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I caught up with London-based artist Mike Bliss, who specialises in portraits and erotic pop art.

Me and Madonna (Mike Bliss)

Me and Madonna (Mike Bliss)

When did you start to explore your passion for art?

Its like breathing, I have very little choice. I finally accepted this was what I’m supposed to do about 16 years ago, and moved to London to see where it took me

How would you describe your style of art?

My art is 100 percent pure pop — like Prozac for the soul, or a really great Kylie Minogue track.

Madonnas (Mike Bliss)

Madonnas (Mike Bliss)

What are the subjects that most appeal to you?

I’m so lucky to be able to get excited by a whole wide range of subjects. The themes that are more frequent in my work are love, lust, religion, fame, sex, kinky sex, fetish wear, obsession, hate, and broken hearts. That’s the work I do for me — commissions are very different. I love that, it stretches me. Commissions make me a better artist

Is your target audience primarily gay men?

They are my audience and they are so amazing to me. The support I get from my gay buyers is outstanding! It wasn’t targeted though. My artwork is always informed by my life, so the gay community can relate easily to it. I’m sure the glitter and naked men can’t hurt. I have buyers in America that commission art regularly, but it’s not the gay themed work. They love my style, which easily translates to other subjects.

Your image of Prince Harry has always attracted a lot of attention, are you planning a special wedding day version?

I’m always amazed about the reach of that artwork. It continues to introduce my work to a wider audience. There are two new Harry artworks that I’ve done to celebrate his big day. One is pretty dirty, it’s an idea I’ve had for months so I needed to get it out of my head. I’ll decide what to do with it later.

Prince Harry by Mike Bliss

Prince Harry (Mike Bliss)

What are some of the projects that you’re currently working on?

Since working with sheet metal while screen printing, I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to use metal in my work. I’ve started experimenting with Men’s jewellery. I like using words with a sexual context on chains. I’m basically trying to realise all the ideas that pass through my head.

What are some of the things that you’re currently getting excited about?

I’m really excited about working on and with new materials. I’ve always tied myself to canvas, but I’ve decided to liberate the work and experiment. I’m heading towards more 3D and sculpted work. That could change though.

What are some of the things that are currently making you angry?

Islamophobia, homophobia, antisemitism, racism, sexism, Brexit, all politicians, violence, bigotry, war, bullies, and religion.

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What are some of your priorities for 2018?

I haven’t done a one-man exhibition in London for ages, I’d like to get that organised as soon as possible. I also want to show in Berlin and New York. I’ve been asked to show in Paris, but the language barriers are proving challenging.

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Beach Boys in the Buff

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Antonio En La Playa by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)
Antonio En La Playa by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

I caught up with artist Marc DeBauch to look at his series of work titled Beach Boys.

When did you discover and start to explore your passion for art?

I started drawing and painting when I was three years old. Before I was five, I remember creating a crayon drawing of the Sinking of the Titanic on the rough plaster of the living-room wall of my parents’ house. It was impossible to remove — my parents weren’t happy with me, but after that they provided me with enough art materials to pursue my creative interests without destroying their home.

Lonnel on the Beach by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

When did you start specialising in painting naked men and creating erotic art?

It was 36 years ago when I started painting male nudes and selling them in a local gay book store. Then, in 1995, I entered two paintings in the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Emerging Erotic Artists Contest. I was won first place, which opened the door for my art career, as I was immediately approached by galleries and magazines that wanted to feature my art.

This gave me the confidence and notoriety to exhibit and sell my work at erotic art fairs and gay events. At that time, the internet was just emerging, so my friend Andrew created a website for me, which was a fantastic tool to get my art out to people around the world.

Aussie Boy by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

You’ve written that Tom of Finland is one of the major influences on your work — when did you first encounter the work of Tom of Finland?

I remember seeing Tom of Finland’s art in a porno magazine my friend had in high school. I was just amazed at the sexual tension, outrageous anatomy, and attention to detail in Tom’s art.

This was back in the early 1970s, so gay porn was just emerging legally in magazines and films. At the time, I wasn’t talented enough to draw the human figure accurately. But, I was fascinated enough to want to try. My sister’s boyfriend was a photographer, and he gave me his dark room equipment — back then you actually had to develop film, as there were no digital cameras.

I talked a friend into posing naked for me while jacking off, and I developed the film and made some prints. I was 14 years old, photographing another 14-year-old boy. It was very exciting creating my own porn! Unfortunately, my dad — being supportive of my art — wanted to see the photos, and of course I couldn’t show him. Not only did he not approve of gays, he didn’t want his son to be gay. He would have probably hit me if he knew I was a homosexual creating gay porn! So, I destroyed the photos almost in front of him, while saying — “The photos didn’t turn out and I would show him better work at another time.”

I was scared and freaked out. I knew I was self-censoring. But I also realised that if I was going to create erotic art that I would have to do it in secret. When Tom of Finland began drawing naked men, he also had to make his art in secret. I think most erotic artists learn to be very careful about choosing the right audience to exhibit their work to.

Trevor on the Beach by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from people I know. I’ve been fortunate to see and meet many beautiful men in my life. Capturing their beauty and illustrating them in a unique way, is my goal.

What’s your creative process?

My creative process is different every time I paint. Sometimes an idea for a painting just pops in my head and I try to find model to pose for a photo to match my vision — that’s often the easiest route.

I rarely work from a live model. My paintings take so long to create — I often work all night on a painting — so, finding a model to sit for that long of a period and whenever I want them, is impossible. I use the photos of my models as reference.

Often, I look through hundreds of images and piece things together in a collage. It’s more like a jigsaw puzzle — lots of pieces missing, and my mind fills in those missing pieces with an arm from this model, the chest from another, the dick from another, the face from another, and so on, until I have the entire figure. But then I have to decide how the light and setting will pull all of those puzzle pieces together.

I have dozens of photos that are my references for every detail of plants, animals, rocks, furnishings. I sort through a constant mess of photos — gradually eliminating those references as my brain digests the information and my brush puts it on the canvas or paper.

The paintings that form the Beach Boys series are beautiful — what are some of the challenges in creating beach scenes like this?

Trying to find a balance between the setting and the model is always a challenge. I don’t want the model to overpower the beach, or the beach to feel more important than the model. I want my paintings to have a natural feeling, like you could be at the beach with my models.

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Who are the men featured in the paintings of the Beach Boys series?

The men in my Beach Boy series are mostly friends that have modelled for me. Sometimes I find a photograph of a model that someone else has taken, that inspires me to use it as a reference pose to work from, then I find one of the photos of a beach that I’ve visited and I try to recreate a similar pose in a drawing that will eventually become a painting.

What do you hope that people feel when they look at your work?

I don’t want to just give the viewer of my art an erection, I want them to feel like they’re part of the painting, that they want to invite the men in my paintings into their homes, their beds, their dungeon, their car, their locker room, or the bushes for a hot fuck, butt licking, cock sucking, ass spanking good time.

I hope to excite the viewer visually, emotionally as well as spiritually. It’s my goal as an artist and sexually active gay man to paint erotica that continually challenges the views of people who oppose sexual freedom. If my paintings assist the viewer in discovering where they are in the spectrum of human sexuality, then my aim is reaching its target.

Dive into the world of Marc DeBauch

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After the Swim by Marc DeBauch (image supplied)

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