Influence, Inspiration, and Homage

When I began to study pin-ups in earnest, it was no different than studying all the other great illustrators that line my library shelves. The best were astonishing craftsmen and there was much to learn. But pin-ups needn’t exist in a vacuum, especially where there are specific characters to portray, and other worlds to depict, however fleetingly.

Below is a selection showing the inspirations for the new calendar and my finished paintings:

Patricia Briggs and George Petty

I grew up never knowing about Petty, but I admired the work of his less-expensive replacement Alberto Vargas. For all his skill, Vargas never surpassed the man he’d been hired to emulate. Petty was so famous in his day that Hollywood made a film called “The Petty Girl”. His style often involved the use of contours painted as vermillion watercolor outlines – even when they overlaid or interacted with a fully-painted figure. The discovery of Petty’s work was one of the reasons I wanted to reconsider the Pin Up, and the satisfaction of those red lines cannot be understated.

I also altered my signature in homage to the great man.

Calendars and Auto Repair

Calendars and Auto Repair have gone together since the very early days.
Because Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson is a mechanic, I wanted to create an old-school garage calendar that would (as nearly as possible) match the format of those classics where a single pin-up would be printed on a tall piece of thick cardstock and a block of 12 thin pages would be affixed below the painting for the months.

In this case, I used a permutation of Dan Dos Santos‘ logo design for Mercy’s shop (as seen on the cover of her book Iron Kissed) instead of the simpler type designs that most garages had back in the day. I made up the motto below her feet, and was delighted to find that the quote Briggs chose above was also about trust.

N. K. Jemisin and Noah Jemisin

Oree is a blind painter, an artist who sees magic and makes her own.

In this case, the artist whose work Oree’s most resembles in style and substance is that of author N. K. Jemisin’s own father, Noah.

But rather than the wonderful scenes and subjects Noah has painted, I wanted to do something that would resonate with the setting, and what better than an impressionist gloss on the cover to the very book Oree hails from – The Broken Kingdoms?

I would never have have thought to include anything like great American Impressionism in a pin-up calendar, but for N.K.’s descriptions and suggestions.

I love watching people’s expressions when Jemisin’s pin-up opens in front of them.

Terry Pratchett and Gil Elvgren

Because Terry Pratchett didn’t ask for a specific character to be portrayed, I had my fun at the expense of the Unseen University of Ankh-Morpork. I didn’t attempt a direct homage with a particular pose, but the legacy of Gil Evgren clearly informs the piece.

And while I didn’t ask model Clare Grant if she was familiar with Elvgren’s work, she embodied its spirit brilliantly:

Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Maguire

Ray Bradbury was my hero – my favorite author. Forever.

It was my amazing pleasure to speak with him many years ago in Atlanta, and an incredible honor to have him among this year’s authors.

Both Bradbury and Maguire came up in the wonderful world of pulp, and when I learned that Bradbury had chosen Fahrenheit 451 for his pin-up, I just instinctively felt that Maguire was somehow the right artist to guide my approach. The painting is informed not by a specific piece, but by a mood, a period and a focus. Like so very many of the artists I admire, the culture they worked in didn’t allow much room for cultural or ethnic variation, but I hope this piece would please both men.

Robin Hobb and Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

Malta, the amazing woman portrayed in the calendar, is part dragon. She’s tall and thin, and partly scaled. And she has a comb like a chicken. She’s so unique there isn’t even fan art of her!

But in painting her I dredged up my memories of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema. I didn’t break out my books, but there was really only ever one painter whose work was all about marble, silk and that certain sort of fantasy high life that got Alma Tadema derided in his time as a painter of “Victorians in Togas”.

One painting in particular ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus‘ proved an important inspiration, though my petals are intended more as festive confetti than the lovely implements of torture and death Alma Tadema intended.

Jacqueline Carey and Gustav Klimt

Phèdre nó Delaunay is not Austrian. And Klimt never knew Naamah’s service. But the sort of luxe and deeply romantic European milieu that Jacqueline Carey so beautifully describes could really only summon that lover of ladies and gold leaf – Gustav Klimt. Again, I didn’t break out any books or reference, but the goal was clear as finest crystal. And Klimt’s incorporation of geometric forms gave me a similarly clear view of how to incorporate the calendar page.

Peter S. Beagle and Alphonse Mucha

Art Nouveau was known as the “Cult of Nature”, so what better style for ‘The Last Unicorn’ herself?

And what better practitioner of the art than Alphonse Mucha?

I started this piece more outlined than it finished up, but I had Mucha in mind throughout. The iron work of the frame around the pin-up and of the Portcullis of the calendar page below it are entirely inspired by his work.

Charlaine Harris and J.C. Leyendecker

This is an homage, plain and simple.

And the piece in question is one that others have famously homaged before (Alex Ross‘s painting of the Joker and Harley Quinn is probably the most famous).

Where Harris’s True Blood characters are well known, Leyendecker’s aren’t. He was in many ways the best and most important illustrator of the last century, and his Arrow Collar Man was to his sex what the Gibson Girl (and later, the Petty Girl) were to hers. But for all that Leyendecker invented or popularized our conception of Santa Claus, the Baby New Year, the trademark look of the Saturday Evening Post – for all that he basically invented Psychedelia in 1934 – for all that he was neighbor, beacon and teacher to Norman Rockwell (who would take his place at the Post) – for all that, he was nearly forgotten. And why? Because he was gay, because the Arrow Collar Man was his lover and muse, and because Rockwell made sure that the public kept its attention firmly on Rockwell. Happily Leyendecker is being rediscovered, and his name and work restored. I hope I am doing my little part for that reclamation….

But whether or not I think Leyendecker a genius (I do), this scene of Sookie and Quinn in their specific raiment at this particular point of a party rapidly turning into a battlefield from Definitely Dead just cried out for this specific homage.

I hope this brief look behind the scenes has been as fun for you to read as for me to compile. If you’d like to order the calendar (benefiting Worldbuilders and Heifer International), please do so at The Tinker’s Packs web site.

 

2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Neil Gaiman

Media is the message.
We are the Media.
And she is us.

Be afraid.

A year ago, my literary pin-up calendar was published by Pat Rothfuss’s wonderful charity Worldbuilders.
I sent a print from that 2012 Calendar to Neil Gaiman with a note that read something like:

“Dear Neil,
Please consider this year’s calendar a proof of concept. But instead of dead authors who cannot defend themselves, I’d like to make the 2013 calendar all about living authors*. I thought it would be especially apt and lovely if Amanda Palmer wanted to be Miss Neil Gaiman. Please let me know your thoughts.”

He did:And when she returned from Down Under, she did.
And there was much rejoicing.

But having a model before having a concept is unusual.
Who, among Neil’s roster of splendid characters, would we cast Amanda as?
Amanda as Yvaine? As Coraline? As Door? As Delirium? As Death warmed over?
No.

There were these photos to be taken into account:No matter how much fun it would be to have her play any, or indeed all those characters, Media was simply too powerful not to get her way.
Media is the message. And of all the curious forms of media communication, the Gregorian Calendar is one** of the strangest (Why not 13 months of 28 days? Why an ever shifting number of days?? With leap years!?!). Our calendar is the QWERTY keyboard of time. Sure, it works. But there ought to be a better smarter way.

As anyone who understands the history of the Hays Code or has wrestled with the arbitrary restrictions of iambic pentameter knows – restrictions of form can lead to happy accidents.
In the case of 2013, the month of June starts very late in the week, and the money quote from Media is an exchange she has with Shadow.
And since Neil is no stranger to sequential art… why alter the text when one could simply do it in comic form?And how would we arrange to get the reference shots we needed in a timely fashion?
Happily I was invited to Readercon in Boston this year, and so was my friend, photographer extraordinaire Kyle Cassidy. Both of us were on hand to participate in a remarkable storytelling experiment with Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear.
I named it ‘Dismembrance’ and somehow that’s how it stayed:

Kyle and Amanda go way back, even before he worked on the felicitous Who Killed Amanda Palmer book, and their collaboration continues apace (See: Yesterday’s Doctoral Dissertation).When we talked strategy I learned that he had already scheduled a photoshoot with Amanda in September. So if I could just get him a rough, he could shoot reference for me remotely.
Voila.Kyle and Amanda were good as gold and the reference photos came magically through the aether. Illustration reference is a different beast than “normal” photography in that I used no fewer than 5 of his 26 photos to inform the finished painting.
Some weeks later, the whole thing was done. I hope you like it.

Neil and Amanda and Kyle have kindly offered their time not just in the service of a nutty arty idea, but of a great charity. The calendar is currently available at Worldbuilders’s online store for preorder; all the profits go to Heifer International.

“Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth through the gift of animals. By giving families a hand-up, not just a handout, they empower them to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity, but their approach is more than that. By bringing communities together and linking them with markets in their area, Heifer helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty.”

* Sadly, Ray Bradbury did not live to see the finished calendar, but we are so honored that he agreed to be part of this project.

**Tom Lehrer famously noted forms still stranger: “postcards, neckties, samplers, stained-glass windows, tattoos, anything!”

2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Jacqueline Carey

This past week Powell’s City of Books hosted Jacqueline Carey’s reading of her new book, Dark Currents.

After the entertaining reading (and a ‘twitchy tail’ drinking game) Jacqueline answered questions from the audience. While the majority were precise and obscure questions about histories and locations from her series, there were members of the audience (unaware of my presence) curious about Jacqueline’s participation in the literary pin-up calendar so Jacqueline and I shared the background story, handed out 2012 calendars, and gave the audience sneak peaks.

Which leads me to the unveiling today of Jacqueline’s pin-up, the glamorous and heroic international courtesan Phèdre nó Delaunay:

This past week also saw news of the calendar make the rounds including stories in the Huffington Post, the Escapist, and the Guardian of London. It is exciting to see it get a wider audience, especially since it is all for charity!

You can pre-order the calendar at the Tinker’s Packs.

2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Patricia Briggs

My early summer trip took me through Washington’s Tri-Cities to northern Montana on the way to Glacier National Park: werewolf territory according to Patricia Briggs‘ Mercy Thompson series. This pin-up of Mercy was inspired by the idea of strength and competence with beauty, brains, and a whole lot of muscle – “a modern ‘Rosie the Riveter’” in Briggs’ words. This is a girl who can take care of herself, and you’d be lucky to have her working on your car. It was a delight to paint her. And moreover to create an old-school garage calendar. Not only matching the format of those classic pieces as best I could, but riffing on the style of Pin-up great George Petty.

I grew up never knowing about Petty, but I admired the work of his less-expensive replacement Alberto Vargas. For all his skill, Vargas never surpassed the man he’d been hired to emulate.

Petty was so famous in his day that Hollywood made a film called “The Petty Girl”. His style often involved the use of contours painted as vermillion watercolor outlines – even when they overlaid or interacted with a fully-painted figure. The discovery of Petty’s work was one of the reasons I wanted to reconsider the Pin Up, and the satisfaction of those red lines cannot be understated.

Patricia Briggs’ new book of Mercy’s adventures, “Frost Burned” is coming out in March 2013 with a beautiful new Dan Dos Santos cover. His Mercy cover for “Iron Kissed” is my favorite and in my opinion one of the best covers of the last decade.

You can pre-order calendars at The Tinker’s Packs. And stayed tuned for next week’s unveiling of Jim Butcher’s pin-up!