Kerry Roper says: “I aim to provoke people – I also aim to create beautiful images.” There are two key tactics that illustrators many employ here: subtlety and exaggeration. He adds that what makes an image sexy can be “anything from the clothing to the pose. Sometimes less is more – suggestive can sometimes be sexier than a purely naked model; [such as] just hinting via powerful images of certain body parts such as lips and legs.”
Paul Oakley (paulogandi.com) creates elegant block-colour silhouettes that are understated yet flirty. He says: “What is left out of image is crucial – I want the image to retain an ambiguity that leaves something to the interpretation of the viewer. This subtlety is very important at suggesting the beauty without becoming overly descriptive, or too sexy or smutty for publication. This is particularly important if the content is required to be a bit risqué.”
His sleek images often feature a single element – such as a glimpse of underwear, or a shoe strap – that transforms the whole piece into something rather raunchier.
Martin Abel (martinabel.com), who creates manga-infused pin-up art, says: “Sexiness in an illustration to me is subtle features.” The face – and particularly the gaze – are vital: “You can never go wrong with a sly, cheeky, sexy facial expression, with her eyes fixated on the viewer.”
He says that pose comes a narrow second: “A dynamic sexy pose, where the curves flow and are exaggerated in the right areas. Directional flow – that’s what it’s about.”
Mood is key to good pin-ups, says Martin Abel. “My characters need to have a cheekiness and mischievousness about them, rather than to just be slutty. I’d like to think they’re more than that.”
Martin likes to balance these subtle features with overstatement – but this doesn’t necessarily mean giving the model Baywatch-grade boobs: “Exaggeration is important to me, but there is a fine line. I like to only exaggerate certain features – eyelashes are my favourite; breasts not so much, all shapes and sizes are fantastic,” he says. “It’s all about exaggerating with a cause. What are the elements of the girl that you want to stand out? What makes her different from the rest?”
Kerry Roper created his A Girl Called Candy series using prostitutes’ calling cards, left in central London phone boxes. He says: “I aim to have a clear thought behind the majority of my work – I like to reward the viewer for understanding and solving the visual clues.”
MissLED’s streetwise femmes fatales sport oversized pouts, huge eyes, or massive, elaborate hairdos. “I think these characteristics – especially eyes and lips, are points of communication as opposed to objectified body parts,” she explains. “I really want to see how far I could emphasise these, without losing the element of sensuality and seduction. I think strong neck and shoulders are important to me, over breasts and bottoms of late.”
As with all good art, the key to making sexy art that works is to have something to say, and to say it well – as Martin Abel says, if your images are nothing more than “eye candy” they’ll just look pervy. “The main thing is, it’s not all about T and A. It’s OK to have some, but it will do nothing if your pencil skills are not sharpened and if you miss those important gestures.”
The vaseline-lensed feel, fleshy colour palette, and breathless-expression combine to ensure this portrait by Arn0 exudes 1970s-style glamour and sensuality.