Michael Breyette is an American artist who's acquired an international reputation for his paintings of gay men. He likes to think of the figures in his paintings not as the focus but as messengers of moments, ideas, and emotions that connect us, whether we are gay, straight, or in between. OutUK's Stevie Gardiner has been talking to Michael about his work and the inspiration for his art.
Michael grew up in rural upstate New York and it took him a long time before he had the courage to create gay art. Before he came out to a co-worker in the art shop where he worked, he always used to include busty females in his pictures. She gave him the confidence to focus on what he loved most, the male body, and this has been the subject of his art ever since.

OutUK: Are your pictures painted from your imagination or do you use models or friends?
When people ask me if I use models I usually tell them I build my own. I'm a bit like Dr. Frankenstein trying to build the perfect man.I start with a concept or vision, then I create what I call a 'blueprint'. This lets me plan out the piece prior to putting pastel to paper. Pastel can be difficult to make major changes to later on. For the blueprint I gather various elements and cut and paste, a chest here, an arm there, a car, a barn etc. Once I have the basic structure, which can look pretty disturbing, I'll modify or flesh it out till I have a basic blueprint to work from.
Summer Moved On
The piece continues to evolve once I start with the pastels as I tend let the piece guide me as it developes. The photo references give a realistic edge while still creating an image that before did not exist.
OutUK: How long does it take for you to complete a picture?
It varies a lot depending on how well I plan ahead. I have to resist the urge to jump into a piece. I used to use oil and acrylic which, if need be, could be painted over. Pastels can take some erasing but not a lot. Though overall they are a fast medium for me. Most the time, from start to finish, I am done in a week.

OutUK: How do you feel your work has developed over time?
When I began doing male nudes with pastel I did a lot more black and white pieces. I still enjoy them from time to time but I really like working with colour.

Colour adds another layer and has an emotional effect on the viewer. I also used to work more directly from photographs. I was more concerned with honing my skills then. It's much more fun to create something new, than re-create.
Another major shift in my artwork has been the amount of detail and energy I put into the backgrounds. For one, it allows me to better communicate the background story that I have going on in my head about the particular piece. Secondly, I am still learning and it challenges me to draw new things, the Golden Gate Bridge, a horse or a stone wall. Sunday Paper
OutUK: I know your passion is the nude male body..do you have a favourite area...or does it change depending on your subject?
Hmmm, a favourite area? Speaking personally or in regards to drawing? Well there are a certain things that I like, so I like to draw them, eyebrows, behinds, and tanlines. There are others that I like, but are not my favorite to draw; hands, abdominals. Otherwise it depends on the subject, sometimes it's simply how the light is being reflected, or the shape of the jaw.

OutUK: Some of your pictures seem to tell a story, others don't...how does that happen?
I do have a background story or at least an sense of who the men are and what's going on in their minds for all my pictures. Some are certainly more obvious and more deliberate. My works usually start out rooted in either beauty, sex or fantasy, or life, it all depends on whats going on in my mind at the time.

You can see the full collection on Michael's own website www.breyette.com



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