Spotlight on Amy Matthews

Amy Matthews is a freelance artist best known for "CartoonPink", an ongoing series of sexier-than-life illustrations focused mainly on adult industry starlets. For the past two years she's done calendar illustrations for XXX imprint Digital Playground.  The 2011 edition is on sale now.

Babe Lab Disclaimer : Non-proprietary  photos and illustrations featured on Babe Lab appear for the sole  purpose of review.

Babe Lab : Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed on Babe Lab, Amy! It's great to have you with us.

Amy Matthews : Yes! Thank you for discovering my work. It’s fun to be among all of these wonderful artists you have collected here.

BL : Can you describe how and when CartoonPink took root, and how porn/erotica has shaped your take on art and sexuality?

AM : CartoonPink began as naughty little drawings in my sketchbook. I found that using porn as my figure drawing reference was really educational. There are always some very unusual and challenging positions depicted in porn, as opposed to the typical figure drawing poses. My focus quickly became seeing how far I could push the explicit nature of my drawings while at the same time maintaining a sweetness and beauty to the image. As the number of sketches grew, I decided to turn these themed images into something of a collection. That’s where CartoonPink started.

It’s been a way for me to explore a fun subject matter in a style that I enjoy. I like cartoons and I like porn, so it made a lot of sense. I was excited to see that other people were enjoying it too! I think people are a lot more open to sexual images now. After all, you can’t type anything into a search engine without getting something pornographic as an image result. We’re just more exposed to it, so I think we’re becoming a little less shocked by sexuality.

BL : Your work, due to its startling likenesses and exaggerated proportions, could be described as caricature. Do you wince at that word? Have you always had a strength for portraiture?

AM : Why thank you! I don’t mind the term “caricature” at all. Many of the images I have up on my Facebook page are pretty much that; flattering caricatures. That’s mostly because Facebook won’t allow any boobies. Left to my own, I generally don’t worry about the likeness. I just enjoy drawing beautiful images that are loosely based on a reference photo. But since I started working with Digital Playground, I have found myself needing to create recognizable portraits of their contract stars, so likeness is very important. I’ve done illustrations of a few other porn stars for fun as well, but I’m at my happiest when I can just doodle away without the responsibility of making it look just like the model.

BL : How did you build your relationship with Digital Playground?

AM : I had the opportunity to meet with Joone and Sam, the founder and the president of Digital Playground. They had seen my work online and were interested in speaking with me about working together. They are both sincerely enthusiastic and professional people, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with them. To be honest, Digital Playground has been one of the most positive experiences I have had as an artist working for someone else. They are very receptive of new ideas and tremendously supportive. We’re talking about several projects right now. I’m looking forward to 2011 to say the least!

BL : Your MySpace page lists a few artistic influences which are solid to say the least : Barbara Canepa & Alessamdro Barbucci (Sky Doll), Massimilio Frezzato (The Keepers of the Maser), Juanjo Guarnido (Blacksad) and John Willie (infamous fetish photographer and bondage artist). Any more honorable mentions? Do I detect a hint of Dean Yeagle? A Whiff of Wendling?

AM : I JUST discovered Claire Wendling the other day in fact. Very fun stuff! Dean Yeagle is a great master of anatomy. You can actually feel the weight of Mandy when she moves. It’s always fun to discover new artists and see what they’re doing. I try to remain as true to my own style as I can. I have to draw in somebody else’s style when I work on the mainstream projects, so its fun to let loose and do my own thing with CartoonPink.

BL : Photo and video reference, you make clear in your FAQ, is fueling CartoonPink. You wield it deftly, taking healthy liberties with the source material which enhances its spirit and vitality. Do you have any tips as to one how one should interpret reference when they use it? You simplify hands so nicely!

AM : Thank you! Reference is very important to me. I really feel that if I have good reference material then I can do a good illustration. All of the answers are there in the photo, regardless of how I interpret it. Interpreting it through my own style is the easy and fun part; I just sort of translate it in the way that I want it to be seen. That normally means simplifying a lot of things and choosing the right details to replicate. I like simplifying the hands and feet so they don’t become the main focus of the image. Too much detail in hands makes them look old. I like to simplify and beautify the yummy parts too, while maintaining detail in the highlights and shading. As for the backgrounds and props, I generally like to keep those things pretty simple as well so that the main figures stand out... plus I’ve never been tremendously good at drawing landscapes so keeping the background simple is also an easy way out for me. Hee hee.

BL : Let's talk shop. I'm seeing scanned pencil lines, digitally airbrushed. What scale are the originals at, and how do you go about your finishing passes in Photoshop? (masking technique, brushes, layer structure) Do you use your reference to get lighting/color palettes as well? How long do you like to spend on an average image?

AM : Yep! All of my work begins as a pencil drawing. I generally don’t work very big. Most of the time I just work on an 8x10 size paper.

When I scan my drawings into Photoshop, I like to stick with using just a few layers. The bottom layer is my color and shading, the second layer is my drawing (set on multiply) and my top layer is where all of my highlights are. I’ll sometimes add another layer to the very top (also set on multiply) to put some of the pinks back in, on the ears, lips and naughty bits.

As for using selections, I’m kind of random in that department. Some images need careful masking, and others don’t. I use to be reeeally careful and cut out everything when I first started using Photoshop. But now I only roughly cut things out when I need to. Everything can always be fixed and touched up in Photoshop…that’s why we use it right? The other thing I do is that I always apply a mask to my drawing layer. That way I can safely erase any extra sketch lines that don’t look nice. I do like to maintain some sketch lines because I think that helps keep the image from feeling too “computery”.

I only use the photo reference as a visual guide. I don’t pick colors from the photo. I tend to prefer using my own judgment when it comes to choosing colors. Most of the time, I like to pull the color palette back a bit. I like to use mild tones to make the images feel dreamy and soothing against the erotic situation.

Different images take me different amounts of time to complete, but in a perfect world when I’m not juggling other things, I can create a painting from start to finish in a day. Normally, there are other things getting in the way, so safely I can say two days.

BL : If you would, tell us a thing or two about rimlight.

AM : It’s the one thing that I look for in a reference photo! It’s all about the rimlight in my book. It’s amazing what it does to making an illustration feel three dimensional. I always look for images that have it, and when the photo doesn’t I will sometimes try to add ones in that look right. When shooting my own reference material, I always try to include a nice, strong, rim light. It makes things look so clean and shiny. It’s a really fun step to do during the painting process!

BL : You've depicted your share of pornstars. Who's the hardest to draw and why? Have you ever been asked to draw a live subject?

AM : Katsuni has probably been the trickiest to draw. I think Katsuni is sooooo gorgeous and I kind of feel under pressure to depict her in the most flattering way. She has this magically exotic look that’s a bit hard to caricature, because she’s already so overly beautiful. So yes, I would say Katsuni has been the most difficult. But she’s still very, very fun to draw!

I’ve had a lot of people assume that I draw from live models. These are generally people who are not artists, but who have seen that romantic version of the artist portrayed in movies. I’ve attended figure drawing classes, but other than that I don’t draw from live models. I’m all about doing a photo shoot so that I can get THE pose with THE lighting I need in order to do a good painting. That way I can always come back to the illustration later if need be, without the pressure of having a model needing to hang around waiting for me to work it out on paper.

BL : You've a not-understated fondness for women. Do you think being one gives you a sensitivity male artists lack when drawing cheesecake? What are some peeves you have when looking at other artists' work? (e.g. -- "Man, those hands are too big!")

AM : Maybe. Yes, I guess so. I mean, I suppose that I look at women in a slightly different way and that has probably shaped my style. I certainly wish that I could take the airbrush tool to myself! Hee hee. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished that I could digitally edit myself. It’s so much fun making something beautiful and I like to be able to show sexuality in a way that I would like it to be seen, with sweetness, beauty and style.

As far as pet peeves go, most of them have to do with how cartoon porn is drawn. The majority of it is all drawn in an anime or manga style, and though the technical skill is generally good, I just don’t find the characters attractive. It all comes down to personal taste, so I can’t really knock the artists, but I personally don’t like the character designs. So I decided to create my own characters in a style that I like.

BL : Any plans for a collected edition of some kind? Would you ever do (or have you ever done) a comic?

AM : Oh I would LOVE to! I have a few ideas already, I just need to figure out how to do it. I mean, I know how I would put it together artistically but I need to figure out the other side. The printing, the distribution, all of that stuff that isn’t so fun. I’d need to make sure that I wouldn’t end up going broke trying to get a bunch of books published. But yes, the passion is certainly there! I’d love to do several books!!!

BL : What advice would you offer the budding pinup artist, and what, in turn, is your typical reaction to those who disapprove of such subject matter?

AM : It’s a tricky subject when it comes to porn. People are either okay with it or they have a serious aversion to it. So, I just try to focus on the positive and embrace those people who enjoy my work. They’re the ones that contact me, anyway. For other artists that want to get into drawing erotica, I would only suggest that they celebrate their own style and interests. When a creation comes from a sincere place of passion, it really stands out regardless of the subject matter.

Miss. Matthews is currently hard at work on more delightfully naughty illustrations and is gleefully accepting private commissions. is currently finding a new home, but look for more of her work at and follow her on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter!