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Monday 08 November 2010

Lustrous: big and hairy is sexy

Posted in: Hall of Fame
By Jacqui Stanford - 3rd November 2010

Don Chooi's erotic 'bear art' exhibition Lustrous opens at Auckland's Kamo this Friday night. It will showcase a selection of Chooi's art from 2004 - 2010 drawn under the banner of DChooidoodles, and provide an insight into the fascinating cultures of leather and bears, celebrating the masculine and the hirsute.

The 37-year-old's work has been published in the likes of 100 Percent Beef, BQ Magazine (Big Men's Quarterly) and Hair Anthology. He also won the People's Choice Award at the 2007 Folsom Street Fair poster competition.

Chooi has been contributing artwork for Liberty Bears of Philadelphia, Roseland WV Bear Fair, Front Range Bears in Denver, Maximus Blackfire Weekend in Palm Springs and Bears of the West in Arizona, among many others. His work is regularly featured in The Wrangler Bar in Denver. A permanent gallery had also been set up in Wrangler, showcasing his work.

Chooi had a chat with

Tell me about your history as an artist and what you love about drawing so much?

I have always been dabbling in art since school but didn't really get into it until I discovered comics when I was 16. The comic book panels were packed with action and color, and it was just exhilarating and enthralling. As I grew up poor and didn't have a lot of money for comic books, I began making up my own stories and drew it out. Thank goodness I had some imagination!

It wasn't until I moved to New Zealand in 1996 and I discovered erotic artthat I started to experiment on drawing the male figure and in various sexual poses. My social circle back then was very much centered around the bear and leather community and this definitely filtered into my art.

I love to draw bears and chubs - be it in leather or otherwise - because these are the types I am personally attracted to. To tell you the truth, I was quite embarrassed about drawing full bodied, husky men as I pretty much grew up believing that the gay community was only about the one look.

But as I started to share the artwork on the social media network, the interest grew and the demand for art depicting bigger men began to encourage me to keep on drawing.

The thing that stands out to me about your art is that it's different – is there much art out there for the bear market? Are there are other people making bear art in NZ?

I think the point of difference is how the men are portrayed. I strive to add a bit of dynamism to the poses and scenarios. My artwork is often referred to as 'rough-and-ready' and it is similar to a more comic book feel but I think it has been really fortunate for me that people like what they see in my artwork.

There are definitely plenty of bear artists out there - who knew drawing bear erotica could be so popular? The style ranges from the manga style that you see from Japan to the more fine art approach. All of whom I just adore and admire.

In saying that, the only other bear artist in New Zealand that I know of is Christophe Jannin. He's originally from France and I had been a longtime fan of his work - such a huge admirer - but didn't realise that he'd moved to Auckland. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found that out when I emailed him to tell him that I like his work! A coffee meet was promptly arranged!

Do you take inspiration from real men you see on the bear scene?

Oh yes! I have always counted myself fortunate to be involved in the bear scene, locally and overseas, that I have had the opportunity to meet and make friends be it online or personally - most of whom have been the inspiration and motivation for my artwork. Though I have to admit, perusing porn also kicks the inspiration into gear sometimes!

Do you have a favourite piece?

It's very difficult to pick out a particular piece. Every piece of artwork is done with care and attention. In saying that, if I had to choose just the one it would be the piece I did for the Folsom Street Fair Art Competition titled 'Family Portrait' in 2007. You can check it out on the Folsom Street Fair website under 'Gallery'. I had great fun working on that.

How ‘erotic' does your art get?

It does get pretty sexually charged - you could say I have a pretty vivid imagination and an equally filthy mind. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted. The LUSTROUS exhibition only highlights the more 'Mature Audiences' theme but most of my artwork does seem to lean towards the 'Restricted 18' classification.

Tell me a bit about the exhibition? What price range will your art be selling for?

The LUSTROUS exhibition is about celebrating the male bear form and to highlight my work throughout the years. Though I have been drawing and working with bear organizations around the world since 2005, this is my first exhibition in New Zealand. I don't think I did a very good job at promoting myself locally so I thought it was about time! (And I have very persuasive and persistent friends that have had a large part in making this exhibition happen!) I am very excited and very proud to be able to do this.

The artwork in this exhibition is indeed for sale. The price range from $180 to $300 depending on the size. The prints are printed on high grade stock with quality inks for a more vivid production and longevity.

Lustrous opens at Kamo at 382 K' Rd at 7pm this Friday, November 5. The exhibition runs until 20 November.

For more information contact Don Chooi via

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Jacqui Stanford - 3rd November 2010