When I was in Rio during Carnaval, I missed out on a lot of the fun because I wasn’t feeling well. But I did get to the beach quite a bit. And the gay beach in Ipanema is a cornucopia of beautiful sights. I took a lot of pictures with my digital camera.

One day I was watching this gorgeous dark-skinned muscular guy from a distance, among the crowds at the beach. He was wearing this red sunga (they call speedo-type swimsuits “sungas” in Rio) that would have been pretty questionable on anybody who didn’t have an absolutely perfect ass. But on him, it looked spectacular. I shot some pictures of him from a distance, and then he and his friends, for some reason, walked right over near me, just on the other side of someone else’s beach umbrella. I could only see the lower parts of their bodies. But I took a picture anyway.

When I got home and went through the digital photos I’d taken in Brazil, I kept coming back to the one of the guy in the red sunga. I almost never do images like this, where the bodies are so cropped, with no heads or faces visible, but in this case, I liked the image and kept seeing it as a painting.

Because it was a digital photo and already in my computer, I did some tweaking of the image in Photoshop. I used a couple of filters to reduce the number of different values in the photo because it helps me to see areas of light and dark more clearly. It also helped me choose the colors I wanted to use in the painting itself.

So over the next couple of days I transferred the image to canvas and painted it. I stuck pretty closely to the colors in the tweaked image, because they worked well. The hardest part of the whole painting was the red sunga, not just because I wanted it to be perfect because it’s the focal point of the painting, but also because that red was almost impossible to duplicate. I had to use three different reds, finally, to even come close. But I like the way the painting turned out. It’s a nice representation of my experience of Brazil, especially the gay beach at Ipanema—an intense mix of sun, sand and sexuality that always seems as if it’s about to burst out of whatever it’s wrapped in.

UPDATE: A Bunda is now available as a miniposter.

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