Posts Tagged ‘pool’

Palmsprings6pm heading

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October 18, 2012

I had such a good experience painting “Steve with Towel” using sponges (see Painting Without Brushes), I decided to undertake something more challenging.

I was looking through my photos of Rob in Palm Springs and found one that I really liked. Not a nude, but that’s okay with me; these days I’m thinking more about gallery shows and I’m liking the idea of doing works with a broader appeal. I’ve painted so many frontal nudes in my career I finally feel I can do something less confronting without feeling like I’ve compromised.

Source 1

Above is the photograph I decided to use for my next painting. This is an image I wouldn’t have undertaken not too long ago. You know I love painting the figure with just a plain blue (or yellow or orange or whatever) background, so all I have to deal with is the face and figure. There’s a whole lot more going on in this one.

But there’s been a tectonic shift in my painter’s view of the world in the last several weeks, and that’s because of my new understanding of color. The previous two paintings and lots of practice pieces in between have really cemented my new awareness of color temperature (warm vs. cool).

Because of this, I look at this image and see relationships I wouldn’t have seen in the past. Instead of just seeing dark greens in the background, I now see COOL dark greens. And I see the warmer greens against the cooler ones. In the middle ground I see the cool purples and the warmer greens and oranges. In the pool I see the difference between the cool blues and the warmer blue-greens. And on the figure, I see the purples and greens in the shadow areas. What used to be a sea of complexity that overwhelmed me is now a set of puzzle pieces I feel competent to put together!

Source 2

But to make it even easier for me to see and deal with all the puzzle pieces, I did my usual Photoshop tweaking of the image. Using the Posterize filter, I altered the image so that I had a clearer breakdown of both values (light and dark) and hue (colors). Then, with both the unaltered photo and the tweaked version as references, I have more information available. (Compare the water in the pool in the unaltered photo and the tweaked one and see how much easier it is to see what’s going on. Now it’s possible to see it as abstract colored shapes. That is the way you have to see it in order to paint it.)

This was to be another big, bold sponge painting, so I cut myself a piece of canvas that would give me plenty of room to work. The dimensions for the painting are 36×48 (91x121cm), or 3 feet by 4 feet. A big painting, for me.

(One of the issues for me in the past with attempting a complex image like this was that there was a lot of detail, and a lot of differing kinds of detail. That’s no fun when you’re painting small. But until recently I hadn’t even allowed myself to consider painting really big. Thank goodness I got over that! Because an image like this becomes MUCH easier (and more fun) when it’s big enough that you’re not having to work into tiny, detailed areas to get something right. Of course with sponges you don’t even have the option of doing tiny, detailed areas—and that’s a good thing.)



Above you can see the initial reference drawing, then the next stage where I’ve done a brownish wash over the whole painting, then begun laying in the background and some of the water in the pool. I’m using sponges for all of this and doing my best to keep it really loose—although I got a little carried away and did more detail than I intended on some of the plants. They didn’t need to be that finished this early in the game. But that’s okay; that will all be changed when the painting is more complete anyway.



In the above in-progress photos you can see I’ve blocked in more of the pool and begun laying in some flesh tones to see how it’s all going to fit together. It’s never a good idea to finish one area of a painting at a time—it’s much better to skip around and work in several areas of the painting, because every time you add color or values to one area, it changes the areas around it. A painting is a dynamic thing; you can’t expect it to ‘hold still’ while you’re finishing one area of it. When you work all over the painting there’s a much better chance it will all work well together in the end.


At this point I have been working on the painting for a couple of days. You can see it’s starting to come together. Mixing the colors has been a challenge. Knowing what I now know about warm and cool and how they alternate, it’s been much easier than it would have been in the past. But it’s still been challenging, and often I’ve found when I apply the shade I’ve just mixed on my palette, it’s not right and I have to try again. This has been especially true of the fleshtones, because in this painting, mostly they’re not what we think of as flesh tones at all. Instead, they’re cool blue-greens and warm lavenders, with a bit of orange and some yellows in the highlights.


The next day, I bring the work further toward completion by finishing more of the background, the water in the pool (notice I’ve added the white splashes), and continuing to work on Rob’s flesh tones. I had to paint, and repaint, and repaint again, to get just the right colors and values in his body. The light is rather complicated, plus with acrylics they always dry darker so sometimes it’ll look right when it’s wet, but then it dries and you realize you have to repaint it—AGAIN.

Approximately 5 days after beginning it, I finish the painting.


The finished painting, entitled 'Palm Springs, 6 PM.'

Final touches included getting the flesh tones just right (FINALLY!), adding the chrome railing, and adding some final touches in the foliage in the background. I’ve decided to call it ‘Palm Springs 6pm’. I feel it’s a big breakthrough in several ways: the size of it, the fact that I did such a complex work using only sponges (and not getting caught up in detail!), and the fact that I was able to use my increasing awareness of color temperature to bring more life to the image.

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


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!


This was the candid shot I got of Sam at the pool party that made me think Wow, this boy is model material and I hadn't even seen it 'til now.

I’ve found a new model—Sam. Over the past few months Sam and I have ended up at the same parties and we’ve become friends. After a pool party a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the candid photos I’d taken and for the first time I realized that Sam would make a good model. I’m not used to seeing Caucasian guys that way, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s paid much attention to my art over the years. But I found myself appreciating Sam’s lean, pretty body and his handsome face—and that’s not even to mention his warmth and bright, fun personality. Sam is charismatic, likeable and HOT—and I knew he’d be fun to work with. So I called him and asked him if he wanted to model. He said he’d be honored.


Sam on the loveseat in my living room.

So he came over to my new apartment in Waikiki and we did a photo shoot. I just moved into this place a month ago so this is the first photo shoot I’ve done here. I wasn’t sure how well it would work for that. We started out in the living room, which was where I thought the light would be best.


One of the first shots of Sam I shot on my lanai.

What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that because it was nearly noon, the sun was above the building and only reflected light was shining into the living room. With no direct sun hitting the model, the light tends to be soft and diffused. Which is fine when you want to flatter someone but not so great when you have someone who needs no flattering and in fact looks great with strong dramatic light striking his body.

So we went out onto my lanai, which is long and narrow and at first glance would not seem to be a great location for shooting a model. But almost immediately I realized that, at least at this time of the day, it was better than the living room. The light was more direct, and the pink of the outer walls worked well with Sam’s coloring.


Sam hanging on my front gate.

There’s a cast-iron swinging gate at the entrance of my lanai, with a piece of white plexiglas in it. It’s not very attractive and I’ll probably do something to make it look better at some point but, surprisingly, it turns to be a great backdrop and support for the model! I got some great shots of Sam leaning back and hanging on the gate.


This was shot from outside the back door of my bedroom.

There was another part of my apartment I hadn’t tried—my bedroom. Since it’s not very bright in there I didn’t think it would work very well. But, again, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the light was. I was able to get some fairly dramatic lighting situations in there with Sam standing near the single window.

The back door of my bedroom opens onto a little landing which leads to my neighbors’ back door and the stairwell. Since the neighbors weren’t home I tried shooting Sam in that area, and with the flat-black doors and walls, got a completely different effect, and again, one that worked surprisingly well. I probably shot a couple hundred images in my bedroom and on the landing by my back door.


Through all this, one thing didn’t surprise me, and that was the fact that Sam was at ease and comfortable in front of the camera, and easy and pleasant to work with. I already knew he photographed well from shooting candids of him at all those parties…so that wasn’t a surprise either. This first shoot went so well I’ll probably shoot Sam again. In the meantime I’m very happy to have a lot of new images to work from and you’ll be seeing more of Sam in the near future.

I made Shawn walk in circles in unzipped shorts.

I made Shawn walk in circles in unzipped shorts.

Got the slides back yesterday from the photo shoot I did with Shawn several days ago. This was our second photo shoot, and went more smoothly than the first. For one thing, there were no equipment problems this time; for another, it’s Shawn’s second time working with me, and he’s more relaxed. Also, this one was at Dick and Kei’s house in Hawaii Kai, not in a public place like Diamond Head Beach, and I think the model tends to be more relaxed in a private place where nobody’s going to come along and interrupt the photo session.

So last night and this morning I went through the slides. It’s a very time-consuming, tedious process, going through over 600 35mm slides, one by one—and it’s also great fun. I love seeing what I got. There are always some disappointments—but there are also always some nice surprises.

Still looking good in those unzipped swimtrunks...

Still looking good in those unzipped swimtrunks…

We started in a sunlit area near the swimming pool. There’s lots of greenery there, which makes a nice backdrop.

Shawn wore a pair of red cargo shorts to the shoot, and I loved the look of them, so I began by shooting him posing in those. Then I had him unbutton and unzip them, so they drooped a bit, and had him walk around in circles so they would gradually droop even more. That was fun to watch. And, oh yes, it produced some nice images

The area by the swimming pool has a nice wall of greenery behind it and I liked the setting a lot. I wanted to see Shawn in jockey shorts, then I thought no, they should be WET jockey shorts, so I had him put on a pair and jump into the pool.

Then he got out dripping wet and I shot a whole roll of him walking around, stretching, moving, etc., in wet shorts. Some nice images, especially when he’s peeling the shorts off.

Shawn in wet shorts, Shawn stretching in the nude

Shawn in wet shorts, Shawn stretching in the nude

I continued with some nudes of Shawn walking around and stretching against the same backdrop of greenery. Again, some really beautiful stuff. (I can hardly wait to start drawing and painting from these slides!)
Then we went inside the house, where there are lots of potentially nice backdrops. I did some shots of Shawn standing up in the dining area, looking over the railing, while I stood below in the living room and photographed him from below. fotoshawn_birdparadise
Kei & Dick have a really big, beautiful potted bird of paradise, so I did a whole series of shots of Shawn behind, in front of, sitting next to the plant. The shapes of the different parts of the plant are really beautiful, but it was quite a challenge finding a way to shoot Shawn in and among the leaves. Still, I found some interesting compositions.

Then we went over to the sofa and I had Shawn sit on it, kneel on it, lie on it, writhe around on it—anything and everything he or I could think of. I find this kind of challenging because I don’t want to just take a picture of a nude lying on a sofa—that can be nice, but I want the model interacting with the sofa in interesting, unusual ways. I got a couple of nice shots that I’m looking forward to working with.

Shawn being driven crazy by the ants in the backyard.

Shawn being driven crazy by the ants in the backyard.

Then we traipsed out to the backyard, which is really kind of a nice spot, with the sun shining through the leaves, an orange (or is it lemon? or tangerine? I have to ask Kei) tree, and lots of little ants! I had Shawn sitting and lying on the grass and the ants were driving him crazy. In spite of that, some really lovely images came out of this part of the session.

Then I ran out of film. Or I thought I had. So I told Shawn, We’re done! He said, Good, I’m going to go in the pool and cool off. So he did. And while he was doing that, I found another roll of film in the bottom of my bag, so I went out to the pool and did some more shots, telling Shawn to just keep doing what he was doing, the photo session was over, I’m just using up this last roll of film. And of course I got some of the best shots of the day, because he was no longer posing. That’s what I always go for in a photo session, but which is so hard to get—the model relaxing so totally it’s as if he isn’t even aware of the camera. But Shawn has relaxed a lot since the first time we worked together, and has become a pretty good model. I have a feeling he’ll be even better next time.

Shawn playing around the pool after I "ran out of film."

Shawn playing around the pool after I “ran out of film.”


UPDATE to this post:

In April 2012 I produced an e-book of uncensored Shawn photographs. You can view it and purchase it for instant download here.


Torano in Kei & Dick's pool

Torano in Kei & Dick's pool

This morning Torano came by at 9 am and then I drove us out to Hawaii Kai to Kei and Dick’s house. They have a great house, up on a ridge overlooking the ocean and Hawaii Kai, with a nice secluded backyard, and a pool. It’s a great location for photo shoots, and they’re super-generous about letting me use it whenever I want.

Torano and bougainvillea near the pool

Torano and bougainvillea near the pool

I love African-American men, and I love Asian men, and Torano is such a juicy, pardon the expression, combination of the two. From the first time I saw him I thought, That’s one of my fantasy boys! And he still is. From some angles he looks very black, and then from some angles the Japanese side comes out. And from any angle, he looks good enough to eat.

So with a wonderful location, and a very hot brown boy to photograph, how could it fail to be a great photo shoot? Oh yeah—the camera worked fine! And I had brought my spare just in case. But didn’t need it. I also brought the digital camera so I could snap some candid shots during the photo shoot, to use in my diary.

Torano getting dressed after the photo shoot.

Torano getting dressed after the photo shoot.

I was also very lucky in that it was sunny, after several days of kind of grey, cloudy weather. So I got lots of shots of Torano in and around the pool, and lots of stuff where he’s beside, or under palm fronds or other tropical foliage with the sun shining through the leaves—that sort of thing. He looks great in a “jungle-y” setting. (As we all know from the drawing “Jungle Boy.”)

Torano by the pool, just before we left.

Torano by the pool, just before we left.

He also looks good wet, in a pool. And dry, beside a pool. And everywhere else! But Torano is insecure about his butt. He thinks it doesn’t look very good. I told him, well, I have several thousand people who will disagree with you. But he’s like most of us; our insecurities about our bodies are hard to dislodge. Still, I took some pictures during this photo session that will at least give him some visual evidence that he does have a great ass!

I shot a lot of film over three hours today, and when we drove back from Hawaii Kai, both Torano and I were exhausted. Focusing that intensely for that amount of time really wears you out. But it was worth it. I should have the slides back by the day after Thanksgiving and of course I’m eagerly anticipating starting to work from them.

Torano shot this photo of me at the end of our photo session.

Torano shot this photo of me at the end of our photo session.