Posts Tagged ‘acrylic paint’

Madeittomexico header

December 9, 2014

CONTENTS


• THE DECISION
• MELTDOWN
• ARRIVAL and FINDING AN APARTMENT
• SETTING UP MY STUDIO
• ART SUPPLIES
• I’M PAINTING AGAIN

(Note: Titles are clickable)


THE DECISION


When I got back to Nebraska in late March after a 1-month stay in Puerto Vallarta, I was looking forward to getting back into my studio and painting. I was not looking forward to the weather, which remained winterlike for another six weeks after my return. Ugh. I was not a happy camper.

But summer did eventually arrive, and with it my growing realization that I now knew where I was going to go next. I had been in Lincoln for over 2 years, through my mother’s passing, boyfriend dramas with my sister, and getting closer to my father than we had ever been before—not to mention huge growth as a painter—and I felt like I’d done what I had come to do. It was time to move on, and I got clearer and clearer that where I wanted to go was back to Puerto Vallarta.

I’ve always dreamed of living full-time in Brazil. Unfortunately, as a U.S. citizen, short of marrying a Brazilian, I didn’t have a legal way that I could stay there for more than 3 months out of any given year. But Mexico was doable. Plus it’s a few thousand miles closer to Lincoln (where I will keep my studio and my inventory) and these days, it’s a much more affordable place to live than Brazil.

It was late May or early June when it finally crystallized for me and I made the decision on Mexico, and from then on it was all about getting everything set for that to happen. I renewed my passport (many months early, but just being safe) and I began working on my Spanish language skills. I also began training my assistant to do additional tasks I would need someone to handle while I was out of the country. Everything was coming together nicely.

I had a big Moving to Mexico sale a few weeks before my departure and my collectors really went for it and bought a lot of my art. That made the whole moving process MUCH easier.

Then, just when I was starting to relax—


MELTDOWN


On a Sunday evening, with just a little over a week left before my departure for Mexico, my assistant had an emotional meltdown and decided she could no longer work with me. This was after over a year of what I had thought was a great relationship, and I liked her a lot. But she was keeping a lot of stuff hidden from me—and from herself, I think—and she finally imploded. Her communication issues even extended to the way she quit, which was to stop answering my emails and phone calls.

After trying my best to get into communication with her all evening on Sunday, and then again the next morning, I realized this was obviously unworkable, and it was time to move on. I had exactly one week left before my move to Mexico. That morning I started looking for a new assistant, someone bright, capable and competent enough that I could train them for a week and leave feeling that things were in good hands.

Believe it or not—and this is so often the way my life goes in these past few years—I found her in a matter of hours. I had met Nicole through friends the previous weekend and it turned out she was looking for something part-time. Previous entrepreneurial experience, a pleasant and unflappable demeanor, and the fact that we got along well, made her an appealing choice. So approximately 18 hours elapsed between the beginning of my previous assistant’s meltdown and the hiring of my new assistant.

Over the next week of training her, it became clear I had chosen well. At this writing Nicole is still doing a great job of being my hands and eyes in Lincoln while I’m living in Puerto Vallarta.


ARRIVAL AND APARTMENT-HUNTING


I arrived in Puerto Vallarta on October 28, 2014. My plan was to stay in the Vallarta Sun Hostel (where I spent a month this past winter) until I could find a suitable living and painting space. I knew I could stay there comfortably and cheaply until I found an apartment.

The “Zona Romantica” area of Puerto Vallarta, which is more formally known as the Colonia Emiliano Zapata, is where the hostel is located, and where I wanted to live. I like it for a lot of reasons: its proximity to the beaches, its charm and quaintness, the vitality of the street life, and the fact that it’s the center of gay nightlife in Puerto Vallarta.

I was looking for something inexpensive (I had hoped for around $500 a month), not too far from the beaches and nightife, and big enough that I would have both living space and space for painting.

I figured it would take me a couple of weeks, hopefully not more, to find an apartment.

I was wrong.

It took me less than 24 hours.

There’s a little weekly classifieds called Mano a Mano which has everything for Puerto Vallarta—jobs, places for rent or sale, cars, furniture, whatever people want to sell and other people are looking for. I bought a copy for 5 pesos and my friend Marco, who manages the hostel, helped me find some available apartments in the area. He helped me even more: since I didn’t yet have a local phone, and my Spanish is still not that great, he called some of these places for me.

Mex apt ext

My new apartment is on the 2nd floor of this funky little building in Puerto Vallarta's Zona Romantica.

It took only 3 calls to find something promising, and that same morning, just hours after I’d arrived in Puerto Vallarta, I went to check out my first apartment. The landlord was a sixtyish man named Felipe who was very friendly and down to earth. The apartment was on the second floor of a 4-story building. It was on a side street located very close to everything without being smack in the middle of the noisy part of it. It seemed perfect for my needs.

The rent was 4500 pesos a month. At current rate of exchange, that was $375 in U.S. dollars. The price was definitely right. And I liked the apartment.

My only hesitation was: should I jump on the first place I look at? I really should see what else is out there, I thought. So I started investigating other places by phone, with Marco’s help. But Marco, who knows the pulse of the town, told me that I had arrived just in time to get a decent place before all the snowbirds arrive and places get snapped up and rental prices go up. I told him about the place and he said I should go for it. I trusted his judgment, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the place. Plus I liked Felipe, and he had told me he’d be happy to help me change anything in the place that didn’t work for me. I decided to trust my gut feeling and rent the apartment in spite of the fact that it was the only one I had actually looked at.

(See how good I’m getting at trusting myself?)

It took only another day to get everything squared away with Felipe and pay the rent and get the keys. At that point I was ready to take on the next challenge: getting the place set up so I could work and paint in it.

As I mentioned earlier, I still didn’t have a local phone. It took a few days and lots of phone calls, and some help from my nephew Jordan who works at Sprint, but I finally managed to get Sprint to turn off my service and unlock my iPhone. Once the phone was unlocked, it was just a matter of going to one of the several mobile-phone shops right near my apartment to get a Mexico SIM card. Getting the SIM card, having it installed, and getting a Mexico phone number took only a few minutes and cost me about US$25. I can buy minutes at any OXXO store (the Mexican 7-11—there’s one on every corner). Now I have a local phone and I can use the maps on my iPhone here. And my monthly phone bill is around $15, instead of $50. Fantastic!


SETTING UP MY STUDIO


In my previous studio I had found a great easel setup. Since I paint on unstretched canvas, I use sheets of Homasote (a soundproofing material that has some of the qualities of “bulletin-board” materials) attached flush to the wall. Then I just stretch the square of canvas on the Homasote with pushpins.

First studio shot

Here's my new studio (the back half of my bedroom) just after the sheets of drywall were delivered.

Unfortunately they don’t seem to have heard of Homasote in Puerto Vallarta. But I spent some time at the PV Home Depot, and with the help of the staff, found a passable alternative: Drywall (tabla roca in Mexico). Drywall that has paper glued to it to cover the gesso actually works fine; it’s easy to push a tack or pushpin into it, and it stays in place sufficiently to hold the corners of a tightly stretched piece of canvas. The price for 2 4’x8′ sheets of drywall plus delivery to my apartment: about US$35.

Felipe working sm

My landlord, Felipe, working to install brackets to hold my 'easels' in place.

Brackets2

The brackets are a little funky but do the job perfectly.


The next step was to find a way to attach the drywall sheets to the wall. I had an idea for a bracket at the top, which was all that was needed because the drywall can just be pushed up against the wall and will stay solidly in place as long as there’s something on top to keep it from falling away from the wall. My landlord Felipe (a gem of a guy!) spent several hours constructing four brackets and attaching them to the wall for me. I now have two sheets of drywall standing securely against one wall of the back of my bedroom. My studio is taking shape.

Lighting

Felipe also installed brackets to hold the clip-on lamps I had finally found.

Every gay person (and some straight ones) know that LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING! It’s especially true when you’re putting together a painting studio. I have found cheap clamp-on lamps are just what I need in my Nebraska studio, since they’re inexpensive so you can buy a lot of them, and you can clamp them on anywhere. Finding a simple clamp-on lamp in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, however, was not as easy as I thought it would be. After a couple of weeks of looking, I finally found them in the local Office Depot. So I bought several and then, with Felipe’s help, put brackets up on either side of the drywall ‘easels.’ Now I have a place to clamp the lights on, and I’m ready to paint!


ART SUPPLIES


Oh wait, I thought I was ready to paint. But it turns out the art supplies I bought here in Mexico are not so great. Evidently the Mexican government protects the local industries in this area, so they only sell made-in-Mexico artists’ supplies at the stores. They have this disposable palette which, as soon as you put some acrylic paint on it, it starts soaking in, and when you try to mix something on it with a palette knife, the paper wrinkles and tears and—well, basically it’s useless. I looked at the single art-supplies store here in PV and it’s all they had. I also looked at the art-supplies store I found in Guadalajara, and they also only carry that one brand. So no useable disposable palettes anywhere.

So I’ve had to get creative. At the local “Everything for 25 pesos” store I bought a $2 rectangular mirror which is about the same size as a palette. Guess what—it works! It’s not great, but it will do for now, until I come back after Christmas, and I’ll bring a couple of disposable palettes in my luggage.

Finding acrylic paints has also been a challenge. The single PV art-supply store has a limited selection, and the paints come in very small tubes and they’re expensive. But just by chance, i found a little store a few blocks from where i live where the guy (Antonio) makes his own acrylic paints and sells them! I was a little dubious, but he claims it’s better quality than the stuff you buy in tubes here. So i bought some and tried it and it seems to be fine. Better yet, it’s liquid so i can paint sloppy without having to have liquid medium. Even better, he will mix colors to order, and his paints are really inexpensive! A small jar sells for 20 pesos, which is about $1.50. the jar is not that small–it’s a really good deal. 

Studio squeezebottles CU1 sm

With a mirror palette and a complete supply of squeezable paints, I'm ready to paint.

So at the 25-peso store, they have these ketchup-type squeeze bottles with a cap on the nozzle. They’re ridiculously cheap, so i bought a bunch of them and I’ve been pouring Antonio’s paints into them. So now I’ve got a line of squeeze bottles and i just grab what i need, squirt some onto the palette and start mixing. It’s actually the best setup i’ve ever had for squeezing paint onto my palette!


I’M PAINTING AGAIN!


Finally, 3 weeks after arriving in PV, I started painting. I did several paintings over a 2-week period and nothing really great happened. But that’s typical. It’s a new environment and I hadn’t painted for several weeks. It took a few tries before my confidence kicked in again. Finally, 1 month after arriving in Puerto Vallarta, I had my breakthrough—a Dominican Republic landscape where I really let go and let the paint have its way, and found that lovely painting energy again. And finally, I’m painting in Mexico!

embrace-sourcefoto.jpg

Here's the photo of Kawai and Sam that inspired me to make a new painting.)

There are a lot of great images from the Kawai-Sam photo shoot I still haven’t used. I came across another great one recently and decided it would make a great painting. I didn’t want to do something literal and realistic, though, I wanted to do something stylized and interesting.

1100118.jpg

One of the first studies I did for the proposed painting. (Click on image to see it on my website.)

But when I set out to do something stylized I usually have to draw the pose realistically a few times to get a sense of it before I can start to play with it and turn it into something more interesting. This is one of the first sketches I did. It’s cute, but in this case just a first step toward what I’m going for.

1100119.jpg

This sketch is much closer to what I want. (Click on image to see it on my website.)

I had to do several more drawings before I got to what I was aiming for. This sketch has the kind of movement and dynamic tension I want in the painting. Even though the figures are a mostly vertical element, there are lots of diagonals cutting across the painting to keep the eye moving. This is the main compositional function of the leaves whose vectors cut across the figures diagonally. It’s also interesting how often the strong straight lines are partnered with a sensuous rounded shape. This happens both in the foliage and in the men’s bodies. (I want to be clear that this analytical look at the drawing is something I can do after it’s done and I have some distance from it. When I’m actually in the process of drawing this is not where my mind is at all. I’m just thinking, oh, a line here might work, let’s see what it looks like, oh yeah, that feels good, and now it needs a curve here…etc.)

embrace-inprog1.jpg

After transferring the drawing to canvas, I put a purple wash over it, then paint the outlines in black.

Once I had a drawing I liked, I transferred it to the canvas with pencil. Then I did a purple wash over the entire canvas and once that was dry, I used a small round brush to re-draw the entire drawing in black. This is now the framework on which I can begin to hang color.

embrace-inprog2.jpg

Beginning to add color. It's important to work all over the painting.

I have a relatively consistent palette I can resort to when I begin a painting like this. Rather than reinventing the wheel every time I start a painting, I have some old standbys I use, like burnt umber for the dark darks (sometimes with a bit of alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue added for flavor), burnt sienna for the medium darks, and for the lighter flesh tones, a mix of yellow oxide (yellow ochre), alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and titanium white. As I paint with these basic colors, I add in some cadmium reds (a warmer, more orange-y red than alizarin), some pure yellow oxide, some pure raw sienna, and sometimes some cadmium yellow as well. I’m going for a basic fleshtone with some vivid surprises thrown in. Notice that as I begin the painting I’m already working all over to some degree. As I’ve said many times, the more you can work all over the painting as you go, the more you can adjust color and light and dark as you work, rather than getting to the end of a painting and having one area that just refuses to work well with everything else.

embrace-inprog3.jpg

This painting is coming along well by this point. No major hitches. Another thing I like to do is let one color area “leak” into another. So you see splashes of green on the bodies and bits of flesh tone in the plants. This adds visual interest and makes for a more unified color scheme.

1445.jpg

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

This is the finished work. I’m happy with how it turned out. One of the nice surprises is the way the blues pop out and by contrast make the rest of the image even warmer. I like the warmth both for what it says about the emotion of the painting and because the setting is a wet, humid tropical jungle. I’ve titled this one “Embrace.”

1433-source1.jpg

Here's the source image for the painting, before and after tweaking in Photoshop.


For my second painting of Jeff, I got a bit more ambitious. I chose a shot of him sitting on the floor in my living room in the late-afternoon light. By ambitious, I mean that instead of just focusing on the figure as I often do, here my intention was to create a fully realized environment, with light, shadow and space, so that the viewer has a sense of place and time, and all the emotional components that come with that.I wanted to do a more stylized approach on this one. The first thing I did was start playing with the image in Photoshop. As usual, I applied the Posterize filter to get a more stylized, colorful look. This is usually gives me ideas about ways to transform the photographic image into a painting. As you can see, I also moved one of the plants, and changed the exterior view through the windows to something more colorful and tropical. Being able to re-create the source image digitally like this is a great tool in planning the painting before even beginning to do rough sketches.
1433prepsketches1.jpg

Some of the first sketches.


Next I started doing actual real-world sketches on paper. In fact, I did a LOT of rough sketches trying to get the figure the way I wanted it. The ones you see here are just a few of them. When my intention is to give the figure a more stylized look, that means I have to draw it over and over again until I have a really good grasp of all the dynamics of the pose and the way the parts of the body fit together within that. Sometimes I’ll draw the pose 20 times or more before I finally hit on a way to bring it to life in a simplified, stylized manner.

1433prepsketches2.jpg

More of the preparatory sketches where I'm working out visual ideas.

Once I got the figure more or less right, I worked on integrating it into the background. This involved more rough sketches while I worked out the relationships between the figure, the sofa, the plants, etc. It always changes things when you take the photographic image and start transforming into lines on a piece of paper. My final goal was to have a painting that consisted of a line drawing AND a somewhat realistic light-and-shadow environment, and have them work well together. And the first step toward that was to get a line drawing that worked.

1433prepsketches3.jpg

Sometimes I use old-fashioned cut-and-paste to try out different combinations of model and background.


The top image you see here is a more finalized sketch where I began adding light and shadow to get a better idea of how things were working, or not. This felt pretty good to me, but I wasn’t happy with the model’s hand. It looked awkward to me. So I went looking for a similar pose in the same series of photos, and found another one where I liked the hand better. I also noticed that in that pose, I liked the position of the legs better, too. So I did another drawing of the figure with those changes, and liked it. To see how that would work, rather than re-drawing the entire background, I just cut out the figure and laid it on top of the light-and-shadow drawing I’d just done, and it worked pretty well. So now I was ready for the next stage of the process.
1433prepsketches4.jpg

After scanning the final prep sketch, I had to 'clean it up' in Photoshop before adding color.


Next I scanned the pasted-together drawings so I could work with them in the computer. Once I had the scan, I worked on it in Photoshop to clean it up. That meant getting rid of as many greys as possible so I could have a mostly purely black-and-white image to work with. By putting that on its own Photoshop layer, I can create another layer “behind” it where I can apply color, so that I can do a digital test painting before doing the real thing in acrylic on canvas.
1433prepsketches5.jpg

Test painting I did in Photoshop using my Wacom digital tablet.


This is the test painting I did in Photoshop. I sampled colors directly from the digital source photos, and kept some of the colors as is, while tweaking others. The result was an image I thought looked pretty workable. Doing this (which took about an hour and a half) also gave me some insight into some of the challenges that would present themselves when I began actually creating the painting in the real world. Not all of them, of course, but the more I know ahead of time, the better.
1433inprog1.jpg

Beginning the actual painting on canvas.


Now, after 4 days of sketching and preparing both digitally and on paper, I was ready to start the actual painting. I used a digital projector to project my digital drawing onto the canvas, traced it with pencil, then painted that line drawing in black. Once that was dry, I began painting a reddish-brown wash over the line drawing. Next step was to mix the colors.
1433inprog2.jpg
This is where having done the digital test painting really pays off. Even though there’s never an exact translation of color between the computer screen and the real world, I have a very good printer, and by printing out the source photos and the digital test painting, I have something I can put in front of me while I’m mixing the acrylic paint on my palette. This helps a lot!
1433inprog3.jpg

Almost done...


Several hours of painting got me quite a ways along. By this point I was feeling pretty good about how it was going, except I wasn’t at all happy with the head or face. So I painted over the face and continued with the rest of the painting, with the intention of going back and working on the head/face as part of the last phase of the painting. By now I’d been working on the painting for nearly a week and was hoping one more day would do it.
1433.jpg

Finished! Title: Ohua Afternoon (click on image to see this item on my website)


The next day I started work on repainting the head. After many false starts, I finally got a face and an expression that felt alive, and whose looks I liked. Then, a few more finishing touches, and I was done! This was one of the most ambitious projects I’d undertaken in quite a long time, and on completion, I felt pretty triumphant! Since my apartment is on Ohua Avenue, I’m calling it “Ohua Afternoon.”

scorpiorising-source1.jpg

Here's the photograph I began with.

I got the idea for my first painting of Jeff as I sometimes do, by accident, while playing around with Photoshop. There were several photos of Jeff sitting crosslegged on my bed that I liked, and I liked the plants behind him, but for some reason I thought, why not see what it would look like without the plants, and in fact without any definite background at all? So using Photoshop’s selection tools, I selected everything but the figure and the bed and the pillows, and then inverted the selection and hit the delete button. This effectively erased the background.


When you “erase” something in Photoshop, that area changes to whatever the Background color is at the time. Default for the Background color is white, so usually that’s what you “erase” to. However, this time the background went to an interesting red tone. This is probably because I was using that color the last time I was working in Photoshop.

scorpiorising-source2.jpg

Some interesting accidents happened on the computer...(image on right tilted and Posterized)

When this happened I could easily have hit “Undo” and changed the Background color to white, or anything, and repeated the action—but instead, I looked at what had happened and said, “Whoa. Cool!” Because the color really worked. Not a color I would have consciously chosen…but there are no accidents, right? On top of that, because of the way I had made the selections in the first step of tweaking the photo, there was a nice little halo effect around Jeff’s head and shoulders. The overall result was so striking I thought, hey, this would really work as a painting. So I tilted the whole thing a bit clockwise (so that the edge of the bed was more level) and applied a Posterize filter, and thought, hey, I’m ready to go on this.

scorpiorising-inprog1.jpg

Beginning the painting on canvas.

Next step was to transfer the image to canvas, via a pencil line drawing, then lay down a reddish-brown wash over the drawing. While that was drying I mixed colors. I began with the red background and the blue pillows. You should keep in mind that at this stage I have no idea if the painting will work. But as I continued with this one, I started to get a good feeling: a feeling of hesitant exultation, a feeling that says, “Hey…this might just work out!”


(I am telling you guys all this because I think there is a misapprehension among non-artists that we so-called “successful artists” just go into the studio and start painting and magic happens. I’m here to tell you, NO, that’s not how it works. Maybe 1 in 20 times it works that way. But 95% of the time it’s like the process I’m describing now. You have an idea, you think it might work, but you’re afraid to start. No matter how many successful paintings you’ve done, there is still that leap of faith you hae to take to get going. Then once you start, most of the time you are still deep in doubt. You wouldn’t believe how often I start working on something and it just looks like shit—and I’m thinking, oh god, give me faith in myself. Because this does NOT look good…probably the hardest part of being an artist is having that faith in yourself that you will produce something decent, despite all the indications at the moment. So please don’t think that every time I start painting it’s this effortless magical thing–or that everything I attempt actually works out.)

scorpiorising-inprog2.jpg

Things are looking like they might work out.


Anyway, things are going well. The red and the fleshtones are working well together—which is a huge relief, because there are about 43 million ways to mix fleshtones and I never do them exactly the same way twice. So the fleshtones were working with the red, and the blues I chose for the sheets and pillows were working too! This is great. At this stage all I have to do is stay out of my own way and not f**k it up!

1432.jpg

The final painting: Scorpio Rising (click on image to see it on my website)

After about a day and a half of further work, I’ve finished. And it turned out well! This painting was one happy accident after another. Though I don’t mean to be falsely modest and imply that I didn’t have something to do with its turning out okay. I see my task as an artist to get as technically proficient as I can so that when those happy accidents strike, I’m alert enough and technically skilled enough to take advantage of them.

(About the title: Jeff is a Scorpio and there’s that Scorpio tattoo on his chest, so even though Scorpio is his sun sign and not his rising sign, I decided to call the painting “Scorpio Rising” just because it’s such a great title.)

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!

2477bahianbchboys-source.jpg

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.

2477bahianbchboys-source2.jpg

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).

coastaljungle-sourcefoto.jpg 1090717.jpg
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.

coastaljungle-inprog1.jpg coastaljungle-inprog2.jpg
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.

coastaljungle-inprog3.jpg coastaljungle-inprog4.jpg
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.”

1407source-2upI was browsing through my thousands of digital photos on my computer, looking for ideas for my next painting, and I found myself in the Marcus April 2006 folder. This was the trip I took to Rio and rented my friends’ Copacabana apartment, and had a photo shoot set up with Marcus and he never showed up–then he showed up two days later at 9 in the morning and I had to drag myself out of bed and collect myself in a hurry to do a 2-hour photo shoot. Marcus is one of the few models I would do that for! This photograph has him in my bedroom on the bed I was sleeping in, sprawled out invitingly. Unfortunately the photograph I liked best was cut off on the left. I wanted a more horizontal composition, so I took another photograph I took at about the same time, and added more leg and bed on the left. Thank goodness for Photoshop!

Extending the composition horizontally and adding a window.

Extending the composition horizontally and adding a window.

Once I had the two photographs put together and had a composition I liked, I wanted to change the mood of the image. The simple bedroom setting was not very exciting to me. I wanted more of a fantasy. I had the idea of adding a window that looked out on a tropical beach setting. So I went looking on the Internet for windows with palm trees showing through them. That was not easy, but I finally found something that was more or less what I was looking for. Using Photoshop, I plopped that window into the upper right corner to see what it looked/felt like. I liked the result and thought, yes, I think this concept is going to work.

First pencil sketch that was getting close to what I wanted.

First pencil sketch that was getting close to what I wanted. (Click on image to go to my art website.)

Using my doctored photographic image, I began sketching. After about 7 or 8 rough sketches, I finally started to get an image that excited me. This required some stylization and simplification, some elongation of the figure, and a “cottage” feeling–which means vertical lines suggesting a simple wood structure, and a window framing palms and an ocean horizon.

Final pencil sketch before I began figuring out color scheme.

Final pencil sketch before I began figuring out color scheme. (Click on image to go to my art website.)

The following drawing was very close to what I wanted. The elements all seemed to be in place. What I needed now was a color scheme. The existing colors of the photographic image were close, but a little boring. I decided that, rather than doing several color studies, I would continue working in Photoshop. That way, when a color area didn’t work, I could easily change the color, or lighten or darken it to see if it helped. This is much easier than repainting a whole area, or starting a new color sketch, until I get the color balance I want.

Layered photoshop image which allowed me to experiment with colors.

Layered photoshop image which allowed me to experiment with colors.

Using Photoshop I was able to cut out the figure from one of the source photographs, elongate and distort it so it fit the drawing I’d created, then “paint” in the color areas on the computer to see how the color scheme was working. This saved me a lot of time, and I was able to fairly quickly find a combination of colors that fit with the fantasy that was taking shape in my mind: colors that gave me the feeling of a lazy afternoon in a tropical beach cottage with a boy I’d met in the city and brought to a little beach town for a romantic weekend together.

The final painting: "Beach Cottage"

The final painting: "Beach Cottage." (Click on image to see the print on my website.)

That ended the preparatory phase of the work, and set the stage for the real work: creating the actual painting. I had worked out the color scheme and had a nice approximation of the feeling I was going for, and that made creating the painting itself much easier. There followed 3 days of taking the rough concept and turning it into a finished painting. I kept the finished work pretty faithful to the final sketch, except for going back to the previous sketch to get the plate and discarded cup on the floor–I thought that was a nice touch, suggesting the relaxed nature of the “lost weekend” I was depicting. I decided to call the painting “Beach Cottage.” I’m very happy with this painting, not least because I took a semi-interesting photographic image and turned it into a much richer painting with a whole story behind it.