"I have always painted women. I have drawings from when I was four of stick figures with breasts and my drawings from age nine were filled with sketches of women in 1950s ballgowns"
Olivia was born in California in 1948 but spent most of her childhood on the East Coast. Her father, Sante De Berardinis, was a freelance aeronautical engineer, and his work kept Olivia's family constantly on the move. Being the only child, Olivia lived in an adult world where she spent much of her time drawing. Olivia's playful, flirtatious mother, Connie, served as her favourite model and muse. In 1967 she attended the New York School of Visual Arts. Over the next few years she took odd jobs to pay the rent but continued to paint and began to show her work, primarily minimalist oils on canvas.
By 1974 financial pressures induced Olivia to seek out commercial art work, and so she returned to the skills she had gained as a child, painting beautiful women for periodicals and paperback publishers. In a short time Olivia secured regular work painting erotic fantasies for men's magazines.
"Her early work consisted of sexually graphic tableaux," says Hugh Hefner. "Olivia's women had the ideal build of fantastic art - they share the walls on college dormitories with the heavy-metal heroines of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vajello. There are wonderful aliens here - women with tiger stripped skin, chrome torsos and plumed wings. Her rendering ability is such that she makes the unbelievable seem real and accessible."
In 1984, Olivia began supplying illustrations for Playboy. Her work underwent a shift, becoming more sophisticated, more subtle. You can see a more delicate handling of the female form."
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