Posts Tagged ‘Salvador’

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!


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.


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)

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!

I started planning this Salvador trip several months ago. Initially there were going to be between 6 and 8 of us sharing a 4-bedroom house in Salvador. (Salvador is the capital city of the Brazilian state of Bahia (pron. ba-EE-ah), which is about 1000 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a city of about 3 million and is famous for its Carnaval, said to be the best in Brazil. It also has a large population of beautiful dark-skinned men, and mile after mile of palm-fringed beaches.) The house is one I found online, and from what I could tell from the photos, it looked great.

As the travel date approached, my Salvador group kept shrinking. People dropped out for many reasons: work commitments, family commitments, lack of funds, sickness, other scheduling problems. By the time we left we were down to 3 people—myself, my sister Kelly, and my friend Gina. When we arrived in Salvador and first got into the house, I began to realize why things had happened the way they had.


Let me say first of all, the location was fabulous (see the photo at left). That’s one of the reasons I chose it. But there were problems! First of all, the so-called 4-bedroom house turned out to have only 2 useable bedrooms. It was huge, but so poorly arranged that it would’ve been very difficult and uncomfortable if we had arrived as a group of 6 or 8 as originally planned. Additionally, the daily temperatures in Salvador were between 90 and 98 degrees—and no wind. The house had absolutely no cross-ventilation and even with all the fans in the house going, it was stifling. Of course we couldn’t use fans at all in some rooms because the electrical outlets didn’t work. This is not even to mention the roaches and rats! (Yes, we saw a rat, and the female members of the group were not too pleased about that.) So I was grateful that I hadn’t brought a huge bunch of people with me.


After spending one night in the house (we moved all our beds into the one bedroom that had a tiny bit of ventilation and minimal street noise—–plus we felt safer from the rats and roaches), the three of us decided No, this was not going to work, and the next day we checked into a hotel.

The hotel was not a good experience. They had this policy of no guests in the rooms except the ones who had checked in. This meant that when Fernando came to see me, they didn’t want to let him come up. Finally they made him give them his ID and treated him pretty rudely. And they made it clear that if someone else were to show up, Fernando would have to leave. Obviously this meant that doing model interviews in this location was not going to work. And the rooms weren’t even that great. So we knew we had to move AGAIN.

Fortunately the guy who was the property manager for the other house (i had him working on seeing if i could get my money back on that) had another apartment he wanted us to see. So he showed us that apartment and it was gorgeous—–18 stories above salvador, beautifully appointed, wireless internet in the apartment, 3 bedrooms—–just beautiful. And reasonably priced. So for the third time in as many days, we moved. And this time we stayed put. It was a good location, too.


One problem, though—the building had a lot of security and it would’ve been problematic doing model interviews there. But I soon found out I was not going to get any refund on the house from hell, so I decided, since I was stuck with it anyway, I would use it as my beach base for model interviews. And it turned out to be ideal for that.

Fernando, my Salvador connection and agent, had found a few model possibilities before i arrived, but unfortunately all those fell through. In fact, by the 5th day there, we still had NO MODELS. This was after going to the saunas and hanging out at the beach day after day, talking to guys and setting up appointments. We spent a lot of time waiting for models to show up and—-nothing! One guy who didn’t show up called later to say his grandmother had been sick. Okay… So we re-scheduled him. He did show up the next day, TWO HOURS LATE, no apology, with a lot of attitude, and demanded more money and didn’t want to sign a release. Okay…we said goodbye to that one.

Fernando was getting pretty discouraged by this time, and nervous because I was paying him for results, but surprisingly, I wasn’t worried. I guess because I’ve been through this kind of thing so many times, I just knew that sooner or later things would fall together. And that same day, after the model with attitude departed, we met Wellington.


Wellington (nickname Zulu) was walking by the restaurant, shirtless, while we were having lunch and we all looked twice—he looked great! Gina gave him a little come-hither look, and the next thing you know he’s sitting at our table with us, and Fernando is explaining about modeling. He seemed very interested, and very nice—and we were hopeful. We got his number and set up an appointment. (By now I had wised up and we were no longer scheduling models individually—we were doing the “cattle call” thing, with a whole bunch of models scheduled for the same time. We figured that way, maybe 1 out of 4 would actually show up and we wouldn’t waste so much time.)


That same evening, hanging out at the beach, we met a very hot boy named Israel, and he was also interested. So we scheduled him for the next day, along with Wellington and about 5 others we had either contacted or who had been referred to us. The next morning, when I got to the beach house for the interviews, Fernando wasn’t there yet, but both Wellington and Israel were there—not only on time, but EARLY! You have to understand that in Salvador, this is unheard-of. It just doesn’t happen. So I was pretty impressed. In the course of the interviews that morning, though, none of the rest of the models showed up. But that was okay, because we had two good ones. We scheduled them for a photo shoot the next day, up the coast north of Salvador, where I’d heard about some wonderful deserted beaches.