Friday, January 31, 2014

Fairy Tale Fashion Friday - Snow White

This was not the doll I was going to make today!  I had seen this ultra-mod dress recently, and I was going to do that.  As I got to playing around with it, I noticed that the collar & sleeves from one top reminded me of Snow White.  So that's how that happened!  I'm not much into the whole "princess" thing -- I have sons and I'm past the princess stage.  (I'm a Barbie girl, for what it's worth. "We can do anything! Right, Barbie?" And if you were a girl in the '80s like I was, that little jingle will be VERY familiar!)

Anyway, here's Snow White.  And I love it!! I may very well make more fairy tale dolls.  So much fun!  I'm probably going to have to skip the lesson for Monday -- I have another freelance gig that just came in (yay!).  If I can catch up before then, then I'll post it.  If not....well, I love writing & making dolls, but paying projects need to come first....

Enjoy Snow White and let me know what you think of Fairy Tale Fridays as a "thing"!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Elements of Art: Shape

Today it's all about shape! We're going to spend the next few weeks talking about the elements and principles of art & design.  Last week, it was all about line.  Each element and principle builds upon all of the others, so each lesson ends up going over a little bit of all of them.  I think the next logical step for us is to look at shapes.

A shape can be defined as an enclosed space created by lines or edges.  It can be geometric - like those shapes we learn as kids (circle, square, etc) - or it can be organic with free-flowing lines and curves.  Shapes can also be either positive or negative.  A positive shape is the defined object and negative space is the space defined by the object.

To get a better handle on shape, we're going to look at another of my still-life paintings.  Fun fact: when I'm not creating paper dolls, my other love is still-life painting.  I prefer oil but it's been years since I've worked with oils.  When the kids are a little older, I'll get back into it....

Anyway.... here's a watercolor still-life I did of some bottles.

Again, don't judge my painting too harshly :)  This is actually my first watercolor still-life painting.  It isn't perfect, but it's not too bad either!

I've outlined some obvious shapes here.  There are rectangles and cropped triangles, as well as more organic shapes.  Each bottle has its own shape, and often is comprised of many shapes.  These are the positive shapes.

Just as important to the composition, however, are the negative shapes.

In this case, there's really only one large negative shape.  There is a negative shape created by the cap on the largest bottle, but mainly it's the background that becomes a negative shape.  I find that negative space is really important to an overall composition.  Here, you can see that there's a strong pyramid composition that becomes really apparent when the negative shape is highlighted.

Ok, ok, enough about still-life paintings.  What has this got to do with paper dolls?

Ever created a paper doll with a hand-on-hip pose?  That space between the arm and body is negative space.  The silhouette of the doll (the shape!) is critical in defining how the outfits fit.

There are three dolls I want to look at that use shape to define the art more than line.


Melissa Bastow of DorkyPrints (

I love this doll!  Melissa creates a lot of posters, prints, and clip art and sells it on her Etsy site.  This is the only paper doll listed on her site.  This doll has a really strong use of shape.  Everything is defined by shape: the bodies, the details, the clothing.  There's hardly a line at all! (Unless you count implied lines, which you are, because you remember last weeks lesson!!)

Tiffani Mari Mensch of Goodnight Squirrel (

Here's another Etsy doll.  I wanted to look at harder-to-find examples and Etsy was a great place to find them!  This artist has really strong academic training (RIT and RISD) and beautiful work.  She has all sorts of fun things on her site, including custom paper dolls like the one pictured.  Again, this doll is defined by shapes and less by line.  There's a negative space created in-between the legs and a nice composition to the entire page.  This is more of an art paper doll to be framed & hung and less a toy, so composition is more important here.

Dyna Moe, Nobody's Sweetheart

This is one of several Mad Men paper dolls that this illustrator has created.  All of her illustration work is amazing and worth a look.  Again, this is a doll defined by shapes and not line.  There's some subtle shading that really helps define the shapes used and adds just enough depth.  And, as with the previous example, page composition is really important. I know we aren't discussing color, but I just have to say how much I love the color and how perfect it is for the time period!

Anyway, so those are a few dolls that make amazing use of shape.  Next up, we'll look at form and how to give a 2D image a little depth.  Check in Friday for paper doll download!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fashion Friday - Karina

For the millionth time this winter, is is freezing in New England.  Like, can't leave the house cold.  My boys & I are all a little stir crazy!!

Today's doll is another winter inspired one.  A vintage style winter coat and sweater dress set in mint green.  I hope you all love it as much as I do!

Download Fashion Friday - Karina pdf here

Monday, January 20, 2014

Elements of Art: Line

First off, sorry about no posts last week.  I had a paper doll commission to complete (yay!) so that had to come first.  It was a great project and I'll share more about it at a later time....

Today we're going to start in on my "big" lesson plan for the year: the elements of art and principles of design.  This will cover several weeks and use several examples (both paper doll and other).  I find the need to cycle back to basics once in a while and hopefully you will, too.

Briefly, the elements of art are the "tools" used to create an image: line, shape, form, color, tone/value, texture, and space.  Principles of design are how those tools are used to create an image: repetition, movement, proportion, balance, unity, and emphasis.  These are the overall composition of your image.

So let's talk about line.

Creating a line is something most of us do as very young children.  It becomes the basis of drawing as well as writing, and it's a tool we use so frequently that it's hardly given a second thought.  At its most basic, a line is the connection of two points in space.  There are essentially two types of lines: drawn and implied.

A drawn line is just that: a mark on paper/canvas/etc.  Straight, curved, thick, thin, dotted, jagged -- there are endless lines you can create.

Implied lines are less obvious.  They're the line created by two objects overlapping or a horizon line in a landscape. They are less obvious but just as important as any mark.  I find with my paper dolls specifically, there are few examples of implied lines. 

Let's look at some lines in action. 

This is one of my favorite paintings! I did this years ago and, I have to admit, I chose furniture & paint in our house just so that I could hang this up! This shows all kinds of lines.  Let's do a little formal analysis and find the lines.  There are obvious ones, like the long horizontal line that divides the image right behind the front pear.  There are lines created where objects meet background, like the sides of the baskets or where the pear sits on the table. 

Here's a close-up of the section above the front pear:

Do you see the lines? Of course!  None of those lines were drawn, really.  These are lines created by the intersection of blocks of color.

Line is also the way the eye moves through the image.

The pink lines represent some of the ways that the viewer's eye might move through an image like this.  Your eyes will follow drawn lines, find implied lines, and create connections throughout an image.

You can also use lines to convey color and texture.  Cross-hatching is a technique where lines overlap to convey different shades in a monotone image.  We went over it in the Shading with Pencil lesson, so I won't repeat all of that again.

So what does all this have to do with paper dolls? Plenty!

Think about the lines you're using.  Do you want to use a heavy outline on your doll with finer lines for the details?  That's what I did with the Kawaii Kids dolls. Those were black & white so all I had to work with were lines.  Try using hatching to shade an image.  I do that with pencil, but you can also do it with line patterns in Illustrator or Photoshop.  Also consider line during layout.  Try to create an entire composition when laying out a doll and outfits.  And test your boundaries!  When I create still-life paintings, I try not to have a solid line unless it's necessary.  I'd like to do this with a doll sometime.  Try painting a doll with watercolors or in a drawing program without outlining.

Cory Jensen

I've mentioned Cory before.  His work is great and very popular.  He has a deviantArt account, Tumblr, Facebook, and you should go follow them all!  Cory excels at subtlety.  These Jasmine dolls use shape to convey line.  There are very few actual lines in the paper dolls.  But the images are clear and easy to cut around.

Rachel at Paper Thin Personas

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Rachel's dolls.  Her blog is amazing and an endless treasure trove of inspiration and beautiful dolls.  I chose one of her black and white dolls to demonstrate her wonderful use of line.  Rachel's dolls are all about line.  Thick outlines for the dolls and outfits.  Thin lines for details.  Hand-drawn patterns.  I'm amazed by her linework!

Newspaper doll

I don't know anything about this doll! I found it on Pinterest.  I'm not sure if I'm on board with Pinterest yet.  Part of me feels like I should set up an account, and part of me feels like it's one more thing to keep up with.  Anyway... I liked this doll.  It makes great use of a limited color palette and uses both drawn and implied lines.  Anything that can be conveyed in a solid color is, and anywhere that a line is needed, it's used.  Limited palettes like this can be a real challenge, and this doll manages to convey strong images that are also clear and easy to cut out.

 In my opinion, that should be the goal of every paper doll -- do I want to cut it out?  It's a toy! Play with it!  And play around with line.  I'll have a new doll up on Friday.  I'll see if I can make it line themed in some way.

Anyway, go out and explore line.  I know I'll be thinking about it more as I create!  


Friday, January 10, 2014

Fashion Friday - Nysa

Here's the first fashion doll of the year!  And I love this one!! This doll is Nysa, which means either "new beginnings" or "goal" in Greek.  Both meanings are perfect for this year.  Last year was a tough one -- for me and (it seems) every one I talked to.  This year is already off to a better start.

Nysa has a fabulous, menswear inspired wardrobe for all her January partying.  I'm hoping to get a lesson up on Monday, but it may have to wait.  I have a new project I'm working on that I should be able to share shortly.

Til then, have fun with Nysa!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, New Directions

Today is the first Monday of the year.  I didn't think I'd have time to post, but the boys are happily playing with all their new Christmas toys so I have a moment to myself!

First, I have to say that I love keeping this blog.  I used to scoff at the whole idea of blogs -- I'm old enough to remember when they were called "weblogs" and were kept by angsty teenagers.  Of course, back in those days I WAS an angsty teenager, but I digress.... This blog has helped me focus on my art in an otherwise chaotic life.  It's given me an audience for my ramblings and images, and I am so grateful for that.

In the 18 months or so that I've been writing this I've had only a haphazard plan.  I've written about what I was working on at the time or what interested me at that moment.  I love sharing my projects -- the successes and failures -- and I love learning something new to share.  Over the course of writing this blog, I've discovered that there are some pretty distinct groups who read this: paper doll enthusiasts, children who love paper dolls, and fellow artists.  There are some people who love the digital lessons and there are some who love the traditional media lessons.  The single most popular post I've ever written is about anatomy.  Now that I have some solid data and input about what people what to read about, I've decided to make some changes.

Relax!  It isn't anything huge! Really!

Instead of randomly demonstrating techniques, I want to get back to the nuts & bolts of art.  I had a wonderful art teacher in high school and she constantly told be to go back to basics.  You can't over-learn the basics.  And that's what I want to do here.

We will be going over the elements and principles of art.  I loved writing the anatomy post and I want to write more like that.  I have a BA in Art History and tons of studio art experience, and I want to share more of that.  For as long as it takes, we'll be using this chart as a guide.  My art teachers/professors have drilled these elements & principles of art into my memory and I think about them without thinking about them every time I work.  We're going to start with line next week and how it pertains to paper doll design.  Every lesson after that will follow the same format and deal with a different element or principle.

I'm very excited about it and I hope all of you are, too.

Secondly, I want to continue to post free paper doll downloads.  The Friday dolls are a lot of fun, and I want to continue with those.  I loved the Kawaii Kids and will probably revisit those at some point, too.  Part of this blog is my ongoing journey as an artist and an attempt to become a professional.  This has been happening in bits and pieces -- which I'm thrilled about.  I didn't go to art school and that has slowed my progress as a professional artist.  It was a choice I made twice and I don't regret it.  It just means I have to work a little harder to build a reputation and a network. It also means that I need to clock some more studio time.  I want to have a professionally published paper doll, and to do this, I need to get in the studio!  I may have to pick and choose what I work on in the process.

Continuing projects:
- the core of Paper Doll School: the lessons!
- Fashion Friday dolls, preferably more historical ones
- self-published books available on as often as I can get them done (It takes me about 6 months from putting pencil to paper and finally publishing a book. This is WAY too long and I need to speed up the process!)

On hiatus:
- PaperJanes

Projects that need some attention:
- prints of my dolls
- deviantArt account

The PaperJanes dolls are great, but the return on investment simply isn't there.  I want to go back to them, but it's going to be even less frequently than it is now.

This was a very long block of text and I hope it clarified my goals.  It helped me focus just to get this all written down!  I love input and try to incorporate it where ever I can, so keep it coming.

And there should be a new doll on Friday!