This is a very insightful review of Steve Rude's painting "Cowgirl" on Artists2arttists Social Network (a site I was unfamiliar with before today). The curator of record is Ms. Kristen Woodward and what impresses me about her review-- beyond her ability to encapsulate a fully-developed and expressed critique in a relatively small space-- is how she's picked up on something I've always felt to be a component even of the Dude's comic book work: the satirical element.
When someone's right, she's right. And she clarifies something that was half-formed in my mind. Rude's work has always had "multiple levels of content." His sequential work is both straight adventure and a sort of comedic riff on the inherent goofiness of superheroes. There's always been an element of comedy about it in the dynamics of his figures and his designs of strange aliens and robots with which Rude fills his Nexus pages. In Mike Baron, he had a writer with a similar take, which is why their approach meshed so well and why they produced so many classic stories.
In much the same way, when you look at his paintings like "Cowgirl," you can see Rude drawing on the influence of great pin-up artists, but also playfully commenting on them. The image can be read as simply sexy or as a subtle send-up of sexy artwork. That's where Rude's appeal comes from, beyond his impeccable technique. That's why his art is as fun to look at as it is dazzling with its rendering.
This is all the more impressive because I'm going to guess Ms. Woodward isn't all that familiar with Rude's comic book work where this is more apparent. Whenever I run into a top-flight artistic mind like Ms. Woodward's, I'm just blown away. I was lucky enough to have a couple of professors with a similar sharpness when I was studying art and graphic design at the University of Georgia. One of them accurately called me out on something in front of class and it was a lesson well learned. Of course, I also had some uncommunicative clowns, but I don't dwell on them as much as I do the positive experiences with the good ones.