The va-va-voom: what makes an image sexy?

You can try to break down artists’ techniques for making their images hum with sexuality, but sexiness is elusive, and far more than the sum of its parts. Much of the time it comes down to the simple question of whether the image means anything beyond boobs and a breathless expression.

For Derek Santiago, sensuality is all-important, communicated through lighting, composition and context, as well as something more indefinable: “The image can’t simply be a pretty girl, nude, or implied nude. It does not matter how technical the drawing is, how smooth her skin looks, how realistically her hair is rendered, how great the lighting is... If a subject is not exuding sensuality, the viewer will get bored.”

Arn0’s upfront figures, who gaze at you with an air of playful challenge, have a certain passivity that invites the viewer to take the lead – in effect, they flirt with you. He says: “I try to mix empowerment and style with availability then I take a step back and let it happen... Funny, tacky, clever, perky, sleek, empty. None of the above? It’s for you to decide.” 

For MissLED, it’s all about ambiguity and unexpected juxtapositions; she says that her images are the result of what she calls “my perpetual obsession with contradictions; innocence and power, weight and light, clarity and chaos.” Most importantly, her characters radiate sass and independence, hinting at a clear mind and strong opinions.

She says: “I guess I’m always trying to create the perfect woman. Strong, self-assured, self-effacing, wise, powerfully in touch with her feminine sexuality; and as a friend listed in his provisos for his perfect woman – ‘to look like she’d be able to jump over fences’. That’s pretty much what I aspire to anyway.”