Les Toil is a traditional 2D pin-up artist who specializes in plus sized goddesses. His work has been featured in numerous publications & TV shows (Including Miami Ink) and has built quite a reputation in the BBW community. I absolutely love Les’s work. It has so much detail and character, and he really brings out the true essence & personality of each sexy and voluptuous model he paints.
You have quite and impressive career and portfolio. How long have you been doing pinup and how did you get started?
I’ve always been a fan of classic pinup art. They’re phenomenal illustrations/paintings by extremely talented artists. I would have been drawn to the work of those artists even if they were rendering Firestone tires, but the female figure has always proven to be art’s favorite subject matter so I had little choice but to be a fan of Gil Elvgren, George Petty, Art Framm and all of the other pinup art masters of the 1940s and 1950s. As a commercial illustrator throughout the 1990s I had very little opportunity to do any type of gam/glam art–maybe occasionally on a rock music CD or gig poster–but the times I did have that chance I always enjoyed the process and the results. But the pivotal moment came in 1997–around the time I first logged onto the internet.
I discovered I had a strong attraction for plus-sized women in my late teens so by the time I was in my late 20s/early 30s I was a full-fledged appreciator of women with abundant curves. The internet exposed me to a world of outrageously sexy and confident big girls that I simply wasn’t privy to. There were a couple fashion magazines for BBW (big beautiful women) but here I was face-to-face with a galaxy-size candy store of stunning women wearing anything BUT oversized clothes and muumuus intended to cover all extra weight.
I practically fell in love with the first web goddess I struck up a correspondence with–a shapely and bubbly brunette from the south name Alissa. I did a cute portrait of her that more resembled cartoony caricature art than traditional cheesecake art. But she appreciated it and so did her online friends–especially her plus-sized female friends and acquaintances. That piece of art spread around and a few women emailed me about doing their portraits. Most of them had sexy members-only websites and my unofficial pay was access into them.
From that point forward my Toil Girls–as I began calling them in homage to the Petty Girl–were being displayed all over the BBW community. Because of the demand for pinup-style portraits, I began to charge a fee since it was beginning to cut into my commercial assignments–and God knows I’d much rather render big lovely women instead of tool-wielding handymen for carpenter’s manuals or teens on computers for gaming magazines. Because of the volume of Toil Girls I was creating I decided to launch a website–or an online pinup gallery. Les Toil’s Big Beautiful Pin-Up Gallery debuted in late 1998 and it’s at its strongest now.
How did you develop your unique style?
Up until the mid 1990s I only worked in oil paint. Heavily detailed illustrations in traditional oil paint. I always wanted to be Maxfield Parrish and Haddon Sundblom and all the other great commercial illustrators that worked in that medium. But the economy began tanking in the mid/late 1990s and clients didn’t want to pay illustrators that did traditional paint what they deserved for their efforts. Many illustrations began creating art with computer art programs as it was a quicker and cheaper process. An artist friend of mine showed me a rock poster he created in which he colored a piece of pen & ink art with the aid of Photoshop. I loved the results. It had a retro comic book quality. I tried my hand at something similar.
I was a life-long fan of comic book artist Jack Kirby and his style was something I always attempted to emulate–at least in terms of pen & ink art. I quickly made the transition from an oil painting illustrator to an artist that colored his pen & ink art via Photoshop and my career as a commercial artist stayed intact. I did a ton of CD covers and rock concert posters for everyone from Green Day to Tori Amos and during those early pen & ink years is when I began dabbling in the Toil Girl art.
I love reading the “Toxic Emails” section of your website. It is so hard to believe that people actually think that you are somehow doing something wrong by doing your style of work, as if you are somehow obligated to follow some sort of pin-up rulebook. Do you still get these?
No, I don’t get those at all anymore–and I kind of miss them! Many of those hate emails were from people claiming I was promoting bad health by glamorizing large ladies. I just never understood why a person should be punished for the weight they were. And besides, I always LOVED a big shapely butt and a set of gams that didn’t resemble a pair of chopsticks so why wouldn’t I celebrate women that actually LOOKED like women I’d see on a regular basis? Women go to the movie theaters to see nothing but extremely skinny young women whose job it is to not eat. They know those bony movie starlets are there to help manifest what beauty is supposed to look like and that doesn’t make for a fun and passionate night out. But when they see themselves represented in a seductive and glamorous manner it will help bring them out of their shells and take off those horrendous sacks they were given to wear.
So, to answer your question, I think much of society kind of gets the picture now. The shock of seeing sexy and sexually empowered big women is long gone.
Can you describe your typical creative process or workflow?
Clients contact me through email and commission me to create a piece of pinup at for themselves or for their loved ones. They describe what kind of image they have in mind or they’ll list their hobbies or interests and I’ll come up with a few concepts/designs. To make sure we’re on the same page I’ll email them a quickie pencil sketch of a couple different ideas with a figure representing the fee of each finished design.
After they pick one they like I’ll have them send me face and body photos of themselves and then I’ll have a friend pose for the portrait to help get certain anatomical elements–like the hands or feet or the general pose–believable. I’ll do the finished drawing on Clearprint paper and ink the entire piece with a fine watercolor brush. I used to be a stickler about the india ink being pitch black but that doesn’t really matter since Photoshop can turn a gray line into the darkest black line. I’ll scan the art onto Photoshop and then spend the next three days coloring the portrait.
If there’s any revisions–and there typically is…boobs not big enough…hair color should be lighter…remove their eye glasses–then I’ll spend a couple hours making those changes and that way there’s complete satisfaction.
What do you do when you’re not creating hot plus-sized goddesses? What is a day in the life for you like?
When I’m not creating Toil Girl art then I’m working on oil paintings. I realized a few years back I could never give up slapping traditional paint on a large surface. All of my favorite artists were painters. And guess what I like to paint? Big beautiful women! But in really wild and surreal scenarios. Hopefully I can find some decent galleries around the country–and world!–that will want to display them. These oil paintings really are my finest work in my pompous opinion. As much as I love doing the Toil Girl art, pushing around oil paint is even more of a thrill.
Most inspirational food, drink, other? What has to be on the desk at all times for you to get into the flow?
This is probably a typical answer for your publication–but music is 100% what’s happening when I do my art. Music and talk radio, but mostly music. I go through my musical phases. You have to. We self-employed artists are ALWAYS on the look-out for some new (or old) discovery. Someone with better guitar riffs than Jimmy Page, someone with more soul than Marvin Gaye, a better lyricist than Elvis Costello. Right now I’m deeply immersed in early ska and reggae music from Jamaica. Almost every country has its own thriving music scene and I’m just about exhausted on American music at this point–until I make more discoveries in a week or two. LOL!
Who is your favorite artist at the moment?
There’s all kinds of contemporary artists I love–like Mark Ryden, Mitch O’Connell, Bruce Timm–but I’m primarily inspired my artists of the past. All of those American illustrators of the 1950s. There were soooooo many great painters during that decade! Robert McGinnis, Frank McCarthy, Harry Anderson, Andrew Loomis, Peter Hawley–not to mention the geniuses from the 1970s that took illustration in many, many different and unique directions like Brad Holland, Wilson McClean, James Berkey, David Grove and Anita Kunz. But when it comes to pinup art I always refer to the glam art masters–Gil Elvgren, George Petty, Fritz Willis and Art Framm.
What does the future hold for you? What are you working on next?
Definitely the oil paintings. I want to remind gallery goers that oil on canvas can mean more than a landscape or a still life of flowers and fruit. I’d like to bring together the mindset of Salvadore Dali and Gil Elvgren with this series of large oil paintings. That’s a tall boastful ambition but hopefully it will be worth the attempt. LOL!
Is there any promotional/marketing/creative advice you would like to offer to other aspiring pin-up artists?
I guess my advice isn’t anything new but it’s certainly advice that’s worked for me, and that is–completely and passionately believe in what you do. If you enjoy what you do others will see and appreciate that passion and receive it as something from your heart–just like a song sincerely sung from the soul. And go and seek out all of the artistic masters of the past–not so you can bite their style, but for the sake of seeing and understanding what true commitment and aesthetic passion looks like.