Posts Tagged ‘e-book’

Walkingthetightrope header

February 28, 2014

CONTENTS


• A QUICK RE-CAP
• THE WINTER ESCAPE PLAN, PART 1
• BEING THERE FOR FAMILY
• PAINTING
• THE WINTER ESCAPE PLAN, PART 2

(Note: the above titles are clickable)


A QUICK RE-CAP



Back in June 2011 when I made the decision to leave Hawaii and go traveling for at least a year,
I knew I was making a big decision, and changing my whole way of life. But I didn’t know how wide-ranging and complete the change would be.

I’m now nearly 3 years into my “On the Road” lifestyle and I’ve spent less than half that time actually on the road. But it turns out On the Road has meanings that didn’t even occur to me when I began this journey.

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I took this shot of Puerto Vallarta just a few minutes before sitting down to write this blog entry. This is about 2 blocks from the hostel where I'm staying, the Vallarta Sun (I recommend it!).

I’m writing this from a hostel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where I’ve been for a couple of weeks. As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I moved my home and studio to Nebraska in April 2012 for a variety of reasons, primarily ease of travel and to take advantage of the great support system that is my sister Kelly.

Moving from Hawaii to Nebraska was not something I ever thought I would do, but it turned out to be the perfect next step for me. For one thing, I needed to reconnect with family, even more than I consciously realized. For another, moving to a quiet place like Lincoln, Nebraska where I don’t have a social network or a beach or a favorite bar meant much more time spent in the studio. And that has led to quantum leaps in my painting, both in terms of productivity and creative growth.

As I realized what a surprisingly great place Lincoln, Nebraska was for me painting-wise, and as I fell in love with my new studio there, a new plan evolved: I would stay in Lincoln and paint from April through October or so, then when it started getting cold, I would travel in warm places throughout the winter.


THE WINTER ESCAPE PLAN, PART 1


Winter 2012 was my first try at doing this. I went to the Dominican Republic for 5 weeks in November and December, and as you know from this blog, had a great time and photographed lots of new models. It was my intention to keep traveling until spring, but I went back to Nebraska for Christmas–and lost my momentum.

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One of my photographs from the Dominican Republic. I spent 5 weeks here in Nov-Dec. 2012.

I’ve learned, especially recently, that traveling is all about just going ahead and doing it, trusting that somehow the money to pay for it will appear. It always does work out, often in amazing, miraculous ways. It’s about trust. But last winter, I lost that trust, lost my nerve, and out of financial fear, ended up staying in Nebraska through the miserable months of January, February and March. By the time spring finally arrived, I was clear that whatever it took, I was not going to spend another winter in Nebraska!

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This is what my backyard looked like in January 2012.

I should mention here that despite the discomfort of that period, it was a happy and productive time for me in terms of painting because I was in my studio working most of the time. It also turned to have been a good thing that I had stayed in Lincoln for the winter because I was able to see my mother more often.


BEING THERE FOR FAMILY


I had been visiting my mother (known to everyone in the family as PJ) frequently during this period. She had dementia and was in a memory-care nursing home in Lincoln. I realized again how valuable and life-changing my Quantum-Touch training was during this time. Where most people’s experience of watching the progress of dementia or Alzheimer’s in a loved one is painful, even devastating, my experience was entirely different.

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Here I am running energy on PJ in early 2013.

Usually when I visited PJ I would sit down on the bed and place my hands on her body and “run energy” into her for 30 to 45 minutes. She would always become very calm and relaxed when I did this, and often she would fall asleep. The connection I felt with her during these times was probably the strongest, most loving and most intimate I’d experienced with her since I was a baby.

PJ fell and broke her hip in June, and we think she had a stroke simultaneously with this. She died 3 days later. This was a difficult period where she was in intensive care and had her family around her, but she couldn’t communicate. I was able to do energy work on her during this time and experience her body shutting down while I was connected to her. I strongly believe I was able to ease her pain and discomfort during this time, and when she made her final transition out of the body, I felt no sorrow, only a sense of rightness and completion.

I was and am deeply grateful for the fateful decisions I’ve made which allowed me to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right training, to have this experience of my mother’s death.

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With my sister Kelly during a short trip to Breckenridge to celebrate her entering a new and expanded phase in her life.

A couple of months later I had another experience of being in the right place at the right time to give my sister Kelly the support she needed to end a relationship that no longer served her. I have to admit this was also a transition that served me–I moved into the bedroom her ex-boyfriend vacated!


PAINTING


At around this time I rented what I thought was the perfect painting studio in downtown Lincoln, only to move again a couple of months later into a studio that turned out to be even more perfect. (Read about that studio, and the studio design that allowed me to be more productive and efficient than ever before, here.) (Read about the move into the new studio at Parrish here.)

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TOP: Studio 1, which lasted only 2 months. BOTTOM: Studio 2, in Lincoln's Parrish Studios, where I'm very happy and hope to stay for a while.

My painting continued to grow by leaps and bounds. In the last few years I’ve noticed my painting tends to jump between two threads: the Expressionist thread (lots of outlines, flat areas of color, distorted shapes), and the Loose Brushwork thread (loose brushwork, obviously, but a naturalistic approach that’s all about light and shadow). In July the Expressionist thread took off in kind of a new direction: Faces. I got inspired to paint big expressionist faces and had such a good time doing it I kept doing it for several months and eventually did about 25 of them.

I was additionally inspired by the fact that my collectors really liked them and they began selling immediately. (Unlike a lot of painters who feel every painting is their ‘child’ and they hate to let go of it, I tend to get energy from a painting’s being sold, and to be inspired to do more like it.)

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Some paintings from my FACES Series. The phase shown here lasted from about August through October 2013.

Along about late September, with cold weather approaching, I started putting my winter travel plan into action. Without paying too much attention to how much (or how little) money appeared to be available for it, I made reservations for a flight to Rio de Janeiro. In the days before I left, I had another burst of painting inspiration, this time in the Loose Brushwork thread.

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In November 2013, just before taking off for the winter, I did a series of excitingly loose, energetic paintings in what I call the Loose Brushwork thread.


THE WINTER ESCAPE PLAN, PART 2


I left for Brazil on November 12th for a 5-week stay. I was nervous about how things would unfold financially, but decided not to worry about it, to just trust instead. As usual that was a good decision and everything went fine.

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Two of the many wonderful things that happened during my late 2013 5-week stay in Rio de Janeiro: 1, slacklining with Oliver, and 2, completing a 2-year project, the e-book Finding and Photographing the Male Nude.

I had a great time in Brazil, completing a long-term project that I had actually begun 2 years previous on a visit to Brazil, an e-book titled Finding and Photographing the Male Nude. During my time in Rio, I also discovering an exciting and challenging new sport, slacklining.

I flew back to Nebraska to spend Christmas with my family before heading to Hawaii the day before New Year’s.

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Simonson in Hawaii January 2014: Top, hanging out with old friends and new friends; Bottom, at my old stomping grounds, Queen's Surf in Waikiki.

My good friend Allen Hanaike graciously offered me a place to stay, which allowed me to spend a month in Hawaii–my first time back in almost 2 years. I left for Hawaii on January 30, not really knowing how I would pay my ongoing bills while there, but trusting. Within days after arriving for my stay at Allen’s house, out of the blue, I received a $2000 illustration commission from a fellow houseguest who is the Art Director for a California magazine. Trust rewarded, again.

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Some of the illustrations I did as part of a commission I got while in Hawaii (I did this entire commission digitally, drawing on the computer using a Wacom tablet).

While I was in Hawaii I pondered the next leg of my escape from winter. I chose Puerto Vallarta, and flew here for a month-long stay on February 15. I’ve now been here for 10 days and every day has been sunny and 85 degrees. I am loving it. Staying in a hostel has its challenges as always, but more than makes up for it with the people I meet and the great connections that happen.

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Scenes from my Puerto Vallarta stay in February-March 2014.

When I’m not taking excursions and shooting photographs, I’m working on my next e-book and some digital paintings. Oh, and going out with new friends in the evenings.

I’ll return to Nebraska in late March. It will still be cold, but most of the winter will be past. I’m loving being in the tropics but there is a very strong pull to get back into the studio and paint again.

A lot has changed since I began my “On the Road” journey. What I’m realizing is that when I let go of most of my possessions and took off for a year on the road, all that was just a metaphor for the real journey going on inside me. Choosing constant change and adventure meant choosing a different kind of inner life, where I had to rise to a new level of adaptability and staying in the moment. By opening up in this way, I made myself available to take whatever path presented itself, whether it was staying in a hostel in Mexico, finding new models in the Dominican Republic, learning slacklining in Rio, or assisting a loved one in transitioning from one phase of existence to another.

I was practicing slacklining in Hawaii a few weeks ago and it occurred to me that one of the reasons I’m so drawn to it is because it’s the perfect metaphor for my life. I call this blog On the Road, but it could just as easily be called Walking the Tightrope.


As I’ve been saying since I published my first e-book, Tropical, recently, I love e-publishing!

Because Tropical was so much easier, faster and more affordable to create as an e-book than it would have been as a conventional book, and because the response to it was so great, I immediately started work on a second e-book.

For a long time I’d been wanting to put together in book form a collection of my early male figure drawings and paintings. I started drawing male nudes around 1980, and my first drawings were from naked guy magazines of the time like In Touch, Playgirl, etc. Back then, the models in those magazines were almost always white guys. But my passion was Asian, Polynesian, Black and Latin men, so I used to draw from those magazine photographs and turn the white guys into interesting ethnic experiments.

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Early Simonson drawings. Both these images started out as photographs of Caucasian men.

Then as I got more confident I started taking photographs of some of my friends who were willing to pose, and I drew from those photographs. This took some courage, and was a huge shift for me, since working from my own photographs meant I was seeing myself as the creator, not just an interpreter of someone else’s images. This was the very beginning of what would turn into a lifelong career as a painter (and later as a photographer, too), though I didn’t know it at the time.

I’m prejudiced, of course, but I think those early years and the art that I was creating then make an interesting visual story. And of course such a collection would be interesting to anyone who likes to look at male nude art. So I decided my second e-book would be a sort of retrospective of my first decade, 1980-1990. I decided I would call it Classic Simonson.

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Thanks to Photoshop and many hours of work, I was able to transform a lot of my old, scratched-up 35mm slides into clean, clear digital images.

Classic Simonson was a challenge to put together mostly because I didn’t have very good source material. When I first started making drawings of the male nude I didn’t have any practical way of keeping copies of the art once it had been sold. This was long before the era of home scanners, and getting a professional negative or transparency made was not affordable for me back then. In most cases, I made do by putting the art on an easel and shooting 35mm slides of it.

As primitive as some of those early attempts at documentation were, they were a lot better than nothing. I began to sift through those old slides and sometimes negatives and photographs of the early art, and I found a surprising number of useable images. And some that didn’t seem that useable at first blush eventually yielded good results when I digitized them and applied my Photoshop skills. I wound up with about 150 works which I eventually whittled down to 128.

I decided to put the art in order chronologically, year by year, to show my progress as an artist. It’s interesting to see it in that context, and I think when you view the book you’ll find the progression and growth interesting. For me personally, going through these early artworks was a bit like reading an old diary. I was reminded of people who had come and gone in my life; boyfriend dramas; friends I’d been close to and who are now gone; and lots of wonderful memories.

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Beginning to work from my own photographs was a big step. Chinaman's Hat is a painting from an early photo shoot with Jon K., and on the right, Coconut Milk is from a North Shore photo shoot with Dwayne.

I recently met a heavyset older guy at Hula’s, and only after talking to him for a few minutes and looking into his eyes did I recognize one of my best and most beautiful models from those early years. I was shocked. I’d been living with the 1985 image of him for all these years. I realized in a whole new way how much time has passed. (I have to say, though, when I was talking to him, I could still see that spark of beautiful-boy sexiness twinkling in his eyes.)

So looking at these drawings and paintings is looking back in time. And knowing that the beauty captured in them has not endured in the real world just adds to their beauty. Now they’re not only sexy and beautiful, but poignant as well. I like that the book I ended up putting together puts my early work in context and gives me (and hopefully you, too) a new, broader perspective on it.

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On the left, the cover of my newest e-book, Classic Simonson, which is available both on the Amazon Kindle and in PDF format on my website. On the right, my first e-book, Tropical, which Amazon thought was too racy to be put on the Kindle.

Once I had prepared the images, I wrote the introduction and designed a cover, and began the process of converting the digital files into e-book form. As I said, Classic Simonson is my second e-book. The first one is a book of photographs, Tropical. When I finished Tropical I wanted to put it on Amazon in Kindle format, so I spent a lot of hours learning how to convert my content into the format Kindle uses. Then I submitted it to Amazon. To my surprise, they responded a couple of days later with a rejection notice. They said the book did not meet their “content guidelines.” I can only guess what caused that. Maybe they don’t like erections? Oh well…it’s been selling fast on my website and from the feedback I’m getting, people are loving it. Maybe it’s a selling point that it was too racy for Amazon!

At any rate, I decided to try again with Amazon with this new book. For one thing, there are no actual erections in these early drawings, and for another, they’re drawings, not photographs. So I prepared Classic Simonson in Kindle format, and submitted it. Amazon accepted it! That made me happy. I’m thrilled to have an e-book on Amazon. Then, since I also wanted to offer the book in PDF format (the Kindle format isn’t as good as PDF for viewing on non-Kindle devices), I created a PDF version of Classic Simonson to offer on my website.

Both versions are available now. Click here to go to Amazon and see the Kindle version of Classic Simonson. Click here to see the PDF version available on my website. Whichever version you choose, I hope you enjoy this look back at the early years of my career as an artist of the male nude.


I had been wanting to create a book of my male-nude photographs for quite a while, but I kept putting it off–

Because I know too well the amount of time and work and money it takes to publish a book. So even though I really wanted to do that new book, I kept not doing it.

Which was too bad. Because I have a lot of male-nude photographs that would work really well in a book format.

(Yes, I have over 13,000 images on my Simonson On Location subscription website, but those photographs have to be kept fairly small so they load quickly. And viewing photographs on a website is a very different experience than viewing a collection of images in a book.)

But hey, I thought not too long ago, after seeing the five-hundredth article about how digital is redefining the book business–what about an e-book? Never mind that I had never seen an e-book of fine-art photographs. There must be such things!

Well, maybe not.

I started researching the subject online and found a lot of…nothing! There were a very, very few e-books of fine art, and fine-art photography. But none of them looked very exciting or beautiful, or made me want to buy one.

That’s probably because the e-book industry is still defining itself. And until recently, e-readers didn’t do too well with images. But that’s changing, and changing fast, as devices like the iPad and the Nook and all kinds of other e-readers and tablets become available. The more research I did, the more I thought this seemed like the perfect time to make an e-book happen.

I got very excited about the idea of creating a new book without having to go through the tedious (and expensive) six-month process of proofing, printing and shipping huge boxes of books from Asia.

So I dived in.

My first hurdle was deciding on a format for my book. How to create an e-book that would display my photographs the way I wanted to see them–big, beautiful, rich with color and detail?

After a lot of research, I discovered the perfect format for such a book is one that’s been around for a long time: PDF.

Since you’re reading this on a computer, chances are you’re already familiar with Adobe’s Portable Document Format. It’s ideal for an e-book composed mostly of images because it preserves your formatting and does a good job of compressing images. And you can view a PDF on any computer, and on the iPad and many smartphones.

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Some of the first images I chose to be in the new e-book.

So with the format issue handled, I began the next step: going through tens of thousands of photographs looking for likely candidates for the book. This process turned out to be a several-days-long job. But I loved doing it because I was so excited about the project. And I kept finding buried treasure. I have been doing this a long time and I don’t always remember every segment of every photo shoot. It was exhilarating to discover hidden caches of gorgeous images I hadn’t seen or thought about in years–especially knowing that I now would have an exciting new venue in which to display them.


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An amazing Chadwick image that will look great in the book.

As I started putting together the images I wanted to feature in my new e-book, I also started thinking about a theme. Well, I say thinking about it, but the truth is, it came to me in a flash after I’d chosen maybe the first 15 images.

TROPICAL.

That’s the title I thought of. And of course Marcus had to be the cover model. I knew exactly what image I wanted, too. There was this photograph of Marcus from our very first photo shoot in Angra dos Reis where he’s holding this huge tropical leaf over his crotch and looking right at the camera–it’s a great image. I opened it up, and pasted the word TROPICAL over it in orange, and it looked amazing. As soon as I did that, the subtitle came to me: Hot Men in Warm Places. Sometimes choosing the right title for a book (or a painting or drawing) is a difficult process. This wasn’t. It came to me in a flash and felt totally right.

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I’d been excited about the book before, but having the cover in front of me, and loving it, made a huge difference. Now the book had a real identity and a theme. Choosing the rest of the photographs for it became much easier because the cover set a tone. It was immediately clear to me, as I continued to go through possible photos for the book, which ones fit with the theme and which ones didn’t.

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Two more images that made the cut.

I’d envisioned the book being about 100 pages long, and I ended up with 110 pages. But on those 110 pages there were over 170 photos, since I put multiple images on a single page in some instances.

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Sometimes I told a story by clustering several photographs on a single page.

Once I had all the images in place, I wrote an introduction and an “About the Photographer” blurb, and then used Photoshop to create the PDF file. I did this MANY times before I found the magic balance between file size and image quality. The final PDF file was just over 36MB which is bigger than most e-books by far, but not too big a file for easy downloading. And at that size, the PDF format still allowed me to offer very good detail and color depth on the images. I had an e-book, and one that I was very happy with!

What remained was to work with Mitch, my web guy, to set up a download link so that buyers of the book would be able to download it easily. That was not too difficult to set up, and a few days later I was able to send an e-mail to my mailing list announcing my first e-book. The next few days were an exciting time as I watched the orders flood in. Not only were people buying the book, they were loving it! The feedback was entirely positive, which of course made me feel great.

The best part of all? I created and published a beautiful book in under 1 month!

If you haven’t yet gotten your copy of Tropical, it’s available here. With instant payment and download, you can be enjoying your copy of the book just a few minutes from now.

So what am I up to now? I’m working on my next e-book…