Posts Tagged ‘tropical’

Lanscapes bigshapes header

June 29, 2013

CONTENTS


• PLAYA BONITA 2
• TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS



PLAYA BONITA 2



I find I’m getting better at painting landscapes these days,
and mostly I think that’s due to the fact that I’m getting better at seeing the big shapes. Or maybe I should say I’m being more disciplined about ONLY looking at the big shapes. Because you can see the big shapes and still get seduced into overworking and over-detail-ing the painting.

Playabonita1

Here's the first painting I did of Playa Bonita in the Dominican Republic. It was a positive experience for me in learning to see the big shapes.

I really liked what happened with the painting “Playa Bonita,” so I chose another photograph I took the same day, but looking another direction. Like the image I used for the first painting, this one also had some nice shapes, particularly the shadows.

Playabonita2 source

Source image for my second Playa Bonita painting.

Playabonita2 twk

Here's the same image tweaked in Photoshop to give me a better idea of values and big shapes.

I did my usual tweaking with Photoshop, but this time I did something else digital as well: I did a digital painting of the image, not as a finished artwork, but as a way of exploring the image. I wanted to make sure I was only working with the big shapes, and I thought it would be interesting to try doing it digitally. One of the great advantages of doing it that way is that by using Photoshop’s sampling and fill tools, I can lay out the big shapes and quickly color them using exactly the right hues and values. It’s a quick way to see if what I have in mind will work, without all the time and trouble of mixing up a bunch of paint.

Playabonita2 digitalptg

Above is the digital painting I did based on the source photo. I used the Lasso tool which, if you hold down the option key while applying it, allows you to draw straight-sided shapes as simply or with as much complexity as you want. Then I sampled the color I wanted right from the source photo, and used the Fill tool to fill the shape I’d just drawn with that color.

As you can see, reducing the image to its basic shapes in this way gives you a powerfully different way to look at it, and in this case it sets me up perfectly for the approach I want to take with the actual painting.

Here’s a great thing about working with big shapes: painting goes a lot faster. I’m a big fan of paintings that happen quickly. I am not a work-on-it-for-weeks-and-weeks kind of painter. Not at all! If it isn’t happening in the first hour, I usually abandon it and move on to something else. I have nothing against people who like to spend months on a single painting, it’s just not me. Maybe it’s just a short attention span. But I’ve learned I do better work when I don’t torture myself. And I’m a lot happier!

Another thing about working fast is that I have a better chance of keeping the energy level high. And lately I’ve gotten clearer about the fact that I want my paintings to be explosions of energy. Not for me the quiet, considered painting. I want action, vitality, life! I want bold brushstrokes and excitement. It’s what I want in life, and it’s what I want in my paintings.

Playabonita2 inprog

Here's the painting about 75% completed.

In this case, there were very few hiccups and the painting came together nicely—and I kept the energy high! I especially like what happened when I laid in those cool bluish shadow shapes at middle right. They turned out to be just the cool contrast all those warms in the foreground needed. That’s the warm vs. cool magic that can happen when it’s done right, and if you’ve been reading this blog you know I’ve gotten a lot better at managing warms and cools in the past year. Here’s the completed painting:

1617playabonita2

It’s entitled “Playa Bonita 2.”


TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS


A few days later I decided to try another landscape painting with a similar approach, but a different type of subject matter: buildings.

2227 source

Here's the photo of beach shacks in Tiririca I chose to work from.

I chose a photo of some beach shacks I snapped while walking along the road between the guesthouse where Steph and I were staying in Tiririca, and the town of Itacaré (for more on that trip, go to Brazil Trip with an Unexpected Male Nude Photo Shoot.) It looked like it would be a good opportunity to just see the big shapes.

Sourcefoto tweaked1

Same photo tweaked in Photoshop.

I did my usual Photoshop tweaking to remove detail and enhance color, then I posterized the image to make the values clearer. And again, as I did with Playa Bonita 2, I sat down at the computer with my Wacom tablet and did a digital study to reduce the image to its main shapes.

Digitalpaintingversion

And again, preparing in this way made a world of difference. I think it’s not only that one gets to know the subject matter better, it also builds confidence. Seeing that the image works well with just the big shapes and no detail at all, I feel a lot more confident when I step up to the easel and start slinging paint around.

Inprog on easel

The painting went so quickly and so smoothly I only remembered to stop and snap an in-progress photo (above) once, when the painting was almost done. Below is the finished work followed by some details (close-ups) which give you a chance to see the brushwork and appreciate the fact that there really is almost no detail.

1622

The finished painting: Tiririca Beach Shacks.


1622 detail2

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 1


1622 detail1

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 2



1622 detail3

Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 3

Click on the image to go to the blog entry.

Header letter stodomingo 1
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 1:
Arrival in the Dominican Republic,
and Photo Shoot with Muscleboy Jeison





Letter fm sto domingo part2 B
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 2:
Dominican Boys Gone Wild





Ltr fm sto domingo part3
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 3:
Javier: The Boy Can’t Help It





Ltr fm sto domingo part4
Letter from Santo Domingo, Part 4:
TROUBLE, and Getting Wet in Cabarete






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




Ltr fm sto domingo part4

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

December 3, 2012

CONTENTS


• LAS TERRENAS, ONE MORE TIME
• MANUEL SHOWS UP
• TROUBLE
• GETTING WET IN CABARETE
• SAYING GOODBYE


Lasterrenas beach shot


LAS TERRENAS, ONE MORE TIME



This is the story of my final photo shoot in the Dominican Republic in December 2012.

After 3 successful photo shoots, I felt like I had accomplished everything I’d set out to do in the Dominican Republic, and more. I planned to spend the last few days on the island just hanging out at the hostel and doing some sketches from all my new material.

But I kept thinking about Manuel.

Manuel was the beautiful boy Julio and I had discovered just a few hours before leaving Las Terrenas to return to Santo Domingo.

Javier manuel

Javier (left) and his friend Manuel, whom we met on the way back from Javier's photo shoot.

I didn’t know if I wanted to make the trek (4 hours each way, which means spending the night there) to Las Terrenas, just to photograph one model. And Julio had to work, so I wouldn’t have his company and his assistance. But Manuel kept calling, so I knew there was a good chance that if I went back, the photo shoot would really happen. Finally, I decided I would kick myself if I passed this up. I called Manuel to make sure he would be available, and the next morning caught a bus to Las Terrenas.

2 shot manuel

I arrived in the late afternoon, and almost as soon as I stepped off the bus, there was Manuel, who just happened to be riding his motorbike near the bus station. We arranged to meet for a beer later to discuss the details of tomorrow’s photo shoot.

By now I knew Las Terrenas fairly well and checked into the place where I’d stayed a couple of weeks before on my first visit. That evening I went to Big Dan’s and hung out with some of my Las Terrenas friends, and when Manuel showed up we sat down and talked. (We were able to communicate as soon as I made him understand that he had to speak to me S-L-O-W-L-Y. I was still far from understanding rapid-fire Dominican Spanish.)

I’d been glad to see that Manuel had his own motorbike, so transportation would be no problem.

Except, I found out, it wasn’t his.

It was borrowed from a friend, and he would have to rent one. But that was no problem, he said, just give me 300 pesos and another 150 pesos for gas and then I can drive us to the beach and back. I had a feeling I was being played, but I also knew that 450 pesos for transportation to and from the beach was not a bad deal. So I said okay and gave him the money and we agreed he would pick me up at 8am the next morning in front of my hotel.


MANUEL SHOWS UP


Right on time

Manuel showed up just 5 minutes late, which in Dominican time is 25 minutes early.

From long experience, I know how challenging it can be to get models to show up for a photoshoot. But once again my luck held. The next morning, at just 5 minutes after 8, Manuel pulled up on his motoconcho, ready to go. And off we went.

There was just one little problem.

RAIN.

We were about halfway to the beach when it started sprinkling. Then it started to rain harder. We were on the back of a motorbike with no protection so I had Manuel stop and we took shelter under a tree.

Manuel in rain 1

Taking shelter from the rain #1

While we waited for the rain to stop, I figured, what the hell, I’m gonna start shooting. No rule says it has to be at the beach and it has to be sunny. The diffused light of a cloudy/rainy day can be quite beautiful. And a back road in Las Terrenas was not a bad backdrop.

Manuel in rain2

Taking shelter from the rain #2

So I told Manuel where to stand, and started taking photographs. I shot over 100 photographs (some pretty nice!) while the rain played itself out, then we hopped back on the bike and went to the beach.

On the trail

On the trail to Playa Escondida.

When we got there we hiked to Playa Escondida, the place I’d discovered through Javier. Manuel, who’d lived in Las Terrenas his whole life, claimed he’d never been there and hadn’t even known it existed. (That could very well be the truth, since from what I’ve seen, the Dominican culture on the whole is anything but beach-oriented. Most Dominicans never go in the ocean and don’t even know how to swim. With rare exceptions, like Javier, the only people we saw on the beach and in the ocean were tourists.)


TROUBLE


Just arrived

Just arrived at Playa Escondida.

By now the rainclouds had mostly dissipated and while it was still a bit overcast, it was turning out to be a fairly nice day. Manuel was looking beautiful, although there were some hints of diva behavior. I could tell it was not going to be an easy shoot. I got the feeling that Manuel had gotten everything he ever wanted in life just by batting those beautiful long-lashed eyes and acting helpless.

Diva 2up

I prefer to work with beautiful boys who don’t really KNOW how beautiful they are. When I have to work with someone who THINKS he’s beautiful enough that he can charm his way into or out of anything, it’s more work.

But I’m a professional and I’ve worked with all kinds of guys. With the right mix of teasing, cajoling, and scolding, I was able to get some good stuff out of Manuel. He really does have a beautiful face and body, and every once in a while I was able to see the beautiful soul underneath all the adolescent delusions. So while it was more work than any of the photo shoots I’d done in the D.R. up to that point, it was still well within my area of expertise.

Manuel collage

Just the same, I was glad when the shoot was over and we headed back to town. Like many very-good-looking people, Manuel was a lot of work.

But overall, worth the trouble. (And I’m looking forward to translating all that “trouble” into drawings and paintings.)


GETTING WET IN CABARETE


Back in Santo Domingo, I had one week remaining of my 5-week stay. I had wanted to go to Cabarete, the kite-surfing capital of the Caribbean, for several weeks. At the last minute Julio said he couldn’t make it. I didn’t relish the idea of the 5-hour trip to and from by myself, but I also know how good I am at making new friends. So off I went to Cabarete on a Tuesday morning.

Cabarete bch hostel

Some shots I found online of the Cabarete Beach Hostel, where I reserved a room. These very appealing pictures were taken when it was sunny and warm and there were actually people staying there.

I did meet some interesting people on the bus. I sat next to this 30ish Dominican guy named Diego who was kind of cute, and we started talking. Turns out he is a sculptor and he was very interested in art. So I pulled out the computer and showed him some of my work. I thought he might be gay and maybe something would happen, so I figured showing him my male-nude art would be a good litmus test. Imagine my surprise when after about a half hour of his admiring my art, he turned to me and suggested I paint some female nudes instead of just male ones. He continued by telling me he thought I was a nice guy and he just felt it was his duty to do what he could to help me keep from burning in Hell.

This is something I found interesting and surprising in the D.R.—the degree to which Christian beliefs dominate the culture. And I mean, they really BELIEVE. I am not a Christian, and in fact I have some strong feelings about it, but I’m also more compassionate and accepting than I was in my younger days—better at “live and let live.” So I wasn’t offended or upset by Diego’s wanting to save me…just disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to fool around with him. Anyway, he got off the bus about halfway through the journey.

It’s a long way from Santo Domingo to Cabarete: about 4-1/2 hours on the bus, then another twenty minutes or so in a cab or a smaller bus before you’re finally in Cabarete.

I forgot to mention that during this whole long day it’s been raining, and the rain has gotten heavier as we’ve neared the northern coast. I’d hoped the rain would lessen as I got nearer my destination, but instead it got heavier. So when I finally arrived in Cabarete at the beach hostel where I’d made reservations, it was chilly, dark, and pouring rain.

Like the weather, the Cabarete Beach Hostel was also not quite what I’d been hoping for.

From the photos I’d seen online, it looked great for the price—$12 a night! And I’m sure at almost any other time it would have been. But with the wind and the rain and the dark clouds, and the fact that it had recently flooded, and the fact that there was NO ONE around, I found it disappointing and depressing.

Cabarete bch hostel in rain

What the place looked like on the day I arrived.

Brenda, the staffperson on duty when I arrived, was very nice and showed me to my room. It was spartan, to say the least, but I expected that. The real problem was that they’d had several days of rain and everything was wet. Either downright wet, or just damp. Even the sheets, while not really WET, were kind of…damp. Not totally damp, just damp enough that when you sat on them it was not pleasant. I didn’t want to think about sleeping on them.

My room cabarete bch hostel

My room. I did like the colors…

On top of that, there was supposed to be wi-fi but I couldn’t seem to get online. After about 20 minutes of trying to connect, sitting on the edge of my damp bed in my damp, chilly little closet, the power went off completely. I decided to take that as a sign. I packed up and left.

(I don’t want to dump too much on the Cabarete Beach Hostel. I actually like the rustic beach-shack feeling of the place, and in hot sunny weather, with lots of other guests, I’m sure I would’ve been very happy there.)

It was a short walk down the road (which was good because it was still raining) to an area with more hotels.

Other hotel

This is the place I chose instead of the beach hostel.

New room

My room at the hotel, which was just great, except for that painting.

The first one I walked into was $25 a night, which was definitely within my budget, and was nice, with DRY sheets on the bed AND a bathroom AND wi-fi that worked AND a place to have breakfast…I said YES, and moved right in.

So now I had a dry room and wi-fi, but I was not going to just sit in my room. I didn’t care how rainy it was, I was going out, dammit! So I did. Cabarete was not exactly hopping, but I found a pseudo-Irish pub right on the beach, and ended up making friends with all 5 people who were there. Later more people arrived, and I had a fun evening and met some very interesting people.

I went back to my room about 11pm and went to bed. Interestingly, I had one of the most restful nights of my whole Dominican stay. Two things: no mosquitoes, and a cool enough evening that I actually was comfortable under the covers. And the bed was just the right firmness. Who knew?

The next morning I woke up in my comfy, dry room and looked out onto a wet world. It was still raining.

I’d had enough. Especially after checking the online weather report and seeing a forecast of at least two more days of rain. I decided I was going back to Santo Domingo on the noon bus.

Cabarete bch scene

Cabarete bch scene2

The rain stopped for a couple of hours and allowed me to see Cabarete the way it should be.

Before I left, though, I wanted to get some beach shots, and miraculously, the clouds parted for a couple of hours and I got some nice photographs—before it started raining again. I think Cabarete is beautiful, I like the vibe, and I just know it would be lots of fun when the weather’s nice and there are more people around. I definitely want to visit again sometime in the future.


SAYING GOODBYE


I went back to Santo Domingo and spent a relaxing final week. Well, not all relaxing—during my final weekend, I partied like a rock star with both old and new friends. I danced the night away at a couple of bars I’d never been to before, and I don’t even remember everything that happened. I’m pretty sure I had a really good time.

Julio took me out to dinner the night before I left and we talked about what a great time it had been, and how many wonderful people we’d both met and what great experiences we had. He made me promise to come back soon.

I left the Dominican Republic on December 11. As I write this, I’m back in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the snow is piled high around my house. No problem…I’m snug in my cozy studio and I’ve already begun painting warm tropical scenes from the wealth of new images I brought back with me.

And, of course, planning my next tropical adventure.




If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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


Ltr fm sto domingo part3 B

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

November 26, 2012

WARNING: SPICY CONTENT!

CONTENTS

• A RESTFUL DAY AT THE BEACH—NOT!!
• MEETING JAVIER
• PLAYA ESCONDIDA
• THE BOY CAN’T HELP IT
• MANUEL


Albachiara pool

A RESTFUL DAY AT THE BEACH—NOT!!



After my successful Dominican-boys-gone-wild photo shoot in Las Terrenas, I was ready to relax around the pool.

I’d accomplished what I set out to do and I was feeling good. So our last full day in Las Terrenas was going to be a quiet, restful one.

Julio and Grischa decided to take a dip in the ocean, since the beach was right in front of our hotel and it was a beautiful day. I had toyed with the idea of taking my computer down to the pool to catch up on work. But then I looked out from the terrace and caught a glimpse of the ocean and I thought, the hell with this. I’m gonna go hang out with the guys at the beach.

Following grischa and julio

I followed Julio and Grischa as they strolled down the beach. It was a perfect day for relaxing.

So I walked down to the beach and jumped into the ocean with Julio and Grischa. The water was warm and the sun was hot. Perfect, I thought. Then the guys decided to take a walk down the beach and explore, and I followed with my camera, getting some great landscape shots.

Javier first sighting

My eagle eyes spotted a perfect body at the other end of the beach…

There were some nice-looking guys on the beach, too. One in particular. I saw him from a distance and thought, Wow. That’s a nice shape. Beautiful body. As we got closer he still looked good. I shot some photos on the sly, but then walked on and dismissed the guy from my mind. No work today.

Javier first sighting XCU

This is a closeup.


MEETING JAVIER


Next thing I know, I turn around and Julio is chatting the guy up. He brings him over to me and says, “This is Javier. He wants to model.”

Oh, wow. I was going to rest today.

But I hadn’t reckoned with Julio. Or with Javier!

Javier posing before

Javier is a jewel: he’s cute, he has a great smile, a warm personality, and of course that body.

On top of that, he has his own motorbike so we not only have the model, we also have transportation to the beach. And he has no problem with our going rate for a photo session. And he’s ready to go. Right now!

How could I turn that down?

Ds w javier before

Here I'm chatting with Javier just before Julio and I climbed onto the back of his motoconcho for a ride to a secluded beach.


PLAYA ESCONDIDA


Just arrived

Here we've just arrived at the spot where we started our hike to the hidden beach.

Julio and I climb on Javier’s bike and a few minutes later we’re at a beach I had visited earlier in my location search, Playa Bonita. We dismount, and Javier leads us into the jungle, up over a little ridge, and down a rocky trail to a beach I didn’t even know was there, called Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach).

Playa escondida

First view of Playa Escondida.

I was sticking to my previous winning strategy: I told Javier he didn’t have to do full frontal nudity. He could hide his privates with his suit or a towel or his hand, whatever was available at the moment. He was fine with that.

Ds works w javier

By this point (3 weeks into my stay in the D.R.) my Spanish had kicked in sufficiently that I was able to direct Javier pretty easily, although there were times when I was glad Julio was there to translate.

Javier collage sized

Even though I’d felt like spending the day relaxing, of course I got into it, and had a great time shooting Javier. He was as much fun as the 4 guys had been on the previous day’s shoot, with the difference that it’s much easier to photograph one guy than trying to coordinate four guys.

We’d brought beer, so the already-relaxed Javier was getting even more relaxed as the shoot continued.


THE BOY CAN’T HELP IT


Javier intent

Javier very intent on something.

After a couple of hours, just as I was running out of ideas and thinking it was almost time to finish up, I was taking some random shots of Javier just sitting and relaxing on a rock on the beach. Except he didn’t really seem relaxed. He didn’t seem tense, either…just INTENT. He kept looking down at the hand that was covering his crotch. Except it didn’t seem to be doing a very good job of covering everything, because everything was growing.

The next thing I knew, he opened his hand a bit and a big erection popped out. And Javier started laughing. He wasn’t at all embarrassed or mortified that he had gotten excited—he thought it was hilarious! And he was enjoying being photographed in his excited state.

Javier laughing censored

Javier's big surprise.

Needless to say, Julio and I were enjoying it too. Who would’ve thought this kind of happy surprise would happen in a “no-frontal-nudity” photo shoot?

Javier lettingallhangout

Letting it all hang out is a lot more fun than holding it all in.

I proceeded to get as many shots as possible of Javier in this condition, and I got quite a few. He said, Does this mean I get paid extra? I said Yeah, I think that can be arranged.

NOTE ABOUT THE CENSORED IMAGES: My practice is to not show full-frontal nudity on this blog. But you can see uncensored images of Javier by purchasing any or all of the selection of photographic prints of him I released a few weeks after I returned from my Dominican trip. Because the selection on my website rotates, I can’t guarantee they’ll be online at this moment, but sooner or later they’ll pop up (no pun intended!). Just click here to visit my website and navigate to the photographs section.

And that was that. Another exciting day in Las Terrenas. Javier got dressed, we all packed up, and hiked back to his motorbike, and then rode back into town.

As we were riding down the back streets of Las Terrenas on the way back to our hotel, I was thinking, Wow, two photo shoots in two days. I’m so glad Julio is around or this wouldn’t have happened. The next thing I know, Julio has yelled “Stop!” and Javier has stopped the motorbike. What’s going on? I asked.

Turns out Julio just couldn’t quit. He had seen another potential model and said, We have to talk to this guy!

And that’s how we met Manuel.


MANUEL


Javier manuel

Javier and his friend Manuel.

Manuel was just gorgeous, with a beautiful body and a beautiful face with dark eyes and long, dark lashes. He turned out to be a friend of Javier’s (Las Terrenas is not a big town). Julio began talking to him about modeling, and Javier was also very helpful, letting Manuel know that he had just done some modeling for me and it was great! And you don’t even have to show everything, he said. This from a guy who had just shown us everything and more. Hilarious!

Manuel was very interested in modeling. And I was interested in photographing him. But it was already late afternoon and we were leaving early the next morning.

I got his number, but didn’t really think anything would happen…I couldn’t imagine making the long trek back to Las Terrenas for a third time before leaving the Dominican Republic.

Little did I know.

NEXT: LETTER FROM SANTO DOMINGO, PART 4




If you’d like to send some support my way and help make sure the art and the blogs keep coming, use this button. Or, do something just as wonderful and visit my website and become a Simonson collector. You’ll support me in the best possible way, and you’ll get to own some beautiful art too! Many thanks!

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


Letter fm sto domingo part2 B

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



November 25, 2012

CONTENTS


• MY SECOND PHOTO SHOOT IN THE D.R.
• THE THREE MUSKETEERS
• BOYS GONE WILD?
• MOTOCONCHO SAFARI: IN SEARCH OF THE WILD MODEL
• DOMINICAN BOYS GONE WILD!

IMG 0533

MY SECOND PHOTO SHOOT IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC



I was feeling great.

I had just completed my first model shoot in the Dominican Republic, with a very hot guy named Jeison. I had some of my confidence back after well over a year with no new models. Plus I had several hundred exciting new images for drawing and painting from.

So of course I started worrying.

You know how the mind works. It’s never happy with what just happened. It has to look for problems. I heard it asking, “What will you do now? Where will you find more models? You have no idea what you’re going to do next! What if you don’t find any? What if nothing works??”

I used to believe all the bullshit my mind comes up with.

But I have developed skills over the years. I have learned to take a deep breath and say, “Thank you for sharing, Mind” and return my focus to my body, where peace and calm live, rather than staying in my head where everything is fear and dread and worry, worry, worry.

Whew!

So…I decided it was time to go scouting for locations.

Sometimes you look for models first, sometimes locations. I don’t have a rule for this. I just do what seems to be up for me at the moment, and what came up was, go to Las Terrenas.

The more I heard about this little beach town on the northeast shore of the Dominican Republic, the more intrigued I became. I’d seen photographs of beautiful, deserted beaches, and I dared to hope I could find one. Maybe even several.

I also had a feeling that if I could find the location, I could find the model. Or models.

* * * * *

Okay. Now I’m on a bus from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas. We’re 3 hours into the 3-1/2 hour trip, and we’re coming down out of the lush green mountains and I catch my first glimpse of the northern shore of the island.

Firstglimpse las terrenas

My first glimpse of the coastline from the bus.

And a long, long, palm-fringed beach with blue-green ocean behind.

My breath catches in my throat.

It’s exactly what I had been dreaming of. It’s picture-perfect. I can’t wait to get closer to it.

Playa coson closer

Another look at that long, long beach from slightly closer.

Once I arrive in Las Terrenas, I check into a hotel for the night, and the next morning I go looking for a motoconcho (motorcycle taxi) to take me back to that amazing-looking beach.

This turned out to be harder than I thought.

All the motoconcho guys have these standard places they like to take you—all places where all the tourists like going, which means they’re exactly the places I don’t want to go.

But try explaining that to someone who has this standard routine and thinks he knows what you want so he isn’t really listening, and he doesn’t understand your fractured Spanish anyway.

Even when I eventually managed to explain (I thought) what I wanted to the guy (his name was Jorge), he still wound up taking me places I didn’t want to go. But finally, after much fruitless riding around to the wrong places and more explanation, he understood. And I got him to take me to the beach I’d seen from the bus.

Jorge on bike

Jorge, who finally took me to the beach I'd been asking him to take me to all along.

It was called Playa Cosón.

I called it fabulous. It was exactly what I was looking for, and it wasn’t even that far from town.

Playa coson upclose

Playa Cosón. I finally got there, and it was gorgeous. And empty!

I had a location! I got back on the bus that afternoon and returned to Santo Domingo. I couldn’t wait to tell Julio, my new comrade-in-arms and fellow model-hunter, what I’d found. He was excited, too, since he was also new to the island and wanted to explore some new places and have a little adventure.

Which was just what was in store.



THE THREE MUSKETEERS


One of the things I love about hostels is all the interesting new people I meet. As I was having breakfast on Monday morning prior to going to catch the bus for Las Terrenas with Julio, my new German friend Grischa sat down next to me. When I told him what I was doing that day, he took another bite, chewed, thought for a moment and then said: “You know, I’d love to come with you guys on the bus, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” I said. “Fine with me. But you have to be ready in 20 minutes.”

He was. Soon Julio, Grischa and I were on the bus headed north to Las Terrenas.

Julio grischa on bus

Grischa and Julio on the bus.

During the trip, the three of us—the two gay guys from the U.S. and Mexico, and the straight guy from Germany—got to know each other. Grischa had been looking at the free tourist guide from Las Terrenas and found this beautiful (and expensive-looking) hotel. He thought the three of us should pool our resources and get a room there.

This was not sounding good to me. I was on a budget. And I had to have money to pay models, assuming I could find some. How could I afford an expensive hotel?

Not to mention I had already made reservations for Julio and myself at the inexpensive place where I’d stayed on the previous visit.

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Let's just take a look.

But Grischa is a salesman, and a good one. When we arrived he said, “Let’s just go look at the place.” Of course then it was all over. They showed us a two-story, 3-bedroom Playboy Mansion of a suite with a wide terrace overlooking perfectly manicured grounds and a big pool with coconut palms around it. Grischa charmed the female manager, Josefina, and got us a we-can’t-possibly-pass-this-up price.

It cost me a one-night cancellation fee at the cheaper place. But it was worth it. Once again I was reminded by the universe that I don’t have to live small.

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The three musketeers in their new luxury apartment; lunch in Las Terrenas; Grischa charming Josefina; the view; our terrace.

I was also reminded how great it is to be open to making new friends and having fun with them. We went out for dinner, then went drinking, and by the end of the night we were best friends—the Three Musketeers on a wild weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week adventure.



BOYS GONE WILD?


Meanwhile, I had been thinking about my next photo shoot and I’d started picturing something crazy:

Frat boys getting drunk and naked during Spring Break.

This is a theme that’s always intrigued me. Yes, I have bought those Boys Gone Wild DVDs where two girls go around with a video camera during Spring Break and ask guys to get naked for the camera. And yes, I love those online photos where a bunch of guys are swimming naked or streaking or just drunk and naked at a party, holding their beer bottles in front of their crotches. I’m not one of those gay men who pursues straight men, but I still get excited looking at pictures of the wild straight boy in his native habitat.

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Boys gone wild!

But of course this was not something I could actually SET UP. Especially in the Dominican Republic.

Was it?

My new willingness to do a not-so-nude photo shoot, like the previous week’s shoot with Jeison, had started me thinking about the possibilities. Seems like when you tell a straight boy it’s not a totally nude photo shoot, that he doesn’t have to “show everything”, all of a sudden it seems okay. It’s no longer threatening. He gets to protect his private parts!

What if I found 4 or 5 young Dominican guys who wanted to make a little money and told them their job was just to let me photograph them carousing and having a good time on the beach, mostly naked but they never had to show their dicks?

It could work.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought, I HAVE to try this.

Of course meanwhile my Mind is going OFF. “You’re disgusting. You are a pervert. You are a pedophile. You are SICK.”

Thank you for sharing, Mind.



MOTOCONCHO SAFARI: IN SEARCH OF THE WILD MODEL


The next morning we got up and had a big, delicious breakfast and coffee brought up to our luxury apartment. It was a gorgeous day and we surveyed our beautiful tropical grounds and huge pool and we were kings of the world. (Well, maybe a king, a queen and a princess, LOL.)

Then the Mind started in again.

“You’re such an idiot. You think you’re just gonna go out there and find models? In one day? This will never work. You might as well just give up. You’ve failed before, you’re gonna fail again. Just give up, it’s never gonna happen.”

See how my mind works? You see the shit I have to put up with to do my job?

I’m telling you this so you don’t think I’m any different from anybody else. We all have this stuff going on. If you don’t, I’d like to meet you.

Thank you for sharing, Mind! Now excuse me, I have things to do!

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Julio talking with motoconcho guys.

As soon as we finished our coffee, Julio and I went out to the street across from our hotel and found a couple of motoconcho guys, and explained to them what we wanted to do. It was much easier with native-Spanish-speaker Julio along, and pretty soon we were bouncing along the bumpy streets of Las Terrenas, stalking the wild model!

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Model hunting via motoconcho. From left: Benito, Jorge, Nino, Julio. (Jorge and Nino were our two motoconcho drivers.)

Like being on safari. Only we didn’t need weapons or nets. I would just yell “Stop!” (to the motoconcho driver, not the guy!) when I saw a cute guy, and then we would hop off and go talk to the guy. Well, Julio would talk to the guy. And I would help.

I couldn’t believe how ballsy I was being. But we didn’t have a lot of time, and I figured if anything would work, this would. Plus, having Julio along made me braver.

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Jorge talking to a potential model.

After an hour or so of cruising around the town, we had talked to about a dozen different guys, and we had 4 or 5 of them lined up to come to the hotel room at noon for an interview. We just had time to get back and grab a bite before they started showing up.

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The last guy we met was Luis. Here I'm telling him what I had in mind for the photo shoot.

A lot of them started showing up.

Turns out word had gotten out that this American photographer was looking for male models, and now we had TOO MANY guys. But hey, better to have too many than too few. So we sat them down and started the interview.

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I made them take off their shirts and twirl for me. (The two whose faces you can see are Jochi, 3rd from left, and Benito, 4th from left.)

I was wondering, as I talked to them and Julio translated, how we were going to whittle down the number. But then we told them our pay scale. About half of them decided to leave at that point. They had obviously gotten the wrong idea about the scope and resources of this production!

But that was fine with me. These tended to be the guys with attitude anyway, and that was not what I was looking for. The guys I needed for this shoot had to be cute and appealing, but they didn’t have to be drop-dead gorgeous. I was more interested in the chemistry than the surface.

After a half-hour of interviews with the remaining guys we were down to just two, Benito and Jochi (HO-chee). Neither was gorgeous, but they were both cute and had decent bodies and had a nice energy.

Still, things were not looking great. Two models wasn’t enough. I did have hopes that another guy we had talked to would show up at 2, but didn’t know if that was going to happen. And even if he did show up, and he was suitable, we would still only have 3 models.

I sat down and resolved not to worry about it.

And then, a few minutes later, Luis showed up. With his friend Leandro!

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Luis and his friend Leandro.

We sat them down and had a short talk, and they were both fine with the payscale, and they both had a good energy, and they were both cute.

Oh my god! I had my four models! And they were all available for the rest of the afternoon!

Julio said, “Are you sure you want to try to do the photo shoot now? Wouldn’t it be better to wait until tomorrow morning?” I had to explain something to him. In this particular game, getting everything in place at one time is a bit of a miracle. You don’t let that moment pass by…you jump on it!

And that’s what we did.

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We're all loaded up in the van, about to leave for the beach.

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On the way to the beach we stopped for beer and rum. This is Leandro.

Thirty minutes later we were at the beach, with a case of Presidente beer, a bottle of rum, and some towels. We piled out of the van (which would be waiting for us while we did the shoot) and started hiking down the beach…that same long, beautiful beach I had seen from the bus several days before.



DOMINICAN BOYS GONE WILD!


As we hiked, I started photographing. I had them take off their shirts, which is not something most Dominican boys will do in public. But they were already getting into the spirit of things.

Taking off shirts

On the way to the location…

We had to hike through some unexpectedly challenging areas.

Unexpectedly rugged

This is me keeping my clothes and camera equipment dry on the way to the location.

Almost there

Almost there.


Then we arrived and made a toast to a successful photo shoot.

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We're there!

Soon I had them running into the water with instructions to pull off each other’s shorts, and come out of the water naked and holding their shorts in front of them. With a lot of shouting and laughing, they did exactly that, and I thought: BINGO!

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I love these guys.

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This turned into a nearly-3-hour session where the guys just kept getting more relaxed with each other and having more fun. The beer and rum certainly helped, but a lot of it was just the fact that I had weeded out the guys who wouldn’t have been fun, and kept the ones who had a nice chemistry. The four of them were perfect together and I got exactly the kind of energy I had been hoping for.

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Just the kind of crazy fun I had been hoping for.

Priceless!

When it got too dark to take more shots, we all hiked back to the van and drove back to town, where I took the whole bunch out for pizza, which they devoured happily. It was a perfect day, filled with unexpected synchronicities.

Pizza after

I felt like I’d gotten good stuff, but it was only when I looked at the photographs at length that evening in our apartment that I saw what I had done: I had created exactly the photo shoot I had been picturing in my mind. Only better!

It was a triumph so great my Mind actually shut up for a while.

The next day was going to be all about resting. With Julio’s help, I had accomplished everything I’d wanted to on my trip to Las Terrenas, and more. I was looking forward to a restful, relaxing day lying by the pool at the hotel.

But that was not to be.

NEXT: ONE MORE TIME IN LAS TERRENAS!




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I had been wanting to create a book of my male-nude photographs for quite a while, but I kept putting it off–

Because I know too well the amount of time and work and money it takes to publish a book. So even though I really wanted to do that new book, I kept not doing it.

Which was too bad. Because I have a lot of male-nude photographs that would work really well in a book format.

(Yes, I have over 13,000 images on my Simonson On Location subscription website, but those photographs have to be kept fairly small so they load quickly. And viewing photographs on a website is a very different experience than viewing a collection of images in a book.)

But hey, I thought not too long ago, after seeing the five-hundredth article about how digital is redefining the book business–what about an e-book? Never mind that I had never seen an e-book of fine-art photographs. There must be such things!

Well, maybe not.

I started researching the subject online and found a lot of…nothing! There were a very, very few e-books of fine art, and fine-art photography. But none of them looked very exciting or beautiful, or made me want to buy one.

That’s probably because the e-book industry is still defining itself. And until recently, e-readers didn’t do too well with images. But that’s changing, and changing fast, as devices like the iPad and the Nook and all kinds of other e-readers and tablets become available. The more research I did, the more I thought this seemed like the perfect time to make an e-book happen.

I got very excited about the idea of creating a new book without having to go through the tedious (and expensive) six-month process of proofing, printing and shipping huge boxes of books from Asia.

So I dived in.

My first hurdle was deciding on a format for my book. How to create an e-book that would display my photographs the way I wanted to see them–big, beautiful, rich with color and detail?

After a lot of research, I discovered the perfect format for such a book is one that’s been around for a long time: PDF.

Since you’re reading this on a computer, chances are you’re already familiar with Adobe’s Portable Document Format. It’s ideal for an e-book composed mostly of images because it preserves your formatting and does a good job of compressing images. And you can view a PDF on any computer, and on the iPad and many smartphones.

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Some of the first images I chose to be in the new e-book.

So with the format issue handled, I began the next step: going through tens of thousands of photographs looking for likely candidates for the book. This process turned out to be a several-days-long job. But I loved doing it because I was so excited about the project. And I kept finding buried treasure. I have been doing this a long time and I don’t always remember every segment of every photo shoot. It was exhilarating to discover hidden caches of gorgeous images I hadn’t seen or thought about in years–especially knowing that I now would have an exciting new venue in which to display them.


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An amazing Chadwick image that will look great in the book.

As I started putting together the images I wanted to feature in my new e-book, I also started thinking about a theme. Well, I say thinking about it, but the truth is, it came to me in a flash after I’d chosen maybe the first 15 images.

TROPICAL.

That’s the title I thought of. And of course Marcus had to be the cover model. I knew exactly what image I wanted, too. There was this photograph of Marcus from our very first photo shoot in Angra dos Reis where he’s holding this huge tropical leaf over his crotch and looking right at the camera–it’s a great image. I opened it up, and pasted the word TROPICAL over it in orange, and it looked amazing. As soon as I did that, the subtitle came to me: Hot Men in Warm Places. Sometimes choosing the right title for a book (or a painting or drawing) is a difficult process. This wasn’t. It came to me in a flash and felt totally right.

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I’d been excited about the book before, but having the cover in front of me, and loving it, made a huge difference. Now the book had a real identity and a theme. Choosing the rest of the photographs for it became much easier because the cover set a tone. It was immediately clear to me, as I continued to go through possible photos for the book, which ones fit with the theme and which ones didn’t.

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Two more images that made the cut.

I’d envisioned the book being about 100 pages long, and I ended up with 110 pages. But on those 110 pages there were over 170 photos, since I put multiple images on a single page in some instances.

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Sometimes I told a story by clustering several photographs on a single page.

Once I had all the images in place, I wrote an introduction and an “About the Photographer” blurb, and then used Photoshop to create the PDF file. I did this MANY times before I found the magic balance between file size and image quality. The final PDF file was just over 36MB which is bigger than most e-books by far, but not too big a file for easy downloading. And at that size, the PDF format still allowed me to offer very good detail and color depth on the images. I had an e-book, and one that I was very happy with!

What remained was to work with Mitch, my web guy, to set up a download link so that buyers of the book would be able to download it easily. That was not too difficult to set up, and a few days later I was able to send an e-mail to my mailing list announcing my first e-book. The next few days were an exciting time as I watched the orders flood in. Not only were people buying the book, they were loving it! The feedback was entirely positive, which of course made me feel great.

The best part of all? I created and published a beautiful book in under 1 month!

If you haven’t yet gotten your copy of Tropical, it’s available here. With instant payment and download, you can be enjoying your copy of the book just a few minutes from now.

So what am I up to now? I’m working on my next e-book…

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.