Friday, September 27, 2013

Fashion Friday - Tara

Today's doll is one I've been thinking about for a little while.  It isn't my most complicated, but I think it's a lot of fun.  Tara has a t-shirt wardrobe!  I've been experimenting with pattern making (I recently uploaded some designs to Spoonflower, a custom fabric website.  More on that to come....) and this doll features icons & patterns that I've been working on.  There's a travel themed shirt, an oak leaf print, a skull, and test tubes (vials or phials for my non-US readers!!).  Honestly, I'd wear any of these shirts myself!

I'm hoping to have a lesson on Monday but I can't promise it.  I'm a little drained on ideas, and my in-laws are visiting this weekend.  We'll see what happens.

In the meantime, enjoy the doll!

Monday, September 23, 2013


Today, we're going to draw some blocks.

Blocks?! Yes!  I have two sons and a house full of toys.  Before the days of motherhood, I enjoyed painting still-lifes in oils (you can see some of them here).  As I look around my house at the random blocks and toys, I often think it would be fun to jump back into painting by creating a still-life out of toys.  And then I got to thinking about the basics of drawing.... So that's why we're drawing blocks today.

Drawing (or painting) is the process of creating images out of line, shape, and form.  Line has an obvious definition.  Shape can be defined as enclosed lines -- we often learn shapes as very young children.  And forms are three-dimensional shapes, ie: a cube is a square that has height, width, AND depth.

So how does this relate to paper dolls? If you choose to work in a realistic style, then this is very relevant.  To create a realistic representation of a 3D figure on a 2D page, you need to understand form.

A human figure is essentially composed of cubes, cylinders, spheres, etc.  That's why I chose these two blocks.  I roughed in at outline and we'll shade it.

To create shadows, you need a light source.  Preferably one light source, but it's rare to have one light source occur naturally.  These blocks, for example, had a primary light source coming from the right/front, but there were secondary light sources as well.  In this case, our lightest tones are on the "light" side of the block, and our darkest tones are directly opposite that light source.

My blocks were on a reflective surface, so instead of a shadow, they have a reflection that grounds them to the plane. Huh?  That just means that didn't let the blocks float on an empty page.  Ideally, there's a light tone that sits next to a dark tone, etc, to emphasize the light and dark tones.

This is a still-life I drew years ago in an art class.  The pink circled areas show places in the drawing with strong black & white contrast.  Having dark darks and light lights against each other helps to give the impression of three dimensions.

Here's a rough sketch of an arm to demonstrate how a body is really just a series of forms mashed together.

I realize this is a pretty rough overview of shading principles.  Try to keep these ideas in mind as you draw your dolls.  And if realism isn't your thing, that's cool too!  Sometimes it isn't mine either :)

There are a number of wonderful resources that provide additional information. This gallery on deviantArt has lots of useful information specific to figure drawing.

Happy drawing everyone, and we'll have a new doll up on Friday!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fashion Friday - Elise

This week's doll is another weather-inspired one.  It's just starting to feel like fall (or autumn, if you like) here in New England.  For anyone who hasn't been here before, this is the time to come.  I love foliage season, in part because I'm a native Vermonter and in part because I grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Turning leaves, crisp air -- even the rampant tourists don't bother me!

So today's doll is inspired by autumn.  The pattern I used is another one of my creations.  The newest version of Illustrator makes pattern making so simple that I'm tempted to upgrade just for that!   Also, I know I've done this yellowy/mustardy leather before.  I kinda love it and I'm not sure why!

And this doll is named for a series of books I've been reading by a young author, S.M. Reine.  If you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or urban fantasy with chicks, check it out.  One of her characters is named Elise, and I love that name.  (Although my Elise is VERY different than hers!!)

Here's this weeks doll.  Still struggling with a lesson idea.  We'll see what I come up with.  Suggestions are always welcome :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back to School Jane! A new paper doll book

I recently finished the Paper Jane back to school prints & posted them on Etsy.  I thought it would be fun to create a book of Jane and her friends, as well as offering the prints on Etsy.  Here it is!

It's a little bit shorter than my other books.  I decided to skip on wide distribution, so it won't be available on Amazon, etc.  I'm glad I did, though.  There are a lot of size and length minimums I would need to meet for wider distribution (see the self-publishing lessons for more information on that).  I wanted a book without any filler and I'm really happy with this one.

This is the front cover, featuring the three dolls in the book.  I've decided to name them all: Jane is the one in front, Maria is on the left, and Grace is on the right.

Anyway, go check it out! And if you want your own copy, get it here!!

Monday, September 16, 2013


I've mentioned before that I've been pretty busy with a freelance assignment.  It's nice to have a paying project in the works! Anyway, that hasn't left me much time for a lesson.  So today I have some freebies I'd like to share.

First up, a gemstone brush.  I used this to make the Byzantine paper doll a couple of weeks ago.  It's an Illustrator file and should work with CS4 and up.

There are four brushes in the set: one light gemstone, one dark gemstone, one light big & small alternating, and one dark big & small alternating.  The gemstones will take on the stroke color you use.  For instance, the two circles in the image above were made with the same red stroke color.

Secondly, I have a set of repeating lace patterns.  Again, these should work with Illustrator CS4 and up.  These are black lace patterns without a background color.  These would work great as a secondary fill with a blending mode applied.  I've also included the brush I used to make the lace patterns.

I hope this are useful!  Feel free to used these for any projects - personal or commercial.  A link back is nice but not necessary.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Historical Fashion Friday - Margaux

Today's doll is inspired by the Chronicle of Western Costume by John Peacock (again!), specifically a sketch of a French lady from 1496.  And the pattern I used here is my own!  This is a pattern I developed for a lesson on my portfolio blog.  I admit neglecting that blog a whole lot.  I really keep that site as my non-paper doll related portfolio.  Maybe I'll repost that lesson here Monday.  I don't have a solid idea yet for a lesson on Monday...

Also, a couple more things I want to mention about this doll.  I'm a bit dubious about the term "hand drawn" and this doll is one of the reasons.  The fur trim on this, for example, was drawn with a stylus on a Wacom tablet.  Is it any less "hand drawn" than something on paper? Not trying to start an argument, just something to think about.  Secondly, that veil is not great.  The sketches in John Peacock's book at good but they're just that -- sketches.  I wish I had more time to fix that. (I'm super deep into a freelance project right now, so everything has been a bit neglected.  It's nice to make a little money of my own, so that takes priority right now!!) And third, her hair is a total cop-out.  I knew I was making the veil so I didn't fuss with designing a nice hairstyle for her!

Anyway, this is Margaux, a 15th century French lady.  I hope everyone likes this occasional historical spin on the dolls.  I know I do!

Download Historical Fashion Friday - Margaux pdf here

Monday, September 9, 2013

Painting Wavy/Curly Hair in Watercolors

This is more of a process walkthrough than an actual lesson.  I essentially did a step by step speed painting and here are the results.

 First, I lightly sketched out a profile in pencil on watercolor paper.
 I lightly painted in a skin tone.  This whole image is sort of sepia toned.

I took a light brown color and sketched out the edges of the hair.  She's getting a massive '80s style blow out.  Go big or go home :)
I continued sketching the hair in the same light brown color.  Hair is a mass of individual strands, and I wanted to give the hair some direction.
Once I finished sketching in some directional lines, I filled the whole mass in with my lightest tone.  I like to work light to dark in watercolors.  In oils, I tend to work dark to light.  Also, I used a small round brush for the strokes in the hair - pretty much one brush for the whole.  And I used a large flat brush for the washes.
Continue to build up the color working from lightest to darkest.

Remember to give the brushstrokes a purposeful direction.

At every stage I try to leave some of the previous color showing.

Continue building up tones using directional brushstrokes.  At this stage, the "hairs" are sort of split up between light and dark to show the curve of the curl in the light.

Continue on, etc.  Think about light source as you build up tone.  I jumped to a pretty dark tone at this point.
As the hair dried, I filled in some detail in the face.  I wasn't going for perfect here.  Some of the anatomy is a little off, but not bad.  Also, I'm not a total purist with watercolors.  I don't mind introducing a little white, if needed.  There's a white highlight on the eyes and lips.

My image ended up a little crooked, but I'm using it anyway!  Lastly, I took a very thin yellow and washed over all of the hair.  This unified and warmed the overall tone of the hair.

I could continue building up tones and reworking, but at some point a painting has to be done!  I did all of this in under an hour, in case anyone was wondering.  I would love to learn how to paint super curly or tightly curled hair.  That may be another experiment for another day.  The real take away message here is the contrast between light and dark.  Remember that every light has a shadow, and every shadow has a light.  It's where the two meet that the shapes take place.  I still have a lot to learn myself, but I hope this walk through was helpful!

A new doll on Friday.... Maybe another historical one? We'll see!

Friday, September 6, 2013

50 Dolls! Fashion Friday - Madison and Michael

This is the 50th regularly scheduled Friday doll! To celebrate, I made it a double.  There's Madison and Michael in mad patterns.  I realize there are more than 50 dolls if you count the wedding dolls, but this is the 50th "regular" doll.

The patterns are from Din Pattern and worked surprisingly well in Illustrator.  These are .gif patterns designed for pixel-based editors (ie: Photoshop) or repeating backgrounds for websites.  And they are gorgeous.

Speaking of patterns, I've been experimenting with the newest version of Illustrator.  It has a built-in pattern maker so I've been going pattern crazy!

Anyway, here are Madison and Michael.  Enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back to School!

I totally forgot this was Labor Day weekend!  My mother-in-law is visiting, and, like most grandmas, she's mainly here to see the kids....

I don't have a lesson for today as a result.  I'll have another curly hair tutorial for next week, probably in watercolors.  I do, however, have a back to school PaperJane paper doll to share.  There are new listings on the Etsy PaperJanes store.  There are three variations so go check them out!  Here's a sample of the new dolls:

Each set has a variety of school uniforms.  One set is blue, one is green, and the third is pinks & purples.  These were fun to make and I hope everyone enjoys heading back to school.  It was always my favorite time of year!