Posts Tagged ‘beach’

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.

Playabonita2 source

Source image for my second Playa Bonita painting.

Playabonita2 twk

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:

1617playabonita2

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.

2227 source

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.

Sourcefoto tweaked1

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.

1622

The finished painting: Tiririca Beach Shacks.


1622 detail2

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 1


1622 detail1

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 2



1622 detail3

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 3

Painting buzios header

March 21, 2012

• BARRA
• A VISIT TO BUZIOS
• DRAWING HOUSES
• TAKING THE PLUNGE



BARRA


I did a Brazilian beach painting and cityscape back in 1995 called Barra.

Barra is the name of my favorite beach in the Bahian city of Salvador. I liked the painting a lot at the time, and over the years I’ve grown to like it even more. Many times I’ve thought, I wish I could do one of those again.

Meaning, another tropical cityscape with that kind of strength and visual interest and just the right amount of whimsy.

667salvador

Looking back at my own work for inspiration: Barra, a 1995 painting I did of a beach in the Bahian city of Salvador.

But painting doesn’t work that way. At least it doesn’t for me. Capturing the magic that happened with Barra again was something that would happen when it was time for it to happen.

As you know, I’ve recently been living through a Nebraska winter for the first time in 41 years. And as you also know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, it’s been a blessing in disguise, both forcing and allowing me to focus on my art in a way I haven’t for over 20 years.

I’ve been painting or drawing every day for many months now, and to say I’m warmed up and in the groove would be an understatement. I’m hot. I’m cooking. But wait! That doesn’t mean everything I try works out. What it means is, I take bigger chances, and more often. Consequently I’m growing like crazy.

So painting ideas that would have scared me or put me off in the past, I now look at and go, okay, WTF, let’s try it. That’s how I came to do a painting of Búzios.



A VISIT TO BUZIOS

I’d visited Brazil lots of times, but it wasn’t until my 2008 trip there with my friend Steph that I visited Búzios (if you want, you can read about that trip—Búzios is just a small part of it—here).

Búzios was a little fishing village in the 1950s when French movie star Brigitte Bardot discovered it and soon the rest of the world did, too. Now it’s a bit different, with Gucci and Prada stores instead of little fishing shacks. But it still has charm and a lot of natural beauty. Steph and I enjoyed our time there a lot, and I shot quite a few photographs.

I was looking at some of those photographs a couple of weeks ago when the idea struck. Looking at the way the houses climbed up the hill, with palm trees peeking out, I started to see something that excited me. I could picture the kind of painting I wanted to do, and it was definitely the same flavor as I’d found when I painted Barra back in 1995. But the photograph was lacking something. There was no beach in it.

Buzios top

This was the photograph that first triggered the idea of a Búzios painting. But it needed something.

So I found a second photograph taken at about the same time which did have the beach in it. Then, using one of my favorite creative tools, Photoshop, I cut and pasted the 2 photographs together.

Buzios beachbottomhalf

This photograph of the actual beach gave me the rest of the visual elements I needed.

Buzios combopic

I put the houses on the hill and the beach together into one image.

The result was not strictly realistic, of course, but it did capture the image of Búzios I’d had in my mind since my visit there. It gave me a starting point for my painting. Below is the first rough sketch I did of my idea for the composition.

Buzios sm 01 border



DRAWING HOUSES

I’ve never been much good at drawing buildings. They’ve just never excited me. But I knew that in order to make this painting work, I needed to improve my house-drawing abilities. I didn’t need to learn to make an architectural drawing, but I did need some practice in capturing the personality of a house, and of a group of houses on a hill. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of whimsical, crazy-angled houses I wanted to put on that hill, but I didn’t yet know how to draw them. So I dived in and began sketching.

Buzios sm 05

The first sketches I did were fairly realistic, since I needed to get a feeling for which details should be left in and which could be left out and still keep the feeling of the building.

Buzios sm 03

Buzios sm 04 border

Buzios sm 06

As I continued, the buildings got less detailed and more fanciful. And I gradually got more confident. I did another compositional study:

Buzios sm 02 border

This time I indicated some boats in the foreground.

Then, as I got closer to actually tackling the painting, I decided to do a color acrylic sketch.

Buzios sm colorprepsketch01

With this acrylic sketch I got to try out some of the sketch ideas in painting form.

I wasn’t that happy with the acrylic sketch, but it helped me by showing me where I didn’t want to go with the painting. I wanted less detail and less 3-dimensionality. I wanted the painting to be flatter, more about line and color, and less about realism.

Despite that, I still felt the need to do a house painting that showed what I’d learned over the past few days of sketching, so I took a piece of Strathmore bristol stock and tacked it up on my easel and did a little painting of a tropical house (below). It was kind of fun, but it was pretty intense, too…lots of precision and detail—the exact opposite of what I was intending for the painting I was about to do.

1581house1

If you take another look at the pencil sketches above, you'll find the inspiration for this little tropical house.

For some reason I still feel like I have to ‘pay my dues’ from time to time by doing something detailed and precise, thereby earning the right to do something light, fluid and whimsical. Silly, I know. But I still do it.



TAKING THE PLUNGE

Now that I had paid my dues I finally felt ready to begin the painting. I got up knowing that today was the day. It was with great trepidation that I began sketching onto a big piece of canvas that morning. I felt like I was biting off a lot with this one. But I knew I had to take the plunge.

And magic began to happen. The drawing almost did itself. I was thrilled that all the preparatory work I’d done seemed to be paying off. I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep things so bold, simple and clean if I hadn’t done all those sketches of buildings that weren’t bold, simple and clean.

When I finished drawing the trees and buildings and began on the beach, I ‘saw’ a guy working on his boat and another tourist-type guy standing watching him, and it was as if I’d always known I would put those figures in. Except I hadn’t known it consciously. But there they were, and they fit perfectly.

The next step was to ‘ink’ it, using black acrylic paint to go over the lines of the drawing.

Inprog1 buzios

The next step, as usual, was to paint a wash of purplish-brown over the inked drawing, and wait for that to dry. While it dried I began mixing colors.

Often in these step-by-step recountings of my studio process, I talk about the difficulties I encountered in a particular painting and how I overcame them. But sometimes, everything just falls into place. This was one of those (magical) times.

Inprog2 buzios

Not that I wasn’t making decisions all the time as I went along. For instance, I knew that I wanted to reserve the whitest white of the houses on the hill for the lower center, because I knew that white would draw the eye. So I consciously chose which group of houses would be the focal point on the hill. Another thing that happened in the course of the drawing was realizing I needed one of the palm trees to be another focal point, so I made the lower right palm tree the biggest, closest tree and made it stand out slightly in front of the background. There’s always gotta be this dance between the foreground and the background, or between the focal point and the stuff around it that makes it the focal point.

Of course all those subdominant focal points are there to make an interesting path for the eye to end up at the dominant focal point, which is the guy in the hat standing on the beach. Which I didn’t even put in until I was actually laying in the final drawing on the canvas. This is why I sometimes say, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I mean, I do know what I’m doing, but it’s like my body knows, not my conscious mind, and somehow, more often than not, I end up doing what works.

There were little adjustments that needed to be made as I finished the painting, but the big stuff had already been worked out. Just about 1 week after I first started doing rough sketches, I completed the painting I call “Búzios.”

1582

The finished painting: Búzios.

LINK: Douglas Simonson Gallery: Paintings

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)


sam-kawai-comp.jpg

My candidates for a two-guy photo shoot.

I was planning to do a second photo shoot with Sam and about the same time my friend Kawai (pronounced Ka-VYE, rhymes with tie) expressed an interest in modeling. I thought maybe I could entice the two of them to pose together. I’ve always found it a challenge to find two models willing to pose together, but thought maybe this one would work out. And yes, both Sam and Kawai said sure, it sounds like fun. Before this they had known each other from a distance but had never really talked or gotten to know each other. So as always, I decided to just give it a shot and see how things went.

samkawaiarrivebch.jpg

Sam and Kawai arrive at the beach.

We met at my house at sunrise and drove out to a secluded beach I know of on the east side of the island. It was a weekday, and not yet 7am, so I was hoping there would be no one around at the beach. And fortunately there wasn’t. We walked a short distance from the road and we were there.

samkawaifirstnude.jpg

Sam and Kawai happily peeled off their clothes and headed for the water.

I was also fortunate in that Sam and Kawai seemed to be hitting it off. They clearly liked each other and were comfortable with each other—with just enough mutual attraction going on to make it interesting. Both Sam and Kawai are in their mid-20’s, and both are outgoing, friendly people. I know and like both of them so I wasn’t surprised they liked each other, too.

samkawaiwrestling.jpg

Wrestling on the beach!

After having the two of them slather each other in sunblock (that helped relax them as well as protecting parts of them not used to the sun), I suggested they do some wrestling and rolling around on the beach—just to see what would happen. Sam was aggressive and playful but Kawai was holding back—I think he was afraid he was going to hurt Sam or something. But he did relax eventually. And I was getting some great shots.

kawaisamaffectionate1.jpg


I wanted some affectionate stuff, too, and it was no problem. These two really did like each other and it was a unique situation where it was totally okay to be openly affectionate with another attractive guy, with truly no strings attached. You can tell they both enjoyed it. And we were just getting started.

kawaisamrescue.jpg

We were all over that beach that morning. I wanted some action stuff (no, I don’t mean that kind of action) so we went where the waves crashed highest against the biggest rocks—and Sam made his way across the rocks to stand on the highest one in the morning sun—then had a bit of trouble getting back. Fortunately Kawai was there to help.

kawaisamtowelingoff.jpg

At Kei and Dick's backyard pool...

After shooting for a couple of hours at the beach, we went to the nearby neighborhood of Mariner’s Ridge where my friends Kei and Dick live. They’ve always been very generous about letting me use their backyard pool for my photo shoots. I had Sam and Kawai jump in the pool, then get out and towel each other off. Toweling off is one of my favorite things to have a model do, and having two models do it for each other made for some great shots.

samkawailaughingpoolside.jpg

As I said, the two liked each other and by now they were very comfortable with each other. It was Sam’s second photo shoot so he was very relaxed (Sam is a boisterous, fun guy with a lot of personality anyway), and that helped relax Kawai.

samkawaipalmfronds.jpg

But it wasn’t all laughing and clowning around. I was able to get lots of sweet, affectionate moments—I’d been hoping for that but it’s not something you can engineer…it either happens or it doesn’t. I couldn’t have gotten poses like this if there weren’t some genuine chemistry between the two.

kawaisamaffectionate2.jpg

This shot was one of the very last that morning. By this time the two were so at ease with each other they were giggling and playfully affectionate as if they really were lovers in private, with no prying eyes around. This was exactly what I’d hoped for. I engineered things as much as possible but the way things came together was ultimately just my good luck at knowing two such sweet and handsome guys who were willing to be playful in front of my camera. Thank you Sam and Kawai!