Listening to digital artist Tiger Lee describe exactly what it is he does and what inspired him to do it, one is reminded of a scene in the movie Chasing Amy. In the scene, a comic book artist (Ben Affleck) explains to a colleague one of the few rules of the science fiction and fantasy field.
"It's all about marketing," Affleck offers. "Over or underweight guys who don't get laid. They're our bread and butter."
Lee, dressed in a yukata (think a kimono with a belt), offers similar wit when explaining his roots. "All little nerdy boys, they want to be around beautiful, gorgeous women like these," he says.
Lee is referring to the women in his new book, Digerotic Art, a collection of "digitally enhanced erotic art." They are photographs of real women, many from San Diego, in digitally created or enhanced fantasy settings. They are photographed in costume, or in many cases little to nothing, and then digitally manipulated into vampires, fairies or sword-swinging bad mama-jamas. The breasts aren't digitally augmented, just the teeth.
Before your nerd-alarm starts blaring, consider this: erotic art is the oldest form. Many scholars now believe that the Venus Of Villendorf, a 20,000-year-old sculpture of a woman from the Paleolithic era that many consider the oldest existing piece of art, was nothing more than a masturbatory tool used in fertility ceremonies. A prehistoric Penthouse, if you're nasty.
What separates Tiger Lee from the rest of the fantasy-geek crop is he claims to be "the first erotic artist to shoot entirely with digital cameras," which brings a whole new sense of realism to the genre.
"Most fantasy kind of images in science fiction have strictly been the realm of illustrators and painters," he explains. "It's only now with the digital revolution that we can create these kind of mythical images that makes the whole fantasy more real because it's a real woman."
His work hasn't gone unnoticed. He's won countless local photography awards and two Photoshop Guru Awards for excellence in Photoshop design. This also landed him a gig at the Art Institute of San Diego teaching Advanced Image Manipulation. Impressive, especially considering he's entirely self-taught.
Digerotic Art, eight years in the making, is his labor of love. For what they are, the pieces included are svelte and novel. In the book, the final image is displayed next to its raw materials: the backdrop used and any other props that are in the final product.
The process sounds tedious, but Lee is anything but ascendant when it comes to the women he shoots. He says he only has one rule: "You either come exquisitely dressed to kill or you dress in nothing. If you have no clothes I like, we shoot nude. That's my policy."
To celebrate his first delve into publishing, Lee has decided to overhaul the typical meet-and-greet book signing.
"Most book signings are really boring," he says. "Ten people show, you sell four books and you get nothing. I wanna do something different."
So Lee has created the "Night of the Tiger," a fantastical circus rave from hell complete with DJs, nubile belly dancers, darkwave harpists and fire manipulators. Brandy, an aerial artist and self-described "chain goddess," will be swinging 35 to 45 feet in the air without a net. You can meet the women in the pictures. Oh, and you can get your book signed, too. But this all serves a wider purpose for Lee.
"Life, overall, is boring for many people," he said. "But it's only boring if that's how you live it. You can choose to add excitement and fantasy to your life. We try to bring that fantasy as part of our real life in what we do."
"Night of the Tiger" will be thrown at the Jing Institute (8666 Commerce Ave., Mirimar), 8 p.m. on June 19. $25-$30.www.digeroticart.com.