Posts Tagged ‘nude’

There’s this photograph of Wellington and Israel at Massarandupió Beach in Bahia that I love. It really captures one of the many great moments that day. The composition, the lighting, the feeling of the image….I think they’re all wonderful, and I thought it would make a terrific painting. But for a long time I was afraid to tackle it. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture the light and the feeling of the image. But finally I decided, okay, maybe I’m ready now. I’ll give it a shot!

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This is the photo I started with.


I started by tweaking the image in Photoshop. There are two major differences I make in the image this way. One, I intensify (via saturation and light/dark) the colors, which makes the image more vibrant. In this way I have a guide for mixing colors. It’s possible to mix vibrant colors even though you’re working from a less-than-vibrant photographic image, but it’s a lot more difficult. I like to let the computer do this for me. And in the final analysis, I don’t have to follow the color guide in the photo exactly…it’s just a guide. The second thing I do when tweaking the image is blur it. But I don’t use the Blur function in Photoshop, I use something called Median (Filters -> Noise -> Median). This removes the detail in a more elegant way than just blurring the image. And that’s what I want—to remove the detail. This forces me to look at the major shapes and areas of color and light and dark when working on the painting. I could do that by just squinting at the source image while working, but it’s nice not to have to do that. And of course I keep the undoctored image around in case I want to add in some detail (but not until much later!). Oh, yeah—I often use Posterize on the image after Median. This lessens the number of colors used so it’s easier to see color areas.

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This is the photograph after some tweaking in Photoshop.


My next step was to do a color study. This is a small, rough version of the final painting in which I can work out problems of color, tonal balance (balance of lights and darks), composition and whatever else I might not expect but which will probably crop up in the color study. The color study went pretty well but I found I had difficulties with the tone of the hill behind the figures. I kept getting it too light or too dark. Also it was a tricky mix of greens and purples. I kept remixing the colors until I got it more or less correct. When I had everything looking pretty balanced, I decided I was ready to tackle the big picture.

The acrylic sketch I did as preparation for the painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The acrylic sketch I did as preparation for the painting (click on image to see this item on my website)

The biggest challenge in doing a big finished work, as opposed to a rough sketch, is psychological/emotional. It’s hard not to take the larger work more seriously and care more that it works out. Caring too much about the success of a painting is practically a guarantee of its failure. The difficulty is finding a balance between working toward a vision of the finished work, but not gripping that vision too tightly, so you can stay loose and allow the energy to flow. With this painting I was on both sides of that line, but walked it most of the time. Which worked out pretty well. I needed all the preparatory work I’d done because this painting was a challenge in many ways—but all the work paid off and I managed to keep it loose and fairly spontaneous and still capture the feeling and the light of the original scene. I’m pretty happy with this one. I’m calling it Bahian Beach Boys.

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

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

For this painting I went back to one of my most consistent themes/fantasies: the naked brown-skinned boy in the jungle. I still have lots of Baiano photos I haven’t used, and I found a nice one for this, where he’s leaning against a tree on a hillside near Itacaré (see my Dec. 1 2008 diary entry for more on that photo shoot).

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New model Baiano on a jungle-y hillside in Itacaré The rough sketch that inspired me to do a finished painting. Click on image to see this item on my website.

This painting actually began the way many of my paintings begin—with a sketch that I really liked. Many times I’ll start with a photograph I really like and then none of the sketches that come from it really excite me. When that happens I usually just move onto another image until I get a sketch that DOES excite me. But with this one, it happened right away. I like the feeling of the sketch and I’m determined to keep the painting loose and not get too careful and overwork it.

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This is the underdrawing on the canvas before the painting begins. Here, the first thin washes of color have been applied.

Next I transferred the sketch to canvas. I did this the easy way—I scanned the sketch, then used my digital projector to project it onto the canvas so I could do it exactly the size I wanted, and retain as much of the feeling of the sketch as possible. You’ll notice I also went into a bit more detail with the plant life.

Next I did the ground, which is the underpainting. I used to use a single color for this—and that does work fine—but lately I’ve been doing one color for the body, one or two colors for the background. That seems to work pretty well for me too. Once the ground had dried, I outlined the forms with dark paint. I used to always use black paint for this, but lately I’ve begun doing colors. In this case I used a really dark warm brown for the body outlines, a really dark green for the foliage outlines, and a dark cool brown for the tree outlines. It’s more work, but it’s subtly different from the black outlines and I like the final effect better.

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Here I begin actually applying the paint. About 60% done.

While that was drying, I mixed my colors for the actual painting. This is usually a pretty time-consuming part of the process—sometimes I’ll spend up to an hour mixing the colors. I think I overdo/overthink this process sometimes though, and I find lately I’m getting better at keeping the mixtures simpler. Which of course is always a good idea. Not only does it save time, the art tends to be better when it’s more spontaneous and LESS complicated instead of more!

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

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

I spent a couple of days on this one and it worked out pretty well. Working all over the painting made it possible to get a color scheme going without too many false moves. I’m also pleased that I didn’t get too careful; I kept the whole painting pretty loose and it has a nice consistency of tone, I think. I’m calling it “Coastal Jungle.”

1407source-2upI was browsing through my thousands of digital photos on my computer, looking for ideas for my next painting, and I found myself in the Marcus April 2006 folder. This was the trip I took to Rio and rented my friends’ Copacabana apartment, and had a photo shoot set up with Marcus and he never showed up–then he showed up two days later at 9 in the morning and I had to drag myself out of bed and collect myself in a hurry to do a 2-hour photo shoot. Marcus is one of the few models I would do that for! This photograph has him in my bedroom on the bed I was sleeping in, sprawled out invitingly. Unfortunately the photograph I liked best was cut off on the left. I wanted a more horizontal composition, so I took another photograph I took at about the same time, and added more leg and bed on the left. Thank goodness for Photoshop!

Extending the composition horizontally and adding a window.

Extending the composition horizontally and adding a window.

Once I had the two photographs put together and had a composition I liked, I wanted to change the mood of the image. The simple bedroom setting was not very exciting to me. I wanted more of a fantasy. I had the idea of adding a window that looked out on a tropical beach setting. So I went looking on the Internet for windows with palm trees showing through them. That was not easy, but I finally found something that was more or less what I was looking for. Using Photoshop, I plopped that window into the upper right corner to see what it looked/felt like. I liked the result and thought, yes, I think this concept is going to work.

First pencil sketch that was getting close to what I wanted.

First pencil sketch that was getting close to what I wanted. (Click on image to go to my art website.)

Using my doctored photographic image, I began sketching. After about 7 or 8 rough sketches, I finally started to get an image that excited me. This required some stylization and simplification, some elongation of the figure, and a “cottage” feeling–which means vertical lines suggesting a simple wood structure, and a window framing palms and an ocean horizon.

Final pencil sketch before I began figuring out color scheme.

Final pencil sketch before I began figuring out color scheme. (Click on image to go to my art website.)

The following drawing was very close to what I wanted. The elements all seemed to be in place. What I needed now was a color scheme. The existing colors of the photographic image were close, but a little boring. I decided that, rather than doing several color studies, I would continue working in Photoshop. That way, when a color area didn’t work, I could easily change the color, or lighten or darken it to see if it helped. This is much easier than repainting a whole area, or starting a new color sketch, until I get the color balance I want.

Layered photoshop image which allowed me to experiment with colors.

Layered photoshop image which allowed me to experiment with colors.

Using Photoshop I was able to cut out the figure from one of the source photographs, elongate and distort it so it fit the drawing I’d created, then “paint” in the color areas on the computer to see how the color scheme was working. This saved me a lot of time, and I was able to fairly quickly find a combination of colors that fit with the fantasy that was taking shape in my mind: colors that gave me the feeling of a lazy afternoon in a tropical beach cottage with a boy I’d met in the city and brought to a little beach town for a romantic weekend together.

The final painting: "Beach Cottage"

The final painting: "Beach Cottage." (Click on image to see the print on my website.)

That ended the preparatory phase of the work, and set the stage for the real work: creating the actual painting. I had worked out the color scheme and had a nice approximation of the feeling I was going for, and that made creating the painting itself much easier. There followed 3 days of taking the rough concept and turning it into a finished painting. I kept the finished work pretty faithful to the final sketch, except for going back to the previous sketch to get the plate and discarded cup on the floor–I thought that was a nice touch, suggesting the relaxed nature of the “lost weekend” I was depicting. I decided to call the painting “Beach Cottage.” I’m very happy with this painting, not least because I took a semi-interesting photographic image and turned it into a much richer painting with a whole story behind it.

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Soon after my early August photo session with Mike T., I got a chance to start creating some drawings of him. For my first drawing I chose a shot of Mike which happened this way: I had him wearing white briefs and getting wet in a tidepool. I wanted to see him in soaking-wet briefs. So I got those shots, and they weren’t all that great. So I had him take off the briefs. As soon as he took them off he started wringing them out, and that made for some nice shots. Then I got an idea. I told him to start wiping the briefs across his chest, then his stomach, and in effect using it as a washcloth. This made for a whole series of great shots, and the one you see here is one of the best.

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This started out as a pretty straightforward pencil drawing. However, I’ve recently begun varying my pencil leads more. What I mean is, where I used to customarily use a single pencil for an entire drawing, I’ve begun using different hardnesses for different purposes in the drawing. So for the darkest darks I’m using a very soft lead, and for the lightest areas (well, actually the second-lightest areas since leaving the paper untouched supplies the lightest lights) I use a very hard lead. For those of you who are draughtsmen and are interested in specifics, here’s what I’ve been using: For the darkest darks, I use a 2B or a 3B, occasionally even a 4B. For less-dark darks, I use a B (more or less equivalent to a number 1 pencil). For darker middle tones, I use an HB, and for lighter middle tones, an F. For the lightest shadow areas, I’ll use an H, and occasionally for even lighter tones, a 2H or a 3H. You can get by using just a couple of different hardnesses and you’ll still have plenty of range for most drawings, since just varying the pressure already gives you so much range with pencils. But if you want really subtle, fine variations in tone, use 4 or 5 variations in hardness. That’s what I wanted in this drawing, and it definitely made a difference. One challenge was the tattoo. This is where the different pencils really helped. There’s an overall subtlety and power to this drawing that I wouldn’t have been able to get with just 1 or 2 pencils. I call it “Polished” not just because it looks a bit as if Mike is polishing himself, but also because I feel like it’s one of the most polished drawings I’ve done to date.

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I began a second drawing soon after. I wanted to keep this one a bit looser—doing two very meticulous, detailed drawings in a row is just a bit too much for me. I need variation. So I decided to do this one in a looser style. For my source image I chose a shot of Mike sitting on a towel and looking at something in the distance. I love the way his body looks in this photo, and his profile is really lovely.

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Since I chose to do this drawing more loosely, I didn’t use so many variations of pencil lead. I mostly used a really soft pencil, and instead of careful crosshatching, did more of a scribble. Keeping the scribbles somewhat consistent, of course! Then, in places, I’d go in and smear the pencil lead to get softer variations in tone. That would then sometimes require going in again with a gneaded eraser to lift out highlights in the smeared areas. This approach gives the drawing a very different look than what you see in “Polished,” but it’s one I like just as much. It just has a different energy. I chose to leave the background out on this drawing, for two reasons—one, I’m lazy and didn’t want to draw all that, and two, the positive-negative spatial interplay I got by just putting the body against white space really worked. Or put more simply, the figure actually worked better and was stronger without the background. I called this one “Near Sandy’s” (“Sandy’s” is the local nickname for Sandy Beach, which is very near the location where we did our photo shoot).

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A few days later, I decided I wanted to do a simple acrylic painting of Mike. I chose an image where Mike is just beginning to remove his boardshorts. I found the gesture beautiful and intriguing. The original image was a little dark and low-contrast so I tweaked it in Photoshop before beginning to do preparatory sketches. I did several sketches in pencil, then did a light-and-shadow study in colored pencil. I was still not sure what I was going to do color-scheme-wise, but with just a single figure on a colored background, I wasn’t too worried that I’d be able to make it work.

Painting the figure turned out to be a pretty straightforward task, using standard light-and-shadow techniques and naturalistic color.

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Then, however, I added black outlines and an electric purple background (with a glow just behind the figure to make it ‘pop’). That gave the piece a cartoon-y, action-figure feeling, while the naturalistic rendering of the figure allows us to still appreciate the beauty and sexuality of the figure. I’m calling this one “Supermike.”

Update to this Entry:

In March 2013 I published an e-book called “Muse: Drawings and Paintings Inspired by Mike T.” You can purchase it for instant download here.

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I met Mike T. through another of my Hawaii models, Kaimana (they work together). He came to my studio for an interview in late July and I shot some test photos of him. To be truthful, I really didn’t need the test photos to know I wanted to work with Mike. He has an amazing body, and a great smile as well. Plus, he was punctual and polite! We talked about what kind of photo shoots I do, I showed him the release forms, and we agreed we wanted to work together. We scheduled a photo shoot for the following week.

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Mike arrives at the beach, 7 am.

I chose to use the same location I used for my shoot with Kaimana. It’s a rocky coastline on Oahu’s southeast side, not far from Makapuu Point. The area is one of the few beaches near Honolulu which is more often deserted than not. I wanted to shoot as early in the morning as possible. I arrived at 6:45am and Mike showed up about 7, which was a little later than I’d wanted, but still worked out perfectly well…the light was really nice.

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Mike folds his boardshorts.

We hiked a little ways into the deserted beach area and I started shooting right away. I started with a series of Mike taking off his boardshorts, putting them on again, then repeating, repeating, repeating while I shot every possible angle. At one point I had him folding his boardshorts, too.

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Mike with Koko Crater in the background.

We hiked a bit farther in and found some rocks that offered a good setting. I had Mike lay one of my beach towels over the rocks and sit down, while I moved around him and captured every possible angle. (Sometimes I go home after a photo shoot and just fall into bed…one of the reasons is that I am constantly in motion, not wanting to miss any possible shot, which means I am always circling the model.)

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Great light at this time of the morning!

This was one of the best and most enjoyable photo shoots I’ve done in a long time. The light was ideal, as was the setting. And the model, spectacular. Mike looks good from just about any angle, and he’s very easy to work with. Friendly, unassuming, sweet in a very masculine way. And he was surprisingly at ease right from the start. Often it takes a little while before I get the model to relax, but Mike seemed to trust me right from the start, which made things much easier—and allowed me to get some great shots right from the beginning of the shoot.


And as great as the initial shots were, things just got better and better as Mike got more relaxed and I got more warmed up and inspired. I love Mike’s looks, and the camera loves him too—almost every shot I took was a good one!

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My challenge here was keeping my camera dry!

The area we were shooting in offered lots of variety—beach, rocks, water, mountain backdrops—and I took advantage of as many as I could manage to in the time we had. I also had some new equipment which gave me a great advantage in terms of how much material I was able to shoot. Usually I use a 1 or 2 gigabyte card in my camera—that gives me either 250 or 500 shots per card. But the day before the shoot I went to the camera store to see if there were new cards available with more memory. To my surprise, they now have an EIGHT-gigabyte card for my camera! So I bought one. This was a terrific investment. It meant that I was able to shoot constantly for 2 and a half hours without having to stop to change the memory card. I did have to stop and change the battery once—but that’s the only time I had to stop shooting to deal with equipment stuff. And the 8-gig card turned out to be the perfect size. The card ran out of memory just as I ran out of energy. I wound up with over 2200 hi-resolution photos.

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We were fortunate because there was nobody anywhere near, so we were able to work uninterrupted from 7am until about 930. Theoretically I can shoot for as many hours as I want—usually the model is willing—but I’ve found that 2 and a half hours is near the maximum before I start fading. I find I expend a surprising amount of energy during a photo shoot because of how intensely I’m concentrating.

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And now, the next phase of my work (my profession/hobby/fun) begins…turning these glorious photos into glorious drawings and paintings. The afternoon after the photo shoot (after taking a nap!), I began the first drawing of Mike. You’ll see it soon, along with many others to follow.

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!

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 bahiaboybrasil.com, 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…?)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!