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

ImagineFX - - Pin-up art -

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.

Comic char­ac­ters

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

Dan Tidswell.

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

artists’ work.

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

great­est in­spi­ra­tion.

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