I've been illustrating Savage Love for awhile now, and the challenge always lies in extracting a PG-13 drawing from the often R-rated column and the topics it discusses. Not always an easy task, but usually a satisfying result. For the column of 12/7, all the letters concerned the sexual practices, or lack thereof, of people with various disabilities. You can read the whole column here, but I chose to make this letter the topic of my illo (edited somewhat for brevity):
Q: Due to a rare autoimmune attack three years ago, I have been indefinitely confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. I was never sexually active before the attack, so now I’m left to face my sexual future from a significantly altered perspective. The important thing to remember is that I can still engage in sex. I think a common misconception that many people have is that we automatically can’t have sex. I would like to pursue physical relationships with women, but how do I let them know I can still perform without just coming out and saying it? Are there any wheelchair fetishists out there I should know about?
A: “Many people think ‘paralyzed from the waist down’ means ‘turned into a block of ice down there,’” the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability — Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette — wrote in a group e-mail. (We’ll call the authors KSO for short.) That paralyzed folks don’t have blocks of ice in their pants is something we fully ambulatory idiots can go our whole lives without learning. “[Non-paralyzed people] have been raised to believe that it isn’t polite to ever ask a person with a disability anything about their disability, let alone about sex,” says KSO, “at least when they’re sober.”
“As for wheelchair fetishists, HANDICAPPED, they’re out there and KSO has some good news for you: “They tend to be straight women looking for guys who use wheelchairs.” Straight women — they’re just a bunch of kinky, sex-crazed freaks, huh?
Wheelchair fetishists? Well, that's an idea just tailor-made for one of my illustrations! Often, it takes me awhile to thinkof an idea for a spot, but not this time. Right away, the idea of a girl sitting on the lap of a guy in a wheelchair hits me, so I whip up some sketches. I figure they're both overjoyed that they've found each other, so he's smiling ear to ear, and she's pretty much going wild. Maybe he should be popping a wheelie, too?
I'm obviously going to have to draw a wheelchair, and draw one well, for the joke to work..so next, I get on Google for some photo reference...and find some, thanks to the good people at Veer:
Then, the pencil stage...I usually work on oddly cut and sized pieces of Strathmore 2-ply bristol board, which I originally buy as 30" x 22" sheets, and this time, I chose a piece that was too small to fit the whole drawing on the page, which is why the woman's hand is cut off at the top. This means I'll have to ink the drawing on another piece of bristol, using the lightbox...which is kind of a pain in the ass, but it beats having to do the drawing again!
Finally, it's time to ink. I use a #2 brush for most of it, except the lines on the tie, and some of the components of the chair, for which I use a Pitt Artists pen. I find that my brush lines tend to be a bit wonky at times, going from thick to thin, and while that's great for figures, it looks kind of bad on non-organic objects like cars and, well, wheelchairs.
Speaking of wheelchairs, I'm pretty happy with how this one has turned out. It looks good, the perspective is correct, or at least, I've faked it in a believeable way. I struggle drawing vehicles of any kind, anything with wheels, so this a pretty satisfying result.
So that's that! Another satisfied customer. The drawing runs in the City Paper a few days later, and I start think about next week...