Posts Tagged ‘gay artist’

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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


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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.

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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.

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

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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



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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…


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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.

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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.

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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).

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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


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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!


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.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.”


My latest painting, entitled “Symmetry”, was a surprise.

By that I mean, I never expected this one to turn into a painting. I was sketching from a photograph of Rico lying on a beach towel. This was a photograph I had never tackled before because it’s kind of a weird angle and I thought it would be hard to draw. And it was—I was having some trouble with it. But then I thought, what if the point of view were directly above Rico, and not from an angle?


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This is the source photo I began with (Rico is the model)

I liked that idea, and I thought it would be cool to make it perfectly symmetrical. Or close to symmetrical, anyway. So I tried it. I did a rough sketch where I changed the angle and made the image more or less symmetrical, as if you were directly above and looking straight down on the figure.


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This is the rough sketch I began with.

I wasn’t expecting much—this was just a little sketch experiment. But I liked the drawing so much I decided to take it to the next step, which would be a drawing that was more detailed and more carefully symmetrical.


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Here's the final preparatory sketch before I transferred the design to canvas.

So I took my rough sketch and re-drew it using a ruler so that everything would be fairly close to equal on both sides. This worked out really well, and I began entertaining the idea of actually doing a painting of this. I hadn’t yet even visualized it or worked out color ideas in my head—which is unusual for me—but it seemed to want to be painted. So without much conscious thought, and a lot of just ‘surrendering to the flow,’ I grabbed a piece of canvas and tacked it up onto my easel.

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Next I scanned the symmetrical drawing and then used a digital projector to project the image onto the canvas so I could trace it with pencil (rather than having to re-measure and re-draw the entire thing to do it in a larger size). Then I laid a brownish-purple acrylic wash over the whole thing. I was still able to see the pencil lines, so once that dried, I painted all the lines in black. That’s the stage you see above, with a couple of daubs of yellow paint added to see how the color looked.


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Now I begin to lay in colors and get an idea of how they're going to work---or not.

Next I began mixing colors, and putting some of them onto the painting, to see how they worked together. What you see above is a result of some experimenting with the upper panels on the towel—trying a color here, a color there, and lightening or darkening or changing the color altogether until it starts to hang together. (As you can see, I wasn’t happy with the design on the towel in the photograph, and created my own design. Not sure why but I kept seeing this sinuous line on either side of the figure—so that’s what I created.)

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Now I’ve laid in most of the colors. At this stage it’s all kind of rough. I wanted to get the colors laid in to make sure it was all going to work. Now that I see that it does, I have two challenges. One is to work with the flat flesh tone of the figure to give it more life. The other is to go in with a small brush and do the fine work of painting carefully around all those black lines.

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The final painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

Above is the final painting, “Symmetry.” To bring the fleshtones to life, I used some of the oranges, pinks and yellows from the colors in and around the towel and worked them into the colors on the figure. Also, rather than leaving the colors flat, I made the figure more three-dimensional by varying the light and shadow a bit—not much, just enough to make the figure seem more rounded. I also saw that the black lines for the abdominal muscles was just too heavy-handed, and I got rid of those and instead used some fairly subtle highlights to delineate the abs. Then I spent a couple of hours doing the fine work of filling in all the little edges around the black lines, both on the figure and on the beachtowel—the ‘finishing’ touches—and I was done!

This painting was an interesting experience because it kind of just happened, rather than being something I purposefully created. And now that it’s done I’m looking at it and I’m not quite sure what I’ve got. It’s a painting of a boy lying on a beach towel, but because of the way I painted it, it almost seems like a symbol or an icon. The way I painted the beach towel looks almost like a stained-glass window, and the symmetry of the figure adds to the iconic feeling. As I’ve said many times, I don’t always know what I’m painting, or what I have painted. I sometimes see or understand things I didn’t see or understand before about my art when others tell me what they see. So if you have an impression of this painting that you’d like to share, please comment on it here. Thanks.


As you’ll remember, if you’ve been reading this blog, my second photo shoot with Jeff took place at a gorgeous location—my friend Doug Smith’s beautifully landscaped tropical pool and garden. (If you don’t remember, read that entry HERE.)

I was thrilled at how many really amazing and beautiful photographs I captured that day. But I found that when I started looking through them for images to paint or draw, I was intimidated! The photographs were so great as photographs that I wasn’t sure that I shouldn’t just leave them alone.

But as I thought about it, I realized I was limiting myself unnecessarily. I was thinking I had a duty to do something realistic before taking off into more stylized, inventive directions. I’ve always had this idea that I have to justify my less realistic work by balancing it with more realistic works. And with all these gorgeous images, I was really feeling that.

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No, this is not one of my paintings. It's a famous work by Matisse called Bathers by a River.

So to give myself strength, I opened a book about Henri Matisse. It takes courage to paint the way he painted, especially back then. I took courage from his story and his paintings. One of my favorite paintings of all time is “Bathers by a River” by Matisse. I decided that would be my inspiration for my first Jeff-at-the-pool painting.

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The photograph I chose to work from is one of Jeff standing by one of the many fountains that adorn the pool. As I said, I could’ve chosen any one of several hundred great shots from that day. But there was something aboout this one that felt a bit like Matisse to me—not sure why. Anyway, that’s the one I chose.

I began sketching. My job was to begin simplifying the forms and shapes—looking for the essence of the image. You can see my progress in the four preparatory sketches shown below. One of the major changes I made was to add a second, invented figure in the pool at the lower right. Another invention was to give the standing figure a vertical staff to hold. These changes were all instinctive. That’s what the sketching process is about for me with a painting like this. I think of stuff, and try it, and see how it looks. If I like the way it looks, and it feels right and fits, I keep it. I don’t necessarily know why I added the second figure, and the staff, I just know they looked right and felt right. I must admit, I like having a bit of mystery in the painting. What’s that staff about? What’s the relationship between the two figures? I don’t know that I could put it into words, but I have a feeling about what is going on.

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The 4th sketch shown was my final sketch. I’d taken it as far as I wanted to go with pencil. It was time to put it on canvas and see what happened.

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The final painting: 'Boys at the Fountain' (click on image to see this item on my website)

I kept the tones muted and somber except for the greens of the foliage and the water streaming down (or up?) above the fountain. The idea of putting white behind the standing figure came to me as I was painting, and it worked. I had a bit of trouble with the water in the pool. I had to repaint it several times before I got it the way I wanted it.

I like the final result. It’s more realistic and less stylized than I intended—not as bold and uncompromising as Matisse’s Bathers painting, certainly, but I like the feeling of it and I like the hint of mystery and intrigue it contains. I call it “Boys at the Fountain.”


Let me warn you ahead of time, this is a longer-than-usual post. But if you’re interested in the real nuts and bolts of how a very realistic painting like this gets done—plus the stuff I had to go through in my own mind to get myself through it—you’ll find it here.

I got the idea to do this painting because lately I’ve been online a lot looking at other artists’ work, especially others who do male nudes, and there were some I saw who were doing really amazingly realistic paintings and really pulling it off. Their technique was mind-boggling. I thought, I could do that.

What I mean is, with a bit of work and focus, I can do that kind of work. But generally I don’t. That’s because every time I look at someone else’s super-realistic painting, I think, Jeez, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that kind of detail. I usually see it as incredibly tedious. And being a realist painter is not my goal in life. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it from time to time, but usually I just don’t go there.

Still, I kept looking at these guys’ work and thinking, I would still like to test myself in this area, because it’s been years since I went down that super-realist road, and I’ve grown and changed and it would be interesting to see how it would be. So I was starting to get excited about the idea.

Then I went looking for a photograph to use as source material, and I came back to my favorites, among them Marcus at Angra Dos Reis—our first photo shoot there. There are still a lot of images in that bunch that have promise, and I found one I really liked.

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However! I began examining the photograph in detail, thinking about what was going to be required of me, and I found a LOT of things I did not want to have to mess with, especially the kind of detail work it takes to make a dripping-wet body realistic. It’s not just more highlights because the body is wet; there are all these incredibly complex patterns of water on skin, droplets, shadows of droplets, reflections WITHIN each tiny droplet, droplet TRAILS that get lighter and darker in incredibly subtle ways, etc., etc.—it’s an incredible thicket of visual complexity.

And that’s not even mentioning the swirling water around the model!

I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I decided there was no way I would be able to maintain my momentum over the amount of time and work it would take to do a highly realistic painting from this photograph.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, a few hours later, I don’t even remember exactly what gave me the idea, but I thought, hey, maybe I could try something like this: paint the whole thing pretty quickly, in a fairly crude, unfinished way, but with all the basic lights and darks and colors in place and fairly accurate as far as they went. It would look finished to someone who wasn’t looking for much detail. THEN, I could go in and, one area at a time, and in a fairly relaxed manner (meaning not a day or two, but weeks), I could refine the surface. I could finish each area to a high degree of precision at my own pace.

Now this was a way of conceptualizing the operation that made me think, maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off.

Because as much as I hate the tedium of doing a lot of detail in a painting, there’s still a real pleasure and reward in really capturing a particularly beautiful piece of visual reality. So I decided to go for it.

Before I proceeded, however, I did something else—I cropped the image. This was partly out of laziness. I didn’t want to have to do all that detail. But the truth is, cropping it made for a better composition and a stronger image overall. So cropping worked for me on a couple of levels.

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I also pumped up the contrast and saturation some (left), then made a copy where I posterized the image (right). This is my usual procedure—using the computer (Photoshop) to give myself different ways of seeing and conceptualizing the image before I even begin painting.

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Now the fun began. I transferred the image to canvas (just doing a pencil outline), then painted over that with a neutral brown wash. While that was drying, I began mixing colors. Then I started the first phase, the crude unfinished painting which would serve as the underpainting for all the detail that was to come later.

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This was fairly undemanding and I did it pretty quickly—maybe 2 or 3 hours—because the whole objective was to keep it simple and just get the basics down so the refinement could begin.

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The next day, I started the refining process. I began with the background on the upper left because it looked the most doable, and because it’s generally better to start at the top and work down so your hand is less likely to smear something under it. Over the next couple of days I brought the painting to the condition shown above: the tree shadows and the shallow water behind Marcus are mostly done, as is the slightly deeper water swirling around him on the right.

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The next 3-4 days were spent on, in this order: Marcus’ face and hair (this turned out to be harder than I anticipated because his face is almost entirely in shadow, plus the whole photograph is in sharp focus except for his face), his right shoulder (on our left), the necklace, and his left shoulder (on our right). You can see the progression in the image above. Let me just say that water droplets on a human body are a real challenge. The problem with water—maybe I should say one of the CHALLENGES that water presents—is the extremely subtle value changes that happen in situations like this. If you make the water trail a little too dark it looks like a scar on the body. Make it a little too light and it vanishes entirely. This is complicated by the fact that acrylics always dry darker. So if you get it right while the paint is wet, in 5 minutes it will be too dark. Then you mix it lighter and try again. And if you haven’t got the shadows of the body itself quite right, then the water will never work. So it can be a real bitch! You can see the first shoulder I did looks okay, but the second one is better, so I’m learning as I go.

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Above you see the condition of the painting about 5 days later. I’ve worked on the chest and abdominal muscles over that time, and there was a lot of painting and repainting. As I’ve continued I’ve gotten better at making the water droplets and trails look realistic, which is a good thing because when you get into the areas where it’s reflected light (the left side of the chest and abs, for instance), the value changes are REALLY subtle. But I’m pleased at the overall look of things so far. And I’m really pleased that my strategy is working: instead of getting burned out on the painting after 2 or 3 days, I’ve been able to come back each day and push it a little farther toward completion. One thing I’ve had to be careful about is keeping track of how each color was mixed. This is more necessary because, given how quickly acrylics dry, to do a painting over several days or weeks requires paints to be remixed several times. I’ve managed to do a pretty good job of this. It’s now been almost 10 days I’ve been working on this painting.

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The final painting: 'Tudo Molhado' (click on image to see this item on my website)

The painting is finally done—two weeks after beginning it. The last 4 days or so were spent working on the legs, the swirling water between the legs, and the big spume of white water gushing around Marcus’ right side. I won’t say I’m 100 percent pleased with the finished work—there are some areas I would like to fix but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure it would be worth it to go in and take the chance of ruining what I’ve accomplished so far. I’m finished with this one, for better or worse. And even with the few areas I wish I’d done better, I look at the painting and overall I think I did a good job. I certainly learned a lot of things that will make my next realistic painting better. Most of all, I’m pleased that I was able to maintain a consistent working pace for a two-week period on a single painting. That’s real stamina, from my point of view, and it’s made me stronger and more confident.

Oh yeah, the title. I’m calling it “Tudo Molhado.” That’s Portuguese and I learned that phrase when I was doing a photo shoot with Eduardo in Rio and I had him get in the shower and get totally wet, then run out into the light outside while he was still dripping. He wasn’t sure he understood, so he said, “Tudo molhado??”— “All wet?”

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After doing a fairly flat, stylized painting (“Tropical City”), I was in the mood for something more loose and painterly. I decided to unleash my creative forces on Marcus, my favorite Brazilian model. I found a great image from my 2nd photo shoot with him in Angra dos Reis. We (myself, 5 of my friends from Hawaii and California, my Brazilian agent Luiz, and two models, Marcus and Sandro) had chartered a boat in Angra, and set out to find a deserted island. When we found it, we unloaded Marcus and Sandro on the beach. One of the things Marcus was doing once we got onto the beach was playing around with one of the oars he’d used to row us over from the big boat. I love this shot of him standing on the beach holding the oar.


First thing I did, as usual, was go into Photoshop to tweak the photograph and make it easier to paint from. The first step was using Levels to heighten the contrast (which also intensifies the colors). This lost a lot of the detail in the foliage inside the shadows, which was fine with me—less stuff to paint, plus less distraction from the model in the final work.

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Next I used Median to soften all the edges. This helps keep me from getting too interested in detail, almost all of which is unnecessary in the type of painting I was going for here. Finally, I used Posterize to cut down the total number of colors and tones in the image. This makes it a lot easier to decide what colors to mix and where to put them. It’s almost like having a paint-by-number diagram. Well, almost.

Next I printed out all the various tweaks of the image so I’d have reference images to work from while painting. At that point it was time to cut out a piece of canvas and tack it up onto my big drawing board (actually it’s an oversize bulletin board, which works perfectly). Then I transferred the image onto the canvas with pencil and covered it all with a purplish-brown wash—my usual procedure. (You probably can’t see it in the images below, but enough of the underdrawing is visible that I have a guide to all the major color areas of the painting.)

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Using the same approach as I used in the previous painting—mixing just two or three colors and then trying them out before going ahead and mixing all the colors I’d use in the whole painting—I mixed some greens and started painting them in. I got a little carried away and took the foliage in the upper left to a high level of finish, but caught myself and began filling in the background. At that point I started mixing some browns and oranges for the fleshtones and began applying them.

At that point it was time to stop for the day. I usually do my best painting work in the mornings, so I stopped and began again the next morning. I used browns and cadmium reds/oranges for most of the body. For the highlights on the body I tried a bit of yellow in the white (see light on Marcus’ back on left-hand image above) but found that a cooler white worked better. Like the previous painting, Tropical City, this was a figure mostly in shadow with some highlights on the upper part of the body. That means the reflected light inside the shadowed part of the body is important. In this case I used some intense cadmium red in some places, cadmium orange in others, for the lightest reflected lights. Not all of the lights and darks make sense anatomically but they work overall so that’s okay with me. Once I had the body mostly done I added the rest of the foliage in the upper right and began painting in the beach area.

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The beach area went pretty fast and next thing I knew the painting was finished! I like that I didn’t get too caught up in detail on this one. It’s loose and has some spontaneity. I also like that the mix-paint-as-you-go principle I experimented with on the previous painting worked pretty well with this one too. Title: “Paddler.”

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The final painting, 'Paddler.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)