Behind all great comics there are great artists bringing the stories to life. In fact all films and ideas come from paper first. Artists are hugely important in nerd world but what about in the land of pinups?? Well yes there are pinup artists out there! I came across the work of Melanie from Madams Pinups at Bristol Alternative & Burlesque Fair and fell in love with her work. To see an artist producing pinup art in so many different ways, prints, paintings, homewares and incorporating burlesque, film, comics and more just ticked all boxes of interest for me which is why I need to introduce you all to her and show you her incredible work. Take a read of my interview with Melanie from Madams Pinups below to learn more and grab your special discount code!
How long have you been a pinup artist and how did it come about?
|Oooh! What A Lovely Pair|
Madams Pinups began at the beginning of 2013, shortly after I got married and became Melanie Adams. (hence Madams Pinups!) For around 10 years prior to that I had been painting ‘pinup’ based fairies but felt my girls, as I call them, were becoming more pinup and less fairy. Pushing my art towards an actual business venture rather than hobby / source of pocket money came after forgoing my job as an Interior Designer due to relocation. It seemed like various aspects of my life were converging to push me towards new beginnings and I haven’t looked back since.
What mediums do you use for your artwork?
I’ve always been reasonably creative and dabbled in most mediums, but for most of my professional artistic life I have been a watercolour artist. Though I do have an A-level in Art, I only ever painted one piece at school as was told “paint is not your medium”! Years later, that comment still haunted me so I decided to pick up the same paint palette I had used back then and teach myself to be a better painter. I still learn something new with each painting I do. More recently I have found that my years of reading graphic novels have finally crept into my work and have been doing more comic book style ink drawings which I am really enjoying exploring.
Can you tell us some of the pinups you have drawn?
I have a very broad view of the idea of pinup so my works include paintings based on women from Bettie Page and Tempest Storm to Edward Scissorhands and Catwoman! To me all my girls are pinups, even if they are not based on expected pinup themes. Part of what I love about traditional pinup is the cheeky, playful side of the girl next door and the tongue in cheek humour. Many of my works have pun-based titles, Such as “Oooh! What A Lovely Pair” (two pinups sitting on a crate of pears) and “Sheer Eggstacy” (an homage to the works of Elvgren with a sheer-stockinged pinup sitting atop a hoard of Easter eggs!) I also love my “Tattooed Venus” which is my interpretation of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” starring the very fabulous Coco Fierce rising from her clam shell, tattoos and all.
Who are your personal pinup icons?
Since I was about 11 I have been obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. My teenage bedroom was a shrine to her and I still have over 50 books on her. In the early days I was just hypnotised by her beauty but as I read more about her as a person the fascination came out of knowing that from incredibly humble roots she transformed into an actual real life Goddess! Growing up in a Yorkshire mining town the glitz of Hollywood and the glamour that came with it seemed like an alien and unachievable concept, but Marilyn really was a girl next door transformed. It wasn’t really until I discovered the burlesque world that I realised there are women the world over who are doing exactly that on a daily basis and I love them for that. We all have a pinup hidden inside us. I also have huge girl crushes on Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson and more recently drag superstar Violet Chacki! I love that they are all pinup chameleons and no matter what style they choose that day they rock it hard! If I had to body swap anyone though it would probably be Christina Hendricks J
Where do you get your artistic inspiration from?
(Winner Miss Pinup UK 2015)
Anywhere and everywhere! Anything from a beautiful girl on the street, Instagrammers, to photos I snap whilst out and about of architecture, fabrics, flowers, these things often find themselves seeping into the faces of my pinups or the patterns in their costumes, colour combinations etc. My Pinterest boards get bigger every day! I’m a big music fan too and often my current listening shapes the final outcome of a painting. It also helps that I spend an awful lot of time immersed in the burlesque world. As an artist you’re never short of influence surrounded by all those sequins, feathers and sheer abundance of beauty in all shapes, sizes and skintones. I have a pretty varied taste in other pinup artist’s work too. I adore Vargas and Elvgren for the traditional pinups but love Olivia and Soryama for contemporary stuff. I’m also pretty obsessed with the art in pulp fiction book covers, particularly Robert McGinnis, his women are always such badasses! As a comic lover I also fan-girl pretty hard over the work of Michael Turner and Steve Morris’s Buffy covers are astounding.
What kind of commissions have you taken on?
Most of my commissioned pieces have been from new burlesque performers wanting logos. I love working on these at it’s great to drill down to the nub of who and what they want to be as a performer and trying to translate that into a single image which most people will only ever see as one inch square on a social media profile! I also do a lot of private commissions for non-performers, especially bridal pieces as saucy gifts for hubby or as a cartoon version of the bride which I then print onto satin robes as hen party gifts. I also love supporting other women’s ventures and every year offer a free commissioned artwork to the winner of Miss Pinup UK run by Rio Wild and of the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival’s Legend In The Making competition. Heidi Bang Tidy and Lady Wildflower who run the event do so much for the burlesque industry, female entrepreneurs and any woman that happens to enter into their sphere that anything I can do to support them feels like an honour.
Do you prefer working in colour for black and white?
Almost all of my favourite photographs are black and white yet as an artist I would have to say I prefer to work in colour as I love how the choice of colours changes an image. More recently I have been working in monochrome as I have been working on a burlesque colouring book. Whilst I have found it hard not to shade the images or colour them in any way I am looking forward to seeing the colour choices people will make for themselves.
Bombshells In The Rain
|Wonder Woman Goddess|
I am a nerd! Growing up in the 70’s my first encounter with any superhero was Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman and whilst she was kind of campy and fun she was still fascinating to me. I loved the dichotomy of this creature embodying enchanting beauty whilst intellectually foiling schemes and kicking ass like Bruce Lee! I’ve now read a lot of the written versions of her story and she has a great mythology. It’s great seeing how different artists see her and how she is finally starting to be drawn as the Amazonian muscular woman I always pictured her to be. I’m very excited that October 21st has been designated as International Wonder Woman day!
Fun pinup fact; at the turn of the 20th Century as a rebuff to the European idea of beauty the ‘Gibson Girl’ was created. She was an illustrated idealisation of the perfect American woman; she was statuesque, had an hourglass waist and carried herself with a nonchalant confidence. One of the main artists to prolong the Gibson Girl image in the popular press was H G Peter who went on to draw......Wonder Woman!
I’m also a huge Witchblade fan (I have every issue) though I felt the bones of a great female character were never 100% fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. I’m hoping that one day she will get a rebirth and be more fully realised. I love a bad girl too so Catwoman is pretty high on the list, you have to respect a woman who can bring Batman to his knees! I’m also totally spellbound by Harley Quinn. At first glance she’s just a wise cracking hottie but her back story is so full of conflict, trauma and depth. She’s a very interesting and complex character from a sociological point of view, wrapped in a great looking, honest and hilarious package, she’s kind of the perfect comic book character for me.
Have you ever drawn any of the DC Bombshells or Comic/Film characters at all?
I have been doing a few fan favourites lately, such as Catwoman, Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy ahead of trading at more comic-con events next year. As a massive film buff, especially horror films, I have also been inspired to paint Morticia Adams, a gender bent Edward Scissorhands (thanks to burlesque performer Kitty Noir) and a piece called ’Nancy’s Nightmare’ which features Nightmare On Elm Street’s Nancy, now Mrs Freddy Krueger atop a blood splattered bed with the infamous glove! Even pinups can have a dark side!
Would you ever do a comic bombshell series??
With Great Boob Comes
I know you have drawn burlesque performers before, who have you drawn so far?
One of the earliest instances of my swing from fairies to pinups was my portrait of Dita Von Teese. She’s such a pinup icon and a true legend of burlesque. In the original version of my painting she has wings, but now I sell prints of her minus the wings. I have also been fortunate enough to have met and been given permission to paint modern greats like Anna Fur Laxis, Dirty Martini and Immodesty Blaze whose piece I embellished with 500 Swarovski crystals. All of them now own their artworks. Last year I was lucky enough to meet Tempest Storm who loved that I had painted her sitting a tea cup and enjoyed my punny title (Tempest Storm In A Teacup) and I was amazed I was wearing a self-made dress with the image on. It’s a very special moment for me to have the muse seem so pleased with the final product though I do get very star struck and usually end up being a gibbering idiot! One day I’d love to do another portrait of Dita, this time based on a wholly original pose and hand it to her in person.
|Dita Von Teese|
|Me presenting Tempest Storm with a |
chiffon scarf with my art on
What makes a good pinup model for artwork?
There are loads of models out there who can pull a great ‘pinup’ pose but the ones that draw my eye are those with that little bit extra. It could be a glint in the eye, a cheeky attitude or a quirky pose. I have always used photographs rather than live models as references but as I’ve developed as an artist I rarely stick to just one photo. It seems disrespectful to essentially ‘copy’ the great work the photographer and model have done together, at least without credit. Often I take three or four photos and blend them to get the pose I have in mind and then get creative with costume, props etc. I do have a lot of friends now who are professional models and they have been kind enough to pull the occasional crazy pose for me so I guess the best quality in a model is lack of fear to look a bit daft sometimes.
Can anyone be a pinup model?
Whilst there are an awful lot of beautiful women out there it takes more than beauty and Betty bangs to make a great pinup model. To me pinup is an attitude rather than a specific aesthetic. So whilst I adore the traditional pinup style of someone like the classically beautiful porcelain skinned Scarlett Luxe I’m also drawn to the more edgy looks of someone like Masuimi Max. You only have to look at pop-culture through the ages to see how our preferences in beauty have changed but there’s no doubt that Jean Harlow, Sophia Loren and Beyonce are all perfect pinups in their individual ways. I do believe that in every woman there is a pinup trying to get out. For some it seems effortless, for the rest of us mortals it takes a team of MUH artists, serious underwear and a great photographer to bring her out, but trust me she’s in there somewhere.
What is your most popular piece?
Trading as much as I do at burlesque events it’s no surprise that my Dita Von Teese portrait is a long standing favourite. However she is now being given a run for her money by my comic book styled “With Great Boobs” picture, but then who doesn’t love boobs! My Catwoman painting entitled “....Meow” (named after Michelle Pfeiffer’s opening line to Michael Keating in Batman Returns) is also a regular favourite across the board at burlesque, comic & alternative events.
You have released homewares featuring your artwork, tell us about that…
You have released homewares featuring your artwork, tell us about that…
It was not long into creating pinups that I realised that whilst lots of people responded positively to my style of art, not everyone would hang my saucy style in their homes and not everyone can afford original art, so I developed my own line of merchandise featuring my work because everyone has that one cheeky mug in their cupboard even if they don’t have sexy pinup art on their walls. Almost everything I sell I hand-print myself in my home studio from mugs, cushions and bathroom sets through to clothing items like hand printed dresses and tie & cufflink sets for the gents. I even do pinup dishcloths which I call my Dirty Scrubbers! People can even bespoke their products on the website by choosing any of the images from my gallery. I will then print them to order. The only things I don’t make myself are my ever-popular double sided wired hairbands made from fabric I’ve designed. These are made by the queen of pinup hair-bands herself, BeBopa Hairbands. I’m a bit of a control freak so the fact that I trust someone else to make a product line of mine means she must be good. She is a star!
What is your favourite drawing you have done?
That’s a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child! I suppose I have a few, for different reasons. I think the one that I feel is my best, most complete work is probably ‘Mina’s Dream’ which is a love letter to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It has Whitby Abbey in the background and gravestones of all the characters that die in the book. It’s pretty dark which is a side of myself I don’t put on paper very often. I love my “With Great Hair” picture as it was the first time I thought I might actually have in me the right style to finally create the artwork for my graphic novel. I think the wildcard would have to be my portrait of Catherine D’Lish. Whilst it is by no means my best work, it is the one that first got me noticed by the burlesque community thanks to Heidi Bang Tidy and without it I may never have had the career I have now so that piece does have a special place in my heart.
Tell us about Professor Pinup…
Ah, the Prof! Professor Pinup is many things. He’s a time travelling scientist, a discoverer of elements and purveyor or practical potions. He’s also my husband! After growing weary of basically being my roadie at trade events, he decided to put his Chemistry degree to use and created me a line of pinup lip balms which I could sell featuring my artwork on the compacts. Since then he has gone on to develop a plethora of fully tested and approved cosmetics and grooming products all named after new elements the Professor has discovered throughout his travels through time. He has a wibbly jelly soap called Jigglonium, (which comes in the shape of a brain, a heart or a pair of rhubarb scented boobs) an amazing range of beard oils, Groomium and a moisturising whipped body butter loaded with natural micas which make the skin glisten. It’s proven incredibly popular with tattooed men and women alike as it really helps the skin stay plumped and refreshes the colours in faded ink. I love trading side by side with him and our customers seem to really respond to our husband and wife team work.
You can find out more about the Prof and his products at www.professorpinup.co.uk
What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time? What’s that? J When your passion is also your job the line between business and pleasure is often blurred so even on ‘nights off’ I am often at a burlesque event and inevitably end up talking about my work. No complaints though! When I’m making the Professor’s cosmetic products in the lab (yes, we have a lab!) I listen to music and when I paint I generally have horror films or box sets on next to me so even then it’s not all work. If I truly want time away I immerse myself in a good comic in my beautiful garden and always make time in my schedule for the latest Neil Gaiman or Stephen King book. Usually the only time I separate myself from work is to travel which the Professor and I love to do as much as possible. We have spent Mardis Gras in New Orleans, New Year’s Eve in Times’ Square and scrubbed elephants in Thailand. The world is a beautiful place.
Spill the beans and reveal your nerdy side…
Colour changing Bath Crystals & Test Tube rack
of time travel inspired room scenting crystals
I’m not really sure I have another side other than my nerdy one J Even at gala events I’m still a nerd, just in a sparkly dress! However, here’s a few nerdy confessions; I do have an alarming amount of superhero t-shirts and knickers. I can only sleep if Family Guy is playing on the TV. I often speak only in quotes from film or tv which drives my husband mad. I carry a Wonder Woman soft toy in my bag at all times who often appears on my Instagram feed blogging about travel or food! If I was ever on Mastermind my specialised subject would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the greater Whedonverse and I am a tea addict with a hierarchy of mugs which no other human could ever comprehend. Oh, and I have series of spreadsheets cross referencing all my comics with dates bought, price paid and links to cross over events. Is that nerdy enough for you? J
Do you have any events coming up where people can see your work?
Do you have any events coming up where people can see your work?
There is rarely a weekend where Madams Pinups and Professor Pinup cannot be found selling their wares somewhere across the country. We can be found at most Alternative & Burlesque Fairs, (Glasgow & Manchester between now and Christmas) all major UK Burlesque Festivals (Glasgow coming up in November, North Wales in January) as well as Tattoo and Comic Conventions. To keep up to date, follow our respective facebook pages where we announce upcoming shows.
Are you taking seasonal commissions and artwork pieces in the run up to Christmas?
I’m always open for commissions but fill up pretty quickly on the run up to Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Halloween is my favourite time of year and there are usually a couple of new ‘horror’ pieces around October time plus there’s always at least one new card design every Christmas. And of course Madams Pinups and Professor Pinup are the perfect people to turn to when shopping for the pinup or bearded hipster in your life at Christmas.
What are your plans for the future?
What are your plans for the future?
This year I have been working on a burlesque colouring book featuring over 30 new images ready to colour alongside a brief history of burlesque with contributions from renowned corset makers, burlesque historians and international performers. It’s a project that started small and grown crazy big but I’m very excited to see it all as a final product. Finger crossed it will be available to buy ahead of this Christmas. After that, many more comic themed images, a couple of innovative products from the Prof and ultimately my graphic novel. It’s been in the making for over 8 years now so who knows when it will be finished but as it draws together all my favourite things, superheroes, burlesque, music, humour and horror it is a true labour of love and will hopefully be worth the wait.
As a thanks to all Appleton Pinup Girl blog readers, the following discount voucher code, APPLETON10 will get you 10% off across both our websites.
To see more of Melanie’s artwork, homewares, clothing & accessories visit www.madamspinups.com
For cosmetics, gent’s grooming and home fragrancing see www.professorpinup.co.uk
For news on events, special offers, works in progress and random pictures of all things nerdy look for Madams Pinups and Professor Pinup on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & Tumbler.
Melanie in a Madams Pinups original dress
Thank you so much to Melanie for her time with this interview! Make sure you make excellent use of the discount code available to you! Treat yourself or someone else in time for Christmas!
Stay tuned for more interviews coming soon