Seeing life through the lens of a pin-up artist
Welcome to my blog. Let me share with you the how and the why I like to draw sexy images for a living.
Welcome back to my blog, the place where things are stranger than what you might think. Ok, not really, but it sounded cool, didn't it?
This will be a short post, mainly due to my hyper-constricted schedule this week. But, you know what they say: good things come in small packages (seriously, does that line ever work???, ha).
For today's rambling I will touch base with another question I get asked pretty often: where do you get your ideas? (similar to the previous post about where I get my models). Or sometimes: where do you get your inspiration? My first response is always the same: everywhere. Yes, that might sound a bit on the "avoiding-the-question" side a story, but it is the truth. I work as a pin-up artist, but more importantly, I work as an erotic artist (no, no, I'm not erotic myself, I work in erotic artwork... geeez, that was a horrible view). As such, I tend to find the erotic part on everything that I see... of course, on the things that work; there's a ton of topics out there that don't need to be seen as erotic, but that's another story (yep, you guessed it, for another blog post, he, he).
Seeing things with an erotic eye has been part of myself right before I hit puberty. That's not unusual at all, but I'm glad that vision never went away. I could be viewing a normal scenery, at any given moment, and my mind would always wander, playing with different scenarios, different realities, where sensuality blends in. Sometimes the scenery in my mind is pretty subtle, sometimes is strong in contrast, like a porn movie version of the regular scenery before my eyes. I do not know if that's just the way I am, and only me, or if it is something that everybody has, in different degrees (an "ero-gene" maybe? that would be cool!). But, regardless of being just me or the whole world, that's the reason why I can find inspiration everywhere. "What if there was a girl here, instead of this prop?", "What if this girl was sitting on top of this furniture?", "What if there was a glass that would allow us to see what those girls are doing?". Those are the kind of questions that come to my mind, from the "visions" that I mentioned. They are mostly fun. Usually the point is to get the viewer's attention, with a theme that is both sexy and funny.
So, go out there and get your inspiration: it could be in your kitchen, in the outdoors, in an old piece of furniture, etc.... and of course, in a sexy model. By the way, in my personal opinion, sexy is not about how the model looks (although is important), but the attitude she has. If she enjoys and believe in her seductive ways, then that will project into the artwork. At least that's what works for me. Keep experimenting and pushing yourself to be more creative with each new piece you create. Yes, sometimes you'll screw up, but when you don't, you'll be proud of what you created. And that's why you shouldn't be worried about not getting any new ideas: look around you and start seeing things with a different eye. Let that "ero-gene" have a blast!
Ok, I gave this post that title, because I would like to touch base with something that comes with the territory for any given pin-up artist: working with models. Very, very, (very) often, I get approached and asked about how it is to work with beautiful and attractive models, many of them from the porn industry. Most of the comments come from people that doesn't work in the art field, or at least not related to pin-ups. Most often than not they have no idea how it is to work with a model, and I am always glad to help with tips that I might have. First of all, let me point out that 90% of my work with models is through collaboration and a big chunk of that is virtual collaboration (online). That is how I have been able to work with talent from all over the world, and fortunately meet a lot of them in person as well. Nowadays, the models I have available for work are enough to keep me busy for a long, long time. I still approach new talent (online and in real life) once in a while, and also get approached by them more or less often. So, work is good: they like my work, I like their image and we get to work in a sexy and fun project. However, it wasn't always like that. Back in the day, when I decided to my portfolio, I didn't know any models personally... and because of that, I didn't have a portfolio to show them in order to ask for a collaboration, or even permissions to use their image. That is indeed the typical and recurring problem that an aspiring pin-up artist faces first hand: how do you get models to work with you, if you don't have any work done with real models at all. In fact, that's a question that I get asked pretty often as well. Let me say this: if you are just starting and are serious about it, the best advice I can give you is this one: "Seriously, be serious about it". That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have fun with your art, with your process. All the opposite, have a blast, that's the point of being an artist, to enjoy what you do. But, a big big part of being a pin-up artist comes from working with models. That's the serious part I am talking about. Be friendly, be fun, be daring, be creative... but always be professional. Why do I mention this? Because, another typical comment that I get often is: "Man, I don't know how you can work with a hot girl like that one, I would be all over her". Yes, we work with beautiful and sexy women, most of the times when they are dressed and posing in a provocative way. That is indeed the point of this kind of art (and yes, it's fun! how many people can say that about their jobs?). But, I do think that one of the quickest ways to kill your career as a pin-up artist, especially when you are just a newbie, is to start messing up with the models (meaning being disrespectful in any way). I won't go into the details and steps on how to work with a model in person or online (that's a topic for another post), but the essence is easy: always, always be respectful of the model's boundaries. Always. Always. In case you forgot: always. Personally, I try to accommodate my work to the model's personality and preferences. That might sound a little too flexible, but I see it this way: there are plenty of models out there, each one with their own style and look. Just work with one that fits your project... instead of trying to make a model fit what you have in your mind. For example, when I work with a model for the first time, I ask her if she does nudes, while at the same time I assure her that it is fine either way. I have plenty of work in my portfolio with and wihout nudity, and I'm always in need of both. So, if this specific model doesn't do nudes... good, we'll work on a sexy image that isn't nude. If this specific model does nudes indeed... good, we'll work on a sexy image with nudity. It's that simple. Work with what the model has, and more importantly, with whatever she feels comfortable. This is extremely important, because a big part of your reputation comes from the models themselves. This is a much smaller world than it seems, trust me. We, as artists that work in erotic themes, already have a bad reputation to begin with, in the general view. Why? because unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there trying to score with a model. Sometimes these people are not even artists... and we are the ones who pay for it. For me, that's not much of a problem anymore, because I have plenty of references. But again, it wasn't always like that, and I will never forget how it was, for the sake of others. So, do your homework, do it nice and things will start to pay off.
Last but not least: same as the models, every artist is different as well. The way I work might be the opposite of other artist's way. What works for me doesn't have to work for everybody. But, I can honestly tell you that this has indeed worked for me. Proof of that is not only my portfolio, but the relationship I still maintain with the majority of the models with whom I have been fortunate to collaborate. And that is priceless. :)
Hi again. Going back just a few days ago, on my first post, I wrote how often people ask me questions about being a pin-up artist. From "what is a pin-up artist?" to "how do I become one?" and everything in between. I always respond that I'm not an expert, but I am more than glad to share my own experiences, so they can avoid the many mistakes that I made in the past. With that in ind, I decided to share a bit more of the path that I've walked as a an artist in this genre.
First of all, you have to be aware of the fact that making a living of you artwork (or even making money in general), it's not an easy task. No, it's not. No, seriously, it's not. I am not saying it's impossible, but it's certainly a daunting task. So, my first advice is to ask yourself: "Do I want to become a professional artist and make a living out of it? or do I want to become a professional artist and get side gigs to help pay the bills? or do I want to become an artist although not professionally but rather as a hobby?" All these options (and pretty much any option as an artist), are completely acceptable... as long as you are happy doing that. I know that sounds like a tag line for a self-motivation book or a greeting card, but I mean it. What works well for some, doesn't do so well with others. The fact that your neighbor artist is cranking it up working commission works like crazy, or your friend artist is selling her/his artwork at galleries for a very decent profit, doesn't mean that is a route you should like to take, even if it looks tempting. Maybe you would like to create artwork in your own terms, in your spare time, not as a job. Or maybe you would like to focus on learning many different disciplines of art. In my opinion, whatever your fancy is, if it keeps you thirsty for more, then the rest will be a lot easier to accomplish. Still hard... but easier than if you were drawing just to get by.
Ok, once you know the reason why you are creating artwork, then you can focus on what you like to do. This might not seem so obvious at a first glance, but it is extremely important. For example, in my personal case it's important to create artwork and make a living out of it... while at the same time trying not to compromise my work to the point that makes me uncomfortable. I do erotic artwork, that's my passion, that's my call. Funny, cute, sarcastic, yes, but at the end of the day it's still erotic artwork. Which means that it bears the stigma of not being accepted everywhere. It is sad, but it is true. To make things even harder, I like to draw naked women. Not all the time, but my portfolio includes plenty of models depicted topless, bottomless, or both. I know that it would be easier to obtain paid work if I weren't drawing naked women. And even easier if I weren't drawing erotic artwork at all. However, as I said before, that's not my passion, that's not my call. I remember my Dad asking me a couple times (back when I was younger and starting to draw naked women): "wouldn't you like to draw landscapes? Landscapes are pretty." In retrospective, I can only imagine my Dad's concern of seeing his son putting a lot of effort not only in art, which is a lonely and hard road already, but also in erotic artwork, which is an even lonelier and harder road. It's not that he didn't like my work, but he knew that going that route wouldn't be an easy one. Nowadays, my Dad can see that drawing erotic artwork is what makes me happy, and that makes him happy as well. It's a very hard road to walk, but it's worth it.
The key here is "hard". Hard is difficult, frustrating, daunting, etc., but not impossible. Follow what your dream is, there's nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that you're up to the fight that you'll have to face. It's not a maybe, you will have to endure that fight in order to succeed. But, if you know what you're up against, then you'll be able to decide if it is truly your dream... or just a nice and cute idea.
Go ahead, start asking yourself those questions and if you feel convinced, follow that dream!
Honestly, I don't know how many times I've asked myself if I should concentrate more on creating artwork or on selling. Of course, the obvious question is the former. After all, my passion is my art. Period. But, as in many things in life, that's easier said than done. As a person that likes to be involved in everything related to my artwork, I can say that I like to work the part that involves putting on a sales man's hat. That's a hat that any person trying to run a business needs to wear. Now, that doesn't mean that I'm good at it. Oh, no, trust me, I am not. But I like to learn and I am quite stubborn when it comes to get something done. That's what has kept me afloat, the strive to learn and try new things.
Currently, my journey on the forementioned business part consists on self-launching my line of merchandise featuring my artwork. Starting with coffee mugs, shot glasses and prints at the moment, the idea is to expand and include more merchandise. It is indeed a very modest "self-launch", as I am still experimenting with the plattform that works best for me. I am trying both eBay and Etsy at the moment, but honestly, the scale is tipping towards eBay more and more. I am also experimenting with the number of images or artwork I put out there, and how many items should have my artwork imprinted. Maybe less images and more items... or vice versa. It is quite puzzling, but I like it! Believe it or not, not knowing the exact steps is the part that I love. The uncertainty. I mean it in the way that the sky is the limit (or in most cases, your wallet). Not knowing where exactly you are going is pretty exciting in my opinion. Obviously, this doesn't mean that I should go and try everything with no direction. No, of course not. You should always have a plan, some kind of idea of what's your ultimate goal. But, you could have the most "planned plan" in the world, and I can guarantee you that you'll still be full of surprises. That is the exciting part I am talking about. Clearing your own path, walking your own trail. That makes the small victories taste sweeter and feel like a huge conquest.
Even this blog is an example of walking new trails. I like to write about my thoughts, my experiences, my opinions (I enjoy doing so everytime I have a show or convention, when approached by clients or even fellow artists). However, I never really aimed in any direction, I just did it here and there. A blog allows me to express what's inside my head (sort of venting... in a very good way), in a more centralized manner. I am new to blogging, but I hope you get to like what I have to say, and more important, that it helps you. On the same breath, please let me hear from you, be it to ask a question, give a critique, leave a comment... or just to say "Hey, what's up?". Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you want to receive news about my artwork, including new pieces and sales for my merchandise.
I'll be back on Thursday, with more stuff about being an artist and lovin' it!
Have a great week, everybody!
Trust me, if I had a nickel for every time I get asked that question... well, I would not be rich, but let's say that I would have some serious extra money. So, I decided to let my first blog post about it, sort of a "let me introduce myself" thing.
Nowadays (in my personal and modest opinion), being a pin-up artist is a mixture of erotic and cute artwork, with a pinch of this and that. "This" and "that" could include pretty much anything, even porn. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that pin-ups are porn... I'm just saying that in this time and era, porn has actually permeated in the pop culture, and it would be unrealistic to think that pin-ups are an exclusion to it. But, that is a topic on its own... perhaps for a future post. By the way, I do have a great respect for the porn industry, specifically their performers... but again, that is material for another post. Oooh, the possibilities. :)
Anyway, I didn't grow up with pin-ups being part of my life... at least not in a conscious manner. The first time I read about pin-ups, I was already in college, when I found about the great work of Alberto Vargas. However, the culture of the classic pin-up was part of my early years, including my childhood, even if I didn't know it back then. Being a fan of old movies when I was a kid, many of them in b&w, the female beauty was always present before my eyes. That was the original form of pin-up, highlighting the beauty of women, in a way that was classy back then, and even more now.
I'll skip for now the how I got into painting pin-ups, or how my work doesn't necessarily have the typical look of a classical pin-up (yep, you guessed it: those will be topics for future posts). Right now I want to focus on explaining what is a pin-up nowadays (again, in my humble opinion). A pin-up, in simple terms, would be a calendar girl, be it in a swimsuit outfit, a rockabilly outfit, a stripper outfit, a super heroine outfit, a goth outfit, you name it. It's not so much about the outfit as it is about the idea of having a fantasy woman, girl, gal, etc., in a print (or in many cases, an original artwork). I mention this, because pin-ups have grown in range. Back in their early origins, pin-ups reflected the innocence of that early era, with most of the work showing a very conservative, although flirtatious, view of life. Even the femme fatales depicted in those mentioned early times, would not be considered so risqué nowadays. Nudity is not new, and it wasn't new back then either, but in these times, the risqué bar has definitely been raised. I really do think that this is a tendency that will keep growing, so I am curious to see what the future will bring when it comes to sexy images. Pin-ups are not going away, but they are definitely changing constantly, in part because of the times, but also because of the challenging instinct of many of the artists in the field, always trying to evolve and push the envelope.
So, next time you see a pin-up artist, don't be intimidated or even confused. A pin-up artist will most likely be somebody who likes to draw beautiful and scantly clad women, tempting the viewer to take a print home. Is this a stereotype of the pin-up artist? Yes, definitely. But I say this from experience... my own experience: I just described myself. :)
Pin-ups: evolution or just plain instinct?
Pin-up artist by day… and also by night. Well, mostly by night, because that's when I love to draw the best.