“You’ll get your name in the history of erotic art,” enthusiastically announces Andrey Tarusov, 34, to his potential patrons on a video-presentation of the adult comic book material he publishes on Patreon. The first book in a series — ‘Swinging Island’, a graphic erotic novel about the adventures of a couple of inexperienced nudists willing to explore their sexuality on a paradise-like resort island — expanded Tarusov’s fan base and inspired him to write a sequel: ‘Swinging Island: Pleasure Land’.
In the meantime, the master of pin-up art works with major movie studios in the U.S., cooperates with Russian commercial and state corporations and nurtures plans to apply his talent to “big art” in the future.
In 2015, Tarusov followed his wife and relocated to Los Angeles. “I’m an easy-going person and I liked the idea of living in a different place.” In the U.S., Tarusov realized Americans differed from Russians in their perception of pin-up art.
“Often, a patriarchal attitude predominates in Russia with regard to pin-up art. Russians use pin-up for advertisements; sales promotion is driven by sexy pictures. In the U.S., people appreciate fan art based on famous movies, but they use it for commercial use less often, because they do not accept sexualization [for commercial purposes]. They [the Americans] love to divide private from the public [sic],” says Tarusov.
After relocating to the U.S., the artist soon discovered he needed to produce significantly more work to remain afloat financially. “In the U.S., you can’t lead a relaxed lifestyle as you can in Russia. While in Russia, it was enough to fulfill some commentarial orders. In the U.S., I had to launch many side projects: comics, Kickstarter projects, books, customized card decks, etc. Things were looking up. I have reached a new level of productivity in the U.S.; I realized I could do more, thus the results,” boasts Tarusov.
Tarusov quickly realized what was in demand stateside. “Americans accepted me well. Many already knew my art. I participated in comic cons. I quickly realized Americans liked Marvel heroes and Disney princesses. I began drawing what they liked and quickly reached a certain level of popularity.”
In Russia, things were radically different in terms of audience tastes and demands. “My career [in Russia] began with custom calendars. Every year, I do a lot of them for different commercial firms and institutions. In this regard, I am in demand in Russia. In America, people appreciate my other side of work, which is fan art. It’s in great demand stateside, unlike in Russia. In Russia, socially significant art often makes a bigger splash.”
Tarusov’s artistic instinct earned him a few projects with major magazines — Playboy, Maxim, and others — and movie studios in the U.S. Two of his projects with the 20th Century Fox and the Walt Disney studios involved cooperation with Tim Burton’s crew for the promotion of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Alice in Wonderland motion pictures.
Despite the predominantly frivolous themes Tarusov explores in his art, the artist often draws inspiration from sources far more serious and deeper. “I like old Hollywood and the European cinema of the 1970s. I also draw inspiration from classic art, museums and paintings. I just like to absorb information and build upon that,” says the artist.
Sometimes, Tarusov dives into topics far more serious than his artistic style might suggest at first sight. He recently created art related to protests in the U.S., Russia and Belarus. “This is how I express my civil opinion. I draw what worries me. If I wasn’t in the U.S. during the Black Lives Matter movement, I would not have understood it. When I think about something long enough, I began looking for ways to express it [artistically].”
Tarusov says he had always participated in major protests in Russia, before he purposefully alienated himself from the news and politics for an extended period. “Then I realized it was impossible to remain in a vacuum and not express my political views,” says the artist, who sometimes refers to acute social themes in his artwork.
Regarding the plot of the ‘Swinging Island’ graphic novel — that raised $30,000 on Kickstarter when it was launched — Tarusov says it does not truly copy his lifestyle. “Naturally, I’ve had different experiences in my life, but this is rather my creative imagination at work. Also, often enough, my readers suggest new storylines in the comments. I always ask readers where they want the story to go,” says the artist.
Tarusov’s provocative themes sometimes draw the attention of puritanically minded critics, who express their disapproval of the artist’s explicit work. “Your Disney pin-ups are extremely creepy and in very poor taste. As a mother and a grandmother, I am really sickened by these. I will be contacting Disney Corporation to ask them to contact you directly,” said one comment.
The artist remains unfazed, though. “Pin-up is not for masturbation. It’s a little more interesting [than porn]. It’s not as nearly as primitive [as porn]. Besides, many people, including artists, appreciate the way my art is drawn. I even have an online school where I teach how to draw, not only pin-up, but other styles, too. Pin-up is not nearly as easy to draw as it may seem. Many try but only a few succeed. Also, [pin-up is appreciated] because you can draw something that you can never recreate in real life. It’s difficult to explain [why people love pin-up], but that’s the case,” he said.
Tarusov saves the harshest criticism in a folder he ironically named ‘Shame’ [Sramota in Russian] and sometimes revisits them just for laughs.
His plans for the future are to start drawing with oil. “The time has come to immerse in serious art,” says the artist.
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