Posts Tagged ‘tropical male nude’

Malibu w stevechen

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


MALIBU PHOTO SHOOT: STEVE CHEN



As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve just embarked on a year-long journey.

I left Hawaii July 10 for Los Angeles, the first stop. I’ve been here for a little over 2 weeks, and I’ve just completed the first male-nude photo shoot of my trip so far.

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Steve Chen in a photograph by David Smith

I met Steve Chen through fellow photographers David Smith (Hawaii) and Kurt Brown (California). I’d seen some of the photographs and thought he looked great! On top of that, both David and Kurt said Steve was a sweetheart, easy to work with and just a really nice guy. I like to hear reports like that. So I was eager to meet him.

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Some of the test shots I took of Steve when we first met.

Steve came to meet me where I was staying, at my friend Gina’s Brentwood apartment. I liked him right away. He’s a very friendly, open, charming guy, and of course he’s handsome and has an amazing body! We talked a bit about the shoot, and other things, and set a date and time.

Two days later we drove to Malibu’s Point Dume State Park. Kurt Brown had recommended this spot, saying it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a nice beach with no one else around. That didn’t turn out to be quite accurate. Maybe it was because it was just getting into the really nice summer weather and Kurt was used to going there in the winter…or maybe we were just unlucky…but we hiked, and hiked, and hiked, and found beach after beach that was beautiful and would have made a great location–but had picnickers and sunbathers already on them.

We were both getting pretty frustrated, but we kept hiking and hiking–I know we covered several miles and I am not a very enthusiastic hiker!–until finally, at a point very far from where we’d begun, we found a spot with no one else around.

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That’s where I was finally able to start shooting in earnest. The sun cooperated by coming out in full force at just about that time, too, so from being very frustrated and tired, I went to being very excited and energized within a few minutes. I ultimately shot over 2000 images of Steve and was very happy with the results.

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Just a few of the over 2000 images I shot of Steve at Point Dume.

We drove back to L.A. late that afternoon, both feeling tired but content: Steve because he felt he’d done a good job (he did) and me because I had so much great new material to work from!

I wasted no time, and within 3 days I had several new rough sketches of Steve, in both pencil and colored pencil. There will be many more! (Click on the sketches to see them on my website.)

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And the first Steve Chen photo shoot gallery went up on the Simonson On Location on July 28. Again, there will be many more!

If you’ve followed my work, or this blog, for any time at all, you probably know how infatuated I am with Brazil.

I love it so much I’ve been studying Brazilian Portuguese ever since I first went to Rio, back in 1987. For the past few years my Portuguese teacher has been my friend Luzia, who is originally from Goiania but has been living in Honolulu for a long time now.

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I love Brazilian men almost as much as I love Brazil itself, so when Luzia told me she had a Brazilian friend she thought I should meet because he’s so hot and sexy and was interested in modeling for me, I said great, show me pictures! Unfortunately the only pictures she could find to show me were terrible, shot from far away, group pictures where he was in the back, etc. So I couldn’t really tell whether he was as hot as she said. Then she told me he’s leaving Hawaii and going back to Brazil forever. In FIVE DAYS.

So she gave me his number and I called and left him a message. That evening he called me back and started speaking rapid-fire Portuguese over the phone and I had to stop him. My Portuguese is okay but not when you’re talking fast and not over the phone. So we spoke English and Vinni (short for Vinicius) told me yes, he was interested, and we set up a meeting. He came over the next day.

As soon as he walked off the elevator I began to see what Luzia was talking about. Vinni is not classically handsome but he is very sexy. He’s masculine without being macho, he’s confident without being pushy or arrogant, and he has an unself-conscious grace when he moves. And a great smile. I saw all this as I talked to him and began taking some test photos. He said he’d never posed nude before but didn’t have a problem with it, so I told him to get naked, which he did. Everything I saw, I liked, and I told him yes, I think you’ll do!

As soon as he left I started work on finding a location, and called my friend Doug, who has a gorgeous pool and garden (where I did a photo shoot with Jeff a few months ago). Doug told me yes, the place was available, so I called Vinni and we set up a photo shoot for the next day.

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Vinni showed up at my place the next morning and we drove to Makiki, which is where Doug lives. It had been cloudy and rainy the previous few days so I was immensely relieved that the morning was bright and sunny. We let ourselves in to the garden through the old wooden gates and I let Vinni look around while I assembled my camera equipment.

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Usually I just kind of wing it when it comes to directing the model and the overall photo shoot. I make it up as I go along and trust that I’ll get the shots I want/need. It’s not a very conscious process, and recently I went over the photos from several of my shoots and I realized how often I really don’t get all the shots I want and need. I think this lack of conscious direction is because I’ve always thought of myself as a painter, and I’ve not taken the photographer part of my job very seriously.

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But as I get older and more confident and have more respect for myself as a creator, I’m no longer satisfied with that approach. I’m starting to take myself seriously as a photographer, and because of that I approached this photo shoot with Vinni in a way I haven’t before. I made a very detailed checklist of things I wanted to accomplish with this shoot.

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I wrote down all the basic poses I wanted to try, and I wrote down my intention of trying all the basic poses against as many different backdrops as I could. Same idea as when a filmmaker shoots many different versions of the same scene. It’s called “coverage.” And I knew in order to get that coverage I would need to follow the checklist closely throughout the session.

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Just to give you an idea, here’s a summary of the checklist:

BASIC POSES: Standing, stretching, twisting, undressing, walking, arms folded, arms at side, rubbing hands over body, jumping into pool, climbing out of pool, toweling off, sitting on edge of pool, standing on edge of pool, lying on towel face up/face down.

BACKDROPS: Do all or most of the basic poses in front of several backdrops, in this case including: the pool itself, lots of tropical foliage, some beautiful old wooden gates, and the patio beside the pool.

MOOD: With every new backdrop, all the basic poses should be done in two versions: calm and animated.

So this is how it works: I find a backdrop I like, the wooden gates for instance, and I pose the model in front of that backdrop. We go through all the basic poses in front of that backdrop, with each pose being shot in two moods, calm and animated. Then we move on to the next backdrop and repeat.

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This adds up to a LOT of time, work and a huge number of images, but that’s my goal: to capture, with this single model, as much variety as possible in terms of backdrops, angles, lighting and mood.

I have planned photo shoots before, but never before to this degree, and I was never able to stick to the checklist before. I would get caught up in the intensity of the photo shoot and while that can be a good thing, I wanted to see what it would be like to really push through this shoot in an organized way.

So that’s what I did. I was determined to stay focused and follow that checklist, and I did so, for the entire 4 and a half hours of the photo shoot. This took a lot of discipline on my part, but I was rewarded by by some of the best results I’ve ever achieved in a photo shoot.


#alttext#These old wooden gates provided a perfect backdrop, and I took a lot of shots of Vinni standing by them.

We shot at the main location for about 3 and a half hours, then went back to my apartment and I did another series of shots of Vinni on my lanai. When we finished, I was exhausted, but very pleased with the results. I wound up with 2,100 images of which an amazing percentage were good. And I got the variety I wanted, to a degree I’ve never before achieved in a photo shoot.

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It sounds so easy and obvious—follow a checklist to get better results—but it’s amazing how long it took me to wake up to the possibilities of getting more focused and organized with my photo shoots. Or maybe I should say it took me a while to mature to the point where I could remain focused and professional despite the overwhelming excitement I feel when I’m photographing a beautiful model in a beautiful setting. At any rate, I’m really happy about the way I’m growing as an artist and photographer.

Oh, and Vinni’s words after the photo shoot? “That was really FUN!”

Update to this Entry:

In March 2013 I published an e-book of uncensored Vinicius photographs from the above photo shoot. You can purchase it for instant download here.

Well, I’ve now acquired my first model via Facebook. Brian is a friend of a friend whom I’d never met in person, but he’d seen my work. He messaged me on Facebook saying he was interested in being a model. I looked at his online photos. He’s Chinese-Filipino and his look and physical type is one I’ve always had a weakness for. As I looked at his online photos I felt a definite stir of attraction. That’s one of my potential-model signals. But it’s always hard to tell from candid photographs what someone really looks like (and feels like) in person. So I said yeah, come on over to my place so I can see you in the flesh.

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As soon as Brian walked into my apartment, I was pleasantly surprised (it was a bit like my experience with Jason). He was taller and better-looking than his pictures had shown. And he was very pleasant and no-attitude, and we got along just fine. I took some test shots and was pretty sure I wanted to work with him, but I wanted him to be a little more in shape. He said he’d be more than willing to watch his diet and work on his abs for a couple of weeks in order to be in better shape to model for me. I loaned him one of my favorite workout books, the Navy Seal Workout Book, which has some great abs exercises in it. I wondered if he’d follow through, because in the past I’ve had potential models who weren’t able to do this.

But Brian was a man of his word. He called me up about 10 days later and said he’d been doing great at his program and thought he was just about ready. So we set a date.

It was on a Thursday morning, just 2 weeks after our initial interview, that I drove to his apartment and picked him up at the crack of dawn. Then we drove out to one of my favorite deserted-secluded-beach spots, a place near Koko Crater, just beyond Hawaii Kai. We got out of the car and hiked over to the rocky beach where I’ve done many photo shoots in the past.

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The day was beautiful, and big waves were crashing on the beach and the rocks as I directed Brian to a little thicket where I had him pretend he’d just arrived at a deserted beach and was going to do some nude sunbathing. He did a good job at this, and I saw that he was going to be easy to work with. This part was a warm-up, and after just a couple of minutes I had him gather up his stuff and we continued on toward the beach, where I had him jump in the water.

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Getting wet is always a prelude to one of my favorite model activities: toweling off. I got a lot of shots of this, and of course with the gorgeous early-morning light and the beautiful model, it was easy to get great images. It was at this point that I began to see what a difference two weeks of watching the diet and working on abs had made. Brian’s body was really looking good.

For the next segment, I took advantage of the setting and we walked over to an area where the waves were crashing dramatically against some big lava rocks. Again, with the light, the setting and the model, it was easy to get some great shots.

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At this point I brought out a prop I’d picked up at a supermarket on the way to the shoot: an orange. I had Brian sit on a towel and eat the orange, and I didn’t want him to eat it daintily, I wanted him to DEVOUR it. I wanted him to get really messy. He did a good job of this, and commented on how sweet the orange was. “Good,” I said. “Now I want you to squeeze the juices out and let them run down your face and your body.” This was a lot of fun for both of us, and not only got me some light-hearted and very sensual photographs, it also relaxed the model.

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I pushed him even further in the next segment. I had him climb down into a tidepool and float around in the water for a bit. Then I told him to stand up and spread his arms out wide and shout as loud as he could. About the 3rd time he shouted, he started to really open up and I started to get some great shots!

That was the climax of the shoot, so to speak—the point of greatest excitement and intensity. I felt good about the images I’d gotten, and knew that it had been a good photo shoot. I had Brian get out of the water and start toweling off, and just at that point I realized I was totally out of memory space. I’d filled up all the memory cards I’d brought. I usually bring my laptop along so that I can be uploading the images from one memory card while I’m using another, which means I can shoot all day and not run out of memory. But I hadn’t brought my computer, figuring I’d have enough memory without it. So the shoot was effectively over anyway.

This was good in a way. Because the mood between us was so relaxed at that point, and because it was still so early (about 8:30 a.m.), we decided to hang out at the beach for a while and just relax. I actually got naked myself and jumped in the water and rolled around in the sand. That was excellent! It made me realize how long it had been since I’d actually just let myself play in that way. Because I’d already gotten so many great images and it had been a successful photo shoot, I allowed myself to just relax. And it felt wonderful.

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While Brian and I were taking dips and rolling around in the sand, I kept seeing how great he looked, how relaxed and sexy, and I really regretted not being able to capture those images. Then I remembered I had my little Casio Exilim digital camera in my backpack. So I ran up the beach and grabbed that and got some photographs of Brian in the sand (like the one above). These are actually some of my favorite shots of the day because they’re so relaxed and sexy. Because the photos are so low-resolution, I won’t be able to present them to my collectors as photographic prints—but I will be able to create drawings and paintings from them if I’m moved to do that at some point.

Obviously this was a great photo shoot and I got some wonderful images. But my favorite thing about it is how relaxed and fun those final few minutes were, and I have to thank Brian for being so easy to be with that, in a total reverse of what usually goes on in these photo sessions, where I have to work hard to relax the model, this time it was the model who relaxed ME.

Update to this Entry:

In November 2012 I published an e-book of uncensored photographs of Brian from the above photo shoot. You can purchase it for instant download here.

I guess I have a reputation for not being interested in white guys. But it’s not true. I’m just not that interested in most white guys.

So when I got an email from a 25-year-old Irish boy named Jason who had met my assistant Spencer and now wanted to model for me, I was not that interested. The photos he sent with the email were just okay. I delayed responding to him for a couple of weeks. Finally, though, I thought, what the hell, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I meet him in person.

I contacted him and we set up a meeting at my place in Waikiki. It was 5 o’clock on a weekday. When he walked out of the elevator, I was really taken aback. Not only did he look better than his pictures…he looked WAY better.

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And it wasn’t just his looks. Something about the way he carried himself, his easy smile, the lack of attitude—I was immediately smitten. I retained enough presence of mind to chat with him a bit while I got my camera equipment out. Jason was brand-new to Hawaii, having just moved here from California a few weeks previous. His ambition: to be a fireman. This was getting better and better.

As much as I liked him in person, I knew I needed to take some test shots. Just because his presence was bowling me over didn’t mean that he would photograph well (although I had a hard time believing he wouldn’t). I started shooting as we talked, then I had him take off his shirt and we talked some more, and I kept taking photographs. What a great smile…what a pretty body…I was trying hard to stay objective but it was difficult.

I told him I was pretty sure I wanted to work with him, and said I’d give him a call in the next week or so to confirm that. He left, and I ran to the computer to upload the images I’d shot so I could get a good look at them. I really wanted to see what the photographs looked like without the distraction of his standing there in front of me.

Wow. They were just as great as I thought they’d be. Jason was my new favorite model, and I couldn’t wait to have him all to myself for a few hours of intense picture-taking. And that happened fairly quickly. A little less than a week later, Jason and I drove out to Hawaii Kai, where my friends Kei and Dick live. I’ve used their backyard pool for a lot of photo shoots in the past.

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When we got there and walked into the pool area, I was blown away. It had always been a nice setting, but the vegetation has gotten even lusher and bigger in the past couple of years, and Kei has done a lot of work on the pool area as well. There’s a new lava-rock shower column poolside that Kei designed and built himself (you can see it behind Jason in the right-hand photo above). Gorgeous! I was getting amped up and the model wasn’t even naked yet.

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Over the next couple of hours I found Jason to be as easy to work with as he is handsome and charming. Am I gushing? Sorry, but I love this guy. He’s so down-to-earth and easy-going, and yet such a treat for the eyes. And his body looks superb from any angle. It’s not a big muscular body, it’s a lithe, graceful, lightly muscled body. And his proportions are perfect.

At one point in the photo shoot I ran out of ideas and asked Jason if he had any. He said, How about I be the poolboy? And he picked up the net thing that you use to scoop leaves and debris out of the pool. Not that there were any leaves or debris—Kei is beyond meticulous about that sort of thing. So Jason actually went and found some dead leaves and threw them into the pool so he’d have something to scoop.

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First I had him be the hot poolboy who’s cleaning your pool with his boardshorts practically falling off. Jason did this very well. Then we had the shorts fall totally off and he was the naked poolboy for awhile. These ended up being some of my favorite shots of the day, and not just because it’s such a delicious fantasy, but because these poses were completely natural and unstudied, and because what he was doing put almost every muscle in his body to work…with wonderful visual results.

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All in all, a great photo shoot and a great model. Thanks, Jason!

UPDATE TO THIS ENTRY:

In August 2012 I published an e-book of uncensored photographs of Jason from this photo shoot. You can order it for instant download here.

My friend Doug Smith has a beautiful house in the Makiki-Punahou area of Honolulu.

Even more beautiful than the house itself is its beautifully landscaped backyard and pool. It’s not your typical pool. It’s L-shaped, with a hot tub in the elbow of the L, with lots of tropical foliage and Southeast Asian statuary surrounding the pool. It’s gorgeous and I first saw it when Doug hosted a post-surf beerfest for our local gay surf club. I was looking around at how beautiful (and private) it was, and thinking, wow, I’d love to do a photo shoot here.

A couple of months later, Jeff (see blog entry on my first photo shoot with jeff) contacted me and told me he was going to be in Hawaii again and wondered if I’d like to do a second photo shoot with him. I did. I had actually been hoping to get another chance to shoot Jeff because he’s a great model, and because our first photo shoot was not ideal. (Because of time limitations we’d had to shoot at my apartment which was okay but not the ideal location.)

Doug was happy to let me do a photo shoot at his home, so Jeff and I met there one morning, and I showed him around before we began the photo shoot.

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After relaxing for a few minutes and having some Starbucks, we got to “work.” I had Jeff strip down on the patio.

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Then once he was naked, we started exploring the possibilities in and around the pool. The morning light was perfect.

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No matter how inviting the pool is, getting into the water first thing in the morning is always a shock. It helped that Jeff could then jump right into the hot tub to warm up. All of this makes for great shots, of course.

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Getting the model wet whenever possible is, as you know, one of my main m.o.’s. Getting the model wet is sexy and sensual and makes for beautiful visuals especially in morning light. Even better, getting the model wet means he has to dry off. A towel is always a great prop, especially when you have a beautiful blue-orange-purple multicolored towel next to a golden-skinned model against a green, green tropical backdrop.

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On one side of the pool, among the palms, was a bit of Southeast Asian statuary that had been made into a fountain. I had Jeff swim over to that side of the pool and clamber up onto the pool’s edge and pose next to the fountain. Then I had him get back in the water and position himself under the falling water in front of the fountain. I got a couple of my favorite shots of the day there.

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There were a lot of great settings, though. Another of my favorite places was the other end of the backyard where there was a big stone Buddha head at the foot of the pool, and behind that a pair of beautiful old wooden gates. Posing Jeff in these areas again yielded some of the best shots of the day.

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All in all, it was a phenomenal photo shoot. The morning light worked perfectly for the setting, and what a setting! I’m hopeful Doug will let me use it again because it’s one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting in. And Jeff, as always, did a great job as a model. I not only love his face and body, I also always enjoy the energy, spark and sense of humor he brings to the occasion.

You’ll see some interesting paintings and drawings come from this photo shoot, I’m sure. (Not that I know what will happen exactly, until I actually find myself creating it in my studio!)

Update to this Entry:

In April 2013 I published an e-book called “Jeff” which contains almost 100 uncensored photographs from both of my photo shoots with Jeff. You can purchase it for instant download here.

In early February, after concentrating on paintings for the past couple of months, I plunged into pencil drawing again. My process almost always begins by going through my photographs, looking for something that jumps out at me. (I use Photoshop CS3 on my Mac, and the program includes Bridge. I love Bridge—it’s a great way to look at huge masses of photo images quickly and efficiently. Except that it seems to be easily confused/overwhelmed and you have to quit the program and restart it every once in a while. But that’s a minor quibble.)

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Bedsheets and Pillows

I found myself looking through images of Jeff, from September 2009, and even though I’ve already done one painting of Jeff sitting on my bed crosslegged (“Scorpio Rising“), I like the pose a lot and I think a drawing of almost the same pose would still be a fun thing to try. So I opened the image in Photoshop and started fooling around with it. My standard operating procedure these days is to heighten the contrast, take it to grayscale (if I’m going to do a pencil drawing), then Posterize it to about level 7. Posterizing it reduces the number of values showing in the image, which makes my job a lot easier—seeing where the shadows are darkest and lightest is not always easy in a conventional photographic image. It’s much easier in a posterized image, as you can see.

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The finished drawing, 'Bedsheets and Pillows.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

So I print out both images (and often I’ll print out extreme closeups of the head and hands and other challenging areas as well) and tack them up by my drawing to use as reference. I use the posterized image as a guide, but I’m also always referring to the grayscale image so I can include the more subtle gradations of tone when and where I want to. This is an approach I’ve put together over many years of drawing from my own photographs.

I spent a couple of days on the Jeff drawing. That’s kind of fast for me for a full-on detailed large drawing like this. Occasionally I’ll be able to finish one in a single day, but more often it takes 3-4 days, working in 3- or 4-hour sessions at a time.


Pensive Marcelino

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This is the photograph of Marcelino I decided to work from.


Again, I opened Bridge and started going through my catalog of model photos (I have about 40,000 images in this collection, and I have another 100,000 or more in my 35mm slide collection, from pre-digital days. I tend to use the most recent photographs more, of course, but occasionally I’ll dip back into images from many years ago). This time I found myself focusing on Marcelino, one of the models I shot in Los Angeles in October when I was there working with Kurt R. Brown. Marcelino is of Mexican descent and I think he was 20 when we shot these photographs at a wildlife refuge in the San Fernando Valley. I chose a quiet pose that feels to me like Marcelino’s sweet, graceful personality.

Here’s the finished drawing. This one took longer than the previous one of Jeff. The one of Jeff just flowed, which happens occasionally. This one of Marcelino was more the standard experience, with some areas going easily, others taking longer—so I probably spent about 4 days on this one. I like the final result. It doesn’t have the powerful presence of the previous drawing, but it has a quiet poetic quality that the other doesn’t.

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The finished drawing, 'Pensive Marcelino.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)



Marcus Canta

For my third drawing in what was turning into a series, I chose Marcus. Anyone who’s been following my work over the past few years knows that Marcus is one of my favorite models. In fact he seems to be the favorite of a great many of my collectors, too.

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I have a whole series of photographs I shot of him in Angra dos Reis (a resort area south of Rio) on a boat, in the late afternoon. He was spraying himself with water from a hose, and singing along with the music I had blaring from the boat’s speakers. Because one of the dials on the camera got moved without my realizing it, the whole series of photographs was overexposed. That’s a shame because I can’t show them as photographs in most cases—but they’re still fine for working from to create drawings and paintings. Despite the overexposure, they still capture the moment. And what a great moment! Because Marcus’ body is almost entirely in shadow I knew this would be a challenge to draw.

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The finished drawing, 'Marcus Canta.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

That made the Posterization function even more useful. Because the light on his body is almost all subtle reflected light, it was very helpful to see the light and dark areas more clearly defined. The drawing was challenging but it went more smoothly than I’d expected and only took 3 days to complete. I’m especially pleased at the way it captures Marcus’ being lost in the moment. I titled it “Marcus Canta” (Marcus Sings).


Chadwick’s Back

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Now I was warmed up and decided to tackle something with a lot of detail. I chose a photograph of Chadwick, another of the models I worked with in Los Angeles in October. This photo was taken in an unpopulated part of Simi Valley. As you can see, Chadwick has an amazing body, very muscular and well defined. I was excited about what kind of pencil drawing I could create using this image.

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The finished drawing, 'Chadwick's Back.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

I used to do my drawings just using one hardness of pencil, a medium-soft…then for some time I was using two pencils, one hard and one soft. Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve been using three pencils, an F, an HB and a B. Sometimes I’ll vary the exact pencils I use, but I’ve found one hard pencil (an F or even an H), one medium (HB seems to work well, and it’s very close to a regular #2, so that works, too) and one soft (B, or 2B or 3B or even softer) gives me all the range I need for almost every type of drawing I do. With just 1 or 2 pencil hardnesses I can create a terrific drawing—but with 3, I can get very subtle, beautiful effects that would be almost impossible with just 2 pencils. This drawing, which I titled “Chadwick’s Back,” is a good example of that. Although you really need to see it in person to see all the subtlety. I was surprised at how quickly this one went—it only took me 3 days. Of course those were long days!


Unbuttoned

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My final drawing in the group of 5 began with a photograph of Rogério, one of the 2 models I shot on my very first Brazil photo shoot back in March 2004. This was a flash photograph taken after a full day of shooting, on the boat and on an island in Guanabara Bay (Rio de Janeiro). We were on our way back to the marina and night was falling. It’s a photograph I’ve looked at dozens of times and never paid much attention to. For some reason, this time it jumped out at me. It’s hard for me to put into words the impression it made on me, but there was a moment there that really struck me, that had never struck me before, and I wondered if I could come close to capturing it in pencil. I cropped the image to concentrate on Rogério’s head and upper torso only. I decided that would be all I would put in the drawing. Then I started drawing.

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The finished drawing, 'Unbuttoned.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

Even though it may appear there’s less detail here, and less to draw than in some of the others I’d just finished, there were still challenges. Capturing the exact expression on the face was one of them. Another was getting the close-cropped hair on Rogério’s temple to look right. In the end this drawing took 4 days to complete. But when I finished it, I felt good. I felt I’d come pretty close to capturing the feeling I’d gotten from the photograph. I call this one “Unbuttoned.” This was the fifth in the series, and I’d spent about 3 weeks doing these drawings. I put them up on my website and announced them just a day after finishing this final work.

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Here's the source image for the painting, before and after tweaking in Photoshop.


For my second painting of Jeff, I got a bit more ambitious. I chose a shot of him sitting on the floor in my living room in the late-afternoon light. By ambitious, I mean that instead of just focusing on the figure as I often do, here my intention was to create a fully realized environment, with light, shadow and space, so that the viewer has a sense of place and time, and all the emotional components that come with that.I wanted to do a more stylized approach on this one. The first thing I did was start playing with the image in Photoshop. As usual, I applied the Posterize filter to get a more stylized, colorful look. This is usually gives me ideas about ways to transform the photographic image into a painting. As you can see, I also moved one of the plants, and changed the exterior view through the windows to something more colorful and tropical. Being able to re-create the source image digitally like this is a great tool in planning the painting before even beginning to do rough sketches.
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Some of the first sketches.


Next I started doing actual real-world sketches on paper. In fact, I did a LOT of rough sketches trying to get the figure the way I wanted it. The ones you see here are just a few of them. When my intention is to give the figure a more stylized look, that means I have to draw it over and over again until I have a really good grasp of all the dynamics of the pose and the way the parts of the body fit together within that. Sometimes I’ll draw the pose 20 times or more before I finally hit on a way to bring it to life in a simplified, stylized manner.

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More of the preparatory sketches where I'm working out visual ideas.

Once I got the figure more or less right, I worked on integrating it into the background. This involved more rough sketches while I worked out the relationships between the figure, the sofa, the plants, etc. It always changes things when you take the photographic image and start transforming into lines on a piece of paper. My final goal was to have a painting that consisted of a line drawing AND a somewhat realistic light-and-shadow environment, and have them work well together. And the first step toward that was to get a line drawing that worked.

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Sometimes I use old-fashioned cut-and-paste to try out different combinations of model and background.


The top image you see here is a more finalized sketch where I began adding light and shadow to get a better idea of how things were working, or not. This felt pretty good to me, but I wasn’t happy with the model’s hand. It looked awkward to me. So I went looking for a similar pose in the same series of photos, and found another one where I liked the hand better. I also noticed that in that pose, I liked the position of the legs better, too. So I did another drawing of the figure with those changes, and liked it. To see how that would work, rather than re-drawing the entire background, I just cut out the figure and laid it on top of the light-and-shadow drawing I’d just done, and it worked pretty well. So now I was ready for the next stage of the process.
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After scanning the final prep sketch, I had to 'clean it up' in Photoshop before adding color.


Next I scanned the pasted-together drawings so I could work with them in the computer. Once I had the scan, I worked on it in Photoshop to clean it up. That meant getting rid of as many greys as possible so I could have a mostly purely black-and-white image to work with. By putting that on its own Photoshop layer, I can create another layer “behind” it where I can apply color, so that I can do a digital test painting before doing the real thing in acrylic on canvas.
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Test painting I did in Photoshop using my Wacom digital tablet.


This is the test painting I did in Photoshop. I sampled colors directly from the digital source photos, and kept some of the colors as is, while tweaking others. The result was an image I thought looked pretty workable. Doing this (which took about an hour and a half) also gave me some insight into some of the challenges that would present themselves when I began actually creating the painting in the real world. Not all of them, of course, but the more I know ahead of time, the better.
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Beginning the actual painting on canvas.


Now, after 4 days of sketching and preparing both digitally and on paper, I was ready to start the actual painting. I used a digital projector to project my digital drawing onto the canvas, traced it with pencil, then painted that line drawing in black. Once that was dry, I began painting a reddish-brown wash over the line drawing. Next step was to mix the colors.
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This is where having done the digital test painting really pays off. Even though there’s never an exact translation of color between the computer screen and the real world, I have a very good printer, and by printing out the source photos and the digital test painting, I have something I can put in front of me while I’m mixing the acrylic paint on my palette. This helps a lot!
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Almost done...


Several hours of painting got me quite a ways along. By this point I was feeling pretty good about how it was going, except I wasn’t at all happy with the head or face. So I painted over the face and continued with the rest of the painting, with the intention of going back and working on the head/face as part of the last phase of the painting. By now I’d been working on the painting for nearly a week and was hoping one more day would do it.
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Finished! Title: Ohua Afternoon (click on image to see this item on my website)


The next day I started work on repainting the head. After many false starts, I finally got a face and an expression that felt alive, and whose looks I liked. Then, a few more finishing touches, and I was done! This was one of the most ambitious projects I’d undertaken in quite a long time, and on completion, I felt pretty triumphant! Since my apartment is on Ohua Avenue, I’m calling it “Ohua Afternoon.”