On the first day of the year, Myla and I took a walk in the woods, and saw proof of what surely was a forest full of fairies, yeti, and strange imaginary creatures. When I got home, I printed out a photo from our walk, and painted a few of them. I even did a blog post about it called Imaginary Monsters.
Since then, I’ve been adding little monsters to several photos I’ve taken of her, for fun. Sometimes silly little forest creatures….
And sometimes, more serious bigger fellas…
I paint them playing with her…
And just hanging out…
Sometimes, I add little poems to them, in the hopes of one day making a little book collection for her…
“What kind of dragon are you?” she said to the girl. “Your teeth are so small, and your tail doesn’t curl.”
“You’re an odd little puppy,” the graggin said. “Why haven’t you got any horns on your head?”
When I posted them, people asked if I did them digitally, but they’re all sketched in pen and handpainted in acrylic on photo printouts.
They’re fun to do and quite relaxing for me. She has such a great imagination when we’re just exploring, and it’s fun to take a peek at the world the way she might see it.
Sometimes I ask her what kind of creature I should add, but usually I just come up with something on my own to make her smile.
When I posted one recently, someone suggested it might be fun if I offered them as customs…
So are you up for it? Do you have a kid (or kid-at-heart) that needs a portrait with an imaginary friend for Christmas, or birthday, or just to make them smile?
Well, I’ve decided to offer a few for custom order! I have an Epson Artisan printer with archival inks and photo papers, and will offer two sizes: 8.5″ x 11″, and 11.17″ x 16.5″. I can take your child’s drawing or description to work with, or I can create one from my own imagination.
I put up a listing in my etsy shop…have a look!
I have so much fun with them–I’d love to do some for you!
While I was browsing the grocery store toy aisle the other day, I came across something that made me gasp out loud. A Wonder Woman Barbie! I’m not really a big fan of Barbies, but this was something I had to splurge on, because I am a responsible adult, and sometimes you just need a really awesome Wonder Woman doll in your life.
I’ve had a love of Wonder Woman for awhile, shared mostly between me and my roller derby friend–we even used to wear matching WW derby shorts! (Here’s me on the right as Captain Wonderpants, and her wearing our team shirt–from North Pole, Alaska.)
So back to the doll…Since I couldn’t just leave her with a factory paint, I was thrilled to learn of the amazing custom repaints people do online! I’m nowhere near that level of detail and professionalism, but I always love the idea of painting everything and making it my own.
The first step: taking off the factory face paint. This can be done easily with acetone-based nail polish remover and a washcloth. I used a little tiny paintbrush to get the hard-to-reach places in her eyes and mouth.
I printed some photos of the new Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, to look at as reference, but I didn’t really follow them too closely. And I wanted her eyes staring to the side, instead of just straight ahead. I used acrylic paint, and started out with a soft dark pinkish color to find the shapes I wanted, remembering that if I absolutely hated it, I could always wipe it away with the acetone.
There were several moments I did actually consider wiping her away completely–it’s so difficult to paint a three-dimensional figure that small! But I kept working with it wiping small areas here and there and starting over again, and finally got it where I liked it. I’ve read that most of the pro doll painters use chalks and blushes, but I sort of enjoyed the painted look for some of the shading, and since it’s mine and I’m the boss of it, that’s what I did.
I also added quite a lot of shading and highlight detail on her headpiece and uniform to make it pop out more, and not look so plasticky.
And lastly, I decided she needed a chest tattoo of a big ol’ eagle because Wonder Woman is awesome like that. I might fill her up with more. In fact I’m pretty sure I will…those legs look a little bare for my taste. 🙂 And I debated on it with myself a bit, but finally decided she needed a few freckles, because…why not? And to finish her up, I gave her a good spray-down with Testors varnish, which works well on dolls, and dries to a matte finish.
And there she is! Someone on Instagram already commented that they didn’t like her eyebrows, but since I didn’t really ask for her opinion and I didn’t paint it for her, I don’t care. I like how she turned out.
She’s really mine now, and she’ll protect our house as well as a Barbie-sized Wonder Woman can, maybe on the fireplace mantle.
Have you ever had to have a kid doll, and made it your own somehow? I’m pretty positive I’m not the only one (I’ve got my eye on some Dark Crystal and Labyrinth Funko toys, too)…. So have fun and have a WONDERful day!
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how Myla wanted to be a “real artist” and make people happy with artwork. Although I assured her that she already WAS a “real artist,” we took on ten commissions, and I thought I’d post on how they were going.
First off, I start by drawing a head from the pictures that were sent. I keep it pretty straightforward, and try to keep it fairly simple. Next, when she’s looking for a fun project to work on, I’ll ask if she’d like to start on some of the custom portraits…two words she had previously not known, but is now quite familiar with.
From the emails the client sent, I would tell her a little about the person. “they call him a wiggle-worm, they love garden scenes, and his favorite toy is rainbow-colored.” So she drew the little baby as a rainbow-colored caterpillar, watering his garden, with an ant peeking in on him…
Or: “they call her ‘Princess Batman,” and her favorite animal is a fox.” She drew the girl as a fox with bat-wings and a crown, carrying a space helmet in her hand. Maybe a little literal, but fun nonetheless…
Or: “He had a pirate wedding, and he loves Star Wars and space.” So she drew him as a space pirate, with a light saber and Solo’s blaster, in a great battle with an alien on Jupiter, who’s chucking knives at him…
And there was this one, who loved magical creatures, like unicorns, mermaids, and whales…so she drew her as a whale-hugging merm-i-corn. (That’s a word, right?) If you look carefully, you’ll notice her torso is actually made of unicorn hair…because she wanted to make sure the unicorn had a bit of the spotlight, as well…
With this one, I said, “she loves magical things, like fairies and moths, and she collects coffee cups.” …So she drew her as a luna moth fairy–with teensy weensy itty bitty coffee cups in her hand, and decorating her hair…
Thankfully, so many people were up for letting us use our creativity, and being open to whatever came out. Myla LOVED the “portrait assignments.” She loved having a little prompt. And having someone list an idea of what they have in mind for their portrait has actually become a GOOD exercise for her in limitations.
She really loves to tell little stories with her drawings, (as with the space pirate above, and the gnome fairy below), but I have to remind her that they still want it to be a portrait of someone they love, so maybe hold back a smidge of the wildness a little, so that everyone’s happy.
At first, it feels like I’m limiting her creativity, which is something I was very wary of, and worried about early on…But actually, I’m finding it to be a very GOOD practice for her–to be able to work on something for someone else within certain parameters and still have fun with it. I think this is something that will come in handy in whatever job field she chooses, and is especially helpful if she chooses to be a working artist.
It feels like she’s kind of like a pinball in a pinball machine–she gets to bounce around a bit, but she still has a basic path. And that’s good.
So we’re waiting to finish the last three…in the meantime, we may have more in the future; I’ll be sure to post if we do! I don’t want to overwhelm her. I have asked her every step of the way if it’s fun…if it’s a challenge…if it’s something she enjoys…and so far, it’s been a resounding yes. She is six going on 36, and she is excited to be making people smile. She wants to do lots of things, and she wants to make people happy with her art.
For now, I guess I’m pretty okay with that. 🙂
It’s been awhile since I posted about playing with dolls…
Back then, I was customizing a Blythe and some Monster High dolls, along with “tattooing” some blank bodies that my friend Aletta (from theFoxyToyBox) let me play with.
(So I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared all the doll customs I played around with. I feel like I’ve shared them before, but a rudimentary search shows only my initial post. Considering I’ve been doing this blog a few years now, I don’t THINK I’m repeating…I try REEALLY hard not to repeat. (But if I do, in fact, repeat, please just consider it an old friend coming to say hello again…)…)
Awhile back, my friend Aletta sent these old used dolls for me to play with, and I took the opportunity to repaint them using all the skillful skills I learned from the magical world of Pinterest.
If you want to paint on Monster High dolls, trust me–I’m not the best one to learn from, because there are people who are WAY better pro at it than me. But I wiped off their paint with nail polish remover (I describe my wonky process here), painted in acrylics, and sealed with with Testors spray varnish to protect the plastic without leaving it sticky. And OMGosh they were so much fun.
I got little wigs in Etsy shops, because I am weird like that. And because they’re GORGEOUS. You pretty much just cut off their store-hair and glue on the lovely wigs, and BOOM–magic.
Ages ago, I bought a Bigfoot Monster High doll to repaint (because I couldn’t pass up those HUGE feet and hairy legs). I repainted her, paying lots of detail to that hair, and found a wig that matched her perfectly. I even contacted the wigmaker on etsy, asking if she could send a little extra scrap fur to put around her, which she kindly did. So here she is, with her little mini skirt of hair:
I tried to put her in that bigfoot hunched pose from “real” Bigfoot photos, but Monster High dolls are a little too poised to hunch. But lookit that fantastic leg stubble! Hahah
Even one doll (which Myla asked me to keep unpainted) was missing an arm, and she asked if I could build her one (because I can apparently do anything). I asked if it could be a robot arm, and she said, “of COURSE!” So a few electronic bits later, and I was able to hot-glue a fairly decent “robotic” appendage, which Myla was VERY happy with.
What’s funny, is that my occasional interest in repainting dolls has inspired our 6-year old to attempt to get me to buy her new Monster High dolls. “MOM! Can we please get it if I promise to PAINT it???” Usually our rule is that if I let her get something, she can pick a PROJECT, not just a toy. Which is why she tries, at times, to get me to buy new dolls. It’s tempting, really, considering our thrift stores here don’t HAVE any used ones, and holy cow, one time I saw a LUNA MOTH Monster High doll that even I wanted to repaint!! But I have to use restraint–they’re expensive after awhile, and we can’t just go buy toys for no reason (at least not once you become a parent) so I don’t really allow it.
But they ARE fun….
Anyway, I’ll share more of how our custom collaborations are going next week–Myla is having lots of fun with them! For now, have a great rest of the week! 🙂
If you’ve follow this blog for awhile, you may already be familiar with the collaborations Myla and I did when she was four…
Back then, lots of people asked if we’d do custom collaborations–where maybe they could send photos for me to draw from, and have Myla draw the bodies. LOTS. of. people. I mean, TONS of people. I mean, so many that it was overwhelming.
I always said no. I wasn’t trying to be rude or elitist, but the most important thing to me was that our daughter have FUN drawing. I didn’t want it to be a JOB at age four. I was so overwhelmed with requests that it would’ve been impossible to have her do them at age four and still make it fun…especially since people asked for specifics: a bird, a donkey, a bear. Can you imagine making a 4 year old sit down and do custom orders? While it sounds like it would’ve been nice, I assure you, it would’ve been impossible. And exhausting. And most importantly, it wouldn’t have been fun.
But now Myla is six, and wants to “be a grownup.” Despite my convincing her to stay a kid forever (because being a grownup stinks big time), she still wants to do big-kid things. One of those things, surprisingly, has involved the desire to do custom drawings.
When we ran the Kickstarter to print a book of our collected work (which you can get here, by the way) I offered as one reward level a hand drawn portrait (by me) onto a pre-printed drawing of Myla’s, which was my alternative solution, aside from trying to make her do them all by hand, and still allowed me to give people a portrait that would make them smile.
So she asked me the other day why I never let her do custom pieces…and I told her all of the above. She’s seen me do custom portraits for people, and didn’t realize I had never allowed it when she was younger.
“But I’m older now,” she said. “And I know I could do it.”
“The thing about custom work is that you have to draw what people WANT you to draw. And I always just wanted you to draw whatever made you happy.”
“But now I can do that. I can draw what people ask.”
“They might say they like turtles, and you might feel like drawing robots.”
“But I know I can do it. Now I want to make OTHER people happy.” (Which is funny, because that’s my favorite part of custom portraits, as well.) “So maybe if that happens, I could do a robot-turtle” (which sounds awesome, actually).
So there it is. That’s where we are.
I told her we’d try it. So here we go: I’m only starting with five, in my Etsy shop, so please have a look! For the first time ever! And not for very long. Once you purchase a portrait, you can send me reference photos for a single face, and maybe tell me something that person is into…and I’ll do my best to steer the kiddo in that direction for her part.
So If you’re up for an interesting portrait and you’ve got wiggle room for a 6-year old’s creativity, combined with my illustrations, we’d love to make you happy! 🙂
UPDATE: WOW those five sold out in the first ten minutes! I added five more, but that’s probably all I’ll add for now, until I see how she handles these. Maybe if she has fun with them, we’ll offer a few more. Thank you so much for all your support. 🙂
UPDATE UPDATE: Sold out! Sorry… If she enjoys doing these, we may offer them again sometime! Thanks!
Blast from the past: So cute!! Wonderful reader Laurie reminded me of one of the VERY few portraits we did when Myla was four, as a prize for a creative contest we ran on the blog ages ago. Here are the bluebirds Myla turned her and her daughter into:
From time to time, artists like to offer custom work. Some artists are super comfortable with this, and some are not. For the most part, I LOVE being able to make a wonderful memory for someone, or to be the gift someone gives to someone else. I love when people give me the creative freedom to do what I think will look best. But there is also an amount of anxiety about the possibility of disappointing the client.
Not so funny (but true) story: when I was about 14, I worked in a t-shirt shop after school. One day, a man came in with a tiny, stamp-sized photo of his toddler, and asked (since he had seen my airbrushed portraits) if I’d be willing to do a canvas portrait for him. I did the best I could with this tiny tiny photo, and when he came to pick it up, I felt I had done as good a job as I could do with what I had been given, because DANG I could barely see what was going on. (Also, I was only 14.) He took one look at the portrait and said, “It looks like the photo, but it doesn’t look like my son,” and refused to pay me for the work. I have been slightly intimidated ever since.
Portrait of the amazing portrait artist Maria Bjornbom Oberg (Bokkei). Talk about intimidating!
But since faces are my very favorite thing to paint, we’ll fast forward a million years, to a few months ago…where, after a little encouragement, I offered some portrait work up on Instagram, and was very surprised to have gotten an enormous amount of positive response from clients. People trusted in my creative freedom, and I really enjoyed every one that I worked on! I liked it so much, I was thinking I would offer custom portraits again….at least for a little while.
So as a courtesy, I thought I’d write down a few things that make custom work easier across the board, for both the artist (at least, in my experience) and the customer:
- Send great reference photos. If you want a portrait of your daughter, send a few closeup pictures of her. Don’t send a tiny shot of her in a large group of people–I can’t see her! Send your favorite photos of just her (if you can). Some editing can be done, of course (I have “removed” braces, changed hair color, added and removed items, added pets and favorite things, and changed the setting), but I can’t SEE the person’s face in a large group of people. Keep in mind that I don’t KNOW this person, so the subtle things about their face are unfamiliar to me. The more photos you send of this person, the better. I need clear shots (great, natural lighting is best) and I need a variety to choose from. I always do my best to work from a favorite photo, but it might not work as a reference without the “backup” of a few more photos. It sounds silly, but a variety of photos actually help me “feel” the personality of the person more.
- Mention a little a bit about the subject. If it’s a daughter (or your dog, for that matter)—what does she like to do? Does she have a favorite toy, or place to play? This helps me come up with things that help make the portrait more personal and more fun.
- Expect to pay half up front to hold your spot. For me, portraits range anywhere from roughly $150-500, depending on what a client wants, and I accept payment either in half or full via paypal. This holds a spot in line, so that when I finish one, I can start right on the next without having to worry about collecting initial payments, or trying to figure out who’s serious or not. The portrait is mailed out when I finish the work, the client is happy with the piece, and the final payment is paid. Yay!
- By all means, please share ideas with the artist (I LOVE that!), but artists usually work best when you leave a bit of wiggle room to be creative. I’m sure it’s probably intimidating to pay an artist and not be sure what EXACTLY you’re getting, but funny things happen when you get TOO involved. I love when someone can steer me to an idea of what they “see” when they imagine what the final piece will look like, but also allow me the freedom to do what I feel will look best. If I have a completely strange idea I’m not sure the client will jive with, I always ask them first.
- Mention anything that might make it more special. I nearly always post progress shots on instagram (unless I’m asked not to), but I always send a rough shot of the under-sketch to see what I’ve got laid out before I start painting. This is the time to ask for final changes or add things, or take things away. Keep in mind, it ALWAYS looks wonky at this stage. The sketch for me is like “notes” on what I plan to do with the color when I paint it, so people have to sort of use their “magic eyes,” or just trust in the final piece.
- It helps to know if there’s a timeline to consider. Otherwise, I go down the list in order of who came first. I’m pretty darn fast, but it takes some time to get to through the list if there are people ahead, so it may take a few months.
One of the first custom portraits I did this past year of the lovely Ms Kitty Noir, and all her lovely cats.
- I don’t offer collaborative pieces with our daughter. I know I’ve mentioned it before, and people have asked, but I’m sorry I won’t. I do have our collaborations up as prints on Society6, but I don’t allow custom ones. She enjoys it for fun, but as I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I can’t take something she loves and make her do it a certain specific way at age 6. Putting limitations and restrictions on something someone loves–that’s a sure way to get someone to stop doing something for good!
- Please don’t mind me posting my “extra” drawings! If someone is anxiously awaiting their turn, is following me on Instagram, and sees me post a Pulp Fiction doodle, It’s just that I took the night off to clear my head. I promise you, this will only make the portraits better, because it ensures I will not burn out. I have a day job, and then my late afternoons and evenings are spent with our daughter, and if I don’t get anytime daytime paint time, this leaves me with only a couple of precious hours at night after the kid is in bed to paint before I pass out in exhaustion at the end of the day. I love painting and drawing, and I really enjoy portrait work, but sometimes, I need to draw something just for me, for fun. Like having a drink or taking a bubble bath after a long day, it sort of cleanses the palate for me. I often feel guilty for it, when I know I have portraits to do, but honestly, it helps me feel refreshed for the next portrait.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for something strange! I enjoy strange and different!
- If you have a particular style you like best that I’ve done, please let me know! I had a client who enjoyed the “Stuff Myla Says” series I work on from time to time:
…And we did a similar piece of her young daughter, and a sweet little saying she had said:
So there you go. A bit of a list, but I think it’s a list of things people wonder about when they ask for a custom portrait, and things that could make the process go a little more smoothly. Many times, people I work with have never had a custom portrait made before, and don’t know where to even begin. I’m not sure how it works for other artists, but I hope this helps give an idea of how it sort of works with me.
I have painted memorial pieces for loved ones that have passed away, as well as peoples’ beloved pets. I have painted children and babies, and all kids of animals. I feel lucky that I get to create something wonderful that people can enjoy in their home for many years.
So there it is: for a time, I’ll be offering custom portraits! So if you’re interested, please email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send you a price breakdown and other information. Here’s hoping to hear from you!
One rainy day, after watching a few too many episodes of the Amazon show “Annedroids” , Myla said, “I want to build something! I want to be an inventor. Hey mom, can we build stuff out of other stuff, too?”
Not one to turn down an awesomely creative educational opportunity, I asked her what she wanted to build.
“ROBOTS!” she exclaimed. “We can even make one that helps with chores, and does the dishes. Maybe even one that talks to us and plays Legos. Can we make one that cleans?”
Um. Well, since I don’t happen to have earned a degree in robotics and engineering, I was stalled out. Until I remembered this:
One year while visiting my parents, my nieces decided to take apart some old electronics and build stuff. They just took it all apart and hot-glued it all together. Because that’s the kind of awesome stuff they do. One of them came up with this one, and sent it to us–it’s a portrait of Myla painting!
Isn’t it AWESOME? The curly hair! The eyes! The “paints,” and even the little collaboration taped to the easel.
I offered that as a suggestion, and Myla jumped at it. We dug around the garage for some old electronics, but since I had recently donated or dumped most of them, a trip to the thrift store yielded a good harvest: $5 for an old broken cassette player and a video tape rewinder. The height of technology at the time, they now served a much more artistic purpose by yielding parts for our creations.
The cool thing was getting her familiar with some tools, which is a good skill for any kid to have. I unscrewed the main body of the pieces, and taught her a little about wire clippers and screwdrivers. This all involved a lot of work on my part, but it kept her busy and interested, just trying to figure out the tools and tiny pieces. (Plus she looks super cool in her dad’s sunglasses, which doubled as eye protection, since I didn’t have any kid-goggles.)
A big bowl came in handy to keep all the little parts in for later. That would be where we’d keep all the tiny pieces and what we could dig through to build more out of later, and she got a kick out of seeing all the little pieces inside.
I plugged in our trusty low-temp kid’s glue gun–those are the ones that heat at lower temps to make it a little easier for kids to use. Still, since she had a bad experience with it ages ago (she directly touched the hot glue), she was hesitant to use it. Instead, I let her tell me what went where, and I helped her glue. I showed her, too, how the glue dries VERY quickly, and as long as you don’t touch it right away, it’s pretty harmless.
I just remember being warned so often about the dangers of power tools (my grandad cut the tip of his thumb off once, and I’ve heard tons of Wood Shop horror stories) that I have to fight through my fear of them sometimes. I’d rather teach her the right way to use them, than just have her be afraid.
So here’s what we created! A remote control cat, and a tiny gear robo-mouse! So what if they can’t move on their own. They were fun to make, and we had a great time building them!
This is the first little face I made as a quick example to show her how you can make things out of the junk parts…
Later, I was inspired by an Instagram artist who fixed his friend’s Ever After doll by building her a steampunk leg–and I realized I could use some of the broken electronics to make a prosthetic arm for a Monster High doll that Myla had acquired, whose arm was missing.
I had some tiny watch parts from a jewelry project I had in my craft supplies, and just hot-glued a little hook-arm together for her.
It all started with a Blythe doll….
Not too long ago, I was introduced to the crazy world of dolls when a friend traded me a Blythe doll in exchange for some artwork. She had warned me I may become addicted. “Oh pshaw,” I thought. “They’re cute, but I’m not really that into ‘people’ dolls.” I really didn’t know much about Blythe…just that they were a very unique doll that I had seen around for ages, and thought it’d be fun to have one for Myla.
But then I started learning about this whole other WORLD of customizing dolls. Now THAT I could get into–not so much to sell, but just for fun. Taking something that was factory-made and changing it to your own version? That’s pretty darn cool, I guess. People do ALL kinds of crazy customizations to their Blythes, and I started to find it fascinating.
But PAUSE–I’ll come back to Blythe..
I saw that people were customizing other dolls, so soon I found myself eyeballing my daughter’s Monster High ladies (if you’re shooting for impossible body standards, you may as well go ALL out and be a MONSTER, right?). Since she wouldn’t give her approval to let me experiment (although she did let me add some definition to the lovely designs on her Loch Ness Lorna doll) I took matters into my own hands, and started shopping around.
So I googled a few tutorials on customizing doll faces (there are THOUSANDS online), and took the paint off of her face and repainted her all over again…a little more hairy. A little more freckly. And those LEGS! Those are some non-shaved winter sasquatch legs for SURE! I love ’em. It was a little intimidating at first….I guess just the idea of totally messing her up. But really, if I had messed her up, I really could just wipe the paint off again with nail polish remover, right?
There are a hundred ways people do and don’t do it, so I won’t give a full tutorial. Really, there are tons of people who make money online professionally customizing dolls, and they really know their stuff. I don’t. I’m just playing around.
I’ll just say I wiped her off with nail polish remover that had acetone in it (apparently, this can melt some plastics, so be careful), and it all came right off. Then I painted her with acrylics (most people use certain types of art pastels and paint that on, which gives more of a soft airbrushed look). The trickiest thing is spraying it to seal it all, because some sprays never fully dry, leaving the plastic tacky. This is particularly annoying because EVERYTHING sticks to it. This is what I accidentally did (despite reading about it), so now her face and arms are a little tacky. I ordered the correct spray, though, so help is on the way! The plasic was pretty easy to paint on–the acrylics didn’t really bead up or anything, and I was able to get a LITTLE bit of smooth shading (pastels would’ve probably been a lot smoother).
So to me, store-bought Monster High doll: boring. CUSTOMIZED Monster High doll? SUPER COOOOOOOOL!!!
And despite insisting I wouldn’t become a “crazy doll lady,” I was messing around on etsy, and found an inexpensive little MH WIG from FantasyDolls. And OMGersh, look how cool it looks!!!
She’s almost a proper sasquatch! It’s not properly glued onto her head or anything yet–like I said, I still need to fix that little “tacky skin” issue first–but I think it’s going to be pretty darn cool. And since she’s a “bigfoot,” I thought clothes wouldn’t look right, but nekkid didn’t quite work either. So the lovely lady from the shop offered to send me some scraps from the wig hair, and I’m going to use it to tack onto her body, like a really real sasquatch!
So why, you ask?
I don’t know. Because it’s fun. And why not?
In the meantime, my friend has fully supported my new experiments by sending me two Blythe doll bodies to play with. So I “tattooed” them with acrylic paints and permanent marker…I want to see which will hold and which won’t on what kinds of plastic. And hey–doll tattoos!
Myla has a blonde, curly-haired Blythe doll she named “Sweetie.” I have a long brown-haired one we named “Mabel” (after the backyard gnomes that used to “visit” us).
There are SO many options for customizing Blythe dolls–you can change their bodies, paint their faces, paint their eyelids, you can give them completely new hair, and you can adjust their eyes so they don’t have that creepy straight-ahead doll stare, just to name a few. Since I’m not so skilled in all of THAT (and since they’re quite expensive dolls), I decided to do a few littler things, like paint “tattoos” on their bodies, and make horn headbands for them.
I made deer antlers for Mabel out of Super Sculpey, hot-glued and E-6000’d onto a little doll headband. Myla asked if I could make Sweetie a pair of goat-horns, so I made those the same way. (I tried to cast them in resin so I could make a lot more, but my molding and casting skills still need some work.)
When I told Myla I was going to “tattoo” my doll’s body, she asked if I could do Sweetie’s too. She told me exactly what she wanted: a deer-girl. Because she says Sweetie is someone loves caring for all kinds of animals. So that’s what we did! And since Mabel seems like some sort of wood-nymph fairy girl (yeah, you heard me), I did a moth on her.
Anyway, call me crazy for playing with dolls. I get it, really–it does seem pretty strange. But really, it’s quite fun! To be able to take something and make it into something else completely your own is pretty awesome. I wish I had some spare Blythe faces to play with. Apparently they come straight out of the box looking VERY plastic, like this:
I’m not sure what I’m going to DO with these dolls once I’m done. Stick ’em on a shelf? More than likely, Myla will want to play with them. I know some dolls are fancy, and some are expensive, and it may be risky to let your kid play with a “nice” doll. But if you teach that kid to be NICE to your “nice” doll, then hey–why not? I mean, they’re toys, afterall. They’re meant to be played with and enjoyed!
I think about this time last year, I mentioned my distaste for Valentines Day.
But having a kid always gives you a chance to find a new appreciation for things you might not have even liked before. I always ask myself if there’s an opportunity to do something fun that I would actually like to do…so I asked Myla what we could design for V-day.
“Sugar skulls!” she said (she has seen Book of Life a few times lately). I considered how to make that work for valentines, and even asked friends to help with puns (like “no bones about it,” or “don’t be a bonehead” or something), but we decided to go a whole other route after we saw this:
They’re cute little candy huggers, and they’re perfect! But since I have neither a custom cutter or the patience to hand-cut 25 of them with an x-acto blade, I tweaked the idea a little, and we went with her second idea…
They’re so easy. Yeah, these look a little wonky, but that’s because I hand-cut them with scissors while I watched TV, and it took all of about 10 minutes. If your kid’s got mad scissor-skills (ours does), you could even let her help…(unless she’s SUPER engrossed in drawing her own imaginary superhero robots…which ours was, at the time). Kids don’t care if it’s wonky, though, because: MONSTERS AND CANDY.
A few glue dots and some Dove heart candies later, and they were all done! I’ll even pass along my monster template, and you can feel free to customize it, if you like! Just right click it and save it to your desktop. Stick a glue dot on the belly, press the heart candy down, stick a glue dot on top, and fold the hands over…And BOOM! Sort-of instant valentines.
So there you go! Whether you can’t wait for your roses and chocolate, or you’re a humbug like me, I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day!
(…Or at least I wish you lots of candy. Whichever you prefer. …Mmmm, candy.)
Yes, I love bugs. Insects. Beetles. Whatever.
Well, mainly, I really love the IDEA of bugs, and I love LOOKING at bugs. (It’s a whole other story when they’re actually touching me.) I don’t like squished bugs, but sometimes if they’re all dried up and pretty, I love looking at dead bugs. I have a few I’ve collected here and there, that I’ve hung up on the walls of our house for the past ten or so years. By “collected,” I don’t mean I’ve gone out & hunted them down myself–I mean that I either found them, bought them, or was given them by friends.
One day, while helping our daughter get ready for bedtime, my eyes tripped over a rhino beetle we had hanging in our bathroom. It had been there for YEARS (in different houses, but in roughly the same spot), so long that it just sort of blended into the scenery of everyday life, overlooked. But this time, a strange and very intense thought occurred to me, and it did so with a very loud voice: “I wonder if I could paint on its wings?”
Then I wondered, if beetles could customize their wings with painted “tattoos,” what would they get? Beetles often fight, so maybe they would be aggressive battle scenes with intimidating imagery. But not the typically intimidating human skulls, since beetles lack an internal skeleton and therefore it wouldn’t mean the same to them. Perhaps instead of a skull and crossbones, they’d have two sticks and some decayed leaves around them? Maybe a Japanese fighting beetle would have ornate scenes of fighting beetles emblazoned on their backs, or a fear-inspiring giant sole of a boot, since their main natural predator might be our own feet trampling down on them. Maybe there would be peaceful, hippie-tattooed beetles. Or images of their larvae with birth dates. Or a portrait of “mom.” And what on earth would a DUNG beetle get?
Yes, these are the kind of thoughts that sometimes go through my head while staring at the shell of a beetle and getting our daughter ready for bed.
So, like most ideas I have, once they’re in my head, they won’t go away until I do it. So I did. At my husband’s suggestion, I drew a preliminary sketch. I don’t always like to do this–I often like to just wing it (haha, see what I did there?). But this time (like most times) he was right.
Apparently, this beetle had been sprayed with a kind of varnish (because I bought it at a store and of COURSE they sprayed it to preserve it), so it was a little like painting on plastic. I used acrylic paints, and took my time going over and over and over it, layer after layer, since the paint had a habit of beading up.
But with each new layer, the image started coming together, and the basic layout was falling into place.
Thankfully, the wing shells were pretty sturdy, and although they had the slightest give, they didn’t really move much. Since I am impatient, I tried using thicker blobs of paint to cut back on the amount of layers I’d need to repaint, but I still needed to go over and over it again and again to bet the basic underpainting. Once that was dry, I could go back and add the little details and shading and fine-tune the whole thing.
And here it is: the final beetle! I really REALLY wanted to put a skull on his head, but that didn’t make sense, so I put a tiny leaf that ended up looking a bit like a snowflake from a distance. Still, I like the little “skeleton beetle skull with crossed sticks” (instead of a skull & crossbones) on the inside of his back. And instead of “bad to the bone…” Well, you know. Because beetles don’t have bones, right?
So I had SO much fun with that, that I immediately looked around the house for more insects I could vandalize. Some of my nicer ones are contained completely inside wooden frames and sealed plexiglass, which makes breaking into them nearly impossible (probably for the best), but I was able to accost one of my dragonflies.
So what would a dragonfly get? There are so many different styles of tattoos! This one is a tribal-style dragon on dragonfly wings…
Those wings were hard to paint, by the way. I was hoping for more detail, but this guy died about 14 years ago, and is really fragile. Plus, dragonfly wings, with all those little cells, are almost like tiny little tissue-thin accordions. Keeping a straight line was pretty difficult.
And the last one was this brittle old moth. (The light one, not the dark one who just happens to be glued next to him.) I gave this guy old-school flames, because of the ol’ “like a moth to the flame” standard, and because moths love light, right? So he’d probably tattoo some daring flames on his wings to show off his bravery at dancing close to danger. Or something. Anyway, they didn’t turn out as detailed as I had envisioned either, because moth wings are fuzzy, and it’s like painting on a tiny little carpet.
So there are my painted insects. I immediately went on Amazon and ordered a few more beetles to paint on, but apparently I didn’t notice they’re shipping from THAILAND and will be here in like three years. Or two months. Either way: a long, long time.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas: with all the different styles and influences, what do you think different types of insects would get if they could customize their wings?