Posts Tagged ‘gay art’

1415dakota 2up wtext

Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


June 12, 2012

I’ve been in Lincoln, Nebraska since April 4. In that time I’ve managed to set up a new home and studio in a brick duplex on a shady street in a quiet neighborhood. The place is awesome. It has a big backyard where I see rabbits and squirrels and lots of birds every day. It’s inexpensive and comfortable and has an entire basement where I’ve set up my office and studio and there’s still plenty of room for storage.

What’s really great is that here in Lincoln, I don’t have a life! I know that doesn’t sound so great, but it’s perfect for me right now because for the first time in like, oh, 20 years!, I’m in a situation where I can really commit to and focus on my painting. I didn’t realize until I got here and got set up that one of the reasons I’ve made this move is exactly this: the opportunity to dive into painting in a way I really couldn’t in Hawaii. 

So I’ve got lots of painting activity to tell you about—and show you—in this blog entry.

PAINTING 1: VINNI’S HAIR


Vinni img9560

This is a shot I took of Vinni on the lanai of my Waikiki apartment last year.

The first major painting I undertook in my newly set-up Nebraska studio was from a photograph of Vinni (Vinicius), the Brazilian guy I photographed almost exactly a year ago in Hawaii. I found a photograph I really liked and decided to do it with a semi-stylized approach. 

I did a LOT of sketching (over 20 drawings) before I began painting, to get this the way I wanted it, with the movement and energy I wanted. As you may be able to see from these images, the position of the figure in the painting is quite different from the photograph. In the photograph, Vinni is in a rather static position. In the painting, he’s leaning forward almost as if he’s about to fly off the chair. There’s more life and movement in his pose. I’ve not only exaggerated the angles in his body, I’ve also exaggerated the angles of everything in the painting: the windows, the louvers in the windows, the shelves with the plants on them, etc. The result is a feeling of life and motion and energy. At least that’s what I was going for, and when I look at the finished painting, I do feel that. Obviously I’ve also exaggerated the colors, and invented a few (like the yellows around Vinni’s arm).

“Vinni’s Hair” took me 4 or 5 days to complete. I immediately jumped right into the next painting…

PAINTING 2: SUSPENDED

The second painting was an abstract. Some time ago, inspired by the paintings of Wosene Worke Kostrof (google him to check out his amazing Ethiopian abstracts), I’d done some studies on the computer, using my Wacom tablet. I decided it was time to try to translate them into a real-world painting. This was pretty straightforward since I had already worked out most of the shapes and the colors, so it was a lot of fun.

Wosene experimenting3

Wosene experimenting4




The digital paintings are above. Below is the acrylic painting I did using elements from them.


PAINTING 3: REDHEAD

My next painting was a portrait of Jason, the Irish redhead who modeled for me a couple of years ago. I wanted to do a painting using flat color. My source was a photograph I’d tinkered with in Photoshop using the Posterize filter. That filter takes the nearly infinite graduations of color and tone in the original photograph and reduces them to a relatively few areas of flat color. It’s a beautiful effect and I like translating it into painting.

Redhead source2up

Above you see the source photograph and the results of tweaking the color a bit.

Redhead inprog2up



The photo at left above shows the result of using some Photoshop filters (Posterize and Median) to make the image easier to work from. Above on the right, the painting is well underway. Below, the finished painting. As you can see, I had a lot of fun with color, especially the oranges and greens.


PAINTING 4: MY LONG LEAN BOYFRIEND



Kawai sam 8549twk

My next painting was inspired by a photograph of Sam and Kawai. In this image Sam was drying Kawai’s back, and I really liked the contrast between the poses of the two: Kawai kind of leaning forward, totally surrendering to having his back toweled off, and Sam very active and aggressive in a loving way, with his back arched and his legs kind of spread. I did several drawings to exaggerate the poses even more before putting it on canvas and starting to paint it. I was intending to keep this loose and spontaneous, but it didn’t really happen that way…


Longleanboyfrd inprog3up

Above are some in-progress shots of the painting. As you can see, rather than something loose and spontaneous, it ended up being rather tight and meticulous. Oh well. As Picasso said, “Painting is my master. It makes me do what it wants.” Below, the finished painting. Click on the image to see it on my website.



PAINTING 5: MORE THAN YOU KNOW



Although I didn’t succeed in doing a loose, spontaneous painting with “My Long Lean Boyfriend,” I got a lot closer to my aim in the next painting. For this one I wanted to just do a simple portrait…not challenge myself too much in terms of the image, so I could focus on just staying loose with the painting. I found what I needed image-wise in a photograph of Rod I took a few years ago at Diamond Head Beach.

Rod 2 8 02twk 2up

As you can see, I did my usual tweaking in Photoshop so I could use both a continuous-tone photograph and a posterized version as references. I plunged right in with this painting. After drawing the head and shoulders roughly onto the canvas, I began splashing the paint on, not even pre-mixing my colors (which usually takes me about a half hour!). I just squeezed out some cadmium red, cadmium orange, burnt sienna, yellow oxide, dioxazine purple and some white onto my palette and started painting with big, broad strokes.

Definitely NOT my usual approach, and I was really enjoying just throwing the paint onto the canvas, but my mind was going, This will never work out. But as I continued, to my complete surprise, everything fell into place and I ended up with a nice, loosely painted portrait of a beautiful young man. Doesn’t look anything like Rod, but that wasn’t necessarily my purpose anyway. 

I have to tell you, this was a pretty exciting painting for me. Whenever I can break through my need for control and do something this spontaneous and energetic and SURPRISING, it’s a big day for me.


PAINTING 6: BAHIAN BEACH SCENE



For my next painting I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak (while my courage and excitement were still high off the success of “More Than You Know”), so I dived into a new painting the very next day. This time I wanted to try a landscape. I found a photograph I shot at Tiririca, the beach in Itacaré, Bahia, Brazil where I stayed with my friend Steph back in 2008.

IMG 9120 twk 2up

Here you see my requisite two versions (although sometimes I do 4 or 5 versions with different degrees of tweaking to give me different ways of looking at light-and-shadow patterns).

Bahianbeachscene inprog 2up

Here’s the work in progress. I did pretty well at staying loose for the first part of the painting, but got a little too careful in the latter stages.

I’m pretty happy with it but feel like I got a little too careful. I got a little too caught up in painting the individual fronds of the palm trees, rather than paying attention to the big shapes. So they wound up being less strong than they could have been. But overall I think it works.

Then I moved on to my next attempt at looseness and spontaneity…


PAINTING 7: COLORS OF BAHIA


IMG 3957comp

For my next attempt at letting go of control I chose one of the most out-of-control models I’ve worked with, Israel. The group of images below is the composite I printed out as a reference for the painting. As usual I used Photoshop to make the light-and-shadow patterns more obvious.

Again, I didn’t spend a lot of time mixing the colors…just squeezed out the basics and started painting. This was easier than the previous paintings because I’m starting to get into the flow of this thing. And my confidence is high. This is all part of what happens when you paint regularly, which I’m now doing. Been a long time since I’ve painted this consistently, day in and day out, week after week, and the benefits are already starting to show. This painting flowed nicely and came together quickly with few missteps. That’s what happens when you’re truly warmed up and in the flow!



Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


tiririca-CU-titleimage.jpg

Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series

October 28, 2011

I came back to Honolulu for a few weeks between travels (see the “On the Road” links above if you’d like to read more about that) and one of my goals was to get some painting done.

Frustratingly, so many other things demanded my attention in the short time I was on the island that it was difficult to find time to draw or paint. But I did find some! I did 3 paintings while I was in Hawaii.

sketchbookpage-wordpress.jpg

There was something compellingly beautiful to me of the profile of Steve Chen in the center of this sketchbook page---I wanted to make it into a painting.

I’m drawing in my sketchbook a lot while traveling, and the first painting I did was inspired by a small sketch I did of Steve Chen’s face. (Steve is my newest model and you can see photos and read the story of my Malibu photoshoot with him here.)

This was the first time I’d painted in several weeks (it’s just not practical to take all my painting stuff on the road with me), and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together. Painting heads, or more specifically faces, has always been my favorite thing and it was nice to just be able to focus on that.

boyinshadow.jpg

This acrylic-on-paper work was a joy to paint. Everything just flowed. I titled it “Boy in Shadow.” It’s not a portrait of Steve Chen, but it was inspired by him. (Click on the image above to see it on my website.)

It turned out to be a couple more weeks before I was able to find time to paint again. I used to feel guilty when I couldn’t get as much painting and drawing done as it seemed I should, but this, like so many things in my life, is changing. I’m finding more and more that when it’s time to paint, it will happen. It’s not about trying hard to make it happen, it’s about allowing it to happen.

That’s how my next painting came to be. I found myself sketching from my Brazil photographs of Baiano and almost immediately, I had a sketch that really worked and I knew it could become a nice painting.

tiriricasource-n-sketch.jpg

I loved the energy of the photograph and the sketch that came from it, and had an idea it could make a nice painting. Click on the image to see the sketch on my website.

I approached this painting in my usual way, transferring the drawing to the canvas, then doing a purple wash over it, then painting the outlines in black paint before applying color (look at any of my previous step-by-step painting entries for a review of all that). However, once I began laying in the actual colors, something was different. I was MUCH LESS CAREFUL. I don’t mean careless, not at all; I mean I simply didn’t bother much about whether I was slopping paint into the wrong areas or covering up some of the underlying outlines. I didn’t bother with it because I knew I’d be cleaning up anything that needed cleaning up much later, when I was doing the finishing touches on the painting.

But because I was so much less careful than usual when I was laying in the colors, there was a LOT MORE ENERGY in the brushstrokes and in the overall painting. This was a wonderful development because, as you know if you’ve read previous painting entries, it’s always a challenge for me to loosen up and keep the painting bold and energetic. And the truth is, it’s really not even necessary to be as careful about where the paint goes at this relatively early stage of the painting. It had just been fear, or you could say lack of trust in myself, that kept me from letting loose this much in the past.

1502Tiririca.jpg

Here's the finished painting, entitled Tiririca. Click on the image to see this item on my website.

The finished painting rewarded my boldness. Not only is it filled with dynamic energy, it also took a lot less time to finish. It’s not always true that less time spent equals better work, but here that was definitely the case. The older and more experienced in life I get, the more I realize that the best results always come when you can find that place of effortlessness and fluidity.

IMG_0800-kaimana-surfer.jpg

This is one of a series of shots I have of Kaimana paddling on a surfboard which I used for the next painting.

It was another week or two before another painting “happened.” This was just a few days before I took off for another 3 months of traveling so I was glad this one came along in time for me to finish it before leaving. I had been thinking about a stylized, almost decorative painting of a nude surfer. So I began doing sketches from a series of Kaimana photos.

1111003.jpg

Here and below, some of the exploratory sketches I did for the surfer painting. Click on the image to see this item on my website.

1111004.jpg

Click on the image to see this item on my website.

1111005.jpg

Click on the image to see this item on my website.

This painting experience was a lot like the previous one, where I found myself much more willing to just take chances and let the paint go where it wanted to. Again there was an effortlessness to the painting, and it took less time than usual.

1503Paddling.jpg

Here's the result, a painting I call 'Paddling.' Click on the image to see this item on my website.

My experience with these most recent paintings was wonderful and it seems clear to me that this is just another unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle. Living as I do now, where I often don’t know where I’ll be staying or what I’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone a week or month from now, requires a lot more thinking on my feet and trust in myself. It consistently challenges me and forces me to move through my fears. It’s not surprising to discover that living a life that requires more courage and daring is translating into more courage and daring in my work!

Malibu w stevechen

Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


MALIBU PHOTO SHOOT: STEVE CHEN



As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve just embarked on a year-long journey.

I left Hawaii July 10 for Los Angeles, the first stop. I’ve been here for a little over 2 weeks, and I’ve just completed the first male-nude photo shoot of my trip so far.

stevechen.png

Steve Chen in a photograph by David Smith

I met Steve Chen through fellow photographers David Smith (Hawaii) and Kurt Brown (California). I’d seen some of the photographs and thought he looked great! On top of that, both David and Kurt said Steve was a sweetheart, easy to work with and just a really nice guy. I like to hear reports like that. So I was eager to meet him.

3up-testshots.jpg

Some of the test shots I took of Steve when we first met.

Steve came to meet me where I was staying, at my friend Gina’s Brentwood apartment. I liked him right away. He’s a very friendly, open, charming guy, and of course he’s handsome and has an amazing body! We talked a bit about the shoot, and other things, and set a date and time.

Two days later we drove to Malibu’s Point Dume State Park. Kurt Brown had recommended this spot, saying it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a nice beach with no one else around. That didn’t turn out to be quite accurate. Maybe it was because it was just getting into the really nice summer weather and Kurt was used to going there in the winter…or maybe we were just unlucky…but we hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and found beach after beach that was beautiful and would have made a great location–but had picnickers and sunbathers already on them.

We were both getting pretty frustrated, but we kept hiking and hiking–I know we covered several miles and I am not a very enthusiastic hiker!–until finally, at a point very far from where we’d begun, we found a spot with no one else around.

hiking-odyssey.jpg


That’s where I was finally able to start shooting in earnest. The sun cooperated by coming out in full force at just about that time, too, so from being very frustrated and tired, I went to being very excited and energized within a few minutes. I ultimately shot over 2000 images of Steve and was very happy with the results.

4up-pointdume.jpg

Just a few of the over 2000 images I shot of Steve at Point Dume.

We drove back to L.A. late that afternoon, both feeling tired but content: Steve because he felt he’d done a good job (he did) and me because I had so much great new material to work from!

I wasted no time, and within 3 days I had several new rough sketches of Steve, in both pencil and colored pencil. There will be many more! (Click on the sketches to see them on my website.)

stevechen-sketches-3up.jpg


And the first Steve Chen photo shoot gallery went up on the Simonson On Location on July 28. Again, there will be many more!

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#
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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.


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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.

#alttext#

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.


Every couple of days I spend an hour or so preparing the next photoset for my Simonson on Location photography website.

This is always an opportunity for me to review past photo shoots, and occasionally I run across images that surprise me. By that I mean I see an image differently than I had before. I see some possibility that had not previously struck me. When that happens, I tag the photograph so I can come back to it later and maybe do something with it.


#alttext#

This is the photo I started with. Left, the untweaked image; Right, I've lightened it and added some filters, including Posterize.

That’s what happened a recently when I was putting together a photoset of Israel and Wellington, the two models I photographed in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil a few years ago. There was a photograph of the two of them on the beach at Massarandupió that intrigued me. I especially liked the way Wellington was sprawled in the wet sand, looking out at the ocean. I thought it was very strong and a painting could be built around it. So a few days ago I went back to that photograph and started making sketches of it.

#alttext#

I started by sketching the figures separately until I liked what I had. Then I scanned them both and put them up on the computer screen. I wasn’t sure about the composition of the original photograph and I wanted to experiment with moving the figures around in relation to each other, plus changing their relative sizes. I could have done this by sketching and re-sketching but it’s much faster and easier to do it on the computer.

#alttext#

After trying out all sorts of combinations/compositions, I decided to reverse the positions of the figures. I actually kind of liked the original composition of the photograph, with its unconventional arrangement of the figures, one looking out of frame to the left, the other walking out of frame to the right—but it was a little too unconventional, I decided, and also said things about separation and isolation, and I didn’t really want to go there with this painting. So I rearranged things for a less edgy, more appealing composition.


#alttext#

I used Photoshop to make a color digital sketch of the painting. It's much easier to try out color possibilities digitally because you can manipulate the colors and arrangements endlessly, experimenting without penalty to find the ideal solution.

For the next step I also used the computer. I wanted to do a color sketch and again, doing this sort of thing on the computer is much easier because you can change the colors easily and try out all sorts of possibilities without having to do sketch after sketch. After completing the above digital color sketch, I decided I was ready to tackle the actual painting.

The painting itself was kind of an anticlimax, which is both good and bad. When I’ve planned a painting this well, the final execution tends to be fairly straightforward, although there will always be some surprises. I like that. But I also like to take chances and work without a net sometimes, too. This time, though, I liked the fact that the painting played out pretty much as I’d planned it. I spent 3 days completing the actual painting process, so this entire painting took about a week. I call it “Surf Boys.”


The next morning I woke up early (it was about 6:30) and looked outside. The morning air was crisp and chilly, no one was around the pool, and the place looked beautiful. I put on my swimsuit (not that I needed to), stepped outside and dove into the heated pool. It felt wonderful. I had a great swim, then got into the hot tub, which as usual was the perfect temperature. Refreshed and invigorated, I went back to my room.

What a great way to start the day!

I’d been planning to let the models sleep in because I didn’t want to get up early myself. But since I was already up, I decided to drag them out of bed and get some shots in that great early-morning light. I went to their room and knocked. And waited. Knocked again, and waited some more. Finally Jonny cracked the door, squinted at me, and let me in.

Rob hadn’t even peeked out from under his covers. It looked like he was going to be the immovable object. So because Jonny had already crawled out of bed, he became my victim. He wasn’t happy to leave his warm bed and come out into the cold morning air so I could photograph him, but he reluctantly said okay, I’ll do it. Is an hour from now okay? (Jonny needs 30 minutes just for his hair.)

#alttext#

Jonny gets up!

I told him NO! It’s gotta be RIGHT NOW. Every minute and we lose more of this gorgeous morning light! He moaned, but he was a sport–he was out by the pool about 3 minutes later.

#alttext#

Jonny was not excited about getting naked in 50-degree weather, but he was a trooper--and I was thrilled with the beautiful light and the sparkling early-morning desert air

When he got into the pool, he relaxed a bit, because it was nice and warm. Not hot, just but the right temperature. I had him paddle around a bit and when he got to the other end of the pool I told him to get out of the pool and go get into the hot tub. He moved so fast I almost didn’t get a shot of it.

#alttext#

Jonny moves fast to get to the hot tub

We did that a few more times before I just let him relax in the hot tub for a few minutes. I think he was finally agreeing with me that this is a nice way to begin the day. (Although after I told him okay, we’re done for now, he went right back to bed.)

#alttext#

Mmmm...not so bad after all.

By now it was still early. I think it was 7:30 or so. So I let the boys sleep some more and I went back to my room and caught up on some work I’d brought with me. (After first getting some breakfast from the Santiago Resort’s breakfast room, which had a nice selection of fruits, cereal, pastries, toast, etc., and great coffee.)

By noon I had caught up on the work I was doing and I was getting impatient to get started shooting again. I went to the boys’ room and they were STILL in bed. They let me in and I proceeded to hassle Rob, who was trying to ignore me. I told him that since he was not willing to get out of bed, we would do the next portion of the photo shoot with him IN bed. He kind of liked that idea. I did, too. So I shot for about a half hour, in low light with no flash because I wanted the natural light. That meant a lot of the photographs were a bit blurry but somehow that kind of fit the moment…

#alttext#

A few shots from the Rob-in-bed morning shoot

Shooting Rob and Jonny Together

After that we had some lunch and hung out for a while before starting to shoot again in the early afternoon. I asked Rob and Jonny if they’d be willing to do some shots together, and now that they knew each other and were comfortable with each other–and with me–they said sure, let’s try it.

#alttext#

We weren’t sure what we were going to do so just played it by ear. So what happened was, the boys did a push-up competition on the grass. (Jonny won.) Next it was walk-on-your-hands time. Then try-to-push-the-other-guy-out-of-the-hammock time. All this was exactly the kind of stuff I had been hoping for, and it got even better when I had them get in the pool and start splashing each other. I love the moments that got captured in this part of the shoot.

#alttext#

When I started to run out of ideas, the two of them came up with something. I’m still not sure what exactly what it was…Jonny really wanted to smoke a cigarette, so Rob went back to the rooms and got robes and they laid themselves down on a pair of the beach chairs and we created something that looked a bit like a gay naked cigarette commercial. Then Rob got mischievous and it turned into something else, still not sure what, but the whole thing was fun and funny and the kind of unpredictable I like about photo shoots where you just let things happen.

#alttext#

By this time the light was starting to get really nice again and I had Jonny relax because I wanted to focus on Rob for this. I did what turned out to be our final images of the photo shoot, with Rob in and out of his robe in the beautiful late-afternoon light. Great stuff!

#alttext#

By the time I finished shooting the last images of Rob, it was late afternoon and it felt like it was time to head back to LA. So we packed up and said goodbye to the Santiago Resort. As we drove out of Palm Springs, I felt tired but happy. The photo shoot and the road trip had been fun and successful.

I also felt really good about the experience we’d all shared. I’d brought together 3 strangers and we’d had a wonderful time working together, laughing, and bonding. Each of us had two new friends and some great stories to share.

And as always, I couldn’t wait to get back home and get started creating art inspired by these two beautiful new men I’d brought into my life.

One final note: If you haven’t already become a Simonson On Location subscriber, perhaps you’ll want to join Rob and Jonny there. Their first photographs have already begun appearing on my subscription site.