Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

Prepping for road blkborder

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

Three weeks after the momentous decision talked about in my “On Chucking It All and Going On the Road” entry, things have moved along dramatically, and the shape of my life is changing before my eyes.

My studio has now been moved into my office and I’m still unpacking boxes and setting things up. It’ll be a few more days before I can actually start drawing and painting again, but things are moving along.


A few days ago this was my studio.

I’ve also been selling a lot of stuff—books, CDs, DVDs, luggage, kitchenware, odds and ends. Feels good to be “lightening up.”

The property manager I found has begun advertising the apartment for rent and dealing with prospective tenants. I’m dealing with the limbo state of living between my steadily-less-homelike apartment and my in-office studio, and although I’m impatient to actually get all this preparation out of the way and be on the road, there’s so much to do every day I’m far from bored.

There are long lists of things to do every day, but it’s all getting done. I’ve finally learned, when faced with huge piles of to-do’s between myself and the goal, to not think about the enormity of the task, but just remind myself, sometimes forcefully, “I don’t have to know how everything will get done. I just need to do this one thing I’m doing now.” Amazing how well this works.

One item got taken care of in an unexpected way when the beautiful 21-year-old dancer who had agreed to model for me before I left messaged me on Facebook saying “I don’t feel comfortable modeling nude”. This is after an in-person interview where we talked about every aspect of the gig including my being absolutely clear that it was full-frontal nudity and making sure that he was fine with it.

Oh well. When I was 21 I didn’t always know what I wanted either. (I sometimes don’t now!)

Although I do know, with more clarity than I’ve had about a lot of things, that what I’m doing right now is absolutely what I want. As the day for my departure nears, it all still feels totally right. (Not that I don’t also get nervous and frightened at moments…like sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat…but I just breathe deeply and remind myself that if it wasn’t scary, it wouldn’t be exciting.)

Anyway, a few days from now, when all this minutiae is tidied up, I’ll get on the plane for Los Angeles, where I’ll spend a couple of weeks with my friend Gina. Once I’m there and finally away from Hawaii and my previous life, I hope I’ll be able to decompress and see more clearly what’s next. Although I do have the first couple of months roughly laid out. After L.A. is Albuquerque, where I’ll visit my brother and his wife, then I’ll head up to Nebraska where the rest of the family lives. While I’m doing this California-New Mexico-Nebraska triangle, my passport will be in California getting its Brazil visa renewed so I can head there 2 or 3 months from now. A friend has volunteered his couch in São Paulo.

I also might end up in Australia in October, meeting some Hawaii friends there.

And Puerto Vallarta is calling me again, too…

About travel and living in Hawaii: There are a lot of destinations I’ve fantasized about over the years but was too often stopped by the extra time and money required to get there from these isolated islands. I’m looking forward to being in places that are adjacent to my next exciting adventure spot, rather than always having to deal with the 5-hour flight just to get to a starting point for your journey. I love Hawaii and I’ll always come home to it, but I sure like the idea of already being in New York, for example, when I decide to go to Europe.


I've already sold quite a few of my plants, but I had to move all the ones I still have off the floor so the carpets can be shampooed today.

I’m writing this in the midst of chaos, by the way. The carpet-cleaning people are coming an hour from now and as soon as I finish this, I have to drag all the furniture onto the non-carpeted areas of the apartment so they can do their shampoo thing. Meanwhile I’ll be taking my Honda Element to the carwash to get it spiffed up so I can photograph it and sell it on Craigslist. That’s the last big thing to take care of before I leave.

Still haven’t bought my ticket but that will happen in the next few days. My next post, barring unforeseen happenings, will be either just before I’ve left, or just after arriving in LA. Or maybe it’ll get written on the plane…

Ontheroad1 chucking it all

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

I made a huge change in my life when I was 19 and I left Nebraska to move to Hawaii.

It was the best decision of my life.

Now, over 40 years later, I’m about to make a change that is almost that big.

I’m chucking it all and going on the road.


The view from my Waikiki living room.

I’ve spent over 40 years in Hawaii and I have loved living here. I’ve loved making a career here as an artist of the male nude, being able to live in Hawaii and still have collectors all over the world. I especially loved the change I made 3 years ago, when I bought an apartment (my first time as a homeowner) in Waikiki. I loved the apartment, and I loved living in Waikiki! I absolutely loved waking up in the morning and looking out at the ocean, Diamond Head, and the Ala Wai canal, seeing the palm trees sway in the breeze, and knowing that I lived in the most beautiful and comfortable place in the world.

It was perfect!

Yeah, PERFECT…for a while.

But paying a big mortgage every month, not being able to travel much because of that mortgage, and living in a place that feels like my PERMANENT home in a way a rental never does, has had an effect on me. As much as I’ve loved living in this apartment, over the past year or so I’ve begun to feel a bit like a prisoner.


The living room of my oh-so-comfortable Waikiki apartment.

I felt like I was chained to this apartment and its comforts (not to mention Hawaii and its comforts) and I kept hearing this very reasonable-sounding voice saying, okay, now it’s time to just accept it, you’re over 60 now, you’re slowing down, settling down, you’re going to grow old here in this place. Relax and enjoy it…it’s a beautiful place to let your life wind down.



…let my life WIND DOWN??



So here’s what happened.

I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard one afternoon and I was about to wad up and throw away a months-old issue of the Honolulu Weekly when an article caught my eye.

The story was about a British woman in her mid-40s who is rowing her way around the world. Yes, ROWING. Roz Savage had a mid-life crisis when she realized she had lots of material things and a comfortable relationship and a cushy job, but something was missing. At that point she did something really interesting: she wrote two versions of her own obituary.

In the first obituary she imagined continuing her life as it was going. In the second version, she imagined herself doing something adventurous and living life by her own rules. It was quite an epiphany for her. She wound up deciding to end her marriage and her career and give up all the material things she thought were important. That’s when she came up with the crazy idea of rowing across the Atlantic. (Read the article at the bottom of this page if you like.)

I’m not going to row across the Atlantic. (It’s painful enough flying across it in Coach.) But I have taken her message very much to heart.

Okay, it’s not quite the same. I’ve been living an adventurous life by my own rules for practically my whole life, and I’ve loved it, and I love my career and I will be keeping it. But that story really struck a nerve. I was standing there at my kitchen counter reading the article, thunderstruck. I realized what I HAD to do.


In a matter of about 30 seconds I not only knew I had to go traveling, I knew how I would do it. I would rent out my apartment (let someone ELSE pay my mortgage for awhile!), move my studio into my current office (which actually has plenty of space for it), sell my car and get rid of everything I didn’t need, and take my drawing, painting and photography (and blogging!) on the road. And I would travel for at least one year!

The fact that it took under a minute for me to know exactly how this would be done tells me that on some unconscious level I’d been planning this for awhile. But I hadn’t known it until I read that article.

What struck me with great force was how RIGHT this felt. As soon as the idea of doing this occurred to me, I knew it was already a done deal. It felt so right on so many levels, there was absolutely no question it was my path. I didn’t realize how unhappy and conflicted I’d been feeling until I finally saw my next step, and saw it with crystal clarity. I got so excited I could hardly contain myself, and I’m still feeling that way!

That was a little over two weeks ago. Since then I have contracted with a property management company to handle renting and management of my apartment for at least 1 year; I’ve put my car up for sale; I’m putting together a garage sale to get rid of everything; i’ve cancelled the cable, car insurance, and a dozen other things I had taken for granted and now feel lighter for having cut off; and the movers are coming day after tomorrow to move my studio into my office.

I’ll be flying to Los Angeles around June 30 (give or take a few days either way) to move in with my friend Gina for a few days while I decompress and start planning the next year (or more) of globetrotting.

Although I’m not going to plan TOO much. I’m excited by the prospect of making it up as I go along.

I love the fact that I’ll be free to travel the world yet I get to keep my gorgeous Waikiki apartment…kind of putting it on reserve until some future time when I’m ready to move back in. This is a mix of liberation and stability that really appeals to me.

I’ll have my studio all set up in my office so that whenever I’m in Hawaii (I plan to come back and check in every 2 or 3 months—where I’ll stay I don’t know yet but that will fall into place) I’ll be able to spend some time painting in a fully equipped studio. But most of the time I’ll be drawing, and photographing, wherever in the world I happen to be.

And I’m inviting you along for the ride, in a way. I’ll be updating you regularly on my adventures via this blog. And of course you’ll continue to see my new art popping up on my fine-art website,, and new models and photo shoots appearing in new entries right here on this blog.

Don’t hesitate to comment on any of this as we go. I’ve always enjoyed your comments on this Artist’s Diary blog, and appreciated them. Now I’ll appreciate them even more as you give me your feedback on where I’m going and what I’m doing and your suggestions on where I should go next, and what I should do when I’m there! I love the fact that I’ll be traveling on my own, but I’ll never be alone.

As Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity…and beyond!”

[back to top]

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


Looking through my photographs of Jeff from our 2009 photo shoot in my apartment in Waikiki, I came across the above image. At first glance it doesn’t seem like much. I mean, as a photograph it’s not great. But as I was looking at it I started to see it as a painting. This happens sometimes. Some element or combination of elements will strike me in a way they haven’t before. In this case I started to see the image as a stylized painting, with a much simpler central figure, and I loved the way the bird of paradise fronds fanned out behind it. I also liked the tropical urban setting. I thought, this could be fun. So I began sketching.


The sketching went surprisingly quickly. It only took 4 or 5 sketches to get to the final working sketch shown here. I scanned this sketch and used my digital projector to project it onto a medium-sized canvas (about 20″x27″) so I could trace the major shapes in pencil. Then I did finishing work on the pencil sketch before putting a purplish wash over the entire canvas. Once that wash dried, I used a fairly small brush to paint in all the outlines with black paint.


Now here’s where I diverged from my usual practice. I always spend about 45 minutes mixing colors for a painting before i actually start painting. I like to get it all over with before I start painting. But that’s not necessarily the smartest way to do it. Usually it means that once I actually start applying the paint to the canvas, some colors that looked good on the palette just don’t work in the painting. Then I have to mix new colors that do work, and lots of already-mixed paint doesn’t get used.

This is just a longtime habit, and I don’t even think about it, because I am such a creature of habit. Nevertheless, this time I decided to try something different. I began by mixing the greens (some yellow-green, some blue-green, because I’ve found the cool and warm greens vibrate nicely next to each other). Then, instead of continuing by mixing flesh tones, background colors, sky, floor, etc., I stopped myself and actually began painting. I was surprised how hard it was to actually do that. I had to kind of wrench myself out of my habit-rut and just start painting even though it felt “wrong.” I painted in some of the upper bird of paradise fronds near the top of the painting. Once I’d done that, I started mixing up some fleshtones. Not your typical fleshtones, perhaps; I chose burnt sienna and burnt umber for the darks, without even mixing anything with them (I’m going for pure colors as much as possible these days; the less mixing I have to do the better), and an orange mix for the medium lights on the body. (I mixed the orange from cadmium red light and cadmium yellow, although you can use a cadmium orange for that, if you have it—then I greyed the orange a bit with a tiny bit of ultramarine blue.)

This continued to be a divergence from my usual tactics. Rather than trying to mix all the fleshtones before applying them to the canvas, I went ahead and started applying the browns and orange I had to see how they worked. They seemed to be working pretty well but I found I had to create a brighter orange and a duller orange to really make the body pop. As I worked I found I needed an even lighter orange (actually just cadmium-red medium and white) for the lightest areas of the reflected light on the body. For the hottest light from the sun hitting the right side of the face and upper body I used both a yellowish-white (cadmium yellow and yellow oxide) and an orangeish-white.


By now I had enough color on the canvas that I could mix a color for the low wall behind the figure. I kept the basic pink from the photograph but tweaked it a bit so it went well with the colors around it. It’s basically alizarin crimson with yellow oxide and ultramarine blue. (This is a good basic trio for any dull, cool red—also great for lips, nipples and penises, by the way!) By this time I was eyeing the towel thinking, what shall I do with that? Almost immediately I thought, BLUE! This came from a part of my mind that had already been calculating the possibilities below the level of consciousness. I’ve been painting for long enough that sometimes my subconscious mind works things out for me and all I have to do is just try it and see if it works. So I mixed up an ultramarine blue with a bit of phthalo blue and some white and tried it out and it worked beautifully.

I really want to stress again what a departure this was for me. To not mix all the colors ahead of time in the (usually futile) hope that that would get it all out of the way and then I could just paint, was a big thing for me to let go of. But once I was actually doing it and I saw how much better it worked, it was a no-brainer! This is a lot like that other principle I often harp on in these blog entries (but don’t always do myself), the principle of working all over the painting. You can’t get a sense of what’s working and what’s not working until you actually try stuff. Yes, some of it may be wrong, but when you have lots of pieces in place you can get a much better sense of whether or not they’re all going to work together.

This also reminds me of the illustrative factoid I’ve often heard in motivational seminars: the fact that an airliner flying from LA to Honolulu (or anywhere) is off course 95% of the time. The captain (or the autopilot) is constantly correcting. The plane drifts a bit off course, the pilot corrects. This happens over and over again. The point is, you have to do it wrong to get it right. Just as in painting, some of it will fall into place beautifully, and some of it won’t work at all and you’ll need to correct. But the irrational hope that everything will be perfect—and the fear that it won’t—is unfortunately what keeps many people from trying to paint (or do anything requiring courage) in the first place.


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

Here’s the final painting: “Tropical City.” Notice some of the final touches—I used the same basic purple for the pots and the city skyline. Also made the sky a brighter, more intense yellow. Why is it that yellow skies almost always work so well?? I’m very pleased with this painting and even more pleased that I was able to disrupt my habitual approach to painting and get a lot more effective. Never stop learning!

In early February, after concentrating on paintings for the past couple of months, I plunged into pencil drawing again. My process almost always begins by going through my photographs, looking for something that jumps out at me. (I use Photoshop CS3 on my Mac, and the program includes Bridge. I love Bridge—it’s a great way to look at huge masses of photo images quickly and efficiently. Except that it seems to be easily confused/overwhelmed and you have to quit the program and restart it every once in a while. But that’s a minor quibble.)


Bedsheets and Pillows

I found myself looking through images of Jeff, from September 2009, and even though I’ve already done one painting of Jeff sitting on my bed crosslegged (“Scorpio Rising“), I like the pose a lot and I think a drawing of almost the same pose would still be a fun thing to try. So I opened the image in Photoshop and started fooling around with it. My standard operating procedure these days is to heighten the contrast, take it to grayscale (if I’m going to do a pencil drawing), then Posterize it to about level 7. Posterizing it reduces the number of values showing in the image, which makes my job a lot easier—seeing where the shadows are darkest and lightest is not always easy in a conventional photographic image. It’s much easier in a posterized image, as you can see.


The finished drawing, 'Bedsheets and Pillows.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

So I print out both images (and often I’ll print out extreme closeups of the head and hands and other challenging areas as well) and tack them up by my drawing to use as reference. I use the posterized image as a guide, but I’m also always referring to the grayscale image so I can include the more subtle gradations of tone when and where I want to. This is an approach I’ve put together over many years of drawing from my own photographs.

I spent a couple of days on the Jeff drawing. That’s kind of fast for me for a full-on detailed large drawing like this. Occasionally I’ll be able to finish one in a single day, but more often it takes 3-4 days, working in 3- or 4-hour sessions at a time.

Pensive Marcelino


This is the photograph of Marcelino I decided to work from.

Again, I opened Bridge and started going through my catalog of model photos (I have about 40,000 images in this collection, and I have another 100,000 or more in my 35mm slide collection, from pre-digital days. I tend to use the most recent photographs more, of course, but occasionally I’ll dip back into images from many years ago). This time I found myself focusing on Marcelino, one of the models I shot in Los Angeles in October when I was there working with Kurt R. Brown. Marcelino is of Mexican descent and I think he was 20 when we shot these photographs at a wildlife refuge in the San Fernando Valley. I chose a quiet pose that feels to me like Marcelino’s sweet, graceful personality.

Here’s the finished drawing. This one took longer than the previous one of Jeff. The one of Jeff just flowed, which happens occasionally. This one of Marcelino was more the standard experience, with some areas going easily, others taking longer—so I probably spent about 4 days on this one. I like the final result. It doesn’t have the powerful presence of the previous drawing, but it has a quiet poetic quality that the other doesn’t.


The finished drawing, 'Pensive Marcelino.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

Marcus Canta

For my third drawing in what was turning into a series, I chose Marcus. Anyone who’s been following my work over the past few years knows that Marcus is one of my favorite models. In fact he seems to be the favorite of a great many of my collectors, too.


I have a whole series of photographs I shot of him in Angra dos Reis (a resort area south of Rio) on a boat, in the late afternoon. He was spraying himself with water from a hose, and singing along with the music I had blaring from the boat’s speakers. Because one of the dials on the camera got moved without my realizing it, the whole series of photographs was overexposed. That’s a shame because I can’t show them as photographs in most cases—but they’re still fine for working from to create drawings and paintings. Despite the overexposure, they still capture the moment. And what a great moment! Because Marcus’ body is almost entirely in shadow I knew this would be a challenge to draw.


The finished drawing, 'Marcus Canta.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

That made the Posterization function even more useful. Because the light on his body is almost all subtle reflected light, it was very helpful to see the light and dark areas more clearly defined. The drawing was challenging but it went more smoothly than I’d expected and only took 3 days to complete. I’m especially pleased at the way it captures Marcus’ being lost in the moment. I titled it “Marcus Canta” (Marcus Sings).

Chadwick’s Back


Now I was warmed up and decided to tackle something with a lot of detail. I chose a photograph of Chadwick, another of the models I worked with in Los Angeles in October. This photo was taken in an unpopulated part of Simi Valley. As you can see, Chadwick has an amazing body, very muscular and well defined. I was excited about what kind of pencil drawing I could create using this image.


The finished drawing, 'Chadwick's Back.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

I used to do my drawings just using one hardness of pencil, a medium-soft…then for some time I was using two pencils, one hard and one soft. Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve been using three pencils, an F, an HB and a B. Sometimes I’ll vary the exact pencils I use, but I’ve found one hard pencil (an F or even an H), one medium (HB seems to work well, and it’s very close to a regular #2, so that works, too) and one soft (B, or 2B or 3B or even softer) gives me all the range I need for almost every type of drawing I do. With just 1 or 2 pencil hardnesses I can create a terrific drawing—but with 3, I can get very subtle, beautiful effects that would be almost impossible with just 2 pencils. This drawing, which I titled “Chadwick’s Back,” is a good example of that. Although you really need to see it in person to see all the subtlety. I was surprised at how quickly this one went—it only took me 3 days. Of course those were long days!



My final drawing in the group of 5 began with a photograph of Rogério, one of the 2 models I shot on my very first Brazil photo shoot back in March 2004. This was a flash photograph taken after a full day of shooting, on the boat and on an island in Guanabara Bay (Rio de Janeiro). We were on our way back to the marina and night was falling. It’s a photograph I’ve looked at dozens of times and never paid much attention to. For some reason, this time it jumped out at me. It’s hard for me to put into words the impression it made on me, but there was a moment there that really struck me, that had never struck me before, and I wondered if I could come close to capturing it in pencil. I cropped the image to concentrate on Rogério’s head and upper torso only. I decided that would be all I would put in the drawing. Then I started drawing.


The finished drawing, 'Unbuttoned.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

Even though it may appear there’s less detail here, and less to draw than in some of the others I’d just finished, there were still challenges. Capturing the exact expression on the face was one of them. Another was getting the close-cropped hair on Rogério’s temple to look right. In the end this drawing took 4 days to complete. But when I finished it, I felt good. I felt I’d come pretty close to capturing the feeling I’d gotten from the photograph. I call this one “Unbuttoned.” This was the fifth in the series, and I’d spent about 3 weeks doing these drawings. I put them up on my website and announced them just a day after finishing this final work.