Posts Tagged ‘photo sessions’

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June 14, 2013

FRESH & NEW: I find a new muse in Khanh

I didn’t expect to find models in Lincoln, Nebraska. I especially didn’t expect to find a beautiful Asian muscle boy here. But sometimes when you’re not looking…

I’ve been working out at the Cooper YMCA in Lincoln since I got here about a year ago. I’ve seen some stunning boys in the gym. And Lincoln is way more ethnically mixed now than when I went to college here 40-plus years ago, so there’s a wide range of types.

I didn’t pursue it, though. It’s kind of a self-image thing: I just have never seen myself in model-search mode while I’m in Nebraska. This place has always been associated with family for me, and when visiting, I would revert to a more conservative, repressed me without even realizing it. Now that I’ve been here for a while, though, that’s been going away. (Perhaps this is just one more reason I’ve felt compelled to spend some time here at this point in my life–letting go of some more baggage I didn’t even know I was still carrying around.)

So gradually I’ve felt more open to finding models here, and there was one guy at the Y I kept noticing. He was young, Asian and had a really beautiful, muscular body…not too muscular, just right. Plus he had an open, fresh look, and a lot of energy. This kid doesn’t walk from place to place, he BOUNCES.

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Khanh

We had a gym relationship–you say hi because you work out at the same time and see each other several times a week. Then one day in the locker room, we had lockers next to each other and it was a natural thing to start a conversation. His name is Khanh, he’s Vietnamese, and he just turned 20. When he found out I was an artist, he wanted to know more, so I gave him my card and told him I thought he would be a good model, and to let me know if he was interested.

I wondered if he’d still be interested when he went to my website and saw that I specialize in male nudes. A few days later when I was working out, he came up to me and said he had seen my website and what did he have to do to be a model for me?

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Test shot of Khanh in my studio.

So we set up an interview. He came to my house (he showed up early, which is a good sign) and we talked and I took some test shots. He photographed well, which didn’t surprise me. And he had absolutely no problem with modeling nude. In fact, he was enthusiastic and excited about it.

I was enthusiastic and excited, too!

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Shirtless test shot of Khanh in my studio.

So with Khanh ready to model whenever I was ready for him, I turned my attention to the matter of a location. No beach, no jungle, no mountains…what was I going to do? I’ve always preferred tropical settings and that was obviously not an option. Plus, it was April and it was still cold and the trees were still mostly bare. On top of that, we kept having thunderstorms and rainy days, for weeks and weeks. It was a cold, wet spring, and every time we had a sunny day and I thought the weather would break, it would go right back to rain and cold.

A month passed, and I was getting impatient. Finally I decided I would shoot him right here, inside my house.

That wouldn’t really have been a very good option in the past, since I only use natural light, and most interiors are just too dark. In a situation like that you have to use a tripod and a very slow shutter speed to get sharp images, and that’s just not how I like to work.

But! A few months ago, in preparation for my trip to the Dominican Republic, I bought a new camera, a Canon Powershot G15. While I was traveling I discovered how amazing this camera is in low-light situations. There were times when the sun had gone down and it was almost completely dark outside, and I was still getting decent shots, with no flash.

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I love this camera! It's the Canon Powershot G15. Runs about $500 in the U.S.

I realized that with this new camera, I could actually do an interior shoot at my house with just ambient light.

Unfortunately the weather was still cloudy, rainy and dark. Even with my amazing new camera, I still needed it to be a sunny day outside to get the warm interior light I wanted.

But finally, after over a month of waiting, the weather broke. We had sun! I called Khanh and he was more than ready–he’d been impatient, too.

I wanted that magical late-afternoon light, and to get that in Hawaii I’d have to shoot from about 5pm to 6pm, any time of year. But here in North America, in late May/early June, we were getting that magical light for 2 whole hours, from about 6pm until 8pm or even later! So I had Khanh show up at my house at 530 and we started shooting.

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I did some outside shots before we started the interior portion of the shoot. I couldn't do nudes because my backyard is too open to prying eyes, but it was a good warmup for Khanh, and I got some nice shots.

Working with Khanh was a pleasure because he was so accommodating and enthusiastic–and so great-looking! Plus he has a bouncy, upbeat energy that makes any model even more appealing. All that, and magical light for a couple of hours! Need I say I got several hundred amazing shots?

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One thing that surprised me was how well my house worked as a location. It’s a 1950s house with the moldings and fittings and the look that go with that era, and it has a really nice flavor I didn’t appreciate until this photo shoot. It’s a quiet setting, not obtrusive, but a nice ambience.

All things considered, it was probably one of the best interior shoots I’ve ever done. I would never have expected that.

Summer is arriving in full bloom as I write this, and sometime in the next few weeks I’ll do a second photo shoot with Khanh, probably outside, and when that happens I’ll be blogging about it. In the meantime, my creative juices always get bubbling on high when I have a new model to work with, so I’ve already begun producing drawings and prints of Khanh. See some of them here!

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




November 18, 2012

• PANIC ATTACK IN THE TROPICS
• HUNTING THE WILD MODEL
• THE MAGIC OF HOSTELS, CONTINUED
• MY NEW BEST AMIGO, JULIO
• JEISON AND THE NOT-SO-NUDE PHOTO SHOOT
• ON NOT SHOWING THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
• GUAYACANES



PANIC ATTACK IN THE TROPICS



I’m back in the brown-boy latitudes.

I got out of Nebraska just in time. I flew out of Omaha November 6 in pre-dawn frigid cold. I arrived in Santo Domingo later that day in 90-degrees-plus heat. Sweaty but happy.

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Having a zapote batida (kind of like a papaya smoothie) in a restaurant near my hostel.

I’ve rented a room in a hostel in the city’s Zona Colonial. The place is called the Hostel Condo Parque and although I was only going to be here for the first week, I like it so much I’m staying the whole 5 weeks.

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Some random scenes of the Zona Colonial.

The 5 weeks was a pretty random decision. When I purchased my ticket, I looked at the calendar and just chose a departure date and a return date, doing my best to trust my instincts and not overthink it. This is what works for me these days.

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My office-away-from-home in the common area of the Hostal Condo Parque.

The Condo Parque is in most respects a typical no-frills third-world hostel, except that it’s owned and managed by a Swiss expatriate named Walter, who is just the kind of low-key, solid, reliable guy you need running a hostel in the Dominican Republic. The place is clean, well-managed, friendly, affordable and convenient. I recommend it highly. (I first stayed in a shared dorm room with 3 beds so I had roommates, and that was fine, but when I decided I was staying longer, I talked to Walter and got a great deal on a nice, big private room with a kitchenette.)

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As soon as I’d dumped my stuff at the hostel, I went exploring.

One of the things I love about Latin American places is the street life, and Santo Domingo has a lot of it. I walked out of the hostel and into a bright, humid tropical afternoon filled with shouting street vendors, loud traffic, lots of people on the sidewalks and lots of color, both literally and figuratively. I breathed it in like a tonic, and strolled down the sidewalks, loving it.

And promptly had a panic attack.

I always conveniently forget how scary it can be the first time in a new, unfamiliar country. I’m excited, of course, but there’s a thin line between excitement and fear. So I’m walking around Santo Domingo and I notice how shallow my breathing is and how fast my heart is beating. When I recognize this, I stop, I breathe, I focus, and I do my best to step outside myself. From there I’m able to see the fear for the illusion that it is. This works most of the time (well, I’ve been practicing for a lot of years). Then, calmer and more centered, I continue on my way, able once again to be present and appreciate the adventure.


HUNTING THE WILD MODEL


But I’m not in the D.R. just to soak up a new culture and have adventures. I’m also here to do what I didn’t manage to do last time I was in Brazil: find some hot new models!

I feel like I’m on a make-or-break with the model thing. I got seriously down on myself after not finding a model after 6 weeks in Brazil a year ago (read about that here.) Of course I had no money at the time and no way to pay models even if I’d found one, or several. It just wasn’t meant to be, and I’m not beating myself up about it so much now, but still…I will feel much better on several levels when I manage to once again capture some naked pix of a hot new boy.


THE MAGIC OF HOSTELS, CONTINUED


After my experience at the MistiChill Hostel in Paraty, Brazil, last year (read about that here), as well as Pura Vida in Rio, I’ve become a confirmed hostel-goer. My introduce-myself-to-everyone-with-no-hesitation method of creating instant new social circles works very well in hostels, and the Condo Parque was no exception. After 24 hours in Santo Domingo I already had a dozen new friends and was having a great time.

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Fun with new friends I've met at the hostel.


MY NEW BEST AMIGO JULIO


I tried going out to the gay bars in Santo Domingo as soon as I arrived, but it was early in the week, and it’s a weekends-only scene here, unless you are interested in hustlers, which I’m not. I had some encounters with the very aggressive hustlers but I have enough experience in this area (think Brazil) that I know how to rid myself of them pretty easily.

But I was looking forward to a place where I could meet some regular non-hustler gay people.

I went to a bar called NYC on Thursday night, which is the first night of the weekend here, I guess, and was so turned off by the heavy hustler presence all around the front door that I didn’t even go in. But across the street was the other bar I wanted to check out, Esedeku (the phonetic spelling of SDQ, the Santo Domingo airport code). So I went over there, and to my relief, there were no hustlers, just regular, friendly people. Right away I started talking to the tall, good-looking guy behind the bar. His name was Julio.

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My new friend Julio.

It turned out Julio was the owner of the bar. He’s Mexican, from Puerto Vallarta, and he was new to the Dominican Republic—he had just bought the bar and moved to Santo Domingo two months before, from San Francisco. I told him about my model hunt, and he said he’d love to help me in any way he could. In fact, he immediately suggested I consider his bartender Jeison, who is a bodybuilder and is actually pretty hot.

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This is Julio's bar, Esedeku, in the light of day. The terrace on top is where I interviewed my first potential model.

Lots of people tell me they would love to help me with my model shoots, and usually they’re not very serious. To my surprise, Julio turned out to be the exception. The next day, he called and invited me to come with him to his gym and we could see if there’s anybody there that I like, and if so, he could introduce us.

That’s what we did, and I met a couple of guys right away through Julio. He was happy to go up to them and do the talking. I loved it! Even after all these years, the initial moment of going up to guys and talking to them about modeling still scares me and ties my stomach up in knots, and when I have somebody who’s happy to go up and meet the guys and do the hard work for me, I’m thrilled.

Over the next couple of days Julio and I spent a lot of time together talking about everything under the sun. He’s happy and excited to help me with the model hunt, and I’m happy to give him advice about running a business, which is something he’s doing for the first time. We enjoy each other’s company and it’s great having a new friend who’s not only fun to hang out with, but is excited about joining me in my D.R. model-hunt adventure.


Jeison AND THE NOT-SO-NUDE PHOTO SHOOT


One of the issues of being a male-nudes photographer on a severe budget in a foreign country is, where do I interview the models? It’s often difficult to bring them into my lodgings, especially when I’m staying in a hostel.

Julio, bless him, came to the rescue. He told me he’d be happy to let me use his bar as an interview location. He has a terrace atop the bar, so we decided to use that as an interview setting, and we scheduled an interview with bartender Jeison.

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I interviewed Jeison and took some test shots of him on the terrace of Julio's bar.

We set the interview for 1pm and Jeison showed up at 2pm. I wasn’t pleased about that, but when he started taking off his clothes and revealing that amazing physique, I began to forgive him. As Julio had said, Jeison had a really beautiful body. The more I saw of him, the more I liked him.

Something I always insist on during the interview is that the model get totally naked. I want him to be okay with full nudity, or it’s a dealbreaker. I’ve been doing it this way for over 30 years.

But once again, I find myself changing in unexpected ways.


ON NOT SHOWING THE WHOLE ENCHILADA


As you may know if you’re a regular follower of my art, I’ve recently been doing fewer full-frontal nudes. In my career it’s been almost a point of honor for me to never be afraid to show what seemed to frighten most other artists (and gallery owners)–the penis!

But I’m mellowing. I no longer feel the need to make that same statement, over and over again. If full frontal nudity feels natural and right in the work, great, I obviously have no problem with it. But I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure it’s always present.

I may sound casual as I say this, but it’s a BIG shift in my perspective.

I already knew, through Julio, that Jeison was not willing to “show everything.” Even in the recent past, I would have said, Okay, goodbye, not interested. But now, I look at Jeison and I think, hmmm, how would this work? And I began to get an idea.

I’m a big fan of those online photos where you see (presumably) straight boys in drunken weekend parties getting naked in front of each other and everybody else, sometimes baring all and sometimes hiding their privates with a hand or a hat or a bottle of beer. I love the mix of innocent fun and sexual tease. And as I thought about it, I thought it might be fun to do a photo shoot like that, and Jeison seemed like a good place to start.

Saggerz

I found these images online and used them as examples to show Jeison what I had in mind for our photo shoot. (By the way, if I'm infringing anyone's rights by using any of these images, please notify me and I'll remove them.)

So when we did the interview, I told him the plan was to do a “no completamente desnudo” (not completely nude) photo shoot. He would hide his privates with a towel, his hand, shorts, or whatever, and there would be lots of almost-naked-shots but nothing completely naked. He liked the sound of that, I thought it would be an intriguing experiment, and it was also going to cost me less than full nudity.

Now all we needed was a location.


GUAYACANES


Finding the model(s) is always a challenge. But after that you have two more challenges: finding a location, and finding transportation to and from the location. I’d recently met the owner of a Santo Domingo gay hotel (Adam Suites), a guy named Gilbert originally from Miami, and he gave me a good price for a van and driver. So that part was taken care of. Now I just needed a nice, secluded beach close to the city.

All the beaches within an hour or two of Santo Domingo are touristy and overbuilt, but I thought there must be a little cove or inlet or something somewhere along that long coastline where we could find some privacy. So Julio, myself, Jeison and the driver piled into the van, and went looking for that beach I was picturing.

But it was not happening. After we wasted an hour and a half of precious time trying to find a place that met my expections, we were all getting very frustrated. It was getting so late we had to stop somewhere and shoot some pictures, or I would have wasted the whole excursion.

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Top left, myself and Julio waiting for the model to arrive; top right, Gilbert, Jeison and Julio pose on the balcony of the Adam Suites Hotel; lower left, Jeison arrives; lower right, we arrive at Guayacanes Beach.

So finally I said to the driver, Stop here, and the “here” was a place called Playa Guayacanes. It was typical of the beaches near Santo Domingo, by which I mean touristy and overpopulated, but because it was mid-morning on a weekend, the only people around were a few vendors and some fishermen. I looked around at the palm trees and the fishing boats and thought, you know, this is kind of picturesque. And it’s not a completely nude shoot anyway. Maybe I can make this work.

So we unloaded our gear and Jeison stripped down and we got started. As the session unfolded over the course of about 3 hours, I was surprised again and again by what great shots I was finding with the beach chairs, the fishing boats, the kiosks—all the stuff I had been so adamant about avoiding. In the end I was really happy I’d been able to let go of my preconceptions and trust that things were working the way they were for a reason.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that shooting an almost-nude gorgeous man was just as stimulating and interesting as shooting a totally nude gorgeous man. Not better, not worse, just a different set of challenges and possibilities.

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A few of the nearly 1000 shots I got of Jeison at Guayacanes Beach.

Another plus: usually we’re in a secluded spot, the model is completely nude, and I’m always a bit on edge with the concern that we’ll be interrupted. It was nice not to have that worry for a change.

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Julio (left) and Jeison walking as we moved from section of the beach to another about halfway through the shoot.

Through all this, Julio was a great asset. He’s the one who introduced me to the model, he supplied the setting for the interview, and he came along on the photo shoot to help out. I couldn’t believe my luck: not only did I have a new friend I really enjoyed being around, I also had a terrific volunteer assistant. Thanks Julio!

Jeison ds eating

With my first Dominican photo shoot in the can, I relax and have some chicken on the beach with the model.

When we got back to the city in the early afternoon, I was exhausted (I always am after a photo shoot). But I felt great! I felt like I’d broken the model-hunt jinx and I was back in the saddle again. Plus I was over the moon about all the great new images I’d gotten! It was a great beginning to my Dominican adventure.

NOTE: If you’re reading this blog soon after it was posted, some of the first sketches I did of Jeison from the photo shoot described above may still be online and available.You can check by clicking here.

NEXT, IN LETTER FROM SANTO DOMINGO PART 2: TRIP TO LAS TERRENAS




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


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PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS AND COMMERCIAL WORK BY DOUGLAS SIMONSON


If you’ve seen much of my art, you know I’m pretty versatile.

That’s also true with my portraits and commercial work. I not only paint and draw portraits on commission, I also do custom photo shoots and commercial illustration.

I customarily go into the studio and paint whatever is exciting or inspiring me at the time. Working on commission is obviously quite different, but it’s a challenge I enjoy. As wonderful as it is to be able to paint whatever I want to paint, there are times when it’s really nice to have some specific guidelines, and that’s what I get when I do a portrait commission.


• THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS
• ACRYLIC PORTRAITS
• PENCIL PORTRAITS
• PHOTO SHOOTS
• WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?
• COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION



THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS

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There are 3 basic options when you commission a Douglas Simonson portrait: acrylic painting, pencil drawing and photography.

There are 3 basic options when you’re thinking about a Simonson portrait: acrylic paintings, pencil drawings and photography. The first choice, an acrylic painting, is the most adventurous and least realistic.

If you’re looking for a more realistic approach, a pencil portrait is the way to go. And the most affordable option is a photographic portrait.


PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: ACRYLIC PAINTINGS

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This somewhat Picassoesque approach is one approach I use when painting portraits in acrylic.

Acrylic portraits are the wildest and craziest approach to a Simonson portrait. What I mean is, when I paint acrylics I’m not interested in a strictly realistic approach: I like to get adventurous. So if you’re looking for a straightforwardly realistic portrait, this is not what you want. On the other hand, if you want something exciting, different, and bound to start some conversations, an acrylic portrait is the way to go.

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Here's a different approach that looks quite realistic until you study the painting more closely.

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This acrylic portrait is basically very realistic, but with a bit of stylization.

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This painting of my parents is one of my favorites.


Acrylic Portrait Commission Rates:
$2450 for 1 person
$3950 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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This geometric approach to the patterns of light and shadow is another approach I've used in acrylic portraiture.

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NOT YOUR TYPICAL PORTRAIT: My friends Jeff and Siew commissioned me to do a 'portrait' of their life in Hawaii to keep a taste of the tropics in their new home on the East Coast.




PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: PENCIL DRAWINGS

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This portrait of Doug and Xavier is a good example of the cross-hatch approach I usually use in a pencil portrait.

A Simonson pencil portrait is a realistic black-and-white pencil portrait. If you want a straightforwardly realistic depiction of yourself or your loved one(s), this is the way to go.

Pencil Portrait Commission Rates:
$950 for one person
$1450 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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Pencil is ideal for this type of family portrait.

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This pencil portrait of my friend Randy captures his irreverent sense of humor.

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You have another option when you commission a pencil portrait: I also do white-pencil-on-dark-paper drawings. The price for these dramatic pieces is the same as for a conventional pencil portrait.



PHOTO SHOOTS

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This photo portrait is of my niece Hannah.

I’m available to do photo sessions on commission. What that means is, you and I will discuss what kind of photographs you’d like, a location is chosen, and you and I will work together for approximately 2 hours. This results in several hundred photographs.

Broadly speaking, I do 2 types of photo session. One is a Portrait Session, which results in a photographic portrait (or several) suitable for framing. The other is a Custom Session, a shoot customized to your wishes, whether you need images for professional use (business cards, brochures, websites) or personal (online profiles, fantasies, etc.). In either case, you’ll get to keep the images from the shoot (usually from 500-1000 images) for your personal use, and you’ll own all rights to them.

Below: Some examples from recent portrait photo shoots:

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Keep in mind that a photo session with me is not your typical in-studio shoot. I prefer natural lighting, uncontrived/natural settings, and spontaneity. My objective is to show you at your most joyous and ‘alive.’ I’ve had a lot of years of experience at bringing out the true spirit of even the shyest, most reticent subjects, so I’m good at it. It doesn’t matter how unsure you are of your ability to look good in front of a camera; you can rest assured I will bring out, and capture, you at your very best.

Photo Shoot Rates:

Portrait Session: $500 if client provides location, $650 if I provide the location
(includes photo session, a CD of all images, and up to three 13″x19″ frameable photographs)

Custom Session: $350 if client provides location, $500 if I provide the location
(includes photo session and a CD of all images)

Shoots involving 2 or more persons: Rates on request.


WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?

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Black dots represent recent Simonson travels. Wherever you live in the world, a Simonson portrait commission is within the realm of possibility.

I work only from my own photographs, so your geographic location is a factor in commissioning a portrait. But don’t let that stop you: I travel a lot, and I’m very open to considering some detours to accomplish a photo shoot for a portrait commission. (There may be an additional travel fee, depending on location and my traveling schedule, but not necessarily.) No matter where in the world you live, it’s quite possible for you to set up a portrait commission with me. Just e-mail me me with your questions or request.



COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION

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Some examples of recent commercial illustration work I've done.

My artistic versatility and technical skills are well suited to many kinds of commercial illustration. I’ve successfully produced CD case designs, logos, humorous ilustrations for advertising and product labels, and book illustration, among other types of projects. I utilize both physical-world approaches (painting, drawing on paper, canvas or board) and digital media (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) to create commercial illustration and graphic design.

My rates are competitive. Contact me for further information.