Amy Matthews is the artist behind the erotic digital paintings in the CartoonPink series and the creator of the 2010 and 2011 Digital Playground pinup calendars featuring adult film stars Jesse Jane, Riley Steele, Kayden Kross, Raven Alexis, Stoya, Katsuni, Selena Rose, McKenzie Lee, and Gabriella Fox. After noticing that my previous features on her work are now among the most popular articles I’ve ever written, I figured it was time to track her down for a proper interview…
Sarah Estrella: For my readers who are new to your work, can you put what you do into a larger context of pinup art and explain how your work is different from the rest of what’s out there?
Amy Matthews: There’s a lot of pinup art out there in the world, and there’s a lot of cartoon porn out there too. What I try to do in my work is to merge the two in a unique way. I wanted to see stylized erotic images that turned me on, and I was having a difficult time finding work that I enjoyed. The cheesecake stuff is often very well drawn, but never explicit…and the explicit stuff is rarely well drawn. So, I gave it a shot and started creating my own images in a style that I enjoy. The goal with CartoonPink is to create explicit images that retain a sweetness and a prettiness to them.
Who were some of your early influences, and which other artists most inspire you now?
I really like the SkyDoll graphic novels. The cover illustrations touch on where I wanted to go with CartoonPink. Ashley Wood’s more erotic images have also inspired me, as well as Massimiliano Frezzato’s “Keepers of the Mazer” books. I grew up on Disney films, so there’s definitely an influence there as well, and when Pixar started doing its thing I realized just how exciting a three dimensional cartoon character could be!
Can you tell me a bit about your own art background and education? I’m imagining some nude figure drawing class lighting a spark in you…
Hee hee. Actually, it all started after college was over. I have done lots of mainstream illustration work and it was just getting kind of boring. I would do practice sketches in my sketchbook as my own little figure drawing class. But when I started using porn as my reference material, I found it really challenging because of the unusual perspectives and positions of the models. It was also a challenge to make them look cute and sweet in such explicit situations. These drawings were the beginnings of CartoonPink, and when I decided to bring these images to full colour illustrations, that lit the spark in me to consider tuning this into a complete project.
I notice that CartoonPink.com is down, and I know you’ve had to do some extra work to be able to present safe-ish-for-work versions of your art for Facebook and MySpace and even for somewhat mainstream articles like this one. Google+ is also turning out to be unfriendly to NSFW artwork. I’m curious: What do you make of this trend in social networking to shut out adult material? How do you think erotic artists, writers, and performers can carve out space for themselves within these restrictions? Why is it important to you to maintain, say, a Facebook presence for your work, even given all the restrictions?
It’s frustrating for sure. It amazes me how we can live in such a sex-saturated world yet be so censored at the same time. I’m really hoping to get CartoonPink up and running before long so that people can see my uncensored images and keep up to date with all of my new illustrations. If I can provide people with a way to see every image I create in a forum where they can also help me to continue doing them, then it’s good for everybody…and the censorship of these social networking sites will have actually helped to push people to my website. We’ll see. I think it’s important right now to have a Facebook page because it’s a way to bring my work to people and allow them to share my work with others. It’s advertising, really…but it’s also fun to hear from people who like my art. I’ve also met some really enthusiastic and wonderful models through Facebook who have inspired my work. The down-side is the fact that many people assume that I just create cartoon portraits since I have to crop my images so tight in order to hide the naughty parts.
Can you tell me about some of the artistic choices you make as you’re working on an image? Maybe walk me through a recent example?
Sure! When I start an image, I first begin with photo reference. I find or shoot an image which inspires me, and I begin imagining how I’m going to interpret it as an illustration. Sometimes I know that I’m going to put some extra work into the background and sometimes I know that I’m just going to focus on the figures. I have that in mind when I begin my drawing. Next, I put pencil to paper and start drawing. If it’s an illustration of two or more characters, I don’t attempt to draw them together. I will do a drawing of the first figure, and complete her on her own. Then, I will move on to the other figure on a different sheet of paper. With photoshop, I can assemble them together as well as make any changes I might need to fit them into place, resize them and make them work together. This is so freeing, since it can be quite the challenge to draw two interacting characters in one go. As I’m drawing the figures and the faces, I am always refining what I am seeing in the photo and interpreting it in my own way. My anatomy is far from realistic, so I’m able to break the rules to push and pull the shapes in a way that I find attractive. But it’s from the reference photo that I can make these decisions because when I’m looking at the models in the photograph, I can identify what bits and pieces I already like and what parts I don’t. Little adjustments can make a huge difference, and I do the same with the faces as well. It’s a bit more difficult when I am attempting to create a “portrait” of a particular model. When I have to make it look like her, it takes a bit more work because there’s less wiggle room for interpretation. When I’m just drawing a pretty face based on a photograph, I have far more freedom to change her it in any way that I wish. I prefer working that way simply because of the artistic freedom.
[Editor’s Note: Check out the slideshow at left for a step-by-step look at Matthews’ creative process, from pencil sketch to finished digital painting]
Once I have my drawings done and I have scanned and assembled them in the computer, I begin to paint them. I will put all of my base tones down, underneath my drawing layer. It’s sort of like painting an animation cell. I want to retain all of my pencil lines to use as a guide. Once the base tones are in, I start painting in all the shadows, to gradually darken the tones to where they need to be. The last stage, which is always the most fun, are the highlights. This is done on top of my drawing layer so that I can cover up anything that I want and really pull out the bright highlights.
My goal is to create hyper realistic cartoon characters. By keeping the figures exaggerated and cartoony but painting them in a detailed and realistic way, I’m able to create a level of believability with my illustrations that I hope is effective in increasing the eroticism of the image. If the viewer can believe in the image, then I think it’s more likely that they will feel an erotic pull to it as well. That’s the really fun part!
There are no men in the Cartoon Pink world (as far as I’ve seen anyway), with all the emphasis on solo girls or lesbian scenes. Can you talk me through that decision?
Well, those are the images that I tend to get excited about because I can see the beauty coming through. It’s really important to me to maintain a sweetness and beauty to my illustrations. I see a lot of cartoon porn out there which leans in the opposite direction. Genitals are overly red or drawn in a very jagged style. Monsters raping schoolgirls. Lots of veins. These are not images that I personally find attractive. I’m attracted to muted colours, dreamy images and cute faces. So, I tend to lean towards a very traditionally feminine style, even though I’m drawing very naughty situations and explicit angles. I don’t know that I would be able to maintain that feeling if I were to include men in my illustrations. I think that changes the energy of the scene. I must also confess that I am not very good at drawing men, and I am pretty good at drawing women. So, I’d rather just avoid it altogether and do what I enjoy doing in an attempt to create the best illustrations that I can.
Who’s your favorite performer (currently working in adult entertainment) to draw, and why?
Oh my goodness, that’s really hard to say. I actually go through “crush” phases. I’ll discover a performer and just have to draw them and then I’ll discover someone else and have to draw them. There are so many who I would love to draw and I have a feeling that the inspiration is pretty endless in this genre…which is great! I recently discovered Madison Scott, who I want to paint more of. She has this great, round face which is really fun to draw!
I love your artwork and find your depictions of women quite erotic, but your work is also cartoonish and exaggerated — hence “CartoonPink” — sometimes to the point of caricature. I notice the women are always skinnier in your images than in the source images you’re using for reference, for example, so that this idealized version of femininity we see in these porn stars is rendered into an even more hyper-idealized and unrealistic form in your artwork. Do you ever worry that there is danger in promoting this unattainable version of female beauty? I know a lot of your fans are women — count me in — but it is still on my mind: Have you had to answer to feminist critics for these cartoonish exaggerations?
It’s a fantasy, to be sure. I know that, and I’m not trying to promote anything unhealthy. Even the situations themselves are fantasy. That’s what makes it fun! The CartoonPink girls only exist in digital form. If I could enter myself into a computer and make the necessary changes I would! I think we all would! But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the world as it is, or people as they are. If someone’s going to feel threatened by a cartoon character, then they’re going to have a lot of other issues as well. There are always going to be people who are offended by a wide variety of things. I just like to focus on the people who enjoy my work and recognize it as the fun fantasy that it is, inspired by the beauty and eroticism of the female form.
A lot of people have been discovering your work thanks to the 2010 and 2011 pinup calendars featuring the Digital Playground contract stars, and a quick search engine inquiry will turn up lots of your images of other well known porn stars, but I understand you also take commissions — Can you share with my readers a bit about how to go about getting more personal custom artwork from you? It sounds like an awesomely sexy gift idea! Is your approach any different when you’re working on these commissioned pieces than when you’re working from professional porn imagery as reference material?
Doing custom images is fun. It’s exciting to bring these illustrations to life. The most important element in creating these custom images is the original photograph. Being able to work from a good photo is crucial, but it doesn’t mean that you have to hire some expensive photographer to provide me with a usable image. In fact, it’s the high end studio photographs with perfectly even lighting that often ends up being a problem for me. Glamour photography is good for the model, but bad for the artist. I like shadows and highlights because it’s what makes the figure feel three dimensional. As long as the model is in an interesting pose and the lighting is interesting, I can create a good painting. I have a whole section on my Facebook called “Hiring Amy” which outlines the process. It’s pretty simple, really. If anyone is interested, feel free to take a look and contact me!
What are you working on at the moment? Can we look forward to a 2012 Digital Playground calendar?
I’m in the process of generating lots of content at the moment. I’m not working on a calendar, but I am creating some of the best work that I have done so far. It’s been really fun to be able to get so much work done and find my rhythm while I am inspired to do so. I can’t wait to share these images with my subscribers once I get CartoonPink up and running! Wish me luck!
For information on ordering uncensored nude prints or commissioning custom portraits by Amy Matthews, check her out on Facebook.
Don’t miss Sarah Estrella’s other Sexy Art reporting! For the latest Sex & Relationships headlines please subscribe to this column (above) and follow @Sexaminer on Twitter.