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.
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
disturbing, I'll modify or flesh it out till I have a
basic blueprint to work
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
Michael: 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 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
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.
OutUK: I know your passion is the nude male body..do you have a favourite area...or does
it change depending
on your subject?
Michael: 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?
Michael: 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
You can see the full collection on Michael's own