Each year, I draw a parody of a vintage Christmas pin-up art illustration featuring a male character from my current brain rot. This year, it happens to be Astarion from Baldur’s Gate 3.

It was a bit tough to settle on an illustration. I knew I didn’t want to be very lewd with this one; I wanted to keep it more tasteful than usual, to exude a classy vibe. I wanted to capture a flirty tease with the warm promise of something fun happening later. The chosen illustration wasn’t necessarily a Christmas pin-up, but I had to reach a little further to find something with the vibe and aesthetic I was seeking. And really, it doesn’t have to be Christmas specifically; that was just my own rule, which I’m allowed to bend if I wanted.

I chose this piece by Gil Elvgren because I immediately thought of the dagger replacing the skewer, and because I’m an absolute sucker for sheer material. Gil seems to be a master of it, and I really wanted to try and study the rendering of the material and skin.

Pin-up art by Gil Elvgren

I started with a thumbnail sketch and then moved to a full sketch. I made a couple more changes besides the dagger. The first was the head position. I thought tilting it would make Astarion appear more coy. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure if that was the right decision to make; even now, when I compare the original and mine, I’m wondering how it would look if I had drawn him with his face pointing directly at the viewer. I think my idea was still in-character, but I wonder if the impact would have been different.

2023 holiday pin-up art thumbnail
2023 holiday pin-up art sketch

I also swapped the heels for a pair of slippers. Now, normally, I am a staunch supporter of men in heels. But I wasn’t sure if the juxtaposition of the heels with the sheer negligee was something I wanted to keep. It kind of had a feeling of a different type of fashion that I wasn’t sure you’d see in BG3’s setting, though I’m pretty history illiterate so I could be wrong. Either way, it didn’t feel right to me for once, and I didn’t see a reason for him to be wearing shoes while being cozy by the fireplace, presumably at home with Tav/Durge. So I swapped them out for slippers instead, and also changed the negligee’s fringe to red.

During the rest of the process, I did my best to focus on capturing the same kind of traditional media texture as the original. However, by the time I got to Astarion himself, I had run out of time. I’d been busy with commissions and had a brief bout of time blindness. Suddenly, it was a day or two before Christmas, and I was scheduled to work most of it. In the end, I had to quickly finish Astarion, and I feel like I could have rendered his skin and outfit better. I don’t think I did justice to the sheer material compared to Gil’s obvious mastery of the overlapping surfaces.

Regardless, I enjoyed working on it, I learned a lot, and I think the finished result is cute. I’d love to be on the rug with Astarion, toasting marshmallows while the cold wind howls outside. And then being teased by glimpses of other treats under the negligee, followed by wandering hands…

2023 holiday pin-up Astarion
2023 holiday pin-up Astarion (textless)

This post is late, as it’s already New Year’s Eve. I’d forgotten to post it amidst the other stuff I’ve been handling in preparation for the new year. But it’s never too late to cuddle up with a cute pale elf by the fire with marshmallows. 😉

Happy holidays!