Ten Years of Cheesecake

Ten years ago, I was flipping through a book of pinup girl paintings by Art Frahm. You know the ones – where hapless ladies strutting down the street end up with their panties around their ankles or their skirts blowing up over their heads (or both, if he was feeling particularly frisky!). I wondered why I never saw artwork depicting men in these types of wardrobe malfunction scenarios. Sure, there were male pinups. But they were usually big, beefcake men who were always in total control of the situation.

That was how the Cheesecake Boys were born. I started making drawings and paintings of male models innocently losing their clothes all over the place – grocery shopping, fixing a car, weight lifting – the options were limitless. Ten years later and I’m still coming up with fun, creative ways to get guys out of their pants! Why? Well, someone has to do it!

The boys who started it all. These are the first six Cheesecake Boy paintings that kicked off the series back in 2008.

I came out of the closet shortly after graduating from art school, and it was very difficult at that time (2002) for me to find contemporary artists dealing with gay subject matter in a way that wasn’t hardcore erotic art. There were a few I found and am still huge fans of to this day – Joe Phillips, Michael Breyette, and Glen Hanson. And I do appreciate artists who make overtly homoerotic art too, but it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue myself. Maybe growing up in the midwest and being closeted my entire childhood accounts for why the cute, provocative tease felt more natural to me. I would never look at hardcore gay art when I was growing up. But if we were watching a movie and a cute guy ended up without his clothes, I could appreciate that under the guise of humor. Not that the Tom Cruise Risky Business scene was funny enough to justify the number of times I re-watched it and tried to reenact his tighty whitey dance when nobody was around, but it was a good cover nonetheless.

Paul Richmond with the original painting a limited-edition print of Rainbow Pride Cheesecake.

When I started the Cheesecake Boys series, I thought I might make a few fun paintings and call it a day. I never dreamed ten years later, there would be gallery exhibits, videos, greeting cards, clothing, and even a coloring book with coloring enthusiasts around the world posting their own versions of my drawings on social media every day. The response has been unbelievable, and I’ve had so much fun building up my own style of gender-swapping pinup art using a cheeky, humorous touch to question the way our society approaches gender roles and sexuality.

Cheesecake Boys Extravaganza art party in 2010 at Luxboheme Columbus. Paul Richmond with Cheesecake Boy models.

And I’m delighted that young people coming out of the closet today can find countless artists of all ages and backgrounds making their own forms of accessible, boundary-pushing queer art. My social media feed is filled with their work and young artists like Christian Cimoroni, Matthew Conway, and Andy Simmonds are doing such cool things that inspire me endlessly.

Even though my muse takes me in many different directions, after ten years of drawing and painting Cheesecake Boys, I still feel like I am just getting started. So many cute guys to depants…so little time!

Original reference photo and process pics for the Cheesecake Boy painting of Jack Mackenroth called “Size Matters.”


About the Artist

Illustration of Paul Richmond by Christian Cimoroni

Paul Richmond is an internationally recognized visual artist and activist whose career has included exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout the United States as well as publication in numerous art journals and anthologies. His work is collected by individuals around the globe. He recently completed two commissions for actor James Franco. In his role as the Associate Art Director for Dreamspinner Press and their young adult imprint, Harmony Ink Press, he has created over four hundred novel cover illustrations. He is a co-founder of the You Will Rise Project, an organization that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through art. Visit paulrichmondstudio.com to see the entire collection of Paul’s work.