Posts Tagged ‘male nude couple’


Here's the photo of Kawai and Sam that inspired me to make a new painting.)

There are a lot of great images from the Kawai-Sam photo shoot I still haven’t used. I came across another great one recently and decided it would make a great painting. I didn’t want to do something literal and realistic, though, I wanted to do something stylized and interesting.


One of the first studies I did for the proposed painting. (Click on image to see it on my website.)

But when I set out to do something stylized I usually have to draw the pose realistically a few times to get a sense of it before I can start to play with it and turn it into something more interesting. This is one of the first sketches I did. It’s cute, but in this case just a first step toward what I’m going for.


This sketch is much closer to what I want. (Click on image to see it on my website.)

I had to do several more drawings before I got to what I was aiming for. This sketch has the kind of movement and dynamic tension I want in the painting. Even though the figures are a mostly vertical element, there are lots of diagonals cutting across the painting to keep the eye moving. This is the main compositional function of the leaves whose vectors cut across the figures diagonally. It’s also interesting how often the strong straight lines are partnered with a sensuous rounded shape. This happens both in the foliage and in the men’s bodies. (I want to be clear that this analytical look at the drawing is something I can do after it’s done and I have some distance from it. When I’m actually in the process of drawing this is not where my mind is at all. I’m just thinking, oh, a line here might work, let’s see what it looks like, oh yeah, that feels good, and now it needs a curve here…etc.)


After transferring the drawing to canvas, I put a purple wash over it, then paint the outlines in black.

Once I had a drawing I liked, I transferred it to the canvas with pencil. Then I did a purple wash over the entire canvas and once that was dry, I used a small round brush to re-draw the entire drawing in black. This is now the framework on which I can begin to hang color.


Beginning to add color. It's important to work all over the painting.

I have a relatively consistent palette I can resort to when I begin a painting like this. Rather than reinventing the wheel every time I start a painting, I have some old standbys I use, like burnt umber for the dark darks (sometimes with a bit of alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue added for flavor), burnt sienna for the medium darks, and for the lighter flesh tones, a mix of yellow oxide (yellow ochre), alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and titanium white. As I paint with these basic colors, I add in some cadmium reds (a warmer, more orange-y red than alizarin), some pure yellow oxide, some pure raw sienna, and sometimes some cadmium yellow as well. I’m going for a basic fleshtone with some vivid surprises thrown in. Notice that as I begin the painting I’m already working all over to some degree. As I’ve said many times, the more you can work all over the painting as you go, the more you can adjust color and light and dark as you work, rather than getting to the end of a painting and having one area that just refuses to work well with everything else.


This painting is coming along well by this point. No major hitches. Another thing I like to do is let one color area “leak” into another. So you see splashes of green on the bodies and bits of flesh tone in the plants. This adds visual interest and makes for a more unified color scheme.


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

This is the finished work. I’m happy with how it turned out. One of the nice surprises is the way the blues pop out and by contrast make the rest of the image even warmer. I like the warmth both for what it says about the emotion of the painting and because the setting is a wet, humid tropical jungle. I’ve titled this one “Embrace.”

Sam and Kawai wrestling, and the sketch ("Temporary Victory") that came from it

Sam and Kawai wrestling, and the sketch ("Temporary Victory") that came from it

For Valentine’s Day this year I decided to do a whole new series of rough sketches of couples. One reason for that is that I have so many great shots of Kawai and Sam that I haven’t drawn yet. Another reason is, I knew it would be a challenge. Drawing couples is more than twice as hard as drawing a single figure…

…because of the relationships. Drawing is all about relationships, you know. I’m talking about how different parts of the image fit together. Everything depends on the relative position of the line you’re drawing. When you’re drawing a single figure, you get used to knowing where the hands are going to fall relative to the arm and the rest of the body, for instance. You get used to drawing a body in many different positions. All you have to concern yourself with is one body and you know about where everything is going to end up.


Here's a sketch where it's vital to get relative positions of hands, arms, legs, etc. absolutely accurate.

But when you have two figures, things suddenly get a lot more complicated. First of all, you have twice as many figures to concern yourself with. That’s not so bad, because you still know basically where each figure’s hands, feet, head, etc. are going to go. But wait a minute! Where are Sam’s hands relative to Kawai? Is Kawai’s shoulder higher up than Sam’s shoulder? Is Sam’s left foot really that far away from Kawai’s right foot? If you’re not careful, you can begin a nice drawing of two boys standing and holding hands, and then halfway through realize that those hands can’t reach each other! Soon after I began working on this couples series, something interesting started to happen. Let me see if I can explain this. It has to do with the difference between how I hold a pencil and how I hold a brush. When I draw, I usually grasp the pencil fairly low, close to its point, and rest the heel of my hand on the paper for support (this is how most of us use a pen or pencil for writing). This gives one a great deal of control over one’s line. When I paint, I tend to hold the brush farther up, and with a grip more like I would use if I picked up a stick and wanted to whack something with it. You have less control over your line this way, but if you want big, loose movements, this is a much better technique.

Here's a good example of the rawer, more 'honest' line I'm talking about. Probably a subtle difference to anybody but me--but it's there.

Here's a good example of the rawer, more 'honest' line I'm talking about. Probably a subtle difference to anybody but me--but it's there.

The interesting thing that started to happen is this: I found myself holding the pencil as if it were a brush, and drawing almost as if I were painting. I was no longer resting the heel of my hand on the paper, which meant I had less control. But I had more freedom. This was scary and exhilarating. I don’t know why it occurred to me to do this; it happened spontaneously. But with staying loose and being more free one of the major themes of my life, and with my always aiming at loosening up more and more, it’s not too surprising when this kind of thing happens. But it was still exciting! And the quality of my line changed. It became more raw, less controlled and less calculated. For some reason I found this new, rougher line more beautiful. Perhaps because it was less controlled, it seemed to me more honest.

I call this 'Rock Lobsters.'

I call this 'Rock Lobsters.'

This was a breakthrough drawing for me. The more I experimented with this new approach, the more fun I started having. I got bolder (always a good thing!). I decided to see what would happen if I also used this approach with colored pencils. The sketch you see here is the first one where I really let go with this approach. You can see the overall look is quite different. Up close the lines look crazy and out of control; but when you pull back, you can see everything works together to create an image. And because of the agitated, energetic quality of the line, it has more energy and life than a very careful, controlled series of lines would have. I like a controlled line sometimes–it can be very beautiful–but for me, now, at this point in my life, if I can be a channel for beauty that is less controlled and more influenced by ‘chance,’ that makes me feel more alive, and much happier.

Another example of the new spontaneity I'm able to get sometimes with my sketches.

Another example of the new spontaneity I'm able to get sometimes with my sketches.

For the remainder of the time I spent working on the couples series (I completed 34 sketches in a period of a couple of weeks!), I used the technique I’ve described, approaching drawing more as if it were painting. If you look at the series as a whole (S1090115 through S1090227), you can see I went back and forth between the more controlled and the more spontaneous approaches, but overall I stayed much looser, and I’m very happy with the results. From the response once the Valentine’s Day Showing went online, it seems you guys are, too!


Here's the photo of Kawai and Sam I began with.

A lot of the work I do as an artist involves making rough sketches. What I usually do is sit down at my drawing table, which is next to the computer,and bring up the photos from a recent photo shoot. I have a nice big screen so it’s pleasant to sit there and draw from the image on the screen. And I can zoom in or out for details, etc. This is how I maintain my skills, and expand them. It’s also one of the ways I generate ideas for new paintings. So the other day I was drawing from the pool shots of Kawai and Sam, and came across an image I really liked, of the two of them lying next to each other on beach towels.


Above is the first color sketch for the proposed painting (click on the image to see this item on my website). I liked everything about the image except the background, so in the first sketch I did I exchanged the rock wall and the pavement for a simple patch of grass and some blue sky. As you can see, I also began simplifying and stylizing the faces and bodies of the figures.


Above is the second sketch (click on image to see item on my website), this time just in black-and-white, where I refined the faces and bodies somewhat, and tried a similar background, but this time with a few palm trees at the right. By now I was deciding this would make an interesting painting.


Here’s the third and final preparatory sketch for the painting. In this one I took things a step further. I continued to refine the figures, experimented some more with the background, and added color. By now I felt ready to begin the painting.


To enlarge the rough sketch and transfer it to canvas, I first scanned it, then opened it in Photoshop, and using my digital projector, projected it onto a piece of canvas I’d tacked up on my workboard. Then I traced it with pencil, except for the background. As you can see from this photograph, I found some old photos I’d taken of Queen’s Surf (a beach in Honolulu near where I live) and decided to use those as reference for the background. I drew the background freehand. Then, now that I’d completed the pencil drawing on canvas, I took some black acrylic paint and a #2 Round acrylic-painting brush and painted all the lines. After letting that dry, I painted a thin earth-brown wash over the whole painting.


Then the fun began! I say it’s fun, but it’s also one of the scariest parts of making a painting. I can usually tell pretty quickly, once I begin laying in the colors, whether or not a painting is going to work. If there’s no magic in the first half-hour of adding color to painting, the prognosis is not good. Fortunately in this case, I started having a good time right away. Putting a big splash of sky blue on Kawai’s shoulder was just the bold, ballsy move I needed to get things going.


Here the colors are beginning to define themselves. I continued painting, using pretty naturalistic colors—well, maybe a bit more vivid than real life!—and letting the colors wander. By that I mean I did something you learn not to do when you’re a kid coloring in a coloring book—I made sure NOT to stay in the lines. I don’t know why I enjoy this approach so much, but for me it gives a painting a certain energy, and even a sense of humor, that it just wouldn’t have if the colors were all nicely contained. Maybe it has something to do with what I have learned (and also sense intuitively) about the physics of the world we live in: edges and separations are illusions we project to give us a sense of order. But in reality there are no separations, it’s all connected and it’s all one. So of course the color from the palm trees would bleed into the sky, and vice versa! And of course your body would pick up the color of the sky and the sand around you. Then again, maybe I am just such a rebellious type that I like not staying in the lines.


Then it was just a matter of finishing it. Which meant completing the still-unpainted areas. I don’t want you to think it’s just a matter of splashing some paint on and standing back, though. Because I began by painting all those black lines and getting them just the way I want them, I have to be careful when I’m filling in the colors to not cover up the black lines. Or cover them in a way that enhances them without destroying them. So it’s a bit tedious and labor-intensive. But worth it. I’m very pleased with the final result, which you see above (click on the image to see it on my website: I’ve titled it “Gay Nude Beach.”


My candidates for a two-guy photo shoot.

I was planning to do a second photo shoot with Sam and about the same time my friend Kawai (pronounced Ka-VYE, rhymes with tie) expressed an interest in modeling. I thought maybe I could entice the two of them to pose together. I’ve always found it a challenge to find two models willing to pose together, but thought maybe this one would work out. And yes, both Sam and Kawai said sure, it sounds like fun. Before this they had known each other from a distance but had never really talked or gotten to know each other. So as always, I decided to just give it a shot and see how things went.


Sam and Kawai arrive at the beach.

We met at my house at sunrise and drove out to a secluded beach I know of on the east side of the island. It was a weekday, and not yet 7am, so I was hoping there would be no one around at the beach. And fortunately there wasn’t. We walked a short distance from the road and we were there.


Sam and Kawai happily peeled off their clothes and headed for the water.

I was also fortunate in that Sam and Kawai seemed to be hitting it off. They clearly liked each other and were comfortable with each other—with just enough mutual attraction going on to make it interesting. Both Sam and Kawai are in their mid-20’s, and both are outgoing, friendly people. I know and like both of them so I wasn’t surprised they liked each other, too.


Wrestling on the beach!

After having the two of them slather each other in sunblock (that helped relax them as well as protecting parts of them not used to the sun), I suggested they do some wrestling and rolling around on the beach—just to see what would happen. Sam was aggressive and playful but Kawai was holding back—I think he was afraid he was going to hurt Sam or something. But he did relax eventually. And I was getting some great shots.


I wanted some affectionate stuff, too, and it was no problem. These two really did like each other and it was a unique situation where it was totally okay to be openly affectionate with another attractive guy, with truly no strings attached. You can tell they both enjoyed it. And we were just getting started.


We were all over that beach that morning. I wanted some action stuff (no, I don’t mean that kind of action) so we went where the waves crashed highest against the biggest rocks—and Sam made his way across the rocks to stand on the highest one in the morning sun—then had a bit of trouble getting back. Fortunately Kawai was there to help.


At Kei and Dick's backyard pool...

After shooting for a couple of hours at the beach, we went to the nearby neighborhood of Mariner’s Ridge where my friends Kei and Dick live. They’ve always been very generous about letting me use their backyard pool for my photo shoots. I had Sam and Kawai jump in the pool, then get out and towel each other off. Toweling off is one of my favorite things to have a model do, and having two models do it for each other made for some great shots.


As I said, the two liked each other and by now they were very comfortable with each other. It was Sam’s second photo shoot so he was very relaxed (Sam is a boisterous, fun guy with a lot of personality anyway), and that helped relax Kawai.


But it wasn’t all laughing and clowning around. I was able to get lots of sweet, affectionate moments—I’d been hoping for that but it’s not something you can engineer…it either happens or it doesn’t. I couldn’t have gotten poses like this if there weren’t some genuine chemistry between the two.


This shot was one of the very last that morning. By this time the two were so at ease with each other they were giggling and playfully affectionate as if they really were lovers in private, with no prying eyes around. This was exactly what I’d hoped for. I engineered things as much as possible but the way things came together was ultimately just my good luck at knowing two such sweet and handsome guys who were willing to be playful in front of my camera. Thank you Sam and Kawai!

The beach shoot in the previous entry happened on a Thursday. Saturday was the day we’d scheduled a boat excursion to some of the islands in the bay (Bahia de Todos os Santos). Renting a boat is always an interesting process in Brazil (maybe it is everywhere, i don’t know—I’ve only done it in Brazil). So all of us arrived at the beach in Barra, which is where we were supposed to meet the boat, and we were loaded down with supplies (beer and soft drinks, sandwich fixings, and ICE) for the day trip, and—NO BOAT!


Waiting for them to bring the boat around...

The dreadlocked guy I’d been dealing with, who calls himself "Marco Polo", told me that the R$500 (500 reais, about $250) boat I’d hired and given him a deposit on was not available—it was being repaired "out on the island"—and sorry, but all we have available is the BIG boat for 900 reais ($450). Is that okay? We were already there, ready to go, the ice was melting—I felt like I didn’t have much choice but to give in to the manipulation. But I was pretty philosophical about the extra expense—my attitude in these situations is, everything happens for a reason. And when we finally got on the boat I saw that it was exactly what I’d had in mind and if we’d taken the less-expensive boat I might well have been disappointed.

(Nevertheless, NOTE TO SELF: If you’re going to rent a boat and sail to deserted islands, Angra dos Reis is a much better choice. Lots more boats to choose from—and more competitive prices—and lots more islands to choose from too!)


Leaving Salvador...hijinks enroute...quiet moment with Israel and Fernando.

We loaded our stuff and ourselves onto the boat and sailed out into the Bay to a place called Ilha de Frades, one of many small (and some not-so-small) islands in the Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Bay) which is the bay on which Salvador is located. It took us nearly 2 hours to reach the island (and this was sailing across just one corner of the bay—it’s one of the biggest in the world). Once there, we found another beautiful, deserted beach—beautiful in a very different way from the one we’d visited two days before. This was more like the beaches in the islands of Angra dos Reis, though with more coconut palms, which add a visual element I always like.


Wellington bringing gear to shore; Kelly and Israel; the boys on the beach; playing by the tidepool.

There was no dinghy or rowboat, which meant that once the schooner was anchored, we had to ferry my camera equipment to shore in plastic bags held atop the heads of the models. Remind me to get a boat with a rowboat next time!

Anyway, once we had all our stuff over on the beach, I began following the boys around with my camera (always a challenge to keep up with them!), shooting nonstop, and my sister Kelly following us with the video camera—also doing her best to keep up.

Things went very well and then we reached an area where the rocks were very slippery, and as I’m shooting the guys playing in a tidepool, I hear a yell and turn to see that Kelly’s feet have gone out from under her and she’s sitting in a tidepool—she’s soaked, and so is the video camera. Almost instantly Wellington ran over to ‘save’ her (he’s very gallant around Kelly) and he also slipped, fell, and slid right into the same tidepool. Fortunately all Kelly had was a scraped elbow—but the video camera was no longer working, and as it turned out, was pretty much trashed—not only had salt water had gotten into the circuits, the impact itself broke a key component (we found this out later). Kelly, as you can imagine, felt terrible—but I reassured her that it was nobody’s fault and shit happens! And anyway, it’s just a piece of equipment—it can be replaced.


Heading home after a long day in the sun...

As philosophical as I was about the loss of the equipment, it was still a blow for me—I’d been really enjoying the process of videotaping this whole trip (and already editing the movie in my mind), and suddenly it seemed like that part of the project was going to be fatally compromised. I soon realized i was overreacting, and there’s always a way to deal with it—but it took me a bit to get to that point.

Anyway, I kept shooting the models even though i was feeling preoccupied and upset. As I shot the photos, I was thinking, well, these aren’t going to be much good because I’m not focused like I should be. But the next day, when I looked at the results on the computer, I was blown away by how good they were. I guess I’m more professional than I realized. Not a bad thing to discover.

So the second model shoot, despite the loss of the video camera, turned to be a good, productive day. We sailed back to Salvador, got off the boat and waded to shore with all our stuff, and I headed straight home and fell into bed, out like a light.


Wellington became our new best friend in Salvador.

Once the second photo shoot was over, I could finally relax and enjoy being in Salvador. But I was so tired I found myself mostly just catching up on sleep. I did enjoy myself, though. Salvador is a great place, and the people we met made it even better. Over the next few days, Wellington kind of adopted Kelly and me, and took us everywhere. He’s the kind of guy who, wherever he goes, finds friends. Either you already know him and like him, or you’re about to. This meant that we got incredible warmth (and great service too!) from people wherever we went with him. He made the rest of our stay in Salvador even better than it would’ve been otherwise.

I also have to thank Fernando for providing so much help and guidance, and generally doing a great job as a talent-scout-agent-tour-guide and general helper. Again, his website is, if you’re headed for Salvador and you need somebody to take care of you and show you around.

Kelly and I spent three days in Rio before heading home to, respectively, Hawaii and Lincoln, Nebraska. I enjoyed showing her around one of my favorite towns and we met a lot of nice people there too. I got back to Honolulu on Saturday, April 14, and as great a time as I had in Brazil this trip, it was wonderful to be home! I can hardly wait to start work on new paintings and drawings of Israel and Wellington. (And planning my next trip…?)


Almost there...

We rented a van and a driver for the day, and met at the “beach house” (we were no longer calling it the house from hell, since we didn’t have to live there).

I was amazed that both Wellington and Israel were not only on time, but EARLY! I have to say again, you just don’t get this kind of thing in Salvador. I was counting my blessings!

It was Fernando, my agent and assistant, who was more typically Bahian. He kept us all waiting almost a half-hour. Still, we were all in the van and on our way by 10:30 AM, which was earlier than I’d hoped.

That was good, because it was a long drive to where we were going—2 and a half hours, in fact. The first 2 hours were by main highway, but the last half hour was down country backroads that sometimes looked almost impassable. But we got there!


The beach was perfect!

We unloaded ourselves and our stuff from the van and trudged up a sand dune to see what the beach looked like on the other side. It was beautiful! In fact, it was exactly what I had had in mind when I was first planning this trip. We had to walk down the beach a ways to get away from a few fishermen but we soon reached a perfect spot—deserted, windswept, coconut palms in the background. We got set up and the boys started getting undressed.


Israel heading into the surf.

Wellington went for a quick run down the beach. He needed to clear his head before he started modeling, he said. Israel didn’t need any preparation. He headed for the water, still in his white undershorts. I looked away for a second, then looked back and he was heading into the surf, already naked.


Wellington and Israel: a good team.

If the location was great, the models were even better. As you know if you’ve read previous Brazil entries of this Diary, I love the energy and inventiveness Marcus brings to my model shoots with him. Well, that was just the type of thing i got immediately from Wellington and Israel. Wellington was acting almost like an older brother to Israel (Wellington is a confident, grown-up 25, Israel a not-very-mature 21), helping, encouraging, and teasing him. The two hadn’t met before they met through me, but they had a great chemistry together. Both are straight (though “straight-flexible” might be a better term in Brazil), but they were willing to be somewhat physically affectionate with each other in a really masculine, sexy way. As with Marcus, they didn’t need much direction—my main challenge was just to keep up with them.


Israel enjoying himself; models harassing Kelly

An interesting thing happened: Wellington came up to me early in the shoot, all wet from playing in the surf with Israel, and said in Portuguese something to the effect of, "What happens if we get excited (sexually aroused)?" I laughed and said, Believe me, it’s not a problem. He said, Really? I said, REALLY. From then on, both of the guys were constantly stroking themselves. This is something Brazilian boys do a lot of anyway, but they really went for it—especially Israel. in fact, at one point i was trying to get them to play ball in the surf again, but Israel just wanted to stand around stroking his "pica dura." It was very sexy—and kind of funny, too. As my sister Kelly said after having her picture taken with Wellington and Israel standing next to her naked and aroused, "I know how this would probably look to somebody who wasn’t here, but I’m kind of amazed at how innocent it all is." And it was. In fact, there was a kind of freshness and magic to the whole experience that day that made it one of the best photo session experiences i’ve ever had.


One of the 1700-plus images shot that day---a very successful photo session!

And later, looking at the photographs on my computer, i saw that a lot of the magic had been captured in the images. There are some fantastic painting possibilities in these photographs. I’m definitely going to be stretching myself as a painter to do justice to some of these images. I’m looking forward to the challenge!