem with water—maybe I should say one of the CHALLENGES that water presents—is the extremely subtle value changes that happen in situations like this. If you make the water trail a little too dark it looks like a scar on the body. Make it a little too light and it vanishes entirely. This is complicated by the fact that acrylics always dry darker. So if you get it right while the paint is wet, in 5 minutes it will be too dark. Then you mix it lighter and try again. And if you haven’t got the shadows of the body itself quite right, then the water will never work. So it can be a real bitch! You can see the first shoulder I did looks okay, but the second one is better, so I’m learning as I go.

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Above you see the condition of the painting about 5 days later. I’ve worked on the chest and abdominal muscles over that time, and there was a lot of painting and repainting. As I’ve continued I’ve gotten better at making the water droplets and trails look realistic, which is a good thing because when you get into the areas where it’s reflected light (the left side of the chest and abs, for instance), the value changes are REALLY subtle. But I’m pleased at the overall look of things so far. And I’m really pleased that my strategy is working: instead of getting burned out on the painting after 2 or 3 days, I’ve been able to come back each day and push it a little farther toward completion. One thing I’ve had to be careful about is keeping track of how each color was mixed. This is more necessary because, given how quickly acrylics dry, to do a painting over several days or weeks requires paints to be remixed several times. I’ve managed to do a pretty good job of this. It’s now been almost 10 days I’ve been working on this painting.

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The final painting: 'Tudo Molhado' (click on image to see this item on my website)

The painting is finally done—two weeks after beginning it. The last 4 days or so were spent working on the legs, the swirling water between the legs, and the big spume of white water gushing around Marcus’ right side. I won’t say I’m 100 percent pleased with the finished work—there are some areas I would like to fix but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure it would be worth it to go in and take the chance of ruining what I’ve accomplished so far. I’m finished with this one, for better or worse. And even with the few areas I wish I’d done better, I look at the painting and overall I think I did a good job. I certainly learned a lot of things that will make my next realistic painting better. Most of all, I’m pleased that I was able to maintain a consistent working pace for a two-week period on a single painting. That’s real stamina, from my point of view, and it’s made me stronger and more confident.

Oh yeah, the title. I’m calling it “Tudo Molhado.” That’s Portuguese and I learned that phrase when I was doing a photo shoot with Eduardo in Rio and I had him get in the shower and get totally wet, then run out into the light outside while he was still dripping. He wasn’t sure he understood, so he said, “Tudo molhado??”— “All wet?”

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After doing a fairly flat, stylized painting (“Tropical City”), I was in the mood for something more loose and painterly. I decided to unleash my creative forces on Marcus, my favorite Brazilian model. I found a great image from my 2nd photo shoot with him in Angra dos Reis. We (myself, 5 of my friends from Hawaii and California, my Brazilian agent Luiz, and two models, Marcus and Sandro) had chartered a boat in Angra, and set out to find a deserted island. When we found it, we unloaded Marcus and Sandro on the beach. One of the things Marcus was doing once we got onto the beach was playing around with one of the oars he’d used to row us over from the big boat. I love this shot of him standing on the beach holding the oar.


First thing I did, as usual, was go into Photoshop to tweak the photograph and make it easier to paint from. The first step was using Levels to heighten the contrast (which also intensifies the colors). This lost a lot of the detail in the foliage inside the shadows, which was fine with me—less stuff to paint, plus less distraction from the model in the final work.

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Next I used Median to soften all the edges. This helps keep me from getting too interested in detail, almost all of which is unnecessary in the type of painting I was going for here. Finally, I used Posterize to cut down the total number of colors and tones in the image. This makes it a lot easier to decide what colors to mix and where to put them. It’s almost like having a paint-by-number diagram. Well, almost.

Next I printed out all the various tweaks of the image so I’d have reference images to work from while painting. At that point it was time to cut out a piece of canvas and tack it up onto my big drawing board (actually it’s an oversize bulletin board, which works perfectly). Then I transferred the image onto the canvas with pencil and covered it all with a purplish-brown wash—my usual procedure. (You probably can’t see it in the images below, but enough of the underdrawing is visible that I have a guide to all the major color areas of the painting.)

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Using the same approach as I used in the previous painting—mixing just two or three colors and then trying them out before going ahead and mixing all the colors I’d use in the whole painting—I mixed some greens and started painting them in. I got a little carried away and took the foliage in the upper left to a high level of finish, but caught myself and began filling in the background. At that point I started mixing some browns and oranges for the fleshtones and began applying them.

At that point it was time to stop for the day. I usually do my best painting work in the mornings, so I stopped and began again the next morning. I used browns and cadmium reds/oranges for most of the body. For the highlights on the body I tried a bit of yellow in the white (see light on Marcus’ back on left-hand image above) but found that a cooler white worked better. Like the previous painting, Tropical City, this was a figure mostly in shadow with some highlights on the upper part of the body. That means the reflected light inside the shadowed part of the body is important. In this case I used some intense cadmium red in some places, cadmium orange in others, for the lightest reflected lights. Not all of the lights and darks make sense anatomically but they work overall so that’s okay with me. Once I had the body mostly done I added the rest of the foliage in the upper right and began painting in the beach area.

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The beach area went pretty fast and next thing I knew the painting was finished! I like that I didn’t get too caught up in detail on this one. It’s loose and has some spontaneity. I also like that the mix-paint-as-you-go principle I experimented with on the previous painting worked pretty well with this one too. Title: “Paddler.”

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The final painting, 'Paddler.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

There’s this photograph of Wellington and Israel at Massarandupió Beach in Bahia that I love. It really captures one of the many great moments that day. The composition, the lighting, the feeling of the image….I think they’re all wonderful, and I thought it would make a terrific painting. But for a long time I was afraid to tackle it. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture the light and the feeling of the image. But finally I decided, okay, maybe I’m ready now. I’ll give it a shot!

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This is the photo I started with.


I started by tweaking the image in Photoshop. There are two major differences I make in the image this way. One, I intensify (via saturation and light/dark) the colors, which makes the image more vibrant. In this way I have a guide for mixing colors. It’s possible to mix vibrant colors even though you’re working from a less-than-vibrant photographic image, but it’s a lot more difficult. I like to let the computer do this for me. And in the final analysis, I don’t have to follow the color guide in the photo exactly…it’s just a guide. The second thing I do when tweaking the image is blur it. But I don’t use the Blur function in Photoshop, I use something called Median (Filters -> Noise -> Median). This removes the detail in a more elegant way than just blurring the image. And that’s what I want—to remove the detail. This forces me to look at the major shapes and areas of color and light and dark when working on the painting. I could do that by just squinting at the source image while working, but it’s nice not to have to do that. And of course I keep the undoctored image around in case I want to add in some detail (but not until much later!). Oh, yeah—I often use Posterize on the image after Median. This lessens the number of colors used so it’s easier to see color areas.

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This is the photograph after some tweaking in Photoshop.


My next step was to do a color study. This is a small, rough version of the final painting in which I can work out problems of color, tonal balance (balance of lights and darks), composition and whatever else I might not expect but which will probably crop up in the color study. The color study went pretty well but I found I had difficulties with the tone of the hill behind the figures. I kept getting it too light or too dark. Also it was a tricky mix of greens and purples. I kept remixing the colors until I got it more or less correct. When I had everything looking pretty balanced, I decided I was ready to tackle the big picture.

The acrylic sketch I did as preparation for the painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The acrylic sketch I did as preparation for the painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The biggest challenge in doing a big finished work, as opposed to a rough sketch, is psychological/emotional. It’s hard not to take the larger work more seriously and care more that it works out. Caring too much about the success of a painting is practically a guarantee of its failure. The difficulty is finding a balance between working toward a vision of the finished work, but not gripping that vision too tightly, so you can stay loose and allow the energy to flow. With this painting I was on both sides of that line, but walked it most of the time. Which worked out pretty well. I needed all the preparatory work I’d done because this painting was a challenge in many ways—but all the work paid off and I managed to keep it loose and fairly spontaneous and still capture the feeling and the light of the original scene. I’m pretty happy with this one. I’m calling it Bahian Beach Boys.

The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

For this painting I went back to one of my most consistent themes/fantasies: the naked brown-skinned boy in the jungle. I still have lots of Baiano photos I haven’t used, and I found a nice one for this, where he’s leaning against a tree on a hillside near Itacaré (see my Dec. 1 2008 diary entry for more on that photo shoot).

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New model Baiano on a jungle-y hillside in Itacaré The rough sketch that inspired me to do a finished painting. Click on image to see this item on my website.

This painting actually began the way many of my paintings begin—with a sketch that I really liked. Many times I’ll start with a photograph I really like and then none of the sketches that come from it really excite me. When that happens I usually just move onto another image until I get a sketch that DOES excite me. But with this one, it happened right away. I like the feeling of the sketch and I’m determined to keep the painting loose and not get too careful and overwork it.

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This is the underdrawing on the canvas before the painting begins. Here, the first thin washes of color have been applied.

Next I transferred the sketch to canvas. I did this the easy way—I scanned the sketch, then used my digital projector to project it onto the canvas so I could do it exactly the size I wanted, and retain as much of the feeling of the sketch as possible. You’ll notice I also went into a bit more detail with the plant life.

Next I did the ground, which is the underpainting. I used to use a single color for this—and that does work fine—but lately I’ve been doing one color for the body, one or two colors for the background. That seems to work pretty well for me too. Once the ground had dried, I outlined the forms with dark paint. I used to always use black paint for this, but lately I’ve begun doing colors. In this case I used a really dark warm brown for the body outlines, a really dark green for the foliage outlines, and a dark cool brown for the tree outlines. It’s more work, but it’s subtly different from the black outlines and I like the final effect better.

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Here I begin actually applying the paint. About 60% done.

While that was drying, I mixed my colors for the actual painting. This is usually a pretty time-consuming part of the process—sometimes I’ll spend up to an hour mixing the colors. I think I overdo/overthink this process sometimes though, and I find lately I’m getting better at keeping the mixtures simpler. Which of course is always a good idea. Not only does it save time, the art tends to be better when it’s more spontaneous and LESS complicated instead of more!

The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

I spent a couple of days on this one and it worked out pretty well. Working all over the painting made it possible to get a color scheme going without too many false moves. I’m also pleased that I didn’t get too careful; I kept the whole painting pretty loose and it has a nice consistency of tone, I think. I’m calling it “Coastal Jungle.”