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The Bellydancer


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Shake It!

My purple dining room back in 2011. This painting overlooked many a Hollywood party!

Once upon a time I had the most beautiful apartment in West Hollywood.  I painted each room a different color.  For some odd reason I thought I would paint my dining room as a warm purple.  This struck everyone as quite odd.  I mean, my dining room felt like you were eating in an Easter Egg.

But there was a method to my madness...

I knew I was going to paint my bellydancer picture!

I had been inspired to paint a bellydancer by a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard.  It's themed to a giant Moroccan Palace.  I took my folks there one night for dinner.

As fate would have it, we were the only members of the 'public' dining that night.  You see, the place was filled with a makeshift reunion of all the belly dancers that had every danced there.  That meant it was me, my sister, my folks and 40 scantily clad and really hot dancers.  I was in heaven!  For about 3 hours every lady in the place wanted to dance with me.  It was like my birthday, Christmas and the day after getting a tax return all rolled up into one.

For the painting I wanted to use really bold colors and chunky brush strokes for the background.  I thought the contrast between the 'chunky' texture and smooth painting style of the girl would look cool.  It did.

And for almost a decade she 'danced' above my dining room table.  (Secretly I had written all my mantras on the wall under the painting.  Only a select few ever knew what was hiding underneath.)

Normally I sketch in my notebook, but since the colors were so important I went right to Photoshop.  I created this one which established the dancer and minimalistic location.  As you can see the poem is very different. The poem sucked, so I came up with something better.  You can also we I wanted to add moroccan lamps and musical monkeys.  I ultimately dropped these in order to keep the image as simple as possible.

Next I came up with a revision of the sketch above.  It's far more sophisticated and shows me playing around with the 'swirling lights' and playful positioning of text.  As for the poem, I wanted to explore the mystery of seeing a pretty girl.  There's a great quote 'Everyone who is exactly who you think they are, until they prove you wrong'.

At this point I found some reference:

Next I played with variations on the image.  I tried different backgrounds and color schemes (and tried adding some saxophone snakes to add an element of danger).

Pink color palette exploration. Too much like cotton candy. Ick!
Fire and snakes...oh my!
Monkeys and bongos. Not quite right for my dining room.

Here I explored the different costumes and leg positions the character could have.  You can see I ditched the monkeys!

Quick color study and costume test.

After the color explorations were done I played around with the character.  Monkeys are back (I was on the fence about these guys!)

Sketch of the character, design motif and location.
Sketch of the pose.

As always I needed a model.  For this pic I cast Kat.  She happened to be a waitress at a restaurant I would go to after hiking Runyon Canyon in LA.  Turns out Kat went to my high school, so we bonded.

Full body reference shot.
Close up reference shot of face and hands. Taking photos of half naked beautiful hobby ever!

I then created the final sketch and color study.  Of course I shifted the colors from pink to a deep red, and chose a more vibrant yellow.

Here is my final color study before I started painting.

This painting was a pain in the ass! The paint globs were so thick that it took forever to dry. I had to wait months before I could continue work on this. That was a real test of my patience because I wanted the painting to hang in my living room. However she finally dried and made my bright purple room finally make sense.

Here's the final painting:

The completed painting.

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