Good riddance, 2020...
So, 2021 is finally here. A year full of hopes and dreams, after a *insert your own adjective here* year like 2020. Mmmh, 2020, a year that also started full of hopes and dreams. Oh, the potential. Just the sound of 2020 was motivating. Twenty-twenty, two twos with two zeros, it was almost poetic. Then, COVID-19 happened, and we all know how that went.
OK, then, how was 2020 for me? Personally, it wasn't so bad... and please let me make clear that I say this at a mere personal level, in no way minimizing what 2020 meant to many individuals and families out there. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home, working from my studio. I am fortunate to say that not a single member of my family was lost due to the pandemic. Furthermore, I am fortunate to say that even though I myself got infected with COVID, my symptoms were pretty mild and was out of it with no detriment to my daily life.
No, the pandemic basically didn't impact my life in a bad way. From the very beginning of the on-off-on-off lock downs, which included the temporary closing of the tattoo shop where I was working, I decided to stay home. I've been doing freelance illustration work from my studio for years now, so this decision wasn't hard at all. I changed my grocery-shopping habits, and now I go to the store once every 3 weeks. This new scheme pushed me to start cooking more and depend less on processed food or going out to eat. I even learned how to make bread! (I know, it turns out it's far easier than I thought, but I didn't know that a year ago, so cut me some slack).
I also got around to finishing a few pending projects around the house... although it seems like for every project I finish, 10 more pop up. All this happened while also creating new artwork. As I said before: it wasn't so bad.
A downside for me in 2020 (again, speaking strictly on a personal level), was not able to visit my family in Mexico at any given moment. Not that I go there all the time, but I'm used to visit them at least a couple of times a year and stay there for several days. I did manage to go to Mexico due to extraordinary circumstances... but I wasn't able to get close to family, meaning that even though I saw them, I had to keep my distance, no physical contact. Thinking about it, I think that was the biggest downside of them all. However, if that was the biggest downside, in a scenario where not a member of my family was lost, I really cannot complain at all. My sympathies go to anybody who experienced a loss during 2020, during the pandemic, human or otherwise.
As you can imagine, my work felt the effect of my surroundings. I kept focused on my illustration work, but also incorporating elements of the pandemic: editing my images to include a face mask, posting cheer up messages, and even creating a new illustration based on a Mexican superheroine (not created by me, by the way) who fights COVID. But, oddly enough, it wasn't the pandemic what reshaped my work in the most noticeable way, but a social movement. After the huge rise (note: rise, not birth) of the Black Lives Matter movement on the second half of 2020, I ended up asking myself the same question that many around me did: am I part of the problem? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. Ignoring a problem, as it didn't exist, because "by not getting involved I'm not making things worse" is indeed making things worse. My artwork, as irrelevant as it might be, it was a reflection of a norm, an insidious norm, where inclusion is a choice that most often than not is (again) ignored, or even shunned.
My work is a reflection of myself, and I like to think that it evolves with me and my views. Yes, I still am an erotic artist, but I definitely want to paint a picture using broader strokes (yes, pun very much intended).
Then, what's next? I'll tell you what's next: 2021. We're already there. We're not out of the hole yet, but a new year has started and with it, the new hopes and new dreams that I mentioned. In fact, more hopes and dreams than usual because we're carrying the leftover from 2020. This is going to be a year that will go by quickly, but hopefully will be productive (fingers and toes crossed). So make it count. Make it count. Oh, and please stay safe. :)
Paper thin wall...
I am back... with a new pin-up, of course. As always, I hope you like it. However, I must say that I am back with much more than just a pin-up. I am bringing some personal thoughts. I ask you to please bare with me, because, if you are familiar with my posts, you also know that I tend to write about my thoughts in a lengthy way. Many times I ramble away, but this time I assure you that what I am writing has a definite point, a purpose. You and I might not agree to it, but it is a point nonetheless. One more thing, a very important thing before rambling... errr, I mean, sharing my thoughts: I want to thank Eirenne Suicide for being the beautiful reference muse and inspiration for this artwork. This is the second time I've had the honor of working with her image. Thanks so much, Eirenne, you rock!
OK, most of you have not noticed, but I have been virtually absent from social media for about a month now. And I say "virtually" because I have popped in here and there, once in a while, mostly sharing different posts. Not that I was very active before, but I had some plans about new images, new merchandise, promotions, etc. Then, a terrible murder on May 25, triggered a chain reaction that became stronger and stronger in a matter of days, if not hours. Yes, I am talking about the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed. I am not a news savvy guy, but I do try to stay up to date of what is happening in the global arena. I saw a movement that kept growing, and the more it grew, the more I read about it. Not in an academic way per se, but rather as in checking the pulse of what was brewing in real time. That is the reason why I went away, at first as a form of respect to the movement, but after a while it was because a lot of my time was dedicated to learn about it.
I must say that in the last few weeks I learned a lot about discrimination to Blacks, in specific, the African-American community. And by saying "a lot" is in no way to compliment myself, but in fact the opposite. I learned a lot because my knowledge about racist practices toward Blacks was so minimal, so basic, that yes, what I know now is huge compared to what I knew just a month ago. Is like going from being illiterate to learn all the vowels. Yes, it is a big progress, no arguing there... but there is still a lot to learn.
I try to keep to myself. I try to stay out of the way. I try to be empathetic to the needs of the vulnerable groups of our society. Being that said, I just keep doing my artwork and watching how the world goes up and down, up and down. I am an observer, you might say. But, that also means I am an enabler, by turning a blind eye or playing along in a system that I myself cannot change. I am not a politically active guy, I am not an activist. After all, I am just one person, and what I do or not do, does not make a difference, right? Well, sometimes is not so easy to hide behind that rationalization. Sometimes the truth gets so much in your face, that the rationalization I mentioned becomes a paper thin wall.
This movement is not just about George Floyd or anybody in particular, but about a society in general. Obviously, is not about me either. Then, why am I talking about myself? Because, I want you to understand that I am trying. I am trying to understand. I am trying to empathize more and more. I am trying to stop being numb about everything that is happening around us. The world keeps going up and down, up and down, like a jump rope. And, as we would do with a jump rope game, we have to decide when it is time to jump in.
For many many years, my life has revolved around my artwork, specifically my passion for drawing women. When the social unrest and the protests started, once I learned more about it, my first reaction was to render a new pin-up featuring a Black model, as my artistic contribution. But, since I did not have anything ready, I thought it would be good to post a couple of past pin-ups that featured Black models, while I worked in a new piece. After all, between toons, portraits and everything in between, I have rendered a few hundreds of images, so it should not be hard to have a few Black model pin-ups available right away, right? I am embarrassed to say that, once I started looking for some samples, I realized that the number of images I have rendered using Black models as a reference or inspiration could be counted in one hand. There is no excuse for that, I own it. I like to think that, when it comes to my artwork, I am a king, a god of my empty canvas. I say that as an obvious nerdish joke, meaning that I and only I decide what goes and what does not into my art. That is why I like to work as an independent artist, rather than doing business or private commissions. When it comes to my canvas, the only rules that play are my rules. Therefore, the fact that I do not have Black models represented in my portfolio is entirely my fault, nobody else's. If you are a figure artist and your opinion is that you do not need inclusion in your portfolio, that is a perfectly valid point as well, it is your art. In my case, that was not my conscious decision, but it is something I did anyway.
I am sure that for many, the lack of Black models in my portfolio is not a big deal. But for me, it means that I did play along with a system that is failing to so many communities. As small as my role is in this society, I did play my tiny part in perpetuating discrimination. Be it because I was too busy, or because I had other projects in mind, or because I like to forge my own path when it comes to my art, or because (insert any excuse here). The reality is that representation for Black people in my art is not there.
That is why I decided to pledge that my next personal pin-up projects for the rest of year will be based on Black models. And, starting next year, I will be incorporating more and more Black models as well. This is my contribution as a pin-up artist. It is just as a start, not a "solution" or anything of the sort, but we all have to start somewhere.
Additionally, I want to sell prints of those pin-ups and donate 100% of the profits to an organization/funding/charity that supports BLM. Yes, 100%. I would like for clients to "pay" (or donate) directly to the chosen organization/funding/charity, then show me the receipt of their donation and I'll take care of the costs of printing and shipping. I am not expecting the number of orders growing too big, but if it does, I will need help with the shipping costs (it would be great if the orders reached that point, though). If you know any organization/funding/charity that would like this idea, please let me (or them) know.
"But... what about Latina models? what about Asian models? what about Muslim models? what about trans models? what about full figure models? what about...?" I know, there is always another area to cover, another community to support, but again: we all have to start somewhere. The African-American community is not the only one close to me, but at this moment they need most of the immediate support. Being that said, it is my goal to represent more and more communities in my work in the near future, with the proper respect.
Last but not least, let me tell you more about this new pin-up illustration. As I mentioned, it is based on the beaaaaaautiful Eirenne Suicide, an official SuicideGirls model. About three years ago I rendered a semi-realistic cartoon of her, and when I thought of doing this current project, she immediately popped in my mind. I am so happy that she allowed me to work with her likeness again. Thanks so much Eirenne! I have many ideas that I want to try in the upcoming images based on Black models, but for this one, being the first, I decided to render a simple yet detailed illustration. It allowed me to work and play more with colors. I erroneously thought working on this new pin-up would be identical to working in what has been my regular line, with a bit of tweaking the color tones and saturation. But I was definitely wrong. If I had done so, I would have ended rendering an image that looked just similar to a Black model, but not quite the real deal. I like to render images that look natural, that look authentic. That does not mean that I achieve that effect every time, but I do try. And this was no exception. It was great to work on Eirenne's image in so much detail, because it allowed me to study and highlight the beauty that she portrays, both due to her persona as well as her ethnicity. And that is the point of my artwork: to celebrate the beauty of women of all colors and figures (something I obviously have not done for many many years).
As always, I want to thank each one of my patrons, for their support month after month. You are part of what allows me to keep working as an independent artist. This post touches a very sensitive subject, and I can imagine not everybody agrees with my point of view. If you have questions or concerns (or comments in general), please do not hesitate to contact me. Speaking of patrons, Patreon will start charging taxes next month... but as far as I understood, that does not affect my patrons, since I do not sell anything. If I missed anything, please point it out, so I can research more about it.
And with that, I am done for today. If you made it here, congratulations, I know that my posts are a bit hard to read sometimes (English is not my first language). Also, a big thank you for reading my thoughts all the way through. And if you did not, no worries, I will give you the main idea/purpose of my post:
BLACK LIVES MATTER. They do. :)
See you next time.
Weekly sketch: Poison Ivee
Weekly sketch: Kitty Ann
Weekly sketch: Helena Danae
Weekly sketch: Eva Davai
Highlights of a decade...
Here I am, already in mid January of 2020, but finally sitting down, writing, reminiscing not only about 2019, but the whole decade of the 10's... 2010's, that is.
Of course, I am not planning to write about everything that happened to me during those 10 years (is that even possible?), but rather focus in one aspect of my life. Specifically: my artwork. Oh, yes, my artwork saw a lot of shifts and changes in that spawn of time. I will not write about everything related to my art during 2010-2020, but rather the highlights of it. Sounds fair? Then come along and walk with me through 10 years of work. :)
* 2010 was marked by three elements. 1) The beginning of a tradition that holds up to this day: my annual Mexican Independence Day pin-up. That year, celebrating the bicentennial of Mexico's Independence, I rendered two new pin-ups with that theme. 2) A running gag of some sorts started to get featured more and more often in my images: the infatuated characters surrounding the pin-up muse, always with googly eyes and their tongues sticking out. Yes, I included those features in previous years, but just scarcely, here and there. 2010 was the year when they became a recurring element. 3) A step up regarding how I rendered my toons: more details on the models and even on backgrounds, starting with the Halloween image for that year, which featured my friend and beautiful muse, Ijsselina.
* 2011 continued with the style from the year before: still rendering cartoons, but focusing on delivering more details. If again, I had to list the elements that defined this year, they would be two. And they also would have a name, since those two elements are two models, two muses, two friends that shaped my work through the inspiration they brought. 1) 2011 was the year when I met Lisa Del Toro, by a mere coincidence, and right away I rendered a toon featuring her, which would soon became the visual emblem of my art. Not long after that, I chose to feature her in the Mexican Independence Day pin-up for that year... and the tradition got even better: since that moment, Lisa became the official muse for my Mexican Independence pin-up, with a new image every year, a tradition that still is alive and counting. 2) After being contacted by Fascinatrix for the first time, I was captivated by her beauty and decided to render not one but five toon pin-ups of her. Each image was a different exercise, always trying to improve my work. Additionally, one of those pin-ups became an instant favorite among many clients of my work, old and new. Up to this day, that image is still a favorite for followers of my art, a true classic.
* 2012 was a very dry year regarding my artwork. In fact, not only 2012 but 2013 and 2014 as well. These years marked a time in my life when I did not want to focus on art, but on anything else instead. Back then I had a part time job (for a short time I even had two), and decided to unplug my mind from art to take a break. I have to mention that even though I was taking a break, I managed to deliver the only yearly holiday pin-ups that I used to render back then: Mexican Independence Day (always featuring Lisa Del Toro), Halloween and Xmas. Plus, the occasional random pin-up, featuring friends of mine as the models. This random pin-ups allowed me to gift my friends with an original design inspired on them, while at the same adding new images to my portfolio.
* In 2015 I got hungry for artwork again, hungry for new images. Needless to say, 2015 was the year when I went back to render several pin-ups per year, instead of the tiny amount from the previous three years. I shifted my attention to pin-ups featuring models from the adult industry, mainly porn stars. Starting with Sara Jay, my portfolio saw a parade of new porn star toons. I went back to pin-ups with no background (except for the holiday illustrations), focusing more intensely on the bodies and expressions of these muses. Even though my images were still cartoons, the details were more accurate, more polished. Additionally, the infatuated characters that I mentioned earlier, with googly eyes and tongues sticking out, became a real staple of my work during this year.
* 2016 saw my toons blend with my realistic work... does that make sense? I started to render pin-ups that, even though they were still cartoons, they also started to lean more towards realism. This meant having (once again) more details, and a greater likeness regarding the face of the reference model. My first rendition of this kind was in the middle of the year, when I did a pin-up based on Lelu Love, a lovely adult performer. This piece marked another step towards realism, leaving my previous style of toons behind... although still being a cartoon. Later on, inspired on mega porn star Kendra Lust, I rendered my first piece in years that did not resemble a toon at all, a straight out portrait. Also, a tradition was born inside another tradition: the Halloween pin-up for this year, featuring my friend and exceptional muse, Seffana, matched the style set by the Mexican Independence Day pin-up and the rest of the holiday pin-ups followed suit. From then on, the Mexican Independence Day pin-up sets the tone for the following holiday pin-ups of a full year. This was also the year when a new pin-up was added to the list of holiday illustrations: Day of the Dead, where I featured Lisa Del Toro (for a double feature that year, along with Mexican Independence Day). Additionally, 2016 was the year when I started to collaborate with porn stars from Mexico's scene, when I rendered a pin-up of the beautiful Mia Marin.
* 2017, this was a very productive year, with many, many pin-ups under my belt. The trends from the previous couple of years continued to manifest: more realism, more likeness to the model, more matching tones for all holiday images (set by the yearly Mexican Independence Day pin-up), more detailed backgrounds for holiday images and no-backgrounds for the rest of them. Plus, more collaboration with Mexico's porn stars as well. Among the notorious aspects of this year, I can mention: 1) Focusing on rendering more nude non-holiday pin-ups, starting with an image based on mega porn star Gianna Michaels, another instant classic. 2) The creation of pin-ups celebrating weed culture, marijuana, 420, etc., through a very exciting and fun collaboration. Five images were created (plus one from 2016) for a line that featured sexy muses from Suicide Girls showing her love for the wacky weed. 3) The holiday pin-ups for 2017 were rendered in the fashion of full illustrations, with more elaborated backgrounds and very detailed elements. 4) The rendering of tons of sketches featuring a mixture of professional adult performers, amateurs, from United States, from Mexico, portrait style, comic style, explicit, non explicit, etc. The goal of doing these sketches was to keep honing my skills, plus spreading the word about my work on social networks, especially Twitter. 5) The Mexican Independence Day pin-up this year had two editions, with two different muses. The first one being Lisa Del Toro as usual, while the second one being Fernanda Sw, a mega porn star in Mexico, who had a huge following on Twitter. I say "had" because Fernanda is now retired from the industry and her Twitter account gone (now she resides on Instagram). However, the effect her support brought to my Twitter account was incredible, and it helped me propagate my work in my natal Mexico.
* 2018 was basically a rerun of the previous year. 1) More realism in many of the pin-ups, with no trace of toons. 2) More holiday pin-ups with a matching style set by the Mexican Independence Day illustration, this year again with two editions. 3) More collaboration with porn stars (from United States and Mexico). 4) More sketches based on porn stars and amateur models. 2018 was also the year when I added a 420 Day pin-up to my official list of holiday pin-ups (hey, we celebrate the holidays of our choice). That list is the most current up to date, which includes: Mexican Independence Day, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Xmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day and 420 Day.
* The last year of the decade of 10's, 2019, saw a smaller amount of images added to my portfolio and no sketches at all. My attention was divided between many projects. Among those projects was my apprenticeship as a tattoo artist, from which I got my license to work as a professional. Still, I was able to render more portraits at the beginning and middle of the year. However, when the time came to set the tone for the holiday pin-ups of the year, I decided to go back to rendering toons, with no trace of realism. Why? Because of the same reason why I decided to render portraits a couple of years before: to tilt the balance in the other direction. I have always seen my art having two different poles: realism and "cartoonism" (nice! I just made my own word). When my works starts to lean heavily towards one of those poles, it is time to tilt it in the opposite direction. Does that mean that I will not be doing portraits anymore? Of course not. It just means that it is time to bring some cartoon fun back.
And just like that, we are in a new year, a new decade (welcome to the 20's!). I look forward to keep creating more art, more pin-ups, be it realistic, toons... or a mixture of both. Cheers for more adventures, more projects, more fun! :)
Pin-up artist by day… and also by night. Well, mostly by night, because night time is my favorite time to paint.