Les Toil: The Wizard of Curves!

Posted by bunny On August - 5 - 20104,164 views

Les Toil’s full-figured, fantasy, foxes have been a staple of modern pin-up art for a good while! As one of the masters of the form, Rockabilly Online was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with him!

Tell us about your personal history?

I was born in the mid-1960s in Berkeley, CA. At that time it was a hippie haven filled with love, peace and body odor. I spent my youth listening to The Beatles and the Jackson 5 while I drew constantly and when I wasn’t drawing I was building car models and obsessing over Hot Wheels. Comic books were my first and foremost exposure to good drawing. That’s how I learned to draw, by tracing over comic book covers. Marvel comics to be exact. Mainly the art of Jack Kirby. And then later, thanks to the underground comics my mother purchased for me when I was approaching my teens, I fell in love with the art of Robert Crumb. God knows it was probably his amazing renderings of big-legged, big-butted amazon women that kick-started my lust for full-figured women. He drew them with a body language that just oozed sexuality and seductiveness. The smallish, lean girls I was seeing in super hero comics began looking sterile, fragile and void of OOMPH! But super hero comics were always my aesthetic mainstay as the geniuses responsible for the art were my true instructors. Kirby, Wally Wood, John Romita, Jack Davis, Jim Steranko—they put a pencil to use like no one before or after them.

At the age of nineteen I decided to go to art school and chose The San Francisco Academy of Art. I knew I needed to acquire professional discipline and an understanding of all aspects of commercial illustration since that’s how I wanted to earn a living.

And your professional history?

After four years of art school, I graduated and gradually carved out a decent career in the commercial art field. I didn’t earn a tremendous amount of money but enough to pay my rent and bills and not have to deal with the same employer day after day as I did while going to art school. I was pretty satisfied with the amount of work I was getting. And getting such diverse art assignments kept life very interesting. I’d have to find photo reference for, say, a Civil War coloring book one week, and then go and dig up material to do an assignment about how to prevent getting AIDS if you’re a drug user in the inner city the next week.

Movie director/screenwriter Adam Rifkin discovered my art in the early 1990s and hired me to create about seventy-five faux supermarket ads, posters and product labels for a bogus food company called Blumps. This was all for a movie he had written and was beginning to film called “The Dark Backward”. The movie went on to become somewhat of a cult classic because of it’s high level of strangeness. Guys copping feels on corpses found at the dumps…orgy scenes with 400 lb porn actresses…an arm growing out of a comedian’s back. And the Blump’s products I illustrated garnered a following of their own. Weaselroni, Pork Juice, Squeezable Bacon, Hops ‘N’ Taters Stew, Yamsycles, cheddar-scented cheese, all yummy favorites for a post-apocalyptic society.

Anyway, ten years after my work on that movie, Adam contacted me again and asked if I wanted to turn a couple of his screenplays into graphic novels. The first Adam Rifkin screenplay I adapted into graphic novel form was “Shmobots” and that was published last year. I’m presently working on our second project about an evil cereal company that destroys the good cereal company as well as the entire world. Adam’s objective is to have a movie studio pick up the property as a potential movie, although I’d be happy just to see this one published by a major comic company like “Shmobots”.

How did you first discover pin-up art?

I don’t recall how I first discovered pin-up art but I’m sure I must have been a kid. Girlie art on calendars and within the pages of men’s magazines was something that was always within my peripheral vision. I guess I got a stronger appreciation for classic pin-up art when I began seeing more work by Gil Elvgren and George Petty. Those guys were paint brush masters of the highest level and pretty much created the whole pin-up art phenomenon back in the 1940s. When I’d go to flea markets and collectibles/antique shows, I’d spend my money on large original Elvgren calendars since that was the kind of art I always considered worthy of a frame and space on my studio walls. I really didn’t care much for the present day artists attempting “classic” pin-up art as the girls looked too slick and airbrushy—and of course way too skinny. The gam queens of the golden age definitely had curves to inspire wolf whistles.

Are you a fan of vintage film or music?

Very much so! I was raised on old movies. It’s what my mother fed me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I knew who Henry Fonda, Montgomery Cliff and Ginger Rogers were before knowing who Steve McQueen was! And when I’d go to my uncle and aunt’s house for the holidays, my mom and her brothers would wax excitedly about all those movies they cherished as children. Needless to say I’d be just as excited when those movies they talked about would be aired on TV.

Regarding music, my taste goes as far back as the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll and up to present music. I love old rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, soul, etc… My adoration for “oldies” started when I was a teen and I saw the movie “American Graffitti” (about a dozen times!). Pretty much all of the kids in my neighborhood fell in love with that soundtrack but I think I was the only one to pursue the music of that period a lot further. Back in the 1970s you could find old Paul Anka and Gene Vincent LPs and 45s for practically nothing in Salvation Army stores and flea markets. And even today I spend much of my time listening to the greatest music podcast EVER called “Intoxica Radio” hosted by Howie Pyro. This guy has every fucking weird and obscure and rare rock/rockabilly/garage/R ‘n’B record ever made! It’s fantastic to work on a Toil Girl portrait while listening to two hours of old songs obscure stuff from the 60s about chickens, voodoo, sadism, monkeys, monsters, burps, and Chinese food! But the truth is I listen to music from all period of all genres. Be it polka or reggae, if it sounds good I’ll embrace it. Same with film of course.

Now you choose to do pin-ups with a more full figured build. How did this come about?

It came about because full-figured women were the kind of women that flipped my lid. The internet brought all of us big girl-loving guys together to rejoice about our common interest. There were a couple girlie magazines in the mid 1990s that featured big beautiful women (BBW) like “Plumpers” and “Big Butt”, so I knew I wasn’t the only dude out there that loved women with anatomical substance, but the internet brought that adoration into clear and joyful perspective. But way back then I met this lovely plus-size model online and I wanted to impress her with my art skills. I did her portrait in a classic pin-up style and she apparently enjoyed it so much she wanted to show her online friends, many of which were also big girls. A few of them offered to pay me to do their portrait and I ended up creating as many portraits as I could between my commercial art assignments.

I also began doing plus-size pin-up art for a popular sexy website at that time (circa 1997) called Billy Bob’s Cyber Shack. It wasn’t an x-rated site as much as it was a place where attractive big women could feel like pin-up queens just like their thin counterparts and display photos of themselves in saucy clothes. Billy Bob started a BBB (Big Beautiful Babe) of The Month feature on his site and the lovely lady chosen for that month would have her portrait drawn by me. I suppose that site was where my national exposure began. That exposure was definitely on a small select “fringe” level catering to us guys that go crazy over plus-size women, but I soon discovered that that crowd held impressive numbers not only nation wide but world wide. By the time Billy Bob’s site came to a gradual demise, I was getting quite a few more email inquiries from women interested in having their portraits done in that classic “cheesecake” pin-up style.

After I created my first website/pin-up gallery there seemed to be a interest of sorts in being in that gallery. The term “Toil Girl” was something I naturally had to steal from pin-up master George Petty and his Petty Girls as well as from Varga and his Varga Girls. Nothing original about the term Toil Girl but it turned into a title that held a measure of status among some BBW (big beautiful women). I’d like to think the attitude of becoming a Toil Girl is as fun and carefree as my approach to creating those portraits. I take tremendous pleasure in collaborating with the client during the creative process, as the concept of each portrait typically comes from the client herself. If they don’t have a clue of where to begin, I’ll have them send me a quick little write-up about their likes and interests and that usually proves to be the impetus I can work from. The part of the process I take seriously is my ability to render their likeness as true and as beautifully as I can, and to convey their spirit as best as I can based upon my exchange with them and the personal information they’ve given. I realized this was something I wouldn’t mind doing for a long time.

Any interesting stories behind certain pieces of art?

A BBW wanted to have a plus-size girl tattooed on her back and the reality show “Miami Ink” decided to film the event for an episode. She took in a bunch of reproductions of my Toil Girls and told the artist she wanted him to create a girl based upon those samples. He ended up just rendering one of the Toil Girl in the collection (name “Sauce”). It was great to see a bunch of my Toil art on a popular TV show. In harsh honesty, I thought the finished product came out looking like a pile of shit. He’s a really good artist but for whatever reason, he clearly decided to not put any effort into this particular project. But as I said, it was a thrill to see my work all over a reality show.

What upcoming projects do you have?

Well, I just did the cover art for a CD called “Whole Lotta Love”. It’s a CD of originals and cover songs that pay homage to big girls and it features an all-star cast of rockers from the 80s and 90s. I also plan on having all of the big girl cartoons I did for Bodacious Magazine published as a collection. Those cartoons were also modeled after those classic “tittilation” cartoons one would find in old girlie magazines from the 50s.

But in the meantime you will always find a new Toil Girl making her debut each and every month in my online pin-up gallery (www.toilgirls.com). Hopefully that will NEVER stop happening. 🙂

Check out more Toil Girls on FB!

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