Know Your Competition

When you do pinup art, you're not just up against the best artists out there (living and dead), nor are you merely providing an alternative to a bottomless well of photography and video.  Your most formidable competition is...women.  Real ones.

Real women are more than just good looking.  They move slinkily.  Rhythmically.  They smell of sugar, spice and everything nice.  Their skin and voices have a soothing softness.  And, as if that weren't ample, they have quirky, adorable personalities that set all of these things off.  To merely showcase women's physical attributes without providing cues to their intellectual or emotional states -- with all you're up against -- is a cardinal sin! 

You Have More Advantages Than You Think

Consider what it takes to find the perfect model, apply her makeup, dress her, light her and direct her.  You can do everything by the book, throw a ton of money at it and still not get the perfect shot. 

With a drawing it's much easier.

Your imaginary models' hair will always be just as you styled it, in just the shape you need to improve your composition.  We're talking models -- plural -- because, as an illustrator, you have ready access to an infinite swath.  All of them will tirelessly perform any action you can think of, in the most graceful and exciting ways possible.  Their virtual wardrobe is endless.  Their voices are never raspy or nagging, for they are ever youthful and optimistic.  They show up on time and work for the cost of some art supplies.  What could be better?

Cameras see exactly what's in front of them, and are basically interchageable.  You see the world through your own unique lens.  No one else is you, so no one else can draw like you.  This gives you an advantage over both your fellow man and the machine.

Reality Bites

Life isn't all it's cracked up to be.  If we were satisfied with things as they are, we wouldn't be interested in pinup art.  It's an escapist pursuit, enjoyed by fellow escapists. 

Things you'll see in real life / photography that you'll never have to deal with in a well-executed drawing :

-unflattering light
-unflattering angles
-unflattering fashion choices
-spotty skin
-stretch marks
-tan lines (depending on your preference)
-unflattering fatty deposits
-unruly hair
-excess hair
-dull poses
-dull expressions
-bad attitudes

A gentle caveat : Though your mind is probably healthier when it's a little warped, don't expect reality to live up to all your fantasies. 

Voyeurism & Mysticism : A Marriage

The only thing more intriguing than seeing what you aren't meant to see is that which is still hidden.  By catching your pinup in the act, you give your viewer an all-access pass to that forbidden moment of intimacy.  But even if your model is completely nude, use the pose, props or light rig to leave something to the imagination.  What you leave out your audience will fill in.  They'll be thrilled to be engaged, both as a fly on the wall and someone who can connect a few dots.

Feel It Out : Drawing As Sensual Massage

Kimon Nicolaides (author of "The Natural Way To Draw") advised his students to feel the forms of their subjects, penetrating deeper with their implements while rounding crevasses and gliding them eeeever so gently over surface contours.  Sounds sexy, doesn't it? 

Imagine how un-sexy drawing would be if we did it like a dot matrix printer, starting robotically from the top and finishing at the bottom.   Mere data.  Imagine if, instead of lovingly caressing a hip with a pencil tip, we raked it accross the page as if we were depicting blades of grass, or cieling tiles or anything else we're indifferent to.  This isn't just your chance to see beauty, but to tickle it, massage it, worship it.  Feel the grain?  Feel where the soft, curvaceous buttock runs into the taut, muscular leg and the many-splendored paths it takes from there?  Feel how it's all connected to a glorious whole? 

If you're not making sweet, sweet love to your drawing -- if you don't fall in love with it AND your subject (even just a little), you're cheating yourself and your audience out of a richer experience.

You're not a medical examiner; you're a masseuse.
You're A Dainty Little Princess

Even if you're a 60 year old, 300 lb man, you'll have to get into the mind and body of a dainty little princess if your wish is to depict one.  While this may seem creepy and embarassing, acting the part is necessary in understanding your subject matter.  If you're already a woman, you have a leg up on male artists.  Two, actually. 

So what does this mean?  It means you'll have to, in the privacy of your own home, strut like a runway model.  You needn't put on heels and a wig, but at least stand on your tiptoes.  You'll have to think like a forest nymphette would, and then see her reflected in your full-length mirror instead of yourself.  It sounds hokey, but it's really only a stretch for the unimaginative.

More important than the visual observations you'll make are the FEELINGS you'll get.  You'll strike a pose and your shoulder will rise to meet your cheek, or your belly will sag, or your back will arch.  You'll feel confident, or you'll feel inquisitive, or you'll feel perky or nimble or invincible or vunerable, etc.  These things, once experienced, will make their way into your pinups and your audience will feel them, too.  This is what's called kinesthesia.

When you use your own body and imagination as reference before resorting to outside sources (photography, hired models), you become actively and mentally involved.  You've taken it to the next level instead of being a quiet observer.

Running With The Wolves : A Sketchpedition

In her book 'The Artist's Way', Julia Cameron extols the benefits of setting "artist's dates" : solo, weekly blocks of time devoted to loading up on inspiration by engaging in playful exploration and/or aimless wandering. 

Tenacious D expressed something similar. "Sometimes you gotta leave your zone of safety.  You have to manufacture inspirado.  You gotta get out of the apartment!  You've got to run with the wolves!  You've got to dive into the ocean and swim with the sharks!"

In an age where information comes to us, it's too easy for the pinup artist to forget that their subject matter is flesh and blood vs. pulp and pixel --  that women and all their vast accouterments exist in the wild, waiting to be discovered anew.  See them in casual settings : cafes, classrooms, malls, parks.  See them in formal settings : nightclubs, weddings, business functions.  See them where you least expect them and make note of their behavior, much like an anthropologist or nature show host, interacting as much or as little as you care to.  Making an ass of yourself is a small price to pay for a stronger drawing, so get the info you need while being as polite as possible.

Walking a dog, eating a hamburger, accepting a diploma -- all these things tell stories and offer suggestions for outfits and humorous punchlines (if humor is your aim).  You don't have to get up-close-and-personal, like a would-be suitor or stalker, but knowing where women are found and how they behave is just as useful as knowing how they appear.  Lifedrawing sessions with nude models and endless reclining poses won't inform your pinup drawing like seeing a costumed belly dancer in action will.  Seek these experiences out (preferably with a sketchbook at the ready), as they're not always the kind you can get in your neighborhood.   

Your Private Dancer

Draw pinups for yourself.  You have your whole career to draw for other people.

Yes, you want your work to have appeal, but if you go with what you personally feel is alluring -- what you know deep down strikes a primal chord -- it will stand a better chance of resonating with others.  We're not all wired so differently.

Come on, no one's looking.  You know what you want to see. Draw that!