Posts Tagged ‘sketches’

Painting buzios header

March 21, 2012

• BARRA
• A VISIT TO BUZIOS
• DRAWING HOUSES
• TAKING THE PLUNGE



BARRA


I did a Brazilian beach painting and cityscape back in 1995 called Barra.

Barra is the name of my favorite beach in the Bahian city of Salvador. I liked the painting a lot at the time, and over the years I’ve grown to like it even more. Many times I’ve thought, I wish I could do one of those again.

Meaning, another tropical cityscape with that kind of strength and visual interest and just the right amount of whimsy.

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Looking back at my own work for inspiration: Barra, a 1995 painting I did of a beach in the Bahian city of Salvador.

But painting doesn’t work that way. At least it doesn’t for me. Capturing the magic that happened with Barra again was something that would happen when it was time for it to happen.

As you know, I’ve recently been living through a Nebraska winter for the first time in 41 years. And as you also know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, it’s been a blessing in disguise, both forcing and allowing me to focus on my art in a way I haven’t for over 20 years.

I’ve been painting or drawing every day for many months now, and to say I’m warmed up and in the groove would be an understatement. I’m hot. I’m cooking. But wait! That doesn’t mean everything I try works out. What it means is, I take bigger chances, and more often. Consequently I’m growing like crazy.

So painting ideas that would have scared me or put me off in the past, I now look at and go, okay, WTF, let’s try it. That’s how I came to do a painting of Búzios.



A VISIT TO BUZIOS

I’d visited Brazil lots of times, but it wasn’t until my 2008 trip there with my friend Steph that I visited Búzios (if you want, you can read about that trip—Búzios is just a small part of it—here).

Búzios was a little fishing village in the 1950s when French movie star Brigitte Bardot discovered it and soon the rest of the world did, too. Now it’s a bit different, with Gucci and Prada stores instead of little fishing shacks. But it still has charm and a lot of natural beauty. Steph and I enjoyed our time there a lot, and I shot quite a few photographs.

I was looking at some of those photographs a couple of weeks ago when the idea struck. Looking at the way the houses climbed up the hill, with palm trees peeking out, I started to see something that excited me. I could picture the kind of painting I wanted to do, and it was definitely the same flavor as I’d found when I painted Barra back in 1995. But the photograph was lacking something. There was no beach in it.

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This was the photograph that first triggered the idea of a Búzios painting. But it needed something.

So I found a second photograph taken at about the same time which did have the beach in it. Then, using one of my favorite creative tools, Photoshop, I cut and pasted the 2 photographs together.

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This photograph of the actual beach gave me the rest of the visual elements I needed.

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I put the houses on the hill and the beach together into one image.

The result was not strictly realistic, of course, but it did capture the image of Búzios I’d had in my mind since my visit there. It gave me a starting point for my painting. Below is the first rough sketch I did of my idea for the composition.

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DRAWING HOUSES

I’ve never been much good at drawing buildings. They’ve just never excited me. But I knew that in order to make this painting work, I needed to improve my house-drawing abilities. I didn’t need to learn to make an architectural drawing, but I did need some practice in capturing the personality of a house, and of a group of houses on a hill. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of whimsical, crazy-angled houses I wanted to put on that hill, but I didn’t yet know how to draw them. So I dived in and began sketching.

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The first sketches I did were fairly realistic, since I needed to get a feeling for which details should be left in and which could be left out and still keep the feeling of the building.

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As I continued, the buildings got less detailed and more fanciful. And I gradually got more confident. I did another compositional study:

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This time I indicated some boats in the foreground.

Then, as I got closer to actually tackling the painting, I decided to do a color acrylic sketch.

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With this acrylic sketch I got to try out some of the sketch ideas in painting form.

I wasn’t that happy with the acrylic sketch, but it helped me by showing me where I didn’t want to go with the painting. I wanted less detail and less 3-dimensionality. I wanted the painting to be flatter, more about line and color, and less about realism.

Despite that, I still felt the need to do a house painting that showed what I’d learned over the past few days of sketching, so I took a piece of Strathmore bristol stock and tacked it up on my easel and did a little painting of a tropical house (below). It was kind of fun, but it was pretty intense, too…lots of precision and detail—the exact opposite of what I was intending for the painting I was about to do.

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If you take another look at the pencil sketches above, you'll find the inspiration for this little tropical house.

For some reason I still feel like I have to ‘pay my dues’ from time to time by doing something detailed and precise, thereby earning the right to do something light, fluid and whimsical. Silly, I know. But I still do it.



TAKING THE PLUNGE

Now that I had paid my dues I finally felt ready to begin the painting. I got up knowing that today was the day. It was with great trepidation that I began sketching onto a big piece of canvas that morning. I felt like I was biting off a lot with this one. But I knew I had to take the plunge.

And magic began to happen. The drawing almost did itself. I was thrilled that all the preparatory work I’d done seemed to be paying off. I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep things so bold, simple and clean if I hadn’t done all those sketches of buildings that weren’t bold, simple and clean.

When I finished drawing the trees and buildings and began on the beach, I ‘saw’ a guy working on his boat and another tourist-type guy standing watching him, and it was as if I’d always known I would put those figures in. Except I hadn’t known it consciously. But there they were, and they fit perfectly.

The next step was to ‘ink’ it, using black acrylic paint to go over the lines of the drawing.

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The next step, as usual, was to paint a wash of purplish-brown over the inked drawing, and wait for that to dry. While it dried I began mixing colors.

Often in these step-by-step recountings of my studio process, I talk about the difficulties I encountered in a particular painting and how I overcame them. But sometimes, everything just falls into place. This was one of those (magical) times.

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Not that I wasn’t making decisions all the time as I went along. For instance, I knew that I wanted to reserve the whitest white of the houses on the hill for the lower center, because I knew that white would draw the eye. So I consciously chose which group of houses would be the focal point on the hill. Another thing that happened in the course of the drawing was realizing I needed one of the palm trees to be another focal point, so I made the lower right palm tree the biggest, closest tree and made it stand out slightly in front of the background. There’s always gotta be this dance between the foreground and the background, or between the focal point and the stuff around it that makes it the focal point.

Of course all those subdominant focal points are there to make an interesting path for the eye to end up at the dominant focal point, which is the guy in the hat standing on the beach. Which I didn’t even put in until I was actually laying in the final drawing on the canvas. This is why I sometimes say, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I mean, I do know what I’m doing, but it’s like my body knows, not my conscious mind, and somehow, more often than not, I end up doing what works.

There were little adjustments that needed to be made as I finished the painting, but the big stuff had already been worked out. Just about 1 week after I first started doing rough sketches, I completed the painting I call “Búzios.”

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The finished painting: Búzios.

LINK: Douglas Simonson Gallery: Paintings

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


I left Lincoln, Nebraska on September 2 to fly to New Orleans. My father called me the night before to say, “Have you been watching the weather news?” He wanted me to know there was a tropical storm bearing down on New Orleans with lots of flooding predicted. He didn’t think it was a good time to go.

I went anyway.

No way was I going to miss my first Southern Decadence. I figured the experience of a bunch of gay men drinking, dancing and getting decadent in the streets could only be enhanced by additional moisture. As it turned out, I was right–kind of.

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Early afternoon. Things were just getting started on Saturday.




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Taken from upstairs on the outside balcony of Bourbon Pub Parade



I met lots of new friends, I ran into some friends from Hawaii, I got very wet, and I had a lot of fun dancing in the rain. Only thing I didn’t get was laid. But that was as it should be. I love the idea of sleazy sex in the streets, but what I really want is a romantic connection. Things like Southern Decadence are no longer destinations for me–they’re more like speed bumps. But I’m glad I went, for the lessons learned.

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Sunday evening. I ran back to my hotel and arrived totally soaked.

Sunday evening I returned to my hotel room at 10:30pm and packed because my shuttle to the airport was scheduled for an ungodly hour: 3:20am. There was one other passenger in the shuttle, a tall, beautiful woman from Australia named Kath, with whom I felt an immediate connection. Kath was on her way to spend a month in Havana. She and I talked about healing, energy work, and a myriad of other subjects all the way to the airport, then managed to get seats next to each other on the flight to Miami, and again talked the whole way, despite the small amount of sleep we were both functioning on. When I said goodbye to her in the Miami airport, we exchanged email addresses and gave each other a big hug. Interesting that the strongest connection I made with anyone in my Southern Decadence stopover was a spiritual one.

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Ramses in a painting from the early 90s, and how he looks now

I arrived in Baltimore a few hours later, and there was my old friend Ramses to pick me up. I’d seen him just a few weeks before at Gina’s place in LA, and it was great to see him again so soon. Ramses modeled for me almost 20 years ago, and at 40, he still looks so good he could easily model for me again if he wanted to. He’s been trying to get me to visit him in Baltimore for years and I finally made it.

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Ramses in front of his house

Ramses owns a gorgeous old 3-storey brick house built in the 1890s. He gave me my own room and bathroom on the 3rd floor, and he let me set up my drawing station at one end of his dining-room table.

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Me working in Ramses' dining room

I’ve spent my 10 days here in Baltimore working (drawing every day) and hanging out with Ramses in the evenings, going out for food and drink, and meeting lots of new friends.

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With Ramses and some his (and now my) friends

I’ve also been doing yoga almost every day. In the absence of easy transportation to a yoga class in Baltimore, I’ve created a daily at-home routine using the YouTube videos of Yogatic.com featuring Esther Eckart. These are great yoga videos for home use. I created a playlist of 8 of my favorite Yogatic.com videos to follow and it’s almost as good as going to a class. The challenges of being on the road for months at a time mean I must take good care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, and my yoga practice is a big part of that.

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Doing yoga in Ramses' living room

While I was in Baltimore I finished a new colored-pencil drawing of Sam, and filled a good portion of my newest sketchbook. I even did a drawing of Ramses with his beloved (spoiled) cat Maxwell.

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New colored-pencil drawing of Sam I finished while in Baltimore

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Ramses and his cat Maxwell!

Tomorrow I fly back to Hawaii for a 2-week breather, thus wrapping up the first couple of months of my year-long adventure. I’ll stay in Hawaii for about 2 weeks signing prints, doing catch-up work with my assistant, and doing some painting (that’s one thing I haven’t yet found a way do on the road). Then I’m off again, and the plan is to do South America. That’s still taking shape and you’ll be hearing about it soon.

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


• HANGING OUT WITH KELLY
• DRAWING, WRITING, PUBLISHING
• HEALING STUFF
• WHERE TO NEXT?

HANGING OUT WITH KELLY

I’ve now been in Lincoln, Nebraska staying with my sister Kelly for 2 weeks.

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I like staying with my sister Kelly because she’s very supportive of my art and she always gives me a great space in which to be creative. Plus she likes to hang out, drink beer, listen to music, and talk about art, design, books, being an entrepreneur, cute boys, and other stuff we both like…so we have fun.

My dad has been generous and loaned me his truck so I have transportation. And I’m spending time with my mom, PJ, who is in a memory-care center (more about that below under Healing Stuff).

I’ve also found a yoga studio where I can take classes, and a great YMCA where I can work out. So I’m staying in shape mentally, physically, spiritually…and of course I’m drawing, writing and publishing.


DRAWING, WRITING, PUBLISHING

While in Lincoln, I’ve been very productive. I completed a sketchbook…

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A few pages from my latest sketchbook, 2009-2011, which contains 80 pages of drawings

I’ve produced a new group of rough sketches…

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Some of my latest bunch of rough sketches. Click on the image to see the Rough Sketches Gallery on my website.

and I put together and published my 4th e-book, Brazilian Boys.

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The cover and some of the page spreads from my 4th and latest e-book, Brazilian Boys (don't worry, the images are not censored in the e-book)

And there’s something else I’ve been doing…



HEALING STUFF

While I’m in Lincoln, I’m spending time with my mom, PJ, who is 82, has dementia and is in a memory care facility. Her awareness of the world around her comes and goes. This would be a very sad and frustrating thing for me if it were not for Quantum Touch.

A couple of years ago, I came across a book called Quantum Touch, which claimed anyone could learn how to heal others. I read that and thought, okay, I doubt it, but I’m intrigued. I took the book home and started doing exercises in “running energy”.

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This is the book that turned me on to Quantum Touch

I was surprised to discover I really COULD feel the energy in my body, and could influence it just by intention. I wondered what it would be like to try the Quantum Touch techniques on another person.

A few days after that, my Brazilian Portuguese tutor, Luzia, called me up and said she couldn’t make our scheduled Portuguese lesson because her homeopath had given her an injection and missed the vein. Her right arm and hand were swollen and incredibly painful. I told her, Hey, why don’t you come over anyway? There’s something I’d like to try on you.

She was in so much pain she said okay, I’ll try anything. So she came over to my apartment and I had her sit on my couch and I sat next to her and laid my hands gently on her arm (VERY gently–she was in so much pain she could hardly stand to have me touch it), and “ran energy” into it for the next hour or so.

What happened amazed us both.

I found I could not only feel the energy buzzing in my hands, I could actually feel the energy moving in her body as well. And I could feel the nature of the energy changing as her arm responded.

It took about 45 minutes of “running energy” for the pain to go from a 10 to a 2 and for the swelling to reduce noticeably. (The next day, Luzia told me the pain was almost completely gone and her arm looked and felt normal again.)

I was blown away, not only by the fact that the technique worked, but also by my experience of actually feeling energy move in another person’s body.

That was my first experience with Quantum Touch, and since then, I’ve done it a lot, and learned a lot. And it’s not a totally unselfish thing; the healing happens to me, too. I’ve learned to love the sensation of connection and well-being that happens when I’m acting as a channel for that healing energy.

So when I visit PJ in the memory-care facility, I tell her, I’m going to run some energy on you now. She says okay, and I sit next to her, put my hands on her shoulders or her arms or hold her hands, and begin breathing and focusing. My hands start to buzz and I start to feel her body relaxing and responding. PJ gets very calm. Sometimes she goes to sleep. And sometimes she starts humming. I think of it as purring.

I don’t expect to reverse her dementia or anything like that. One of the things I’ve learned about running energy is that having expectations really gets in the way. I’m just there to provide healing energy and whatever happens, happens. And what happens is, PJ feels calmer, stronger and better for my having been there. That’s a gift, for both of us.


WHERE TO NEXT?

There’s a wild event in New Orleans I’ve always wanted to attend, but living in Hawaii, everything always seemed (and was) so far away. Now that I’m in Nebraska, New Orleans seems so close! So in a few days, I’m going to experience Southern Decadence for the first time. After that experience—and I will report on it!—it’s off to Baltimore, my first time in that city, to visit my friend Ramses. Then in mid-September, back to Hawaii for a few days to check in, sign prints, and get a little dose of the islands before I take off again…