Today I thought about fat.
Well, no, actually I thought about tapirs. I’ve been wanting to paint a tapir for awhile, and with these various obscure species in the flat-shaded, not-quite-cartoony style I’ve been playing with recently, I have a vague notion that I might put together some kind of “Terra Obscura” print folio. Having noted at the convention I went to that people generally bought according to favored species, though, I don’t know if there are enough people out there who like aye-ayes and okapis and–I dunno what else I’d put in it…quolls and phascogales and Irimote cats, for all I know, although that might move from Terra Obscura into Terra Completely Unhearda. What was I saying? Right, I dunno if given the buyer’s tendency to collect by species, if there’d be enough interest in generally obscure species to make it lucrative. Then again, if all I did was foxes, wolves, and skunks, I’d eventually gouge my eyes out, or take up accounting or something, so maybe it’d be worth it anyway just for personal amusement.
Anyway. While contemplating this, I drew a tapir woman, and I realized right away that you cannot make a svelte tapir. It just ain’t gonna happen. It’s like trying to make a skinny elephant or hippo–fate has decreed that these creatures are hefty, and that’s the way it is. A skinny elephant is an elephant that has been spending a lot of time scouting out a spot in the legendary elephant graveyard, prepatory to lumbering off this mortal coil. Same with tapirs. Nature has designed the tapir to beep when it backs up. Such is life.
So I said what the hell, and made this tapir woman chunky. Not morbidly obese–fat fetishists seriously creep me out–but one solid tapir chick. And I felt good about it, and I’ll tell you why–because, as you can probably guess, I know in my heart of hearts, that 99% of the women in fantasy art, who tend to be six feet tall, weigh 110 lbs, and sport a DD rack, represents maybe 5% or less of the human population. Sure, there are women who look like that, but most of them don’t, can’t, and it’s rather sad the way that some of ’em try. And yet, I draw ’em that way anyway, because I am inherently a crassly commercial art mercenary, and I want to sell art.
Lately I’ve been getting away from that, or trying–I’ve been trying to take inspiration from vintage postcards, for example, instead of modern pin-ups, where the women look a little more human instead of like skeletons shot with silicone. But still, there are limits to how bold I get when inching away from the norm–giving the breasts a bit more sag, or making them less than totally spherical, making the women average or short, is about as far as I go, ‘cos the art still has to sell.
This isn’t going to turn into a rant about media stereotypes about women, because frankly, I don’t care that much, and in my colder and unkinder moments, I feel that women who allow themselves to have their self-image dictated by Calvin Klein probably have overcooked pasta for spines and if they weren’t unhappy about how they looked, they’d be unhappy about something else. This is probably rather wrong of me, and futhermore easy for me to say, since I am comfortably average in build, married, and have a career where, if I wanted, I’d never have to leave the house except in case of fires, but there you go. A good friend of mine who was anorexic said that her form at least had nothing to do with being fat, it was a control issue on the order of “At least I can control this one aspect of my life, even if the rest goes to hell,” but I accept that there are women out there with major mental problems deriving from society’s view of beauty. However, that’s life–there’s always something around to make you crazy, and here I am blathering about what I said I wasn’t going to blather about, because while I’m sure many of us are sick of wasp-waisted women in art, many of us are probably equally sick of people complaining about it, and I will freely admit that I Am Part Of The Problem.
The upshot of all this is that I am pathetically proud of the occasionally chunky illustration I sneak in. My chupacabra heroine, for example, is a pudgy little creature that still kicks ass, and I am obscurely pleased by that fact, although I admit that making a small green cartoon with no apparent love life pudgy does not exactly strike a blow for women in general. And now I did this tapir painting, and she is one big girl, and yet still sort’ve sexy (I mean, for a tapir. Do not construe this as a statement of attraction to female tapirs.) and I feel good about that. And really, despite the long-winded speech above, that’s pretty much the gist of my entire statement. I drew a fat tapir, and I think she came out cute, and that makes me sort’ve smugly happy, damnit.