10 artists provoking a pin-up revolution

Pin-up has grown up from its cheeky cheesecake days. These 10 artists express unique visions, passing power back to the ladies.

pin-up rebeca

"Night Porter" part of Rebeca Puebla's Twisted Doll series

The Golden Age artists were creating pin-up paintings for calendars shipped over to homesick GIs during World War II, resulting in flirtatious cheesecake imagery that titilated sex-starved young men.

Today's artists, however, are more likely to make a series of personal images, to be shared online. There are fewer filters to pass through before their art is in front of thousands of eager eyes, giving them the freedom to subvert norms.

Unlike previous ranks of women worshipers, these modern day pin-up artists resist pigeonholing – a loose group of men and women around the world with different backgrounds, interests (other than women), all working in different mediums. In their hands, the genre has never been so exciting.

01. Babs Tarr

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"No Tell Motel" is influenced by the rockabilly look and gritty, pulpy subject matter says Babs

"We get to decide what we want to do, and people get to decide if they like it or not." So says freelance illustrator Babs Tarr.

"Pin-up artists used to be mainly men drawing women for men. Those women were typically depicted with nothing more then a sweet smile and a couple of contextual props."

The artist has a distinctive style and is influenced by rockabilly fashion and gritty subject matter. "The current wave of pin-up artists are creating characters with more personality and power. That power is only enhanced when the piece is created by a woman… things have had to change, especially when you have an audience who now wants to be the pin-up, or at least find a narrative in the imagery."

babs pinup tattoo girl

"Tattoo Girl 2012", Babs is too chicken to get tattoos of her own so she inks her pin-ups instead

She adds, "Pin-ups have a totally magical quality to them. They're a heightened version of us on our boldest, sexiest day. If we choose, we can have this superpower of being a beautiful, intoxicating creature who draws people in, but also conveys an unapproachable ferocity along the lines of, 'Don't get too close or you'll get a punch in the face.' When I capture that in my drawing, I feel I've nailed it."

Babs has created dynamic comic covers for DC as well as working for Hasbro and Disney.

02. Aly Fell

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"Strawberry Swirl" Aly often brings darkness to his female characters

Aly Fell has been creating alluring, attractive and often quite dangerous characters for years, and puts his growing female fan base down to avoiding only passive muses or sexy sluts.

"One of the phrases I hear often is that people see something else going on behind the eyes of my characters. And that's what I want to do," Aly says. "The women in my images are looking out at you saying, 'This is my world and you're a guest.'"

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"Bad Bear Day" This pin-up isn't too keen on her teddy...

The English artist often brings a darkness to his female characters, creating gothic hell-raisers both in colour and personality.

"When I was a youngster, I invented my own female heroine and drew stories featuring her," says Aly. "Jacqueline was her name. She was a pirate, highwaywoman, Arabian princess – all sorts of things."

03. Adam Hughes

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"Repunzel" Adam sets the standard for beautiful comic covers, this one was created for the Fairest series

For Adam Hughes, the Eisner award-winning artist, his primary area of commissioned pin-up art is in comics, "where it's resided for the past 20 to 30 years," though even the mighty comic cover master admits that this has meant he's been out of the loop when it comes to current trends in pin-up art.

His work bears the typical cheesecake tropes, but his rendering of such powerful characters such as Catwoman and Wonder Woman means his work is a far more three dimensional variation on the classic centrefold - Being a superhero provides the eye candy with an instant personality, something early pin-up girls were substantially lacking.

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"Ali Baba" shows Adam isn't just a master of the female pin-up, but of hunky male forms too

With the retrospective 60's feel to his work, it's deeply rooted in nostalgia and has made him one of the most well known and distinctive cover artists in the business.

"Perfection is boring as all get-out," demands Adam. "An interesting juxtaposition of flaws that results in something desirable is more intriguing to me."

04. Melissa Ballesteros

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"Orange Bunny" takes inspiration by the photos of Dan Tidswell yet captures the colour palette of the 60's and the cheeky sexual charm of a playboy bunny

Comics push boundaries in a range of ways - from homosexual marriage to tackling race issues and terrorism; they are also home to plenty of male pin-ups! Mexican artist Melissa Ballesteros believes that, "A guy may look at a cover of Wolverine dressed in a tank top, flexing, claws out, and think, 'Cool, what a badass.' Whereas I might look at the same image and appreciate it on a more carnal level. Male pin-up art is out there – it's just packaged differently."

Melissa's pin-up's have a distinctive comic style and often a cheeky character - from curvaceous rockabilly redheads to sultry playboy bunnies and badass gun-wielding femme fatales, Melissa has captured them all.

05. Daniela Uhlig

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"Tentacle Slap" the German artist takes themes and props from S&M and other pin-up artists

"I love a tattooed and pierced pin-up woman in her bathroom, with her pet octopus, as much as women coming from the worlds of burlesque," says German artist Daniela Uhlig. "What I also find eye-catching and interesting is the melding together of different styles. Especially the mixing of cartoon styles within the classic pin-up form."

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"The Weekly Trinquette" is a tip off to Daniela's cheeky sense of humour

Daniela experiments with styles a lot with her work - from Bettie Boop shaped cartoon pin-ups, to sensual, soft core nudes, realism to posterised styling - there is nothing she cannot master. She is particularly fond of a few tentacles - just like her contempary, Serge Birault (see next page!).

Next page: 5 more artists who are re-shaping the face of modern pin-up art...