Thursday, June 18, 2020

Eight is Great!

I know I don't write much anymore. Truthfully, caregiving for two generations and homeschooling during a pandemic has been a been overwhelming. And though I don't draw as much as I'd like, I'm still busy in the world of paper dolls.

Today is the eight year anniversary of the ol' blog and I didn't want it to go unmentioned. In a lot of ways, this blog is closely tied to my kiddos.

Without explicitly saying it at the time, I started this to help me deal with post-partum depression and being overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom to two boys. What started out as something to keep me sane became something bigger. My digital world of paper dolls became a real world of paper dolls. I am forever grateful for that! If you can, meet real live paper doll people. They are the BEST people. After the pandemic, of course!!

I want to say that the blog isn't going anywhere. I don't write as much as I once did but that's because of all the "real world" stuff. I've had oodles of fun paper doll projects in the works and today I want to share a few of them.

Aprons Paper Doll by Judy M Johnson
Aprons Paper Doll Book by Judy M Johnson preview

First up is a vintage inspired paper doll book by Judy M Johnson.  I was lucky enough to do a bit of editing and page & cover design for this one. There are so many cool things about this book! My favorite, though, is the back cover. I was lucky enough to create the kitchen illustration on the back & I'm pretty happy with how it came out! The whole book is just retro fantastic!

The Champions Paper Doll Book by Marilyn Henry
The Champions Paper Doll Book by Marilyn Henry preview

This was another really cool project to work on! Marilyn Henry painted these images a while ago and I was able to edit the scans as well as work on page layouts and covers. It's such lovely art and it was a real joy helping to bring in into book form.

Victorian Sports Paper Doll Book by Brenda Sneathen Mattox
Victorian Sports Paper Doll Book by Brenda Sneathen Mattox preview

Choosing a favorite paper doll artist is like choosing a favorite child - I couldn't possibly! However, if I had to, Brenda Sneathen Mattox would be at the top! I love her beautiful watercolors and this book is no exception. Every illustration is just exquisite. This one, too, I worked on some editing and page & cover design. On a technical level, I'm incredibly proud of the way the two illustrations are blended together on the front cover. layer masks in Photoshop!!

Choosing the perfect font or illustration to compliment a book is immensely satisfying. I love collaborating with Jenny Taliadoros on this. It's been a privilege to be a part of her very talented paper doll team. All because I took the leap and went to Morgantown! Although it seems like all of 2020 is cancelled, paper dolls aren't cancelled. In fact, it's a great time to start or add to a collection! I know I am! So check in occasionally - I'll write when I can. Thanks for sticking with me so far and happy paperdolling!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Medical Wardrobe for the Fashion Paper Dolls

I'm pretty sure there are 10,000 days in 2020. My kids had their last day of school March 13th.  It feels like a century ago! The kids have been awesome - it's just been a big upheaval. That's why I completely missed posting in the month of March!

For anyone who's followed along for a while, you might remember the fashion model paper dolls. I haven't worked on them in ages. I do, however, have them listed on my Etsy and I update that occasionally.  Through Etsy, I was contacted about creating a wardrobe sheet of medical personal protective equipment (PPE).  I couldn't in good conscience charge for the custom order - the request came from a medical professional. If this sheet provides a little joy then that makes me happy.  With her permission, I'm adding it here as a free download.

This set will fit any of the fashion model dolls. I made the tabs on the masks extra long to fit a variety of paper dolls and the yellow straps on the mask are meant to be tabs. This set would work well with Yvonne but other dolls would work, too. I had a website crash earlier this year, so PDF links no longer work but printing from the preview image works just fine.

Hopefully all of you out in paper doll land are holding up well! Stay home, stay safe!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Making a Renaissance Man Paper Doll

First things first - 2020 has not gone the way I had hoped.  My plan was to really swing for the fences this year! More projects, more paper dolls, more everything. That is not going to happen.

For anyone who doesn't know, my grandmother moved in with us about two and a half years ago. In that time, she's had five falls - two of which required hospitalization. The second of those major falls happened this past January.  She spent a week in Boston, three weeks in rehab, and will never make a *full* recovery.  Things are very different now than when she moved in.  I'm now her full-time caregiver in a much more hands-on capacity.  Because of this and raising two sons, the blog has become a much lower priority.  There simply isn't as much time to carefully craft the posts I would like to write. I've also found that creating bite-sized content on Instagram is easier for me so I'm trying to utilize that more. Feel free to follow me @julieamatthews. It's art and pictures of my kiddos and that's about it.

When I have time, I'll share projects and photos on the ol' blog.  That's what I'm doing today!

The next issue of the Paper Studio/OPDAG magazine (issues available here) will feature Renaissance art.  I decided to make a Renaissance Man.  He's a bit Henry the Eighth and somehow ended up looking a bit like my dad, too.

One of my goals for 2020 is to put pencil to paper more often.  I've been fully digital for a while and I'm finding my search for perfection (hello CTRL-Z!!) is holding me back a bit. I find a reference image online that I liked, printed it out, and drew from that.

In this image, the first panel is my reference image. Sometimes I sketch on top of my reference to get a feel for the pose.  The next panel is my first sketch. Hated it!  In the third panel, I traced my reference image to get a better sense of scale and pose.  I set that aside, looked at my reference again, and created another sketch.  The final panel is my last sketch laid over my reference photo.  I often do this to see if my scale, proportion, etc, is correct.

Here's the final sketch.  My scanner isn't great so I took a photo with my phone and loaded it to my computer.  Because I knew I wanted to line & color this digitally, I didn't worry a whole lot about resolution.  When I opened my working document I made sure the resolution was correct, then used the sketch to create final lines.  I always complete the lines of my paper dolls before I create outfits.

My favorite drawing program right now is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.  It's free, available for most platforms, lightweight, and very user friendly. It's become a really important part of my workflow. Here, I have the lines on the face drawn in with a rough pencil brush. 

Once the doll was finalized, I sketched the outfits directly in Sketchbook, then lined them there as well. I also decided to color the images in Sketchbook.  For each section of colors, I filled in the flat color, duplicated the layer, then added shadows & highlights to the copy.  Sketchbook allows for some really nice blending and that's why I chose to color this way.

I like coloring in Sketchbook. It has a really natural, soft feel to it. The first panel here is a close-up of his face.  The second panel is the final doll, then a cape, and finally, a very regal outfit and hat. Again, I took quick pics with my phone of my screen so the quality isn't great! At this point, I'll open this in Photoshop to add textures and finalize the layout.

Remember those separate color and shadow layers? In Photoshop, I'll use them to create little texture sandwiches! First, I track down textures that I think will work.  I have a digital hoarding problem!! After searching through my hard drive, I found these textures and decided they'd be perfect. (Note: I'm sharing the link to those patterns because I love them - no compensation/advertising/etc.  It's really just because I love them.)

I chose a texture and placed it above the color layer and below the shadow layer.  Right-click on the texture and create a clipping mask.  That basically hides everything that isn't directly on top of the layer below.  Then, I set the shadow layer blend mode to Multiply.  Generally, I just tinker with the blend modes until I get the look I want.  For a more in-depth explanation of blend modes, check this article out.

And that's about it! I chose a background, colored it, then added a Renaissance style border and title, and shipped it off to the magazine.  Look for it in the magazine! I'll share it online at some point, too.

Feel free to follow me on Instagram & I'll post here when I can!

Monday, January 6, 2020

2019 Wrap Up and Review

Happy 2020! I hope everyone rang in a happy new year.  We spend New Year's with good friends every year.  This year, the four adults played board games while the three boys (10, 8, and 7) played video games & an epic game of hide and seek. Needless to say, it was fun!

Today I'm wrapping up unfinished projects and putting together a little year-in-review.  First up, I finished the last two pages of the 2019 collaboration project.

The first sheet is for November. The theme was "My Heritage".  Well, I can't say I have much of a heritage!  My family has been in New England for so long that any heritage disappeared ages ago.  On top of that, I'm English, Irish, and Scottish (mostly) and none of that was terribly exciting to me.  So I made two colonial style outfits to represent my old New England roots. The first is based on the reproductions worn at Plimouth Plantation. If you're in Massachusetts, I highly recommend going! It's great! The second outfit is more of an upper class English lady of about the same time. Remember, the colonists thought of themselves as English so this would have been totally appropriate.

This second sheet is for the theme "Snow Queen".  I tried really hard to avoid Elsa/Disney tropes.  They're fine, just not for me. So this is a vaguely Russian inspired snow queen. My goal for this was finished-not-perfect.  That's a tough concept: how do you complete something without making it perfect?! The way I understand it, "perfection" is constant nit-picking and really, that doesn't do anyone any good.  Sure, there are things I'd change but overall, it's ok. And it's done.

That's all of the old business.  If you only look at my blog, it looks like 2019 was a pretty dull year. I only managed 34 posts - my smallest number of posts ever. All of them black and white, oddly enough.  And I felt it in my visitor statistics! Fewer people visited the blog BUT I gained followers on both Instagram and Pinterest so that lower stat here is a little dubious.  Blogs in general are less popular than they once were. I enjoy mine and I'll keep at it til I don't.  The projects I did complete were big ones: the 100 Days of Paper Dolls (split into two sets of 50) and the 2019 Collaboration project.

And that's all the virtual stuff.  The reason why there were fewer posts here is because I did A LOT more real-world paper doll stuff. Here's the list of all that I can remember:
  • Attended my local paper doll party, spring & fall. Always a blast! Really fantastic people. If there's a paper doll group near you, join. It's wonderful. And if there isn't, start one! You might be surprised at what happens!
  • Attended Morgantown for the first time. I plan on going again this year and probably every year that I can. You can read about it here.
  • Because of Morgantown, I met the delightful, wonderful, amazing Jenny Taliadoros. I've been working on LOADS of fun stuff with her including issues 123, 124, and 125 of Paper Studio Magazine as well as issues 73, 74, and the upcoming issue 75 of Paperdoll Review Magazine.  Sometimes it's cleaning up art, sometimes it's creating title headers & graphics.  I'm a bit of a digital Jill-of-all-trades.  And, sometimes I help with editing and layout for other books, too. I could not be happier. It's a thrill to make already lovely art really shine.  
  • I also helped Jenny with two reproduction projects: Sugar N Spice and Mother Goose. Both are really adorable and I highly recommend them! 
  • On top of all of that, I released three books with Paper Studio Press!  
Jospehine's Wardrobe is a labor of love that was entirely reworked for this edition.  It's the absolute best version of this project and I'm so happy to have it available! 

Victorian Mix & Match is another rework.  And I'm glad I did! This needed a bit of work to get it into ideal shape. These two books are just so beautiful! Having a great editor can really make all of the difference and my art has improved immensely working with Jenny!

Finally, the best project of the year (in my opinion!) is Stripes! It's such a terrific concept and being able to work with David Wolfe is just beyond words. We both loved the project and we're hoping to work together again soon.

I guess I was busy in 2019! 

Moving forward, I have a few vague goals.  First, I want to revisit my Etsy shop. I haven't given it as much attention as I should.  I want to expand the download offerings as well as sell physical items including my books, prints, and anything else I can think of.  Secondly, I want to choose another project for the ol' blog. I'm kicking around some ideas so we'll see what happens.  Also, I plan on editing & coloring the 100 days set. AND if that isn't enough, I'm planning on going to Morgantown in May and the national Paper Doll Convention in July. I need to send that check over ASAP! There's also a book with Paper Studio Press in the works.

Wow! Is that it?! I think it is for today! Time to go percolate some blog ideas...

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

DAY 100!!!!

....and that's a wrap!

I managed to complete the 100 Days of Paper Dolls! It wasn't 100 consecutive days but I'm ok with that.   The point is this: I started it, I finished it, and I'm proud of that.  It's TOUGH and I very nearly did not complete it.  Honestly, I'm amazed by anyone who completes a 100 day challenge, etc. Even finishing half of it is a job well done in my opinion.

A special thanks to everyone who had words of encouragement. It really does make a difference!! At some point I'll color these and arrange them into something.  Just not sure what yet.

So Happy New Year from me to all of you out there! I'll have more posts & projects in January.  Not sure what or when, but it's coming.  See you in 2020!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Day 95

One more more page... I'm really hoping to get that last page finished.  You'd think that vacation would be the ideal time to wrap this up. Nope! Honestly, though, my husband is home for the same days as the kids and we've been doing stuff together. Paper dolls can wait!

Days 91-95 are on this sheet. 

Maybe I'll get up before everyone tomorrow and get that last sheet done. Maybe. And I do plan on finishing the collaboration pages.  That will probably be early January.  I just ran out of hours!

One more page...just one more...!!!!

Friday, December 20, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Day 90

Wow day 90! Didn't think it would EVER happen but I'm glad I went back to it. Sometimes taking a break is a good thing!

The reason these last two sets were posted so close together is because I drew them back-to-back. I posted one, decided to keep drawing, and managed to pull together today's sheet in about two hours.  That was very speedy for sure!

Today's sheet coordinates with this sheet. Somewhere along the way my numbering and posting got a bit tangled up.  That's fine. It all worked out!

Because my previous sheet had kind of a '40s vibe, I did that with this one, too. Two more sheets to go and then it's on to coloring these!