Last week I reached that moment of facing the dilemma all commercial artists must face (or even fine artists if they wish to market their work). How to deal with female nipples in our Neo-Puritanical culture?
This is a real problem for me, as I have already had my artwork censored by a certain social media website for showing “excessive skin.” Nipples? Not a chance.
It's easy to say “don't compromise,” but the realities of living in a commercial culture are very real if one wishes to take part in it. So, when it came to dealing visually with Dejah Thoris, whom Edgar Rice Burroughs describes as being unclothing except for ornamentation, I had a big decision to make.
Other artists in the past created nipple or breast ornaments, some quite elaborate, and some seemingly held up with nothing but the anti-gravity technology used for the Martian airships! Others have that area strategically covered by hair, others have simply thrown in the towel (or more accurately, used them to cover nipples), been inaccurate and given her clothing. For this early sketch shown at right, I created concentric cups reminiscent of belly dancer ornaments.
After a rather prurient picture of Dejah Thoris appeared on the excellent For the Love of All Things Edgar Rice Burroughs Facebook page, a lively debate ensued regarding how Dejah Thoris should be accoutered, and how an artist can deal with this very real problem. My thanks to all the ERB fans on that page. I found their feedback on this issue and the first couple of Dejah Thoris drawings that I have revealed for the upcoming book, to be invaluable.
From the research done by the fine folks on that site, it seems that Burroughs envisaged Dejah Thoris to be wearing some kind of jeweled harness that would drape down and cover part of breasts. So, that will be one of my solutions. The other is too have her very long hair covering her nipple area when she is not dressed in the harness.
And that is another decision I have made. I plan on showing her in variations of outfits. After all, she is a princess and I'm sure she had more than one costume! And my approach to having Dejah Thoris be the focus of this edition means that you may even see pictures of her that go beyond the scenes in the book. I don't mean that I will show her doing things she wouldn't do. I simply mean, I might show her bathing or sleeping or doing any number of things that would be a good opportunity to portray her incomparable beauty.
And along those lines, I have made great progress by discovering a beautiful model to use as my visual inspiration for Dejah Thoris. She's young, gorgeous, built, with strong features but a playful, almost slightly elfin, girlish look to her. With the adjustments of my artistic imagination, she will be perfect for the part. And trust me, I have quite an artistic imagination. After all, I will probably be posing as John Carter!