BOYTOONS MAGAZINE #66 – An Interview with BELASCO – Part 1

In today’s issue of BTM, I have a very special treat for all of you: an interview with the FANTASTIC BELASCO!!!! Most of us know Belasco’s amazing, urban flavored work, and are more than familiar with drooling over his gorgeous black men. He’s a multi-talented artist with a rich background in art, and someone who is never afraid to speak his mind.

Belasco is someone whom I have admired for several years, and who is a constant source of inspiration on my own black male art. I discovered his work years ago through his “Brothers of New Essex” book, which was published by Cleis Press. I immediately fell in love with his style and skills as a story teller. That’s also when I first met Boo, one of Belasco’s recurring hotties… this character is one fiiiiiine mixture of attitude and sex appeal, I’ll tell ya that!

I continued to follow Belasco’s art in the pages of the Meatmen anthologies and was so pleased to discover his Blog, Belasco art and Comixxx, upon receiving a very sweet message from this amazing artist. Begging him to do this interview seemed to be an ideal way to get to know this creator a little bit better.

BOYTOONS MAGAZINE: It’s so great to have you here, Belasco… I know many of my readers are squeeling with glee right now. LOL!!! I’d love to know how you got started as an artist. What first motivated you to do art? Did you always know you were meant to do this, or did you happen into it? Did you receive formal training?

BELASCO: Well, I think I’ve drawn as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember being in nursery school and being told to draw a house and the amazement of the teachers when I fully rendered a house…in perspective, no less. Drawing has always come naturally to me and some of my earliest memories are of drawing Batman on the end papers of my mom’s college text books. I was doing my own comic pages of Batman probably by the time I was in 3rd grade and started creating original characters by 7th grade. From the minute I saw cartoons and superheroes, particularly the 60’s Batman cartoon as well as the live action show, I was hooked on comics, animation and drawing.

As far as if I always knew that I was meant to do this, had you asked me that question in my teens and 20’s, I wouldn’t have been able to say so, because at that time it was as if I was operating on instinct with no plan, just a lot of dreams. I wasn’t very ambitious but I was competitive with other artists in school because I knew this was the one thing that I did well. Drawing really made those intolerable years of being young and not in total control of my destiny somewhat tolerable. Now, if you ask me if I was meant to be an artist, I can firmly say ‘yes’ because I now have perspective. I always knew inside that I’d be doing exactly what I’ve done with my career in art. I had no plan on how to do it, however. I’m truly blessed to have been able to do exactly what I dreamed of doing as a child without really being an ambitious person. The only thing I did was A) constantly draw and absorb good influences, B) not listen to bad advice, and C) be willing to take chances and changes that allowed my art to provide for me.

As for formal training, I consider myself self-taught even though I took art classes all through grade school, high school and college. But I was very self-motivated when it came to teaching myself how to draw and sculpt and any other discipline. I tried them all. I took it upon myself to learn how to draw the human figure by copying nudes out of old classic art books that I checked out of the junior high school library. I would regularly come out of there with a stack of art books every week and devour them and copy the drawings. I was lucky that even the inner city junior high school I attended had a decent collection of art books! I realize now by doing that I was giving myself a version of how classical artists used to be trained when they went to art school and copied and drew from sculptures and paintings.

Later in college I was exposed to a lot of different disciplines like sculpture and jewelry making. The problem was is that I was penalized for actually being able to draw. Raw talent was discouraged over the pseudo-intellectual crap that passes for art education in most art programs. So college was spent with me basically trying to retain my desire for comic art and animation even though most of the teachers were trying to get me to do everything but.

BTM: On your Blog, you mention that “People always ask me if I have models pose for all the erotic artwork? I do and I generally reply that I draw it out of my head which only enhances my reputation as a freak. LOL!” You also mention that it is important to know ones anatomy and that you have honed your skills through “years of figure drawing from life and a steady diet of comicbooks!” The life drawings you’ve posted on your Blog are incredible, and have that distinctive Belasco style we all love. In what way do you feel that life drawing and comic book art have come together to help you evolve your style? What aspects do you routinely retain from both influences?

BELASCO: Well all good art in my opinion starts with a foundation in the figure. Initially when I first started drawing my own comics as a kid, I was a sponge for whoever was hot at the time in comics, so I had my John Byrne phase and Dave Cockrum phase. Later I learned how great guys like Alex Toth and Frank Robbins are. While I was copying out of comic books I was also copying out of classical art books and I guess it made it easier to see the connection between the two. The final key was discovering the work of Frank Frazetta. His art perfectly combined the look of classical art with the dynamism of comic book posing. Being a sponge, if I see art I’m inspired by, I instantly try to create my version of that work. So my high school final art exhibit consisted of all these not so vaguely homo-erotic barbarian paintings. I ended up actually tying for first with this girl who painted cotton fields and still lifes. I was robbed! But even then the homoerotic aspects were coming out in my art. I had already begun to do my own comic stories that had homoerotic elements in them. I remember it was a big breakthrough for me to draw a penis! It was still a few years before I got it hard, but it was a start!

BTM: Your art is amazing because it is such a respectful and proud depiction of the African American male. When I first discovered your work, it really struck me how authentic it was, and how you really stood out as one of the only artists who focused on the African-American community and culture. Did you have to make a conscious decision to draw black men primarily or did you feel this was something that needed to be done – a calling so to speak? How are your own ethnicity and your experiences a source of inspiration to you?

BELASCO: First of all, thanks for the compliment! I think my erotic art expression and growth coincided with my evolution as a black gay man. The earliest images I created of man on man love weren’t of black men at all. At the time I was coming of age, there were very few depictions of black in homoerotic art. There were very few pictures of black men in the gay magazines, no Black Inches, and very little black male porn even. It was truly a waste land, so I didn’t see anything that showed me what it was to be a black gay man, much less, how to draw one. At that time, hell, I thought I was the only black gay man. However, since I did see white gay people to a degree even back then, I just mimicked what I saw. So my first images of gay art were white guys together, even when I was drawing autobiographical comics stories about coming out, I didn’t use black characters, I actually created white surrogates.

That didn’t really change until I moved to Chicago in the early 90s and got caught up in the ground breaking black gay consciousness raising art that was going on at that time with Marlon Riggs’s film, “Tongues Untied” and Essex Hemphill’s poetry that really was blowing open the doors on black gay culture. The fact that there even was black gay culture was a revelation at that time. It was then that I began drawing my experiences and depicting my own desires.

It was truly inspiring and when people actually responded to it so enthusiastically, it just fanned the flame… so to speak. That whole time was very empowering and I saw that there was a niche to fill as far as depictions of black men in gay art. Before, I would have been sitting around waiting for the next Tom of Finland book to include black men, or Advocate Male’s yearly issue devoted to black men. One day I just said to myself, why am I waiting for someone else to do what I am capable of doing myself. The earlier art I was doing featuring white men was hollow and wasn’t a reflection of me. When I finally began drawing what was real to me, my art got better.

Now, that’s not to imply that a black artist can’t draw great white guys or vice versa. You, Patrick, and Joe Philips, both phenomenal artists, are testimonies to that. I’m only speaking of what I felt my niche was. There’s an old adage that I’ll paraphrase, “Draw what you know” which is all I’m trying to do. So yes, Belasco was created when I made the conscious decision to draw my own reality AND I felt it ws something that needed to be done. And, yes, my ethnicity and experiences are my primary source of inspiration.

BTM: Do you sometimes depict men of other ethnic backgrounds in your works as main characters, say through commissions or various personal works?

BELASCO: I haven’t yet. Apart from some Asian and Latino imagery I’ve done for my own amusement. That can always change. The main reason is because my artistic out put is very low in general and any time I have available to draw erotic stories I give to my two existing characters, Boo and Oasis. Besides, I honestly feel I just draw black men better. LOL…There are so many amazing erotic artists out now drawing every ethnicity that those are niches I really don’t need to fill. It’s not to say I won’t ever, but I do have to fall back on my earlier quote about drawing what I know. However, having said all that, just because I don’t have other ethnicities in my own stories, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be willing to draw commissions or stories with another creator’s characters.

BTM: I’d like to talk a little bit about your creative process. What inspires you to create a story? Are events that happen around you the catalyst, or do you just pull al
l these wicked scenarios out of your head? HA! HA! HA! Do you wake up in the morning filled with inspiration, or is it a disciplined process, one you have to ease into?

BELASCO: Unfortunately, I don’t really have a creative process. The weirdest things will inspire me. I have stories in my head that I’ve still not done yet. Other times, I can be driving somewhere and get a burst of inspiration and go home and fully draw an idea that comes out of nowhere. It’s different almost every time. Also, since I do have a day job, I’m not able to always act on ideas I get at the moment I get them. I wish I were more disciplined but my major goal in life was to never feel like I had a ‘job’. I try not to make my Belasco art a ‘job’. It takes the fun out of it for me.

BTM: Boo is one of your most popular characters, and has such a distinctive look and feel to him. There is no mistaking him! How did you create his character? Did you take a while to evolve the character’s look and feel or did he sort of just happen one day as you were drawing?

BELASCO: Well I’ll give the Cliff notes version. I was approached in 1996 at my first Tom of Finland Erotic Art Fair by the publisher of GBM magazine (long since defunct) and asked to come up with an original character for their first issue. I had about 3 months and of course, at the end of that time I still hadn’t come up with anything. It was New Year’s Day and I went out to a strip show at the local club here. One of the dancers was called “Daddy” and had a phenomenal body and I was sitting at a table in the dark drawing him on the back of some business cards I had. I like to doodle in the most inappropriate places! Anyway, I was really inspired by his body, and his attitude was really appealing but the visual wasn’t complete. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw this slight, cute guy walking past the stage with his baseball cap pulled down almost to the brim of his nose and something clicked and I drew his head on top of the body of the stripper I had been drawing and Boo was born!

I instantly knew who he was, his name, his back ground, everything. It was pretty amazing. I went home and the next day began drawing the very first story introducing him that had him seducing the guy at church. He definitely debuted with a bang. I’m just realizing as I write this that Boo will be 10 years old in Jan.! Amazing! Also, I’m realizing he’s a Capricorn! It never dawned on me but he was born on January 1st. I have a long history with Caps, so it’s ironic. I’m an astrology nut, in case it doesn’t show.

Well gang, that’s it for part 1 of Belasco’s interview. Did you get a load of all his sexy studs and his WICKED rendition of Boo riding my Space Cadet! LOVED IT!!!

Be sure to come back after the Holidays for part 2, when Belasco talks more about his HOT HOT HOT work as well as his future plans and projects.

Much love to you all, and warm Holiday wishes to you and yours. And if you’re feeling festive, check out this great little website for some Holiday fun with Fruitcake: www.gotfruitcake.com

See you soon!
Patrick XOXOXOX

All illustrations © Copyright 2006 Belasco. All Rights Reserved.

Comments

  1. great interview. happy holidays pat…you have some more boytoons coming that i’m manipulating through photoshop.

  2. MJR Charlie says

    Wow. I LOVE brothers of new essex by Belasco. His style is gritty, and hard, and he’s a major passion for his boytoons.
    His boys are always so tough, which makes it a real pleasure to see what they get up to well the priest is singing in the church and them outside singing their own tune, lol.

    Great interview.

    Merry Christmas Patrick and Fraser, and all class staff!

  3. What a wonderful interview and such a pleasant surprise as well.
    Belasco is a good friend and an amazing, oft times overlooked talent, that I’m glad you showcased in your latest Boytoons edition, Patrick.
    Looking forward to seeing what else you two share in the next update.

    If I haven’t said it before, YOU are a great source of good in our creative community, Patrick.
    Thank you for that.
    :)

    Happiest Holidays to you both–Patrick & Fraser!
    :)

    Huggles,

    ~Z.

  4. Pro_spector says

    Love the interview man!
    Belasco is amazing!!!
    Glad to see gay artist lifting each other up too;-)

  5. Thanks for featuring Belasco, Patrick. I think his was some of the first gay art I’d seen when I started discreetly checking the “dirty” section of the book store :) In fact I love that you chose the church scene because that is a sequence I distinctly remember from my brief browse through Belasco’s collection.

    Best,
    j.

  6. White Wabbit says

    Hey Sir,
    it’s taken me a while to decide to get an account and leave a comment but this is it!! Finally!
    I’m a bit of a nobody, but I got a huge respect for yer work. I’d love to post some fanart, but I’m not sure how to do it!! (so lemme know!)

    Seriously though, I’m not usually interested in the whole blogging thing, but I guess you could say you’ve brought out the geek in me. I jus wanna be closer to your world… in a non-weird non-stalker sense…

    Happy New Year to you and everyone dear to you!
    (Do I sound like a weirdy?… hmmm… don’t mean to!!)

  7. HAIRYBEARS says

    Hello my Friend …

    … Have a Great Day !!!

    Kisses and Happy New Year !!!

    HAIRYBEARS
    http://hairybears.blogspot.com/

  8. João Baptista says

    Hi

    I´m looking for a blog like this for a long time, great draws. I´m gonna be Your fan

    JB Portugal

  9. Hey gang…

    Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and posting your comments on the Belasco interview! I am THRILLED you all enjoyed reading it!

    Chill… so good to hear from you my friend! I hope you had a great Holiday Season as well! I can’t wait to see what you have in the works! I look forward to it! Thanks for stopping by! XOXO

    Charlie… I hope you had a great Holiday Season also. I am so glad you enjoyed the Belasco interview. This is a very important artist whose work is as passionate as it is HOT! And you’re right… he LOVES his Boytoons! LOL!!! All the best dear friend! XOXO

    Z-Maker… thank you so much for the sweet words my friend. I am really touched! ? I really do believe that artists of gay erotica should stick together and I am always so happy to be able to contribute to that in some small part. I am really thrilled you enjoyed the interview with Belasco. I also agree with you that he is a very important artist who deserves more of the lime light. His work is truly exceptional and deserves to be noticed even more! Thanks again for stopping by, dear friend! Much love to you! XOXO

    Pro_Spector… Thanks for the kudos, my friend. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the interview with Belasco! He is really an amazing artist and also a really nice guy! It made doing the interview with him even more fun! Drop by any time! XOXO

    White Wabbit… welcome to BTM! I am so glad that I could bring out the geek in you! LOL!!! Seriously, it’s really great to read from you and please feel free to drop by anytime!

    As for fan art, you’re always welcome to send it along. Anything you want to send me you can send at the following address: service@calsscomics.com

    I look forward to seeing your stuff and to reading more from ya! Thanks again fro dropping by! XOXO

    Hairy bears! Thanks for saying hello, my friend! Come back any time you like! I am looking forward to checking out your Blog too! Hugz and kisses to you! XOXO

    João Baptista… What a nice thing to say! LOL!!! Thank you so much for the lovely words my friend. I am really happy to see that you are enjoying BTM! Be sure to check all the back posts as well! I think there is some really great artists you’ll enjoy reading about in the old posts. And again, thanks for posting. Feel free to drop by anytime! XOXO

    Much love and thanks to all of you! Be sure to check out part 2 of Belasco’s interview if you haven’t already done so!

    Hugz and kisses,
    Patrick XOXOXO

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