Posts Tagged ‘Búzios’

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.”

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The finished painting: Búzios.

LINK: Douglas Simonson Gallery: Paintings

I’ve just returned from Brazil, the first trip I’ve taken there since early last year when I found and photographed Wellington and Israel in Salvador. This time I traveled with my good friend Steph, and I must say we made a great team. She’s a bit like Gina in that she’s beautiful and fun and attracts lots of attention! We stopped over in Miami for a couple of days, then flew to Rio.

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Steph and myself in Miami at the Palace Bar, before catching an evening flight to Rio.


This was Steph’s first time in Brazil so we saw the sights of Rio for a couple of days before heading by bus to Búzios (a 3-1/2 hour ride). I’d never been to Búzios but had heard lots about it. It turned out to be a beautiful, sophisticated yet rustic little town, and we stayed in a charming, simple-but-beautiful room in a pousada called Passeio das Palmeiras (I recommend it, and the proprietor, Lucas, is pretty charming and beautiful himself).

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The morning lifeguard workout in the streets of Búzios---another good reason to visit this little beach town


Our original plan had been to rent a car and drive up the coast from Rio to Salvador, but for various reasons that didn’t work out. Traveling by bus up the coast began to look like a long, hard trek as well—so we wound up going back to Rio by bus so we could fly up to Salvador. From Salvador we would go back south, again by bus, to Itacaré, a place we both wanted to explore.


During our one-night stay in Salvador, I took Steph to one of my favorite restaurants, Caranguejo, and introduced her to Moqueca de Camarão, which is a Bahian seafood bouillabaisse made with coconut milk and dende and shrimp and god knows what else, and is a little bit of heaven. It required just one spoonful to convert Steph. (May I also mention here that, as an inveterate beer drinker, one of the things I love about Brazil is that they are religious about only serving really REALLY cold beer. I love that!)

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Steph's first Moqueca de Camarão in Salvador


We didn’t really know what we were in for when we got on the bus from Salvador to Itacaré. Well, actually, you can’t get a bus from Salvador to Itacaré. You have to get a bus for Itabuna or Ilhéus, and then catch ANOTHER bus to Itacaré. So we blithely got on the bus (which I must admit was very comfortable) and settled in for a six-hour journey. Actually it might have been seven—the time zone kept changing and nobody told us, which meant we kept thinking we were either way ahead of schedule or we were about to miss our next bus, which didn’t add to our peace of mind. Anyway, after six or seven hours on the nice bus, we then had to spend two and a half more hours on the not-so-nice bus, and by then it was late at night, so by the time we rolled into Itacaré, we were pretty exhausted.

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Views from the bus ride, Salvador-Itabuna


But the next morning when we got up and saw in the full light of day where we’d landed, we were happy. Itacaré is a very cool little hippie-surfer town, with great beaches, great waves, and a lot of charm and atmosphere. we stayed in a pousada called Hanalei (yes, like the beach on Kauai) which was like a Swiss-Family-Robinson treehouse, only not in a tree. Charming and well-managed—and the breakfast itself was worth the price of admission. GREAT food! Another pousada I can heartily recommend, if you ever want to make the trek to Itacaré.

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Some views of Itacaré's scenery


—Which you might want to do, because this is one of those places everybody falls in love with. It’s friendly and rustic and has lots of cool places to hang out—and beautiful, with 7 or 8 or 10 beaches, I don’t know how many, all close together and all gorgeous. Some gorgeous people too. We met quite a few of them, and on our second day there, we met a boy named Baiano. I had not been planning to work on this trip, but when I met this boy, I changed my mind. Here was a raw sexiness I felt I had to capture! Everything fell into place very quickly. I met him around noon, and by 3pm we had hiked to a deserted hilltop overlooking a beautiful beach, where Baiano got naked and I made him climb up and down the trails for the next 2 hours.

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Left: Baiano with surfboard. Right: Following Baiano up the hill on the way to our photo session.


Just as exciting as the model was the setting. This is the kind of backdrop I just can’t find in Hawaii, because it’s so populated. Itacaré is a small town in the middle of nowhere with a surplus of beaches, so you can shoot a nude model in places like this without worrying about lots of people wandering through your photo shoot. Like most of my models, Baiano is a sexy boy with charm, charisma and an oversupply of testosterone. It’s a combination that works for me. As is usually the case, Baiano was a bit surprised at how much fun it was to model for me, and at the conclusion of the shoot, we were good buddies.

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Some shots of Baiano in Itacaré


Steph and I left Itacaré with some reluctance, but it was time to go home. This time we skipped the bus and flew from Ilhéus to Salvador (45 minutes instead of 9 hours). We spent one last day in Salvador, most of it on the beach in Barra, where we ran into Wellington, my model from last year. We took him out for dinner and drinks that night, then went home because we had to get up early for our flight home.
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Wellington and Steph on our last day in Bahia


What a wonderful trip, but so great to be home again. I hated to leave Brazil but was overjoyed to get back because I’d been missing painting so much. I’m now happily ensconced in my studio painting and drawing like mad!