Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back
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|Star Trek: TOS
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It is part of a series:
- Scribbling Women: The History of Our Art
- Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back
- Scribbling Women: Editors Talk Back
Questions asked of the artists:
- "What inspired you to draw K/S?"
- "Had you seen other K/S art when you drew your first K/S picture?"
- "Do you feel comfortable drawing erotic art?"
- "What kind of things do you try to express in your art? Beauty? Sexiness? A good likeness?"
- "Do you draw from your mind’s eye or do you use some kind of source material?"
- "Were you conscious of the difficulties of reproduction which choosing a medium?"
- "What is your favourite medium?"
- "A lot of people feel there is a tension in artwork, between drawing the characters versus drawing the actors—how do you feel about that?"
In this section I ask a selection of artists—some from the time of the beginning, some more recent converts—important questions about their artistic practice. It was fascinating hearing from these artists who were always able to offer analyses of their work that Spock would be proud of... I must add that, although I asked many artists to respond to these questions, some did not want to participate, some did not have time, some have moved on, some (sadly) have died, and some did not reply in time. The artists who speak here represent only a small proportion of those I would like to have interviewed.
Do you draw from your mind’s eye or do you use some kind of source material?
Suzan, too, is a little coy about the whole artistic process and when asked “Did you draw from your mind’s eye or use source material of some kind?” replied mysteriously, “A combination of both.” Well, an artist has to have some secrets! Marilyn C., however, chooses to let us in on one of hers, she says “my husband at the time was a body builder and he posed for most of my illos.” Now I’ll bet you didn’t know that! So now we know where Marilyn’s Kirk and Spock got their muscles from. Thank you, Mr. Husband, wherever you are!
Marianne was very chatty about how she creates her art and interestingly she is one of the minority of artists in fandom who can and does draw from her mind’s eye. She says, “for their faces I usually look at the photos I have but if there is a need, I can draw them from my mind’s eye or try to watch the episodes as a base for their faces. Sure, it will not always get very accurate, as many people know, Kirk is very difficult to draw, but I am getting better at it, and it is a challenge so I draw him a lot more to try to get better at it. Spock is easier to draw from mind’s eye, and the more drawing them the easier it gets, and instead of being preoccupied with their facial expressions, I can really get to play with their bodies. Before you get to draw something you have got to learn about it and then it flows out of your pencil. In bodies and such I use my mind’s eye as I like to sketch a lot and I’ve analyzed the human body—its skeleton, muscles, and such. When there is a difficulty in a position, I ask someone, hey, put your leg or hand this way, and study it as a source material. I sketch a lot in a tiny drawing block for ideas for a new K/S drawing, so anywhere I go I got my drawing block and pencil with me, sure, when it is explicit I have to be more careful where I draw it. Grin. Sketching from the mind’s eye you are more free.” Such dedication to the artistic cause is truly phenomenal, Marianne, I admire this tremendously, but I am also grateful that source photos provide me, albeit in a limited way, with a short cut to real study!
T’Guess says “the #1 factor in creating good K/S art has to be passion for the subject. It’s that devotion, be it a CGA or hand-drawing, that keeps an artist working on a piece for endless hours, trying to get everything to look perfect.” Marianne epitomises that devotion—three cheers for Marianne.
The Southern Cross tells us with a twinkle in her eye, “I usually used source material as a guide. It would be pretty difficult to get either Mr. Nimoy or Mr. Shatner to pose live. I thought about calling them up for a life study session but after seeing both of them topless in various ST episodes I decided I could probably come up with better physiques. Shatner has bigger tits than I do! After seeing the Nazi episode and Catlow I was inspired to enhance Mr. Nimoy’s reality as well. This better suited my ‘mind’s eye’ of the fictional characters and kept my work from getting bogged down by what the real life actors actually look like.”
Virginia S. lets us in on her secret shopping habits: “I started picking up magazines that had male-male pictures in order to help me make my artwork. I might have drawn a couple of pictures for myself, but I mostly drew for publication. I like the feeling of being part of a team. K/S was the main release of all my sexual artwork using certain types of magazines as source material. (Well-hidden magazines, of course!)”
Vel talks about the difficulty of finding source material, not for bodies, but faces. She explains, “The earliest and most easily available reference sources were Starlog and the Trek calendars. Then came trading cards and collectors’ photos, and eventually lots of clear photos for sale by dealers. But sometimes there was the last resort of taking photos off the TV screen: crude, but workable. Having prints made from the 35 mm film clips that were available in the early days was another option. Remember, this was before everyone had a VCR and computers. Dark ages indeed!” Vel goes on to explain that although she mostly did portraits, “the few ‘hot’ scenes I’ve done were accomplished with books of nude males for reference, with Kirk and Spock’s features added. Despite having taken four semesters of Life Drawing (from nude live models) I never could transfer the images from my mind to paper.” Don’t worry, Vel, neither could I, besides which the life drawing classes usually go for more, shall we say, “classic poses” than I wanted for Kirk and Spock!
Linda used source material but not slavishly, she explains. “I draw freehand. I look at the pic and draw just looking at it. I don’t do it blind. You have to be a very good and skillful artist to draw without photo references. Suzan is a good example of someone who started out with photo references but eventually got to the point where she could do without them and her illos look great: perspectives, lightings, and proportion are perfect all the time. I have seen some artists who draw blind and the results are pretty comical and they never improve because they don’t use source references.” As for sources Linda uses: “Lots of erotic calendars. They have some of the best poses! And screencaps from the Star Trek DVDs for the head shots. I don’t have the skill to keep proportions, perspectives, and lighting right without source materials. That is something very hard to do.”Shelley too uses photo references, and feels at times limited by this, but then again she gets probably the best likenesses in fandom today. She writes “I can’t even imagine drawing Kirk and Spock without some reference—be it photo or live. I even tried one time having a guy friend of mine (who resembled Spock!) pose for me.”
A lot of people feel there is a tension in artwork, between drawing the characters versus drawing the actors—how do you feel about that?
Leslie Fish is straightforward about it all—clearly a very sussed individual. “In my case, the question is already decided; I’m drawing the characters. The actors are simply carriers for the characters, which are my main concern. I note that I always drew Kirk as slightly slimmer and more sharply muscular than William Shatner ever was. Snicker.”
Caren Parnes replies “I never really felt this was an issue, at least not in K/S fandom. Leonard Nimoy created a character, of course, that was quite different from himself (and we’ve all heard the stories of how difficult it was for him to ‘shed’ his character after leaving the set). So I always thought of Spock as completely autonomous from his ‘creators’—he truly took on a life of his own—and when I was drawing Spock I never even thought about Nimoy. In a weirdly similar way, I feel that about Shatner and Kirk too. We all know enough about Bill to know he is very different from Kirk. For most of his career portraying Kirk, I thought that Shatner truly had created a character quite separate from himself—one I think he admired enormously--but one that wasn’t really him. Many of the mannerisms and habits we know so well from JTK I have never seen Bill Shatner use in any other portrayal—it’s almost eerie. To me, Kirk and Spock are entirely independent beings and I never confuse them with the actors.”
Suzan Lovett writes “Unless I’m doing a portrait of an actor for a fan-club publication or something, I don’t ever so much as think I’m drawing the actor, period. It’s the character. The problem comes from the other side of the equation, if the viewer can’t get past the likeness and separate the actor from the character even when they see a piece that clearly uses as its concept all the specificity of the character. Fans usually can separate, outside world usually can’t. Which is one of my reasons for preferring my fandoms to try and stay away from the public eye.” That’s an interesting observation, Suzan, and certainly the ambivalence over the character/actor divide is one I have heard most often from outside fandom.
Marianne writes “When I go explicit I think of the characters, as I would not think it right to make an actor in such a way, as he has his own privacy and I use an actor only when I make portraits or not explicit drawings or only slightly erotic. So I think Kirk and not Shatner, because for me it is Kirk or Spock as I see them. Complicated, isn’t it, as the actor plays the character, but that it is, I also play the character in my drawings and not the actor. From the actor I would make a portrait or a romantic drawing, I don’t know him but love for example how he acts, and display his acting. A character I get to know and anyone sees it in a different way I am sure, and fanfiction makes me see him in a different way as well, art is our own way to interpret a character, our own imagination.” I know that, for myself, I usually feel as the above artists do. I am drawing Spock and Kirk, and Shatner and Nimoy don’t even come into the equation. But, every now and then I have used a picture of the actor to draw the character—for instance I have used a picture of Nimoy smiling to draw Spock smiling at Kirk. What was curious was how the quality of that smile changed as I drew it. On Nimoy, it was very self-knowing and a little self-depreciating in expression. As I transferred the expression to Spock, it became shy and a little magical. So in some way, as I drew, I remade the picture in a new context, the result was Spock and not Nimoy, looking back at the picture now I never even see Nimoy.
However, Shelley has had quite a different experience using actors’ faces as source material. She writes, “I was asked to do drawings of two characters from a fandom I was unfamiliar with. The only source material I had was some photos the person sent me, as well as a grainy video tape of a couple of the episodes. Well, I drew them and everyone liked them all except for one. I couldn’t understand at first why they didn’t like this piece until it was pointed out to me that it portrayed the actor, not the character and all the fans could tell the difference. Indeed, when I saw which photo I had used, a publicity shot of the actor, I saw clearly that there was a difference—a big difference. Isn’t that odd?” Perhaps this happened because Shelley was drawing in a fandom she didn’t know. This is actually very hard to do, I think I have only done it once and I found it almost impossible and no fun at all! I’m surprised that I found it so hard, because until then I really had thought I was simply copying a photo onto a page, but there must be something more, something which involves my knowledge of the characters and their mutual affection.
Now because T’Guess uses photos in their pure form, I wondered if she felt particularly strongly about this debate. She says, “Whether it’s K/S drawings or CGAs, what’s being rendered are fictional characters. It’s no different than Trek fan fiction. It’s not the real-life Nimoy when he has pointed ears/slanted brows nor the real-life Shatner when he is portrayed as the dashing Captain Kirk. Nimoy wasn’t born on Vulcan and Shatner isn’t saving the galaxy aboard a star ship. I feel someone would have to be pretty dense to think that when they see a romantic visual representation of Kirk and Spock, it’s really Nimoy and Shatner who are being shown as actual lovers. As a K/S artist, I don’t let this type of silliness bother me.” LOL good for you!Virginia S. sums it up nicely, “Kirk and Spock are fair game—Shatner and Nimoy would be invasion of privacy—not fair.”
And so, so, so much more...
Reactions and Reviews
I’ve always loved K/S art – the images created by Caren Parnes and The Southern Cross marked me for life. And all those who have come since have continued to impress me with the wonder of bringing Kirk and Spock to life on the pages of zines. Since the computer mouse has allowed me to dabble in art myself, I see it now from a bit of a different angle, too. Learning how others came to become the illustrators of our fandom is fascinating to me and I continue to be in awe of all who can take pen or pencil or brush to paper, cardboard or canvas and create Kirk and Spock at their best. A great article! 
I gobbled up every word of this article; it was wonderful seeing comments from some of my favorite artists. I have zilch artistic talent and am constantly amazed and intrigued by the artwork that has been accomplished over the years. There is a comment by Suzan Lovett that she is an illustrator not an artist— that was most interesting and explains the difference in her artwork from many others. If I interpreted correctly, she is inspired by the story and then draws the artwork. Shelley Butler was wonderful in relaying a humorous but possibly slightly embarrassing incident with her first artwork for Robin in that she thought she needed to draw very big pieces. I was tickled by Liz‘s comment that she had studied Shelly‘s drawings with a magnifying glass to see how she got so much detail. Exactly what part did she study so intently??? The questions for the artists in this article were great, drawing a wonderful number of comments and discussion from each one. I was surprised regarding some artists feeling uncomfortable with drawing erotic art. I was reassured that my own squeamishness at times is shared by a few artists with the more explicit art. However, I also found their explanation of the methods to draw the intimate parts of our guy‘s bodies was fascinating. The mechanics of reproducing the art was discussed in detail and I discovered facts and complications regarding this that I had never considered. Being ignorant, I had no idea that the artist had to know how the art would be reproduced before choosing the type of ink/paint to use. Obviously, I could continue about this article indefinitely, my knowledge base is so limited on this subject when talking to an artist that I don‘t have a clue what to ask, I just know when I really like it. This article let me explore questions in a safe environment without feeling like an idiot. 
- from The K/S Press #133
- from a whole zine review in The K/S Press #143