Please take notice that I will be migrating the blog content to the following.
For Photography: https://normyip.com/posts
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Fear of the white canvas syndrome is something that has happened to me only a few times since I began painting. The first time was when I started painting in 1999. I had spent several month fixing up the new studio space in Sheung Wan and decided that it was time to get myself some canvas and begin painting. I remembered putting off the day and told my friend Gavin Tu about my strange anxiety. Just prior, I had organised an exhibition in the space by the late Thai artist Neung, who told me ‘Whatever you do, make the first brushstroke a powerful one!’
It was all very methodical. I had 3 extremely white canvases to experiment with and I was going to break the spell by subjecting myself to intoxication. I went out to the local Welcome and bought the cheapest red wine I could find. I think it was a Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc. Two bottles of them. I began by setting up my makeshift easel creating by wood ladders and some wood 1 x 2s and laid out my acrylics neatly on the side. Next to this was my bottles of wine and a single glass. I poured my first glass, then the second. I was ready to take action on canvas and squeezed the paint onto the plastic tray. In a short while, with music blaring away loudly in the background, I was swishing paint onto the canvas. I broke the spell lying on the floor in a drunken stupor.
The three canvases were filled with colours that didn’t make sense to me then left-brain dominated mind. Actually, neither hemispheres of the brain thought the artwork was good. I trashed all three paintings. There was a consolation though, which was the fact that I had broken the fear, the inhibition of the white canvas syndrome. It doesn’t fully make any sense to me why this is so.
But here is the thing. I experienced the same fear last night after a short 5 weeks of being away from the canvas. It was creeping up to me several days ago while I was preparing the canvas with house paint primer. I just thought the fear would go away on the weekend. I pulled out a small unfinished canvas that I had begun several months ago. I thought that was a good starting point, suggesting to myself that the work didn’t need to be special so I had the freedom to make a mess. As it turned out, I struggled to make marks that contained any meaning. I pulled back from the piece and looked at it with dismay. No, I didn’t want to resort to alcohol.
Pulling out my sketchbook, I proceeded to do some automatic drawings. It sort of helped… but I felt tense and horrible still. Not a good sign I thought.
I retreat to the sofa and play my usual chillout music, Above & Beyond and some old Madonna. I was quite lost.
Eventually, under resigned duress, I decided to pull out one of my new canvases, one of the large ones measuring 4 x 4 feet. I grabbed a large paint brush and laid down strong bold strokes and felt an enormous sense of freedom that I was familiar with. The fear had lifted.
The Other Art Fair, Brooklyn, 3-6 May 2018. Norm Yip – Booth 87.
Just some of the many people that came by my booth at the art fair! So many fascinating conversations where people completely understood where I was coming from with my artwork. On the surface, it could simply be mark-making, gestures, depth and colour palettes, but on a deeper level, it related to life and the struggles of finding my way. They understood tension, release, freedom, confinement, pain, sorrow and more from the artwork. They understood the language of painting and the nuances embedded in the brushstrokes. I was in awe of their empathy and excitement. Their eyes were literally lit up as they turned to my works. I don’t think in all my years I have ever had such an engaged audience. One lady complimented me on my willingness to allow my inner feelings to be projected into my painting, an artwork that she thought was deeply beautiful and emotional. These people came from all walks of life. It was wonderful to see that my work could touch people’s curiosity and generate genuine imagination in their minds without prejudice nor any political bent.
Update: Shortly after writing this article on Linkedin, I posted this on my facebook on April 3, 2018. Subsequently, I got blocked by facebook for 30 days. I cannot post, like, comment on my main profile, nor can I access my Pages. Even Messenger was rendered unusable. People could message me but I could not message them. It is a harsh penalty that affects my business communication.
(Originally published on April 1, 2018 on Linkedin.)
It is no secret that facebook and Instagram have taken measures to censor male nudity, and has specific guidelines on what is considered permissible within their community standards. I might think it was fine if it wasn’t for seeing many images of women, entirely nude showing their genitals and having their nipples ‘covered’ with 2 Xes or stars. Yes, these are beautiful images of women, yet very much nude. Meanwhile, on my @theasianmale IG, I have my images pulled down within seconds of posting a grid of my nude photography. Yes, there is a double standard.
On facebook, I was banned for 7 days for posting a similar image of 2 guys embracing one another on an LGBT Artist group. Not only could I not post, comment or like on my personal profile, I also could not do anything on my Pages. I was frozen not able to do anything. This has been for many years, and I try to tread carefully by not showing any genitals. Now, I cannot advertise on facebook or Instagram. I have another photographer who has faced the same issues and was blocked for 30 days from posting.
Facebook for me offers the best place for interaction with my friends and fans, who are in my database of collectors. We interact and discuss on Messenger. It has affected my business and my belief that artists such as myself have limited channels to disseminate my work.
I know Linkedin is a place where people are in business, and maybe posting this rant might not be a place for this, but for me, art is my business and social media is vital, but this censorship is slowly suffocating me and others that have no ill intention but to showcase the beauty of the human male body, which is a part of our very nature and being.
Every now and again I create a small pdf of my recent artworks that I’ve created, along with few other selected artworks. It allows me to relook at works at a certain distance and to also see what really speaks to me; I only include the ones I really like in the mini portfolio. In this case, the newest pieces are the ones that really shine and speak to me.
The first section is called “Le tourbillon de la vie” or rather ‘the whirlwind of life’. They are bright, large colourful canvases filled with large vigorous brushstrokes and gestures. They are free and lively. The inspiration and influence are actually from my own artworks as I relooked at my own Ode to New York paintings, which was created shortly after my visit to the city in 2016. I was determined to reinvestigate the same energy that was encoded into those artworks but with the added dimension of both uplifting and depressing recent experiences in my life.
The following section called ‘Hard:Rewired’ are ones I created during my rebellious mode while recovering from a dog bite. I was angry inside both at myself, the dog and the dog’s owner. I wanted some kind of retribution, but without having to go to serious means. It was bottled-up inside me and through the artwork, I was able in some way to release it to the universe (well, here being on thick card paper). The work that was created during those few weeks helped me experience and explore a different side of myself and artwork. One artwork which I call ‘Molecules’ of Emotion is a direct influence by the writings of Candace Pert, a neuroscientist who believes that the mind and body are intricately connected. Because she believes in spirituality, her work is not taken too seriously within the hard-core scientific community. I actually love her work. Candace thought emotions were stored in the body, at the receptors, and that healthy communication via emotional expression was key to integrating the mind and the body. (http://candacepert.com/)
In the last section of the pdf, I included some of my old graphite artworks. I still love them. They are meditative and spiritual. Yes, somewhat austere and minimal, but beautiful, if you can see them up close. My artwork is for sale and available for art leasing to those in Hong Kong.
After a meeting with a lady yesterday discussing art, she told me that one of their main projects was creating art with the intention of sending love. I have never created art with intentions in mind; it is always about my own inward experiences and feelings, or about expressing an emotion or concept. So here is my first attempt and thinking and affirming the words ‘sending love’ and sending it out into the universe. I hope you like it.
Sending Love, 2017. Acrylic on paper, 59 x 42cm.
[Originally published in MOXIE ASIA http://moxie.asia)
1. Where to scout for guys? I do not scout for guys at the bars or clubs; I think it comes off as a bit sleazy and a bad excuse to actually be picking them up. I prefer using the internet such as facebook or Instagram. Some other photographers I have spoken to say they have no problem walking up to guys but they seem to rarely become models for me in the end.
2. The Exception to the above is when someone you know at the bar or club introduces you, then it is acceptable. Hence, it’s good to have your work out there so people begin to recognise your work.
3. Name Cards. In the event that you do meet someone at the bar or outside the internet, have some business cards handy. Just pass the guy your card and ask them to contact you. It friendlier, and you hope for the best.
4. The Initial Meeting. Set up an initial meeting to talk in person about the shoot. In the meeting discuss what they are comfortable with shooting. Nude? Semi-nude? Covered? Also, talk about the model release and that they need to sign at the end of the shoot.
5. Sincerity. Be sincere in what you say and do. If you are out there to just meet hotties and using photography as a way of getting into their pants, they will normally see right through it.
6. Be professional, although you are an amateur. The goal of the shoot is to try to get really good images in the way that you imagined it to be. Professionalism when it comes to photographing nudes basically means one thing: NO SEX. So you need to stay away from the thought of getting it on with the model.
7. The Oil-Down. Yes, a bit of baby oil (mineral oil) does wonders on the skin. It is okay to offer the model some help in the application but ask first. There have been instances where the model has preferred to do it by himself. Usually, I oil only the back and help with the legs. Yes, you have to learn to resist yourself.
8. About the oil. The normal versions seem to be better than the light version in my opinion. I don’t prefer organic oils since they tend to be too viscous, and they get absorbed into the skin toofast and you’ll have to reapply (of course, it’s not necessarily a bad thing).
9. Too much excitement. For some guys, they tend to get excited just by the thought of being undress, let alone being nude in front of another guy. Well, this is a good thing and a bad thing. I usually will stop photographing and ask if they want to continue or wait awhile until they calm down.
10. Music helps. Assuming that the shoot is in a studio or home environment, play some music to get you and your model into a good mood. I usually play ambient type music with no vocals.
11. I work alone. I normally do everything from setting up the lights, the backdrop and oil-down. I shoot alone because I find that a helper/assistant a distraction. Unless the model is more experienced, then they might not mind if another person is helping in the room, but I find that I get more of the real person to come out if I’m working alone with him.
12. Process. I start out with clothing, and then progressively remove clothing. It is better this way since it allows you time to warm up and vice-versa.
13. Duration. How long does a shoot take? Normally, a shoot will last between 2 – 4 hours long, depending on how many ideas I have in mind.
14. Experiment with lighting arrangements and don’t be stuck to strobes. Although many professional photographers shy away from tungsten lights, I have found that it is extremely nice for shooting male bodies. A tungsten light and softbox were all I needed for the majority of shoots I did.
15. Keep moving. For me, I prefer it when the model is constantly moving during the shoot. The movements are not wild and erratic, but small. They are small shifts in the stance, their head direction and position of their hands and legs. Professional models are usually very good at this, although I have seen some become really awkward when they have to pose nude. It’s a challenge.
16. Talk to your model. I have always thought that the best shoots were more like a dance than a conversation. The dance or synergy is between you and the model, an exchange of giving and receiving. What do you talk about? Literally, anything that comes to your mind, but usually, we are talking about the shoot and meanwhile, I am directing the guy at the same time.
17. Follow up. After the shoot has finished and you have processed (post production) the images, you should follow up with sending him the photographs as outlined in your agreement. (See Part 1 ).
Sometimes, I have very little idea of how I am going to approach the shoot. I have a very general idea of how things will go. I do not usually work according to a theme. The element of surprise is rather more interesting.
Finally, have fun and enjoy the shooting.
After several emails requesting (or rather, demanding) that I provide insight into how to get started shooting male nudes, I thought I would turn this into an article for my Moxie Asia website. I have provided the basics in this particular write-up, assuming that you don’t own a camera (no, your iPhone doesn’t count as a camera). By the way, the above photograph was taken when I a wee bit more hair, a much younger version of me….
To read the article:
Selfless shameless self-promotion of MOXIE ASIA magazine. I have to get the word out to the world that this exists, and hopefully, it will become a big hit to everyone. So please, if you like MOXIE, do let friends know about it.
MOXIE 02 features the masculine and sensual Pop Yeung, a Taiwanese man whose brooding looks are captured by Norm Yip. Adam Photography from Indonesia is MOXIE’s first contributor and offers to us Rony, a stunningly handsome man whose hunky body is a feast for the eyes. Have you ever wanted to know how an affluent businessman operates on a daily basis? THE ROSS FILES is just that: a sneak-peek at where he hangs out and who he hob nobs with. Finally, Malaysian model Derek Chong (a.k.a @greendo) and his adorable cat owns the cover page. Styled by Patryk Chaou and photographed by Norm Yip.
The story behind MOXIE is a long and arduous one. Around the same time last year, I was approached by PUBU, a Taiwanese digital distributor of magazine and books, to introduce my photographic work through their channels. But after months of going back and forth with a badly written contract (well, at least to me it was), nothing came to resolve. My lawyer firmly told me not to sign anything that was so vague and I felt it was the right thing to do.
A few months ensued and I was then contacted by young banker in Singapore, who was thinking of creating his own digital distribution channel for publications similar in nature to what PUBU was doing. Unfortunately, nearly 4 months went by and nothing seemed to be happening. Was there going to be an app after all? I decided to pull out and wait until the app was running smoothly and some kind of traction was taking place before going further.
I decided that I was going to go ahead with publishing my work publicly and for free, at least to test the waters of this new publication, which I call MOXIE. It was going to be something slightly different than a traditional magazine, but more like a portfolio of photography — a cross-over. Perhaps it is a zine? It sounds cooler. Regardless, here below is what came out of nearly a year of fumbling back and forth over what it was going to be. I gave birth to the publication on July 1, 2017, at 8pm: on one of the busiest days of the year.
If you are interested in contributing to MOXIE, please see the Contributors section.