Posts Tagged ‘Waikiki’

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


• FRUSTRATION
• REAWAKENING
• NEVER WHAT YOU EXPECTED, BUT ALWAYS PERFECT
• PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR


July 7, 2012

As I write this from my Lincoln, Nebraska studio, after spending 3 full months in Honolulu and now another three-plus months in Nebraska, I’m thinking: Hey! This is supposed to be the “On the Road” Blog!

My full-time travel lifestyle seems to have gotten bogged down!

Well…once again we find out, THINGS OFTEN DON’T GO AS PLANNED.

Then again–the magic usually doesn’t happen inside the plan.



FRUSTRATION!

SHORT RE-CAP: My goal was to (a) sell my Waikiki apartment and get out from under an onerous mortgage, and (b) pack up my entire studio and office and ship it to Nebraska, where a more affordable cost of living and a more central location would facilitate my new full-time travel lifestyle.

On April 4, I sank into my seat on the plane in Honolulu with a huge sigh of relief. My entire life and career had been packed into boxes and was on its way to Lincoln, Nebraska. And now, finally, so was I! Best of all, my apartment had been sold and was already in escrow. Everything was falling into place.

Or so I thought.

Within 24 hours the apartment sale had fallen through and that began a long chain of similar disappointments. Now, over 2 months later, the apartment is still unsold.

And here I am in Nebraska working my butt off to keep the mortgage paid on my Hawaii apartment.

You can imagine the frustration I’ve been feeling.

But WAIT.

Something unexpected has begun to happen.



REAWAKENING

I’m now living in a 1-bedroom brick duplex on Dakota Street, in a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from my sister Kelly’s house. The duplex has a full basement, and that’s where I’ve set up my studio. Now that everything is in place and I’ve begun actually painting, I’ve found this may be the best studio I’ve ever created for myself. It’s set up exactly as I like it and there’s plenty of space.

So I’ve got a great studio.

Unfortunately, I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I have NO LIFE.

Wait, did I say “unfortunately”?

It turns out NO LIFE is exactly what the doctor ordered. Here in Lincoln, I don’t have the distractions I had in Honolulu. No social life to speak of, no ocean singing its siren song, no Hula’s just around the corner.

So here I am with a great studio, no social life, and bills to pay…I guess there’s only one thing to do.

PAINT!

Wherethemagichappens



NEVER WHAT YOU EXPECTED,
BUT ALWAYS PERFECT

It’s taken me a while to get it, but now I know: This is why I’m in Nebraska.

Let me give you a little history. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years. I’ve created a lot of art in that time, but not nearly as much as I could have. I keep records of these things, and recently I looked at my art-production numbers over my career. Turns out my most productive year ever happened back in 1990. I did over 120 original works that year (not counting rough sketches). That’s about 10 a month! The early 1990s as a whole were an incredibly productive period for me.

Not a coincidence that I produced some of my most memorable works during that time.

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This is me in the late 1980's. I didn't know it, but my most productive period as a painter was about to begin.

Fast-forward to 2011, last year. I produced 24 originals. For the whole year. Quite a difference. Yes, I’d been traveling, but that’s not the heart of it. Mostly I just hadn’t made painting a priority.

If you’ve never painted, you won’t know about the love-hate relationship. When a painting is working it’s a magic time. It makes everything worthwhile. But when a painting is not working, it’s a nightmare! And when you don’t have a painting going, and it’s time to start one, it’s terrifying. You’ll do almost anything to avoid going into the studio. This is how it is for me and many other painters I know. What it really comes down to is fear. It’s just too easy to give in to the fear of failure or screwing up.

So for years and years, it was incredibly easy to avoid painting and do just about anything else. And that worked, for a while. But one basic fact turns out to be unavoidable…

I AM A PAINTER.

Whether I like it or not!

Turns out I needed the combination of factors that are now in place–a great studio space, no distractions, and financial pressures–to rediscover myself as a painter.



PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR

Once I got the studio set up and started painting, things really started to bubble and then boil over. I’m talking about a creative fever. I didn’t know until now how hungry I was to paint and try out all those visual ideas that had been popping into my brain all these years but which I had managed to avoid because of fear.

So it turns out I didn’t move to Nebraska just to create a more practical jumping-off point for my new traveling lifestyle–I moved here so I could become a BETTER PAINTER.

It took the combination of factors I just mentioned to get me out of my comfort zone and back into Painter Mode.

SERIOUS Painter Mode.

In the month of June I completed FOURTEEN PAINTINGS.

And I had an amazing time doing it.


Recent art comp

These are just some of the paintings I've completed in the past few weeks. Click on the image to see these and more on my website.

I’m learning, growing, changing, breaking through my fears over and over again. I thought I wasn’t on the road, but guess what: like Jamiroquai said, I’m TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING.

You can’t go from years of painting in a haphazard, lackadaisical way to painting full-time with great enthusiasm and energy, without experiencing some major shifts.

One of the great developments has been that my painting has gotten looser. I recently wrote to an artist I greatly admired and told her how much I loved how loose her paintings were and that’s what I’m always going for. She pointed out that looseness wasn’t really an end in itself, and I said yes, thank you, you’re absolutely right. I realized what I’m really saying is, I keep going for PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR.

That’s what I’ve been doing here in Lincoln.

I’ve been painting with more courage than ever before, spending a lot of time out on the tightrope where it’s dangerous and exciting and where the magic lives.

I thought I was stuck in Lincoln. No, I’m FLYING in Lincoln. When the time comes and I’m out on the road again, I will bring more of ME along. I’ll be bigger, stronger, more present, BRAVER. I would say “I can hardly wait,” except that there is no WAITING involved.

I’m too busy PAINTING!




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


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Looking through my photographs of Jeff from our 2009 photo shoot in my apartment in Waikiki, I came across the above image. At first glance it doesn’t seem like much. I mean, as a photograph it’s not great. But as I was looking at it I started to see it as a painting. This happens sometimes. Some element or combination of elements will strike me in a way they haven’t before. In this case I started to see the image as a stylized painting, with a much simpler central figure, and I loved the way the bird of paradise fronds fanned out behind it. I also liked the tropical urban setting. I thought, this could be fun. So I began sketching.

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The sketching went surprisingly quickly. It only took 4 or 5 sketches to get to the final working sketch shown here. I scanned this sketch and used my digital projector to project it onto a medium-sized canvas (about 20″x27″) so I could trace the major shapes in pencil. Then I did finishing work on the pencil sketch before putting a purplish wash over the entire canvas. Once that wash dried, I used a fairly small brush to paint in all the outlines with black paint.

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Now here’s where I diverged from my usual practice. I always spend about 45 minutes mixing colors for a painting before i actually start painting. I like to get it all over with before I start painting. But that’s not necessarily the smartest way to do it. Usually it means that once I actually start applying the paint to the canvas, some colors that looked good on the palette just don’t work in the painting. Then I have to mix new colors that do work, and lots of already-mixed paint doesn’t get used.


This is just a longtime habit, and I don’t even think about it, because I am such a creature of habit. Nevertheless, this time I decided to try something different. I began by mixing the greens (some yellow-green, some blue-green, because I’ve found the cool and warm greens vibrate nicely next to each other). Then, instead of continuing by mixing flesh tones, background colors, sky, floor, etc., I stopped myself and actually began painting. I was surprised how hard it was to actually do that. I had to kind of wrench myself out of my habit-rut and just start painting even though it felt “wrong.” I painted in some of the upper bird of paradise fronds near the top of the painting. Once I’d done that, I started mixing up some fleshtones. Not your typical fleshtones, perhaps; I chose burnt sienna and burnt umber for the darks, without even mixing anything with them (I’m going for pure colors as much as possible these days; the less mixing I have to do the better), and an orange mix for the medium lights on the body. (I mixed the orange from cadmium red light and cadmium yellow, although you can use a cadmium orange for that, if you have it—then I greyed the orange a bit with a tiny bit of ultramarine blue.)


This continued to be a divergence from my usual tactics. Rather than trying to mix all the fleshtones before applying them to the canvas, I went ahead and started applying the browns and orange I had to see how they worked. They seemed to be working pretty well but I found I had to create a brighter orange and a duller orange to really make the body pop. As I worked I found I needed an even lighter orange (actually just cadmium-red medium and white) for the lightest areas of the reflected light on the body. For the hottest light from the sun hitting the right side of the face and upper body I used both a yellowish-white (cadmium yellow and yellow oxide) and an orangeish-white.

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By now I had enough color on the canvas that I could mix a color for the low wall behind the figure. I kept the basic pink from the photograph but tweaked it a bit so it went well with the colors around it. It’s basically alizarin crimson with yellow oxide and ultramarine blue. (This is a good basic trio for any dull, cool red—also great for lips, nipples and penises, by the way!) By this time I was eyeing the towel thinking, what shall I do with that? Almost immediately I thought, BLUE! This came from a part of my mind that had already been calculating the possibilities below the level of consciousness. I’ve been painting for long enough that sometimes my subconscious mind works things out for me and all I have to do is just try it and see if it works. So I mixed up an ultramarine blue with a bit of phthalo blue and some white and tried it out and it worked beautifully.


I really want to stress again what a departure this was for me. To not mix all the colors ahead of time in the (usually futile) hope that that would get it all out of the way and then I could just paint, was a big thing for me to let go of. But once I was actually doing it and I saw how much better it worked, it was a no-brainer! This is a lot like that other principle I often harp on in these blog entries (but don’t always do myself), the principle of working all over the painting. You can’t get a sense of what’s working and what’s not working until you actually try stuff. Yes, some of it may be wrong, but when you have lots of pieces in place you can get a much better sense of whether or not they’re all going to work together.


This also reminds me of the illustrative factoid I’ve often heard in motivational seminars: the fact that an airliner flying from LA to Honolulu (or anywhere) is off course 95% of the time. The captain (or the autopilot) is constantly correcting. The plane drifts a bit off course, the pilot corrects. This happens over and over again. The point is, you have to do it wrong to get it right. Just as in painting, some of it will fall into place beautifully, and some of it won’t work at all and you’ll need to correct. But the irrational hope that everything will be perfect—and the fear that it won’t—is unfortunately what keeps many people from trying to paint (or do anything requiring courage) in the first place.

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The final painting, 'Tropical City.' (Click on image to see it on my website.)

Here’s the final painting: “Tropical City.” Notice some of the final touches—I used the same basic purple for the pots and the city skyline. Also made the sky a brighter, more intense yellow. Why is it that yellow skies almost always work so well?? I’m very pleased with this painting and even more pleased that I was able to disrupt my habitual approach to painting and get a lot more effective. Never stop learning!

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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.”

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Here's the photograph I began with.

I got the idea for my first painting of Jeff as I sometimes do, by accident, while playing around with Photoshop. There were several photos of Jeff sitting crosslegged on my bed that I liked, and I liked the plants behind him, but for some reason I thought, why not see what it would look like without the plants, and in fact without any definite background at all? So using Photoshop’s selection tools, I selected everything but the figure and the bed and the pillows, and then inverted the selection and hit the delete button. This effectively erased the background.


When you “erase” something in Photoshop, that area changes to whatever the Background color is at the time. Default for the Background color is white, so usually that’s what you “erase” to. However, this time the background went to an interesting red tone. This is probably because I was using that color the last time I was working in Photoshop.

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Some interesting accidents happened on the computer...(image on right tilted and Posterized)

When this happened I could easily have hit “Undo” and changed the Background color to white, or anything, and repeated the action—but instead, I looked at what had happened and said, “Whoa. Cool!” Because the color really worked. Not a color I would have consciously chosen…but there are no accidents, right? On top of that, because of the way I had made the selections in the first step of tweaking the photo, there was a nice little halo effect around Jeff’s head and shoulders. The overall result was so striking I thought, hey, this would really work as a painting. So I tilted the whole thing a bit clockwise (so that the edge of the bed was more level) and applied a Posterize filter, and thought, hey, I’m ready to go on this.

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Beginning the painting on canvas.

Next step was to transfer the image to canvas, via a pencil line drawing, then lay down a reddish-brown wash over the drawing. While that was drying I mixed colors. I began with the red background and the blue pillows. You should keep in mind that at this stage I have no idea if the painting will work. But as I continued with this one, I started to get a good feeling: a feeling of hesitant exultation, a feeling that says, “Hey…this might just work out!”


(I am telling you guys all this because I think there is a misapprehension among non-artists that we so-called “successful artists” just go into the studio and start painting and magic happens. I’m here to tell you, NO, that’s not how it works. Maybe 1 in 20 times it works that way. But 95% of the time it’s like the process I’m describing now. You have an idea, you think it might work, but you’re afraid to start. No matter how many successful paintings you’ve done, there is still that leap of faith you hae to take to get going. Then once you start, most of the time you are still deep in doubt. You wouldn’t believe how often I start working on something and it just looks like shit—and I’m thinking, oh god, give me faith in myself. Because this does NOT look good…probably the hardest part of being an artist is having that faith in yourself that you will produce something decent, despite all the indications at the moment. So please don’t think that every time I start painting it’s this effortless magical thing–or that everything I attempt actually works out.)

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Things are looking like they might work out.


Anyway, things are going well. The red and the fleshtones are working well together—which is a huge relief, because there are about 43 million ways to mix fleshtones and I never do them exactly the same way twice. So the fleshtones were working with the red, and the blues I chose for the sheets and pillows were working too! This is great. At this stage all I have to do is stay out of my own way and not f**k it up!

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The final painting: Scorpio Rising (click on image to see it on my website)

After about a day and a half of further work, I’ve finished. And it turned out well! This painting was one happy accident after another. Though I don’t mean to be falsely modest and imply that I didn’t have something to do with its turning out okay. I see my task as an artist to get as technically proficient as I can so that when those happy accidents strike, I’m alert enough and technically skilled enough to take advantage of them.

(About the title: Jeff is a Scorpio and there’s that Scorpio tattoo on his chest, so even though Scorpio is his sun sign and not his rising sign, I decided to call the painting “Scorpio Rising” just because it’s such a great title.)

Jeff arriving at my apartment for the photo shoot

Jeff arriving at my apartment for the photo shoot

Through some online connections, I saw a picture of a very attractive guy named Jeff, who is originally from Hawaii but now lives in the Pacific Northwest. He was planning to be in Hawaii for a few days and I was able to contact him and asked him if he were interested in talking to me about modeling for me while he was here. A couple of weeks later, he showed up at my place and we had a nice talk and decided yeah, we could work together.

I’ve lived in my Waikiki apartment for only a little over a year, and haven’t really thought of it as a good location for a photo session. I usually prefer to do outdoors photo shoots but Jeff was only available on the weekend, which is not a good time to try to shoot nudes at any of the Oahu beaches I know. So I decided to try doing a photo shoot in my apartment. I’ve done one other photo shoot in the apartment, with Sam, and it worked out pretty well, so I thought it might be okay. Especially since I’ve gone plant-crazy in the last few months and I have lots more greenery to add to the visual interest and appeal of the place. So I had Jeff come over to my apartment the next afternoon.

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Jeff looks good in bed

First thing I did was get him into my bed! Not like that—you know what I mean. But it’s a great setting and actually the light in my bedroom at that time of day turned out to be terrific for this purpose. And Jeff DID look awesome in my bed, as you can see.

We moved some plants into my bedroom to add to visual interest...

We moved some plants into my bedroom to add to visual interest…

Next thing I did was move some of my bigger plants into the bedroom to add to the backdrop. This was the beginning of a LOT of plant-moving that went on during the photo shoot. I need to get planters with wheels in the future. Anyway, I think it added a lot to the backdrop—and it’ll be interesting to see how this works out when I start painting some of these images. (I always wanted to have plants to use in this way, but I used to have a black thumb—plants always died on me sooner or later. For some reason, as I’ve gotten older and more at peace with myself, plants like me more. They now grow in my environment. In fact, it turns out I have somewhat of a green thumb now! I love having that I now have LOTS of plants in my home, and they seem to be thriving! The fact that they work so well to add visual interest when I’m doing a photo shoot is an unexpected fringe benefit.)

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Jeff on my fire escape… On the sofa in my living room

My apartment has a back door that leads onto a fire escape which is actually kind of cool, with black-painted walls. So we moved one of the plants out there and I did some shots of Jeff with the plant in the background. This KIND of worked. The jury is still out, but I suspect some unexpected kind of painting will come out of these shots…we’ll see.

Next we went to my living room and I did a bunch of shots of Jeff there and that worked really well. I already knew Jeff was attractive but as I photographed him I liked him more and more. He looks good from just about every angle. His ethnic background is Caucasian-Mexican-Chamorro. Chamorro is the ethnicity native to Guam, and the look is similar to Filipino, and in my book, men of Filipino or part-Filipino ancestry are among the most attractive men on the planet. So I love Jeff’s look.

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Late afternoon in my living room

Several shots of Jeff in the late-afternoon light in the living room were really striking. I think there are many of these that could turn into paintings. Jeff’s brown body against the white of the carpet and the sofa, plus the green of the plants, and the drama of the late-afternoon sunlight—I think there are lots of possibilities here.

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On the lanai with plants… One of my favorite shots, near the end of the photo session

I also took advantage of my lanai and all the plants out there. Again, we were moving plants like crazy, trying to find the right arrangement to give a nice backdrop and work with the light. Jeff was super-helpful and cooperative and easy to work with. I am so grateful that I seem to attract great models to work with—not only beautiful to look at but easy-going, pleasant guys as well. Jeff definitely falls into this category.

All in all it was a great shoot. I had some trepidation about how well it would work to do the entire shoot in my apartment, but I was very pleased overall with the reesults. Best of all, Jeff and I had fun. My experience is that that’s almost a guarantee that the images that come out of the photo session will produce good art. When I find the model attractive AND enjoy working with him, then I’m a lot more inspired once I begin the actual drawing and painting. I’m looking forward to the art that comes out of this photo shoot.

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.

One of the test shots I took of Tommy when we first met.

One of the test shots I took of Tommy when we first met.

A few weeks ago, before Christmas, I was introduced to Tommy by my friend Kawai. Tommy (who works as a dancer in Waikiki under the name Christian) is originally from Arizona, and has only lived in Hawaii a few months. I had seen him dancing on the dais at Hula’s from time to time and was definitely interested in meeting him. When he walked into my apartment for a preliminary meeting, I was struck by how tall and beautifully proportioned he is. Plus he has beautiful eyes, among other things. I knew I wanted to work with him but had to put it off until after Christmas because of my usual visit-the-family trip to Nebraska. Finally in mid-January 2009 I managed to find a time that worked for both Tommy and me.

On a weekday morning at sunrise (the better to avoid a populous beach), Tommy and I drove to an area near Diamond Head and hiked down a surfer trail to the beach. We were lucky; it was a nice sunrise and a nice morning. A few clouds, but still some great light.

Tommy getting ready for the shoot to begin.

Tommy getting ready for the shoot to begin.

Quiet, static poses to begin...

Quiet, static poses to begin...

I began with some calm, static poses, since both photographer and model needed to warm up. I was also stalling a bit, waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon so I would have that magic light.

As soon as the sunlight began to strike the beach, I had Tommy begin moving. The first thing I had him do was run up and down the beach. (One of the things I’ve realized about myself as a photographer recently is how much I like action shots. I mean, I knew this for a long time but only recently did I realize that not every photographer does this. I’m not much for carefully posed shots with an orchestrated backdrop. I’d rather just put the model into a situation and turn him loose and see what happens.)

The action began with Tommy running up and down the beach.

The action began with Tommy running up and down the beach.

After Tommy had done some running and gotten warmed up (and with his long, graceful legs and body, that made for some great shots) , I had him jump into the surf and get wet.  (Jumping into the ocean naked in the chilly air of dawn is a bit of a shock for a model, but not that much of a hardship when you compare Hawaii to much of the rest of the world…the water here is pretty warm even in January!)

Then, once he’d gotten wet, I had him come out of the water and begin rolling around on the beach while the surf alternately rolled in over him, creating beautiful splashing patterns, and receded, leaving him lying in the wet sand. (Seriously, one of my favorite things to photograph is a beautiful naked man rolling around in the surf in the golden light of dawn. I mean, how can you go wrong??)

tommy5791tommy5745tommy5762One of my favorite things to do with a model, especially an inexperienced model who is a bit unsure, is tell them to act like they’re totally drunk and stagger around for a bit before falling down, as drunkenly and awkwardly as possible. This often results in unusual, provocative images that somehow manage to be awkward and beautiful at the same time. These can be a total delight, and a real challenge, to draw. And every once in a while, you do get a magical image that works as a photograph as well as a potential drawing or painting. Just as importantly, though, it relaxes the model and that’s always a good thing.

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As beautiful as the setting and the light were, Tommy’s body was their equal. He reminds me of a thoroughbred racehorse, with those long beautiful legs, and an elegance and grace that comes through no matter what.

tommy5942Of course the natural next set of poses after rolling around in the surf is grabbing a towel and drying off. I must have shot forty or fifty thousand shots of this in my career, but it’s always beautiful, and one reason for that is it’s such a natural thing. And in my book, there are fewer things sexier than a beautiful man drying off…

I shot Tommy in many other poses and settings in the area, and finally when the light started getting a bit flat and I was tired, I told him, Okay, we’re done! And of course as soon as I said that, he relaxed in a way he hadn’t been able to for the previous couple of hours. This almost always happens, especially with a less-experienced model. As soon as I tell him the shoot is over and you can dry off and get dressed, he stops trying to pose and look beautiful and just becomes himself. This is what happened with Tommy. At that moment I start shooting like crazy, before the model catches on that he’s still being photographed. In those few moments I often capture a side of the model that was not available up to that point.

tommy6222.jpgIt was a great photo shoot, but I think I only scratched the surface. Tommy has such a beautiful, elegant body, I think I only began to capture all that he has to offer visually. So I may have to do another shoot with him. Plus he will be more relaxed a second time, and that will make a big difference. In the meantime, though, I have a lot of beautiful images of him to work from. And the photographs themselves are so nice I may release some of them before I even begin drawing and painting from them.

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

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

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Sam on the loveseat in my living room.

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

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


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

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

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Sam hanging on my front gate.

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

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

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

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

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