Posts Tagged ‘Brazilian male’

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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

If you’ve followed my work, or this blog, for any time at all, you probably know how infatuated I am with Brazil.

I love it so much I’ve been studying Brazilian Portuguese ever since I first went to Rio, back in 1987. For the past few years my Portuguese teacher has been my friend Luzia, who is originally from Goiania but has been living in Honolulu for a long time now.

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I love Brazilian men almost as much as I love Brazil itself, so when Luzia told me she had a Brazilian friend she thought I should meet because he’s so hot and sexy and was interested in modeling for me, I said great, show me pictures! Unfortunately the only pictures she could find to show me were terrible, shot from far away, group pictures where he was in the back, etc. So I couldn’t really tell whether he was as hot as she said. Then she told me he’s leaving Hawaii and going back to Brazil forever. In FIVE DAYS.

So she gave me his number and I called and left him a message. That evening he called me back and started speaking rapid-fire Portuguese over the phone and I had to stop him. My Portuguese is okay but not when you’re talking fast and not over the phone. So we spoke English and Vinni (short for Vinicius) told me yes, he was interested, and we set up a meeting. He came over the next day.

As soon as he walked off the elevator I began to see what Luzia was talking about. Vinni is not classically handsome but he is very sexy. He’s masculine without being macho, he’s confident without being pushy or arrogant, and he has an unself-conscious grace when he moves. And a great smile. I saw all this as I talked to him and began taking some test photos. He said he’d never posed nude before but didn’t have a problem with it, so I told him to get naked, which he did. Everything I saw, I liked, and I told him yes, I think you’ll do!

As soon as he left I started work on finding a location, and called my friend Doug, who has a gorgeous pool and garden (where I did a photo shoot with Jeff a few months ago). Doug told me yes, the place was available, so I called Vinni and we set up a photo shoot for the next day.

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Vinni showed up at my place the next morning and we drove to Makiki, which is where Doug lives. It had been cloudy and rainy the previous few days so I was immensely relieved that the morning was bright and sunny. We let ourselves in to the garden through the old wooden gates and I let Vinni look around while I assembled my camera equipment.

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Usually I just kind of wing it when it comes to directing the model and the overall photo shoot. I make it up as I go along and trust that I’ll get the shots I want/need. It’s not a very conscious process, and recently I went over the photos from several of my shoots and I realized how often I really don’t get all the shots I want and need. I think this lack of conscious direction is because I’ve always thought of myself as a painter, and I’ve not taken the photographer part of my job very seriously.

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But as I get older and more confident and have more respect for myself as a creator, I’m no longer satisfied with that approach. I’m starting to take myself seriously as a photographer, and because of that I approached this photo shoot with Vinni in a way I haven’t before. I made a very detailed checklist of things I wanted to accomplish with this shoot.

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I wrote down all the basic poses I wanted to try, and I wrote down my intention of trying all the basic poses against as many different backdrops as I could. Same idea as when a filmmaker shoots many different versions of the same scene. It’s called “coverage.” And I knew in order to get that coverage I would need to follow the checklist closely throughout the session.

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Just to give you an idea, here’s a summary of the checklist:

BASIC POSES: Standing, stretching, twisting, undressing, walking, arms folded, arms at side, rubbing hands over body, jumping into pool, climbing out of pool, toweling off, sitting on edge of pool, standing on edge of pool, lying on towel face up/face down.

BACKDROPS: Do all or most of the basic poses in front of several backdrops, in this case including: the pool itself, lots of tropical foliage, some beautiful old wooden gates, and the patio beside the pool.

MOOD: With every new backdrop, all the basic poses should be done in two versions: calm and animated.

So this is how it works: I find a backdrop I like, the wooden gates for instance, and I pose the model in front of that backdrop. We go through all the basic poses in front of that backdrop, with each pose being shot in two moods, calm and animated. Then we move on to the next backdrop and repeat.

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This adds up to a LOT of time, work and a huge number of images, but that’s my goal: to capture, with this single model, as much variety as possible in terms of backdrops, angles, lighting and mood.

I have planned photo shoots before, but never before to this degree, and I was never able to stick to the checklist before. I would get caught up in the intensity of the photo shoot and while that can be a good thing, I wanted to see what it would be like to really push through this shoot in an organized way.

So that’s what I did. I was determined to stay focused and follow that checklist, and I did so, for the entire 4 and a half hours of the photo shoot. This took a lot of discipline on my part, but I was rewarded by by some of the best results I’ve ever achieved in a photo shoot.


#alttext#These old wooden gates provided a perfect backdrop, and I took a lot of shots of Vinni standing by them.

We shot at the main location for about 3 and a half hours, then went back to my apartment and I did another series of shots of Vinni on my lanai. When we finished, I was exhausted, but very pleased with the results. I wound up with 2,100 images of which an amazing percentage were good. And I got the variety I wanted, to a degree I’ve never before achieved in a photo shoot.

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It sounds so easy and obvious—follow a checklist to get better results—but it’s amazing how long it took me to wake up to the possibilities of getting more focused and organized with my photo shoots. Or maybe I should say it took me a while to mature to the point where I could remain focused and professional despite the overwhelming excitement I feel when I’m photographing a beautiful model in a beautiful setting. At any rate, I’m really happy about the way I’m growing as an artist and photographer.

Oh, and Vinni’s words after the photo shoot? “That was really FUN!”

Update to this Entry:

In March 2013 I published an e-book of uncensored Vinicius photographs from the above photo shoot. You can purchase it for instant download here.

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.”

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.

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1090103Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to put together two of the different ‘streams’ of my paintings—the male nudes and the calligraphic abstracts. Recently I was working from my photographs of Baiano at Itacaré in Brazil. I did a sketch of Baiano where he’s arching his back and has one hand behind his head. After sketching the figure, I added a border which incorporated some of the ‘alien calligraphy’ I’ve used in recent abstracts. I liked the look of this drawing overall, and thought it might work as a painting.

discoveryinprog1discoveryinprog2First thing I did was to transfer the pencil sketch to canvas. Then I repainted all the pencil lines with black acrylic. At this point it looked like it was going to work as a painting. I had a rough idea of the colors I wanted to use, but knew I would have to do some experimenting.

That experimentation was the next step. I did an acrylic wash over the interior, with the figure against a landscape. Those colors were easy. But what about the border? I continued using acrylic washes to try different color combinations.

discoveryinprog3discoveryinprog4I finally settled on making the border yellow with a red inner line, and the calligraphic characters green. Nothing scientific about this—I just kept trying different color combinations until one seemed to work. At that point I could begin applying a more final, thicker layer of paint.  I didn’t want the painting to end at the edge of the yellow border—I needed an area of color outside that. I thought blue would work but the more I painted of that, the less I liked it. After a bit more experimentation, I settled on a purple that picks up the purple in Baiano’s genitals. Don’t know why that worked, but it did. Now it was just a matter of filling in all the lines—covering the entire canvas with paint. Almost done!

1387discoveryThe final step was probably the most tedious: outlining everything in black paint. But this is the final touch that really makes the image pop. Now that I’ve finished, I like it. It’s kind of different from anything I’ve done before, but that’s a good thing. I’m calling it Discovery.