The Lady Killers
Pin-up has grown up from its cheeky cheesecake days, with more artists expressing unique visions, brought together by a love of the human form
We get to decide what we want to do, and people get to decide if they like it or not.” So says pin-up artist Babs Tarr, and she could easily be speaking for a new wave of pin-up artists. Unlike previous ranks of women worshipers, they resist pigeonholing – a loose group of men and women around the world with different backgrounds, interests (other than women), all working in different mediums. In their hands, the genre has never been so exciting.
Golden age legends such as Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas are still admired for setting a pin-up standard in the 30s, but with more women artists specialising in a genre that’s exploded in themes and styles thanks to the digital revolution in art, the visual landscape – and the fuel that drives creation – has changed.
“Pin-up artists used to be mainly men drawing women for men. Those women were typically depicted with nothing more then a sweet smile and a couple of contextual props,” says Babs. “The current wave of pin-up artists are creating characters with more personality and power. That power is only enhanced when the piece is created by a woman… things have had to change, especially when you have an audience who now wants to be the pin-up, or at least find a narrative in the imagery.”
Things have had to change, especially when you have an audience who now wants to be the pin-up, or at least find a narrative in the imagery
Aly Fell has been creating alluring, attractive and often quite dangerous characters for years, and puts his growing female fan base down to avoiding only passive muses or sexy sluts.
“One of the phrases I hear often is that people see something else going on behind the eyes of my characters. And that’s what I want to do,” Aly says. “The women in my images are looking out at you saying, ‘ This is my world and you’re a guest.’”
The women in my images are looking out at you saying, ‘This is my world and you’re a guest’
For Adam Hughes, the Eisner awardwinning artist, his primary area of commissioned pin-up art is in comics, “where it’s resided for the past 20 to 30 years,” though even the mighty comic cover master admits that this has meant he’s been out of the loop when it comes to current trends in pin-up art.
What he couldn’t have missed is that comics are also home to plenty of male pin-ups. Mexican artist Melissa Ballesteros believes that, “A guy may look at a cover of Wolverine dressed in a tank top, flexing, claws out, and think, ‘Cool, what a badass.’ Whereas I might look at the same image and appreciate it on a more carnal level. Male pin-up art is out there – it’s just packaged differently.”
The notion of having a superpower is something many pin-up fans can appreciate. After all, from Olivia de Berardinis’s cheesecake perfection to Rebeca Puebla’s modern 3D visions from the dark side, this is fantasy we’re talking about. “Pin-ups have a totally magical quality to them. They’re a heightened version of us on our boldest, sexiest day,” says Babs. “If we choose, we can have this superpower of being a beautiful, intoxicating creature who draws people in, but also conveys an unapproachable ferocity along the lines of, ‘Don’t get too close or you’ll get a punch in the face.’ When I capture that in my drawing, I feel I’ve nailed it.”
True, Zoë Mozert, Pearl Frush and Joyce Ballantyne were among the best in classic pin-up. But where the Golden Age Three
were creating pin-up paintings for calendars shipped over to homesick GIs during World War II, today’s artists are more likely to make a series of personal images, to be shared online. There are fewer filters to pass through before their art is in front of thousands of eager eyes.
“I love a tattooed and pierced pin-up woman in her bathroom, with her pet octopus, as much as women coming from the worlds of burlesque,” says German artist Daniela Uhlig. “What I also find eye-catching and interesting is the melding together of different styles.
With stylised pin-up artwork there are so many ways to put across the attraction
Especially the mixing of cartoon styles within the classic pin-up form.”
Some things don’t change. Modern pinup artists are still trying to find the perfect pose, expression, line and shape. And when clothes, posing, lighting and expressions are dripping with sensuality, the demands of fans can become very specific. “I’m always asked, “How do you paint the hair, the skin?’” says French artist Serge Birault. His advice? “Take your time.”
Sirens with st yle
Andrew Hickinbottom, an English 3D artist who turned to the genre in the evening after his day job on children’s TV shows, says that pin-up is “an art form with many nuances.” If you go to pin-up to see boobs, it can be a base visual thing, “but I find that with stylised pin-up artwork there are so many ways to put across the attraction: cute, sexy, dark, light, curvy, slender, playful, serious, friendly or dangerous,” Andrew reveals. “There are a great deal of approaches to consider,
and finding the right combination to suit the right girl is part of the challenge.”
For old-school artist Lorenzo Di Mauro, who moved from acrylics and airbrush to software in the 1980s, the digital age has ushered in new voices and new possibilities. “I love the funny irony of new burlesque, by pin-up art created by women, as artists or models,” he says. “I see 3D as something great that has emerged since art went digital, reaching a high level even in pin-up art.”
I love the funny irony of new burlesque, by pin-up art created by women, as artists or models
Rebeca cut her teeth painting strong, realistic fantasy female warriors before she discovered the magical world of pin-up. The saucy sculptures of Colin Christian, fellow 3D artist Andrew Hickinbottom and all the digital painters mentioned here gave her a glimpse into what pin-up was about: “Expression, emotion, imagination and especially good taste.”
Her art is a combination of beauty and terror – comic doll women dressed with realistically textured clothing, intricate tattoos and vertiginous high heels; sexy models, fully clothed. “Beauty is important in my work, but not only that,” Rebeca says, “I’m interested in addressing unconventional issues in an elegant way. I think it’s good to shake people’s minds.”
Im perfect perfection
Whether borrowing heavily from the past or creating new octopus-S& M-nun imagery, “there is love coming through these women,” says traditional artist
Maly Siri. And when you truly love something, you can dispense with tired notions of perfection. “Perfection is boring as all get-out,” demands Adam. “An interesting juxtaposition of flaws that results in something desirable is more intriguing to me.”
Andrew agrees. “Pin-up is all about exaggerating features, and if you find one of those features to be unconventionally
A juxtaposition of flaws that results in something desirable is more intriguing to me
appealing – such as a slight belly, chunky hips or strong nose – then you don’t airbrush it out. You celebrate it.”
Inspiration from youth
Even for artists who are redefining what pin-up can mean today, their respect and awe for the female form is rooted in nostalgia – not just of the halcyon cheesecake days, but of their own youthful discoveries. “When I was a kid growing up in Sicily, barbers gave customers pocketsized pin-up calendars,” recalls Lorenzo, “so pin-up met my growing curiosity of women. Today the art gives me a flavour of the world of my youth.”
“When I was a youngster, I invented my own female heroine and drew stories featuring her,” says Aly. “Jacqueline was her name. She was a pirate, highway woman, Arabian princess – all sorts of things.”
Whoever is next to discover Aly’s gothic hell raisers or Rebeca’s 3D statuettes, one thing is beyond doubt: they’re in for a treat.
And they’ll be coming to the pin-up images on the artist’s terms. “The art
Schoolgirl For this piece Lorenzo Di Mauro mixed pencil, vector and Photoshop for a new take on an old-school theme. Strawberry Swirl English artist Aly Fell often
brings a darkness to his female characters, both in
colour and personality.
rapunzel Setting the standard for beautiful pin-up comic covers, Adam Hughes recently created this image
for the Fairest series. Signed: Your Biggest Fan Maly Siri injects a bit of retro class into her pin-up art – a perfect marriage of pencil, ink, watercolour and gouache.
Orange bunn y Melissa Ballesteros’s image is inspired by the photos of
Tatt oo girl 2012
Babs Tarr says, “I want tattoos but I’m too chicken to get anything permanent, so I drew a girl to cover them with. Each tattoo means something special to me.” Tent acle slap German digital artist
Daniela Uhlig takes themes and props from S&M and other pin-up
Miss mosh Andrew Hickinbottom is
one of many current 3D artists taking pin-up
and adding different themes to it, as well as
another dimension. Night Porter In this image Rebeca Puebla takes inspiration from 1970s Italian art house films of the same name, as part of her Twisted Dolls series. Red calm Jace Wallace’s personal
portfolio is almost exclusively of women – his