They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but when we look at these arousing pinup paintings by Kelly.X, we have a hard time forming any words at all.
By Jennifer Peters
Kelly Futerer spent more than ten years traveling the world, working as a fashion model for some of the top designers before she started her second career as Kelly.X, a pinup artist who shines the spotlight on other beautiful women. Now Futerer is one of a handful of talented artists bringing pinup art back into vogue, with sold-out gallery showcases and sexy women hoping to be immortalized on her canvas.
Her work is reminiscent of original pinup masters Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren, but with a modern twist all her own. “The girls in Vargas and Elvgren paintings just speak to you. They jump off the page and they have personalities,” Futerer says. “So when I started painting, I decided to paint my own versions of what I would want a pinup girl to look like today.”
The women in Futerer’s paintings wear leather and latex—if they wear anything at all—and they frequently get caught with their hands down their pants, not something you’d see in the forties and fifties. Futerer’s models even flip you off once in a while. But no matter how rough, tough, or risqué her muses may appear, each of the women she captures with her oils and watercolors exudes the lighthearted eroticism that you’d expect from a cheesecake model.
Futerer started painting pinups seven years ago, and with more than a few models’ names in her Rolodex, it wasn’t hard to find inspiration. She wanted to show her friends’ personalities, which is unwelcome in the fashion world. But it’s what good pinup art is all about. “When we were models, we weren’t really allowed to have personalities,” she says. “We were just there to sell clothing—look pretty and be a hanger.
“In fashion, you’d be asked to make a certain face or do a pose, and a lot of girls wouldn’t do it because they were afraid it would make them look ugly,” she continues. “But pinup models, those girls don’t give a shit. They’ll try it all. It’s a different breed of model.”
Women who pose for her, Futerer explains, aren’t simply catalog pages come to life. They range from five foot two to five foot ten and can be stick-thin or curvy and voluptuous. While all the women she’s featured are stunning in their own way, it’s not a particular body type or bra size that makes them stand out. “Every girl who I paint, even if she’s just sitting there, you can see personality in her eyes,” Futerer says. “It’s not that the girls are zany or crazy, but they exude sexuality and have a lack of inhibition.”
One of her favorite models is her close friend Samantha Phillips, our June 1993 Pet of the Month, who’s one of Futerer’s biggest fans. “Her work has a cool insight to it,” Phillips says. “You get a sense of the person from her work instead of just seeing a really beautiful picture of a pretty girl. Her paintings let you feel a connection with the model. It feels as if it’s a 3-D mage and you’re a part of it.”
And being part of a Kelly.X work is exactly what women want. Futerer also fields requests from women who want to star in their own pinup fantasies. Ladies across the country have commissioned paintings of themselves in classic pinup poses—and even completely nude—usually as gifts for their boyfriends or husbands. “People are more in touch with their sexuality today,” Futerer says. “You used to only see pinups hung in hotrod shops, but these days people aren’t afraid to display them as major pieces of art in their homes.”
Considering that a painting typically takes 150 to 280 hours to complete, you might expect Futerer to limit how many projects she takes on. But when we suggested one of our own lovely ladies, 2012 Pet of the Year Runner-Up Emily Addison, Futerer was delighted, despite being in the midst of finishing work on a book and two calendars. The buxom Pet’s delicate curves and expressive features had already earned her a spot on the artist’s wish list. “She’s like a gazelle, so very graceful,” Futerer says.
“The way she walks, the way she holds her fingers. Everything about Emily is perfect, especially in this photo!
“I work with the nicest, coolest people,” she adds. “My job does not suck.”