When painting pinups, the magic happens in the initial sketch. Once you get good at sketching, everything else just falls in place.
In the old days, artists took anatomy classes and dissected bodies. I won’t go that far. However, I strongly recommend that you know bodies very well.
I’m a damn good masseuse and also was a pretty good wrestler back in the day. Between massage and wrestling, I know what a body can and can’t do. I also know every muscle of the body, every tendon, every major bone.
I know both healing points and pain points. Before mixed martial arts were actually called MMA, I wrestled NHB, which is no-holds-barred wrestling and would attempt to move my opponent’s body in ways that hurt enough for them to tap.
Why this matters
Alright, maybe you don’t want to get into wrestling. That’s totally fine. Not your thing.
Then get into massage. Know a body inside and out. Know how to heal a body.
Masseuses also know pain points. They know what hurts and how to alleviate some of that pain. If you think you can apply this to your artwork, well my friend, you’d be 100% correct!
I’m almost blind. I’d much rather touch than look for obvious reasons. I see nothing without my glasses. You and I could be five feet away from each other and without my glasses, you’re blurry. I literally cannot tell you what you eye color is.
Of course anatomy classes work too. That’s why artists of the old days did them.
I strongly suggest live models. Yes, I wear glasses and yes, with my glasses, I can almost see as well as you can. My eyes are mostly correctable. Correctable enough for me to legally drive. And no, I’ve never caused an accident and I’ve literally driven over half a million miles. I have the reflexes of a cat.
I use two live models – Allie and Roxy. Both are dear friends of mine. For personal reasons, I don’t paint anonymous models. I feel like I have to be emotionally connected to my work for my work to be meaningful.
You don’t have to feel like this. Maybe I’m a weirdo. But that’s how I think. I’m emotionally connected to my work. I can’t put emotional investment in something that is anonymous, so my models either have to be close friends or lovers. That’s a hard rule for me.
Regardless, live models are great. You get to see how a woman sits, how a woman moves, how a woman stands, how a woman walks. You get to see all the muscles move exactly how they can move. And, you get to see the shadowing.
Shadowing is so important when drawing. It gives your drawing depth. And a lot of realism.
For painting pinups
You’re looking for beauty. Paint only the beautiful.
What is beautiful? You tell me. We all have different tastes. There are no right answers, and I can guarantee that if you find a model beautiful, someone else will as well.
But yes, drawing is where it’s at. When I first started painting, I listened to experienced artists. I listened to mistakes and regrets.
You know what stood out to me? I remember explicitly hearing some guy say that he wishes in the beginning he spent two hours drawing for every one hour painting. You know why? Because drawing is where it’s at, especially when painting pinups.
Should you be friends?
Honestly? I think it helps. When sketching either Allie or Roxy, there’s often magic in the sessions. We joke and laugh and smile a lot. Makes the sessions easy.
More importantly, we’re all loose. Pinup art is supposed to be loose. It’s not supposed to be uptight.
If you’re doing pinups, you’re not painting two bananas, an apple, and a bunch of grapes in a fruit bowl. You need to make the painting look alive and that means your model should be relaxed. And more importantly, comfortable with you.
Does she have water? Has she eaten? Is the room too cold?
Paint only the good poses
I’ve taken two semesters of photography in high school and one in college. Unfortunately, a lot of photographers are dorks. These guys get a woman naked and don’t know what to do with her.
It shows in their photography. Whereas, here you got a woman with a beautiful body and the pose is downright awful. “What are you doing?”
Same thing with painting. This is yet another reason I think you should be at least friends with your model. You have an emotional connection.
“Hips out to the right. Just a little more. Now back straighter. There you go, baby! You’re gonna knock ’em dead!”
And remember – positive reinforcement. Don’t be a jerk or else they won’t want to work with you again, even if you’re friends. (And you may not be friends for much longer).
I start with a sketch
In this one, Allie posed. I sketched her. I sketch everything from the lines to the shadows. I’ll replicate the shadows in the sketch when I paint the paintings.
I don’t use any fancy pencils. I just use this pencil called America’s Pencil and it’s an HB2. That’s it, nothing fancy.
This is also why I prefer using hot press watercolor paper. It’s personal preference, but for me, the sketch is the most important part of the process.
Painting is the easy part
I love painting. It’s the most relaxing thing I do. But, it’s also quite easy once you get the hang of it.
Yeah, exactly what that old timer said – spend twice as much time practicing drawing/sketching than painting. You’ll get the hang of painting much sooner than the drawing/sketching.
It’s especially true when painting pinups. When painting pinups, if the drawing is bad, the painting is bad. Period.
I make sure I nail the drawing first before I ink. I prefer inking with a very fine ink pen. My personal preference – Sakura Micron 005. You don’t have to use the same tools as we’re all entitled to our preferences. But that’s just what I use.
So if you’re a new artist, get really good at drawing. Everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry. You’ll get the colors and the painting picked up really fast. That’s the easy part!