Seattle Erotic Arts Festival celebrates its sixth year this week with an eight-hour gala—an opportunity to expand your erotic repertoire and bestow some credibility on your chronic public boner. Here's a sampling of the artists you'll be in for, beginning with California-based illustrator Drub, who has cornered the market on "horny homo-punk trash art." His subjects are lanky blue-collar types with smiles on their faces and shaved heads as sweetly bare as their shorn balls.
Your erotic illustrations bear a remarkable similarity to your bio photo. Are you drawing yourself or depicting your erotic fantasies?
I think with most illustrators who dabble in comics and erotica, this stuff pours out of us subconsciously. That said, we see ourselves every day in the mirror and I do draw a lot from experience, so there are recollections of past playmates and activities, but it's not my focus. I'm an avid people watcher and I'll take "mental snapshots" of people's faces for later, um, purposes.
You got your start as a teen drawing jerk-off material for yourself. Are you now able to erotically capture other people and characteristics? Say I had a picture of my vagina spread out on a manhole cover, and I wanted to turn this photograph into a fun, sexy bean-bag toss for my boyfriend's birthday (he loves games). How would you go about eroticizing something you don't find particularly sexy (i.e., my vagina)?
For you and your boyfriend, I might suggest something more along the lines of Candyland, with nicely hung gingerbread men all vying for your honey pot. See? It's a game where everyone wins.
What do you look for in other works of erotic art?
Humanity. Erotic work can come off as clinical, sterile, joyless, or voyeuristic—so I look for things to stimulate me upstairs and downstairs.
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Arizona-based Sarah Clemens works primarily in erotic photorealism. Her subjects range from eco-nudes and fantasy nymphs to laced-up leather chicks.
Exactly how many ways are there to paint a realistic nipple?
Whatever I paint, I try to pose a challenge to myself—like to paint in a different type of lighting than I've ever used or to create different color in the shadows.
There are triggers that we are trained to respond to erotically, such as leather corsets, nipple shots, certain languishing poses, etc., that you incorporate into your paintings. But can you sexualize the blatantly unerotic? If I gave you a picture of myself, topless but wearing a lobster bib and one of those plush airplane neck pillows, and gorging on a bucket of Domino's hot wings, could you make that into something people would pay to masturbate to?
Aha, this is where the subtext comes in! If I could see the shadow of your nipples through the bib, if your mouth was smeared with hot-wing sauce, and the look on your face was ecstatic, it could be very sexual, very erotic. Food has stood in as a metaphor for sex for centuries. In fact, much of what is erotic has to do with iconography or metaphor.
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Seattle-based illustrator Krysztof Nemeth has been creating classic pinups with a modern twist for the past 10 years.
How are your illustrations a modern update of the classic pinup girl?
They create something sexy rather than sexual; it's not about these girls being sexual objects, but rather they are sexy subjects. What they are dressed in, how their hair is cut, how they display their attitude—that is what is modern in my work.
Your pinups depict stylized versions of the same body type: twentysomething voluptuous women with plenty of bounce. Are you exploring your erotic ideal or catering to an established audience?
I've actually drawn about every body type, and I get lots of work for private collectors who enjoy many different body types as their "pinup muses," including male pinups.
How would you eroticize this picture of my 85-year-old grandmother in her favorite purple velour tracksuit that she proudly wears to every family function?
Speaking as an artist, I'd just have to find out how her milkshake brings her boys to the yard, wouldn't I?
She's lactose and rascal intolerant.
Well, with any subject I depict, it's just about finding that one thing that makes him or her sexy and running with it.
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Santa Cruz–based David Steinberg's subjects—like those in the photo above—include couples with disabilities and transgender erotic dancers. Photographs from Steinberg's new book, Divas, will be at Benham Gallery in Seattle March 5 through April 12.
How does your work deal with the way people fetishize transsexuals or disability?
When you fetishize a person, you essentially have a notion in your head and you're using that person to fulfill that notion or fantasy. My goal is to get people to acknowledge these people as they really are.
How do you transcend that objectification?
I don't pose my models. I've taken over 20,000 pictures of divas, and photographed over 150 couples, ages 19 to 73, all body types, sexual interests, and ethnicities. The most challenging and interesting aspect has always been finding a way to help people feel comfortable so they're not creating a performance.
Even unstaged, your subjects are still aware that they're creating erotic art. Have you noticed recurring patterns or facial expressions that people use when they know they're being viewed as erotic subjects?
I tend to photograph faces and hands more than genitals, because there's not much going on down there. For me, the goal is capturing something genuine. Sex isn't glamorous or polished, it's emotional, and we need more images out there depicting that.
Seattle Erotic Arts Festival is on Sat March 1, Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, 6 pm–2 am, $20 adv/$25 DOS, 21+.