This is a post about drawing sexy women.
Obviously, when writing women characters, if the only thing you have in mind is their sexuality, you’re probably going to write a shitty character. That aside though, sometimes you want to draw a pin-up or convey the general sexiness of a character. I know I do.
So here we have three drawings by the inimitable Emily Carroll and three drawings by fan-favorite J. Scott Campbell. Questionable anatomy notwithstanding, Campbell’s women are posed in such a way and their expressions are meant to convey a vulnerable innocence that unknowingly makes them desirable. Many artists (predominantly male) have a habit of putting women on pedestals as unattainable objects of beauty. I know this is meant as a compliment, but it’s also somewhat dehumanizing and reduces a three-dimensional human being to an object of desire.
On the other hand, Emily’s girls, though drawn in a graphic, cartoony style, have a vitality to them that suggests full-blooded human beings. They have knowing eyes, flushed skin, full lips, They aren’t infantalized sex objects, but lusty, passionate women. Their sexuality is under their control, not a result of a “male gaze”. Rather than put them on pedestals, Emily seems more interested in mussing their hair up and fooling around with them. In short, Emily’s ladies are ladies I’d like to know, while Campbell’s are cute but probably not much fun to be around.
So yeah, when I set out to draw attractive women, I’m drawing my inspiration from Emily Carroll rather than the usual run of “good girl” artists.
Excellent advice. People sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between “sexualized” and “objectified,” the latter being the negative element to avoid when portraying a character. There is nothing wrong with a character or illustration that is dominated by sexuality, but if you portray them as an object or infantilize them, you’re not just left with a shallow product but generally a sexist and demeaning one as well.
As is evidenced above, this isn’t an issue of showing more or less skin or anything like that, but a subtler issue of execution and context. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself “is this authentic? Does this feel like a real person?” Illustrators and cartoonists alike should take note.