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Drawing NSFW art, pro's and con's

Tessa Geniets
(@admin)
Kelpie Admin
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*This is an NSFW article that discusses subjects like porn. It's written in a non-illustrative way, but it's still recommended to not read this when you're under 18 years old. I also recommend that you won't get into this kind of art when you're younger than 18 years old, preferably older. Some requests can really damage you, your reputation or even your life when you make the wrong decisions.

What is NSFW?

Not suitable for work, or in other words: Something meant solely for private times. Think of nudes, porn, fetishes and so on. NSFW comes in many shapes and forms, depending on the preferences of people. The more extreme or unique it gets, the harder it usually is to work on or obtain. NSFW art is a true minefield for many reasons. But can also be very rewarding at the same time.

Drawing NSFW yourself

When drawing NSFW art, first and foremost you should ask yourself: Is this what I want to do? Or is this just a pursuit for money? NSFW art can be a simple as a nude girl on the beach, but it can and will quickly extend into niches, fetishes and even illegal things. Some of which will make you throw up for personal reasons while others are simply not-done. We can all guess into what territories that will go, and yes, I have been asked to draw those things, something I obviously didn't.

That being said: The second thing you should ask yourself is: What do and what don't I want to draw? You have to make sure that you follow the law, first and foremost. But what can you handle? Are you just okay with nudes? Or are you okay with bondage as well? How about fetishes?
You can never prepare yourself for everything out there. Even to this day I'm surprised by the existence of specific niches I didn't know existed before. But you need to prepare yourself enough so you can say 'yes' or 'no' from the start of a conversation about a commission like this.

What did I draw

To give you a broader perspective of things: I'm not a dedicated NSFW artist, I'm a creature designer. My realistic style does however funnel in people that are looking for realistic NSFW art. Sometimes these are nudes, other times a fetish like (soft) bondage or vore (people being eaten whole by animals). But that is also where I draw the line. Not because I can't draw it, but because I don't want to. It tends to mess with my head at inappropriate moments.

Where does it go wrong?

This is not in the first place because of the drawing. but mostly because the client, most of the time a private one, cannot talk about or express him or herself about the subject you're drawing. You end up being their big release and most of the time they won't stop talking about it and you become part of the fantasy in one way or another.

I'm very sensible when it comes to these subjects and I always give my client the time to talk about it. It helps with delivering a good illustration and a good experience, but when everything is clear, you know what to do, and what angle your client is coming from, that conversation should be over. And that is usually not the case. This is where my problem lies. I want to give my client a good experience and feel comfortable about what he or she is asking me. But I don't want to be immersed into the fantasy.

Exceptions to the rule

There are always exceptions to the rule, that's also the case with NSFW art. Sometimes my clients represent a company, other times it's a client I already worked with for a while and this person proved to be professional along the way. For these people I tend to cross my set boundaries because I know they won't be invading in my personal life. It's a clear deal, I work on it, and when it's done it's done.

How to deal with drawing NSFW art in daily life

One of my older works, this was the first NSFW illustrations I made. There is also a version without a blanket covering her which is slightly more NSFW.
Illustration by: Tessa Geniets

Depending on where you come from, this might be a very touchy subject. I for one grew up in a fairly open minded family. A family where people get married and stay together, but one that's also aware of what's going on outside their own standards and are not judgemental about it. This means that my family is aware of what I do from time to time and are also supportive of it. The same counts for my partner. When NSFW art slowly started to become a thing, I discussed it right away with him. He's not into it at all, but he doesn't mind me making money from it either, as long as I actually charge people for it. Which is obviously the case.

That being said: You may not be in a position where you can discuss this with family or friends. But please, for your own sake: Make sure that you have someone to talk with about it. Just to speak your mind and discuss things you're unsure about or feel uncomfortable with. It might not be the intention of your client, but crossing boundaries, especially through internet is very easy, but can be no less damaging, especially when you're alone.

We have a Discord channel dedicated to NSFW art. You can show your illustrations there as well as discuss the subject thoroughly. If you need or want someone to talk to about something, don't hesitate to hop in!

Pro's of NSFW art

There are quite a few pro's to NSFW art. They shouldn't be underrated, but they also especially shouldn't be overvalued. This niche comes at a special price, so make sure you don't dive into that rabbit hole without boundaries simply because of the pro's.

  • There is an endless need for NSFW art.
  • It pays relatively well, especially early on in your career.
  • The more unique the request, the more you generally can charge. There are some things many artists won't draw, if you're into that: You can struck gold.

Con's of NSFW art

We discussed a few before already. It's very important you are aware of the con's and set your boundaries beforehand. It will determine for you if you can continue doing this or will stop drawing NSFW altogether.

  • It can be really invasive in your own personal life for personal reasons.
  • NSFW art can also be really invasive in your sexual life.
  • Client's often are so happy that you want to draw their fantasy, that they take it to a personal level, and no longer see it as a professional deal, if at all.
  • Most of the time this kind of art is very private. Expect not to be able to use this in your portfolio.
  • It's risky, you will get requests that are not okay or are downright illegal.

Safeguarding your own privacy

This is a choice. There are many good reasons to go with an alias that's completely separated from your name and your other types of art. there are only a few reasons that vote for revealing yourself as an NSFW artist, and these reasons are disputable. I obviously decided to reveal that I do NSFW art from time to time, but only after working under an alias for a while: Elysian by Night. A name I still use for my NSFW portfolio specifically. (One that is very small because it's so private, as mentioned before).

The reason that I decided to do so is simply because I want to inform you about the nitty and gritty of the art world. NSFW is a big part of that. I was overwhelmed by my first request, decided it was not that bad and just went with it. Only to find out that it's not that bad with the right clients. I learned a lot from NSFW commissions, and I think it's very important that artists that are new in this field, or are aspiring to become an NSFW artist, know what they're up against.

For me the downside is that I likely won't get any commissions for children books. I'm likely even excluding a whole group of people, simply because they know I do NSFW. But I open my doors to a whole different group as well. Not just people that want their dream drawn out. But also companies that are more open minded themselves, as well as people that are just that and may not even want NSFW art to begin with, but appreciate my openness about it.

Some examples

You can imagine what can happen when you draw NSFW. More often than not you get unwanted attention, especially when you are a woman. It's interesting for people to know that you draw NSFW. You can make their dreams come true in a way. Most that commission you for personal NSFW will want to include you in the fantasy. Either by talking about it endlessly, or asking for your opinion, if you would do something like in their fantasies in real life with someone, and so on. These questions are ONLY okay if you are okay with them. And from a professional perspective I recommend you are NOT okay with them.

Another problem is that, as soon as they find out your real name, they might(!) seek you out on your social media pages and learn more about you than you want them to know. They can even become invasive in your life and display stalking behavior, or at the very least reveal to people in your life that you do NSFW art while you didn't want them to know that to begin with.

Most of the time this doesn't happen and your clients will just be overly exited, accidentally crossing boundaries. Many of them are even very respectful and ask you if you're okay with what they're asking from you. But please, especially when you don't want others to know, or you work in a public environment like a restaurant: Make sure they don't find out who you are or where they can find you.

How to stay safe and anonymous

This sounds easier than it is. If it's really important to you to stay anonymous, I suggest that you dig deeper into it than what I'm providing here in information. This is because I'm not properly aware of the technical side of online privacy. There are many things though you can do to stay anonymous yourself:

  • Never use the same or similar account names for normal art and NSFW art.
  • Use a separate e-mail address for NSFW art.
  • Don't follow yourself on social media pages. Not with your NSFW account and vice versa.
  • Don't promote your NSFW art on your normal channels and vice versa.
  • Think twice before you inform your client about your NSFW endeavors. Make sure it's someone you'd want to draw for (because he or she has a fairly professional approach) and make sure he or she understands that the two names shouldn't be interconnected. Also: Not everybody is open to it!
  • Don't modify existing NSFW art so it can be used in your normal portfolio. People will find out.
  • Use a website like Fiverr, they have a great system in place that will help you out when there are problems. You can also use another name there and stay completely anonymous.
  • You might even want to consider a different art-style. People with an eye for it will be able to pick out your specific style.
  • There are many places where you can find your audience, pick yours wisely.

Drawing NSFW art based off of real people

There is something called 'portrait right'. You cannot just draw anyone, especially not in an NSFW setting. This was one of the problems I came across when I was doing NSFW art: You never know who contacts you and what their relationship is with that person. I would only take on commissions like that when I was sure that the client is actually in a relationship with that person and could verify that through FB for example (revealing my own identity).

Sniffing out problematic commissions

However, it happened to me more than once that someone under an alias would contact me and ask me to draw things with somebodies face on it, and I had no clue who either of them were. In one specific occasion I couldn't even verify the age of the girl it was about. She could have been 16, but also 21. It goes without saying that you should stay FAR away from such request.

On top of that, there is also the risk that some kind of child abuse agency is trying to find out if the service you're offering is done by the rules. They will commission you for questionable art, or something outright wrong. and won't reveal themselves until its way too late for you to pull back from the commission. As NSFW artists you have a huge responsibility. There is a reason why NSFW art is booming in the digital age: It's relatively private. Someone that's a bit handy can stay anonymous from the beginning to the end. You won't be able to do so.

If you find yourself in a place where you have to question if it's okay what you're doing: Don't do it! There are some horrific people out there that will pay you for the most hideous things. If you're vaguely unsure about the request: Stop the conversation right there and then. If you feel like something is not right: Contact the proper organizations. They will handle it from there.

Some other things you want to stay away from

There are a few more commissions you might want to stay away from:

  • Religion + NSFW are often perceived as offensive.
  • Animal NSFW art is questionable when it's not the furry kind (Furries are usually humanoid-like animals). There is a huge community around it as animal sex thankfully is illegal in many countries. It's not illegal to draw though, but you should be careful with it.
  • Even when you don't use a child as reference: Make sure your illustration displays 18+ people. Don't allow it to be questionable! It's illegal!

Taking on NSFW commissions

So, you're ready to take on (your first) NSFW commissions. You are now aware of the minefield it can be, so you are already way ahead of others. But what do you have to keep in mind now? Well, first and foremost it serves to be sensible. NSFW is a touchy subject. Not only for you but also for your client. It's important that you are aware of that. Most of the time your client will commission you for things that can't be spoken about with his or her friends, family or even partner. In some cases relationships even got ruined over it.

This is not always the case of course. There are people that want to gift the art to someone else, or they mean to make a mobile game out of it. Others make NFT collectibles, write stories they want to have illustrated, or you name it. In these last cases you just have to approach it in a professional way, like you would with any other commission.

But in the first case: Be understanding, and make sure your client feels comfortable talking about it with you. The thing is that, especially when it comes to fetishes: It tends to be VERY specific. You need to be able to find out what that specific thing is. And your client needs to feel comfortable enough to actually share that information with you, and not feel awkward about it during or after doing so.

Summary

NSFW art can be a really rewarding niche to specialize in. As long as you clearly communicate your boundaries and stay professional, while also being aware of the problems that come with this niche: You should be good to go! I hope that this article didn't scare you out of it, but I also hope it scared you enough so you will be vigilant and hone your own boundaries as well as those of the law.

The only things that have no place in imagination, are boundaries.

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Topic starter Posted : 20/12/2021 4:44 pm
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