Posts Tagged ‘asian male figure’

Header khanh kitchentable

October 14, 2013

New Painting: Khanh at the Kitchen Table


Several things came together for me in my newest painting, Khanh at the Kitchen Table. All the work I’ve been doing with the Faces series over the last several weeks has given me more confidence in my use of line and color. I also pushed myself, in this painting, to pay less attention to chiaroscuro (use of light and dark to define form) and more to flat areas and patterns of color. That wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I’m happy with the results.

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Top, the source photo for the painting. Below it, the posterized version to give me ideas for color and pattern.

Above is a photograph of Khanh sitting at my kitchen table with a towel over his shoulders. This is the photograph I chose as the source image for this painting, and below it is the posterized version which helped me get color and color-pattern ideas.

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Here's the final rough sketch I did to prepare for the painting.

I worked out the lines in a series of rough sketches; the one above is the final one. I liked the lines and patterns enough in this drawing to go ahead and transfer it to canvas. Below is the pencil drawing on canvas.

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At this point, my usual procedure has been to dilute some black acrylic paint enough so that I can use a fairly fine brush to go over the pencil lines with black. But a few weeks ago, I ordered a black Montana acrylic marker to experiment with. I’m so glad I did. I love this marker, and in fact I’ve ordered other colors to experiment with as well. But for this stage of the painting, the acrylic marker is wonderful. Instead of having to laboriously paint all the lines, I can DRAW them with the marker! This is faster and a lot more fun, and makes it easier for me to keep the flow of the line I had in the pencil version. (I’m using the thick 16mm tip because I paint large, but you can get these acrylic markers in varying thicknesses. Here’s a link in case you’re interested: Montana Acrylic Markers on DickBlick.com.)

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Here's the painting after going over the pencil drawing with black acrylic marker.

So now the painting was ready for the actual painting to begin. I thought I was ready to take the plunge, but something made me hesitate. I realized that if I didn’t think this out first, I would go ahead and automatically use my usual approach, which would not result in the flat color thing I was going for. So I got out my Wacom tablet and pen and did several digital versions on the computer. This gave me lots of chances to try out different color schemes and patterns.

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Above you can see some of the color ideas I tried. Below is the version I liked the best.

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Once I had the color scheme figured out, it was just a matter of mixing the colors and laying them in. Some paintings are all about the adventure, and you go in knowing you don’t know the path, there will be obstructions and washed-out bridges and the possibility of disaster, but that’s necessary to get where you want to go. This one wasn’t like that. I knew what I wanted and I followed the program. So it was several hours of just filling in the colors, kind of like a very big coloring-book page. Sometimes this is a nice way to paint. It’s relaxing. I can’t do this too often because it gets boring, but sometimes when you’re in between big adventures and big breakthroughs, you do a painting like this to consolidate some of what you’ve been learning during the more difficult phases of discovery.

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Here's the finished painting: Khanh at the Kitchen Table.

Not that there weren’t some challenging parts of this coloring-book page, but nothing that fazed me too much. In the end, painting it was satisfying and enjoyable. What’s even better is that, despite the calm and straightforward nature of the process, the finished painting has life and vitality and a real presence.

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June 14, 2013

FRESH & NEW: I find a new muse in Khanh

I didn’t expect to find models in Lincoln, Nebraska. I especially didn’t expect to find a beautiful Asian muscle boy here. But sometimes when you’re not looking…

I’ve been working out at the Cooper YMCA in Lincoln since I got here about a year ago. I’ve seen some stunning boys in the gym. And Lincoln is way more ethnically mixed now than when I went to college here 40-plus years ago, so there’s a wide range of types.

I didn’t pursue it, though. It’s kind of a self-image thing: I just have never seen myself in model-search mode while I’m in Nebraska. This place has always been associated with family for me, and when visiting, I would revert to a more conservative, repressed me without even realizing it. Now that I’ve been here for a while, though, that’s been going away. (Perhaps this is just one more reason I’ve felt compelled to spend some time here at this point in my life–letting go of some more baggage I didn’t even know I was still carrying around.)

So gradually I’ve felt more open to finding models here, and there was one guy at the Y I kept noticing. He was young, Asian and had a really beautiful, muscular body…not too muscular, just right. Plus he had an open, fresh look, and a lot of energy. This kid doesn’t walk from place to place, he BOUNCES.

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Khanh

We had a gym relationship–you say hi because you work out at the same time and see each other several times a week. Then one day in the locker room, we had lockers next to each other and it was a natural thing to start a conversation. His name is Khanh, he’s Vietnamese, and he just turned 20. When he found out I was an artist, he wanted to know more, so I gave him my card and told him I thought he would be a good model, and to let me know if he was interested.

I wondered if he’d still be interested when he went to my website and saw that I specialize in male nudes. A few days later when I was working out, he came up to me and said he had seen my website and what did he have to do to be a model for me?

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Test shot of Khanh in my studio.

So we set up an interview. He came to my house (he showed up early, which is a good sign) and we talked and I took some test shots. He photographed well, which didn’t surprise me. And he had absolutely no problem with modeling nude. In fact, he was enthusiastic and excited about it.

I was enthusiastic and excited, too!

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Shirtless test shot of Khanh in my studio.

So with Khanh ready to model whenever I was ready for him, I turned my attention to the matter of a location. No beach, no jungle, no mountains…what was I going to do? I’ve always preferred tropical settings and that was obviously not an option. Plus, it was April and it was still cold and the trees were still mostly bare. On top of that, we kept having thunderstorms and rainy days, for weeks and weeks. It was a cold, wet spring, and every time we had a sunny day and I thought the weather would break, it would go right back to rain and cold.

A month passed, and I was getting impatient. Finally I decided I would shoot him right here, inside my house.

That wouldn’t really have been a very good option in the past, since I only use natural light, and most interiors are just too dark. In a situation like that you have to use a tripod and a very slow shutter speed to get sharp images, and that’s just not how I like to work.

But! A few months ago, in preparation for my trip to the Dominican Republic, I bought a new camera, a Canon Powershot G15. While I was traveling I discovered how amazing this camera is in low-light situations. There were times when the sun had gone down and it was almost completely dark outside, and I was still getting decent shots, with no flash.

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I love this camera! It's the Canon Powershot G15. Runs about $500 in the U.S.

I realized that with this new camera, I could actually do an interior shoot at my house with just ambient light.

Unfortunately the weather was still cloudy, rainy and dark. Even with my amazing new camera, I still needed it to be a sunny day outside to get the warm interior light I wanted.

But finally, after over a month of waiting, the weather broke. We had sun! I called Khanh and he was more than ready–he’d been impatient, too.

I wanted that magical late-afternoon light, and to get that in Hawaii I’d have to shoot from about 5pm to 6pm, any time of year. But here in North America, in late May/early June, we were getting that magical light for 2 whole hours, from about 6pm until 8pm or even later! So I had Khanh show up at my house at 530 and we started shooting.

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I did some outside shots before we started the interior portion of the shoot. I couldn't do nudes because my backyard is too open to prying eyes, but it was a good warmup for Khanh, and I got some nice shots.

Working with Khanh was a pleasure because he was so accommodating and enthusiastic–and so great-looking! Plus he has a bouncy, upbeat energy that makes any model even more appealing. All that, and magical light for a couple of hours! Need I say I got several hundred amazing shots?

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One thing that surprised me was how well my house worked as a location. It’s a 1950s house with the moldings and fittings and the look that go with that era, and it has a really nice flavor I didn’t appreciate until this photo shoot. It’s a quiet setting, not obtrusive, but a nice ambience.

All things considered, it was probably one of the best interior shoots I’ve ever done. I would never have expected that.

Summer is arriving in full bloom as I write this, and sometime in the next few weeks I’ll do a second photo shoot with Khanh, probably outside, and when that happens I’ll be blogging about it. In the meantime, my creative juices always get bubbling on high when I have a new model to work with, so I’ve already begun producing drawings and prints of Khanh. See some of them here!

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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