and "Naughty" Pinups
Interview by Logan Kaufman
Joe Pekar began his art career doing character design and animation in the field of video games. After deciding that a lifetime of video game design was not for him, Joe turned to his passion of drawing, girls, and computer coloring to create his Naughty Girls. Joe is the author of Naughty Girls Volume 1, Pigtails Volume 1, and Strawberry. A comic book entitled Brandi Bare, and based on one of his pinup drawings is due from Silent Devil Productions in the near future.
Logan Kaufman: Pinup art seems like a very niche market nowadays, whereas in the past you'd find sexy pinup type women in pulps, Outdoors Magazine and everything in between. Do you ever get that "born too late" feeling?
Joe Pekar: Not at all. I'm a big fan of the older pinups, but I like being able to put a modern spin on the subject. Attractive women still show up in all kinds of ads to sell all kinds of products. It just happens that photography has become the popular choice for that as opposed to the painted look from forty years ago. I guess I could always take up photography if I wanted to do that kind of work, but I'm quite content drawing my subjects. Niche market or not, I just enjoy the process and challenge of drawing and painting women.
Logan: Were you aware of other pinup artists when you first got started, or was it a case of enjoying drawing the female form, and then finding out later that people have made a career of doing them?
Joe Pekar: Actually when I first started to focus on drawing girls I wasn't particularly aware of too many pinup artists. Of course I had heard of Vargas and Petty and couple other names, but just on a cursory level. At the time I was working full time making video games and the girl art was just a way to do something different from my daily work. Then one day I found a book called The Great American Pinup and was amazed by the art and artists in the book. From there I started looking at more and more pinup work of various artists and styles and finally realized "this is what I want to do!" After losing interest in working in video games (for a variety of reasons) I decided I wanted to focus my work on drawing women and I've been enjoying my art more than ever.
Logan: What kind of work on video games were you doing? Character design or programming?
Joe Pekar: I was a 3D animator that eventually also became a character modeler and texture artist (and sometime concept artist).
Logan: Did you come into that job from the tech side of it, or were you always looking for some sort of field where you could be artistic?
Joe Pekar: I was at a point where when I was growing up all I wanted to do was draw comics. Eventually I started to realize maybe there was something else I wanted do - so I decided to go to art school to learn computer animation (having never used a computer before that, I figured I should jump on that bandwagon!). It was in school when I got interested in creating art for video games, and thought that might be an interesting career. And it was...for a little while at least...
Logan: What eventually killed your interest in doing video games?
Joe Pekar: Too many people involved in the projects, too many restrictions, too many personalities to deal with...as an artist, I like having the freedom to create whatever it is I want to. Working in a studio environment, working on a game designed by others kind of killed that freedom. Plus at the time my children were pretty young, and coming home late all the time and working weekends just wasn't where I wanted my family life to be. So I figured I'd try and make the move then before it got too late.
Logan: What kind of comics were you into when you were growing up?
Joe Pekar: When I was younger I was into pretty much everything. Though I tended to always prefer Batman over Superman and Dare Devil over Spider-Man. The less "super powers" the better. As I got older I just ended up buying anything if I liked the art. Once I started working in a comic store in the early 90's, I looked beyond just the DC/Marvel superhero stuff. I remember being a big fan of Dark Horse comics. Of course I remember buying all the Image stuff when they started. Ugh. I pretty much stopped picking up comics by the mid 90's though, with just the odd purchase here or there (once again, depending on the artist involved).
Logan: Any particular artists that stood out to you?
Joe Pekar: I had a million "favorite" artists when I was growing up. Blame it on a short attention span I guess... My favorite artist line up used to change regularly. And still on any given day I could come up with five favorite artists, and then come up with a completely new set tomorrow. But for pinup art, I think my biggest influence has been Gil Elvgren. Not so much in his drawing style, but the amount of fun and charm he put into his pinups. I've always been a fan of pinup art that told a little bit of a story, as opposed to just a girl posing for the "camera".
Logan: Were you into emulating styles from artists you liked, or were you doing your own thing?
Joe Pekar: No, I never really tried to emulate anyone else's style. I never understood where the point of doing that helped you as an artist. Why copy someone else's mistakes, when you can have more fun making your own?
Logan: How did you work on developing the craft of your art? Did you work from photos, models or just memory?
Joe Pekar: Well, for me, pinup art should be fun. So I'm always trying to come up with a fun concept first. Unfortunately once I come up with an idea, it's hard finding good photo references for the poses I might need. I really don't have the time to find models, grab a camera and take some pictures...But if I can find a photo in the right pose, then that's great, and I'll use what I can from it. But usually I have to work it out a bit. There are other times where I may find a photo somewhere and I may not be interested in the pose, but something about the lighting will strike me and I'll file it away for reference.
One thing I don't like doing is just drawing a girl to make her look "sexy". Most photos you'll find of girls are just "look at the camera and be sexy" or they just look too posed and not natural for what I want. So those aren't too helpful. For me, there has to be a story element to it, even if it's a small one. I want people to see my pinups and think about them a little bit. "What's she doing? How did she get there? Why is she wearing that? What's going to happen next?" Things like that. I want people to use their imaginations and have fun.
When I was younger I was drawing from figure drawing books all the time to try and learn anatomy, and I'll still go back to them if something's giving me trouble.
Logan: Was digital coloring something you picked up from working on video games?
Joe Pekar: I first learned digital coloring in college. One of the classes I took was an Introduction to Photoshop class. I learned the basics of the program and whatnot. But most of the work I did with Photoshop (and later Painter) in the beginning was for making texture maps for video game models. I then eventually used what I learned in making texture maps, in the coloring of my pinups.
Logan: Before you had learned digital coloring, were you mostly doing pen and ink, or...?
Joe Pekar: I was mostly just doing pencil work with some painting now and then, just for fun.
Logan: Growing up looking at a lot of sequential art in comics and being interested in a story, have you done much sequential-type art?
Joe Pekar: Actually, I'm currently working on my first sequential art in years. Silent Devil comics will be publishing a comic of mine called Brandi Bare in the summer of '07. I haven't really had the urge to do standard comic sequentials for a long time, since I have a really short attention span and I'm not looking to do standard superhero type stuff (at least for now). Plus if I was doing sequential work, I wouldn't want somebody else inking or coloring my work, I'd want to do it all (which I'm doing on Brandi Bare) so it takes me a little longer to do a full page.
I've done some coloring of sequential art these past couple years with mixed results. Some jobs have been a lot of fun, others...not so much... But that has gotten to a point where I only want to color comic work if I like the artist I'm working with and am allowed the freedom I want.
Logan: I take it you had at least toyed with doing sequential art earlier, then?
Joe Pekar: Oh, when I was growing up all I wanted to do was draw comics. I remember drawing all kinds of sequential pages. Most of them were pretty bad - I still have some. Then when I was in my early twenties I realized I was reading less and less comics and slowly lost interest in it, and then eventually found my way into digital art and video games. And now I'm heading back towards comics...ah well...
Logan: What is the story on the Brandi Bare comic? Just from the title, it sounds like it would be similar content wise to your pinup work.
Joe Pekar: Brandi Bare is pretty much a comic based on a few pinups in my Naughty Girls artbook published by SQP. At least that's where the characters started off. Basically it's a story about a girl (Brandi) going off to college with her friends and Bear, her trusted stuffed animal. She'll deal with being away from home, dorm life, and roommate troubles. She'll also find herself in a few interesting situations. Some of the pinups in Naughty Girls will give a few hints as to what might be in store for Brandi and her friends...
Logan: Is this going to be something you'll be doing from time to time, or just a once and done?
Joe Pekar: For now it's just gonna be this one book, but we'll see how it goes. I've got a few more ideas I'd like to try out someday though.
Logan: How did you get to working with Silent Devil? Since SQP published Naughty Girls, it seems like they would have been interested.
Joe Pekar: Actually I met their (Silent Devil's) editor at a few shows and she finally asked me if I'd be interested in doing a comic through them. I had a few ideas and they were giving me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted, so I said "sure".
Logan: Were your "few ideas" of similar themes to Brandi? Silent Devil publishes some darker looking stuff, and another of your interests is zombies...
Joe Pekar: Actually I don't think any of my ideas came close to anything Silent Devil does. I had told Lauren (Lauren Perry, their Executive Editor) that I was only interested in doing a book if I could work some girls into it... And she was cool with that, so away we went.
While drawing a zombie book would be fun, there's probably already too many zombie books on the market. Of course my attention span is so short, who knows, maybe some zombies will show up in Brandi Bare (but don't hold your breath!).
Logan: Now there's a plot twist:. Right in the middle of a sexy pillow fight...zombies! Only people who read this interview would see it coming.
How different of an experience was working on the comic after doing so many straight pinup images? You probably had to draw a lot more scenery and backgrounds than you've been used to...
Joe Pekar: [Laughs] There's a thought...
Oh, it's a big difference doing a comic vs. straight pinups. I hate doing backgrounds. But I'm trying to make the backgrounds fun and colorful, so we'll see how it works out.
Logan: Did you have enough experience with that kind of thing, or were you breaking out the Perspective 101 books?
Joe Pekar: Years ago I used to enjoy doing backgrounds, so I learned about perspective and how to use it...I've just spent the past few years ignoring it...
Logan: How are you collaborating with Jeff Outlaw?
Joe Pekar: Jeff and I have known each other for years. We went to art school together, and worked at a few places together. So he knows what I like to draw. We start hashing out the ideas over Instant Messenger, then he writes down a synopsis and emails it over to me. I edit it here and there, putting in things I know I want to draw (and edit out things I don't want to!). We'll go back and forth on different ideas, until we're both happy with it. He's also there to pester me to keep moving along on it.
Logan: So he is doing a lot of the general plot, and you're contributing dialogue - or is it a fairly true mix on the writing?
Joe Pekar: I think it's a pretty true mix of the writing. One of us will throw an idea out there and then we'll just go back and forth until it works, including plot and dialogue. Then he'll organize it all into a coherent story. If it wasn't for him, there'd be no comic, because there's no way I'd be able to keep my attention span on it by myself.
Logan: Other than graphic novels, have you thought about other outlets for your art? Illustrated novels and such?
Joe Pekar: I treat my art as a continuing work in progress, I like to let it take me where it wants to go. Some years ago I thought I'd be doing animation/video games for my career...so we'll see where this path ends up.