Friday, January 11, 2019

Commission: Mary and Selina

Over the summer I had the privilege of getting to know a fantastic collector - Denise Bond.  She is terrific! She collects dolls, creates dolls, and commissions dolls not just for her own personal collection but to use as education tools. Her mission is to use dolls - 3D and paper dolls - to educated people about black and African-American women's history.  If you want a taste for just how awesome she is, check out this video tour of one of her recent projects.

The project scope was a bit outside of my comfort zone.  She wanted two portrait paper dolls featuring Mary Custis Lee (wife of General Robert E. Lee) and her slave Selina Gray.  It's tough subject matter, to be sure.  Denise had a very clear vision of the story she wanted to tell and I was happy to help her tell it.

First step was research and sketching.  I'll admit, my first sketches were not my favorite.  But that's the great thing about sketches - keep it up and something good will come of it!

My next set of sketches were MUCH better!  I studied (and sketched, and studied, etc...) the few images of Selina Gray and Mary Lee to get closer to a true resemblance. It is nothing short of a miracle that there are images of Selina Gray and I really tried to get an accurate representation. Portraits are not my specialty - although I really should try more!

One of the advantages of working digitally is the ability to keep what I like without starting over.  I know some artists will draw heads and bodies separately when creating paper dolls.  It's a great method but it's never worked well for me. I like to see the whole thing, all at once.  With digital art, I can draw heads on different layers.  That's what I did here. I liked the bodies but re-worked the faces after consulting with Denise.

At this point, we worked out what outfits would tell the story of these two women.  Denise wanted to express the friendship between the two. Mary taught Selina to read, Selina cared for her own children as well as Mary's, and Mary entrusted the family estate to Selina as she fled during the Civil War.  Working from these themes, I created a three page paper doll set.

The image above shows the final inking of the outfits. I created almost 90 percent of this in ArtRage.  I wanted it to have a very painterly feel to it and ArtRage really gave me that flexibility. I've found that the felt pen tool is my favorite. I "paint" with it in one color and then go in with another to blend & mix on the surface.  It's awesome!

Here's a close-up of the paper doll faces, my file structure, and the palette I used for coloring. I like to keep my files very organized. I name my layers and then group them into folders.  It's just a good habit and SO helpful - especially if someone else needs access to the files.

This is a screenshot of the folder where I keep all of my files. Sketches, reference images, etc. After working on the images in ArtRage I exported the images to Photoshop files for further manipulation. At this point, I added patterns in Photoshop as well as text and special effects.  Much of that could have been done in ArtRage but I felt more confident working with Photoshop.

Here's the final images.  I added watermarks to this - it isn't something I typically do, but this is a very special project.  Denise commissioned this as a unique, one-of-a-kind project and I respect that. There are only two sets of this paper doll - mine and hers! I printed them at 11 inch by 14 inch so they are LARGE! I used CatPrint to print them and they are beautiful. (As always, I'm sharing my tools & resources because I love them. I am not compensated in any way!)

And finally, me and my paper dolls. Denise likes to include a photo of the artist whenever possible.  I had my oldest son take this picture and I gotta say, it's not too bad!

It was really a terrific project.  I've worked on a couple more projects with Denise and probably will work on more. Process posts are something I love and I hope all of you do, too!









Friday, January 4, 2019

Doodle-a-Day Project Wrap-Up

Happy New Year!! 2018 was a crazy busy year for us... 

For those who don't know, my grandmother moved in with us October 2017.  So I went from stay-at-home mom to caretaker as soon as my youngest started kindergarten.  Over the course of 2018, my grandmother fell 4 times and broke her pelvis after one of those falls.  On top of that, she's nearly blind (macular degeneration) and has lost much of her hearing.  So I shuttle her to doctors appointments and, in general, take care of whatever she needs.  Overall, she's in reasonable health for an 88 year old but some days are busier/harder than others.

We also found out at the end of 2017 that my oldest son has executive functioning issues and anxiety. Executive functions are everyday organization skills, things like remembering to do all the steps required to take a shower or remembering homework everyday.  It's been a relief, honestly, just knowing that there WAS an underlying issue and helping him work through that. It's a process and we're all learning together. We're also trying to help him with his anxiety and that, too, is an ongoing process.

On top of that, I've been volunteering at the school once a week, which I love! AND I've been doing a little freelance graphic design. I only take the projects I really want to do!

And I managed to do three projects for a collector, joined a paper doll group here in Massachusetts, and published my first book with Paper Studio Press. I also completed 12 black and white sheets in the paper doll collaboration project as well as 63 sheets in the Doodle-A-Day paper doll project.

I'm tired just writing all of that down!

So the next few posts are going to be a recap of 2018.  I want to share some of the projects I've worked on as well as the process for creating them.  After that, well, I'm just not sure! I'll think of something....!

In the meantime, let's talk about this HUGE project I just finished.

This is a screen shot of the entire Doodle-A-Day project as I have it laid out on Pinterest.  It's pretty amazing to see the colors transition throughout the year! I definitely became more bold as the year went on.

Each month had a five-color palette along with black and white.  There were four dolls that rotated throughout the year.

That's all four dolls together. One thing I'd like to do is give each of them a more neutral base outfit.  I tried to stay fairly neutral with the shoes but totally did not with the outfits!

Each set started out as a drawing in ArtRage.  I find that to be my go-to drawing program lately.

I drew everything digitally - from the base dolls to each and every outfit.  The image above shows essentially what I did for each set.  There's a base doll, then a sketch layer, and then a line layer. I used the pencil tool and the ink pen tool in ArtRage. At this stage, I exported to a Photoshop file and worked on it in Photoshop.

Next, I added tabs and a white fill on everything.

I created an action to speed things up a bit.  An action in Photoshop is a recording of several steps in a process that can be played over and over as needed.  My action consisted of 1) select outside the lines 2) inverse the selection and 3) contract by one pixel so that all of the color fills land inside the lines with no bleeding outside of the lines.  This saved me a few seconds on every individual item which added up to HOURS over the course of the year.

Once the tabs were placed and everything got a white fill, I added the text. I used one font and one size (in most cases) for the entire project.  I saved the black & white sheet and went on to coloring.

Honestly, coloring should be a post all by itself! I'll show you a bit of the way I do it but I may go back for more in-depth demonstrations.

In this image, I've circled the layers used to color the doll.  That's JUST the doll - not the layers used to create the background, the clothing, none of that....just the doll. 

After creating the doll - which is always the longest step - each drawing and inking session in ArtRage took about 2 hours. Sometimes more but that was the average.  Creating a black and white sheet took another 2 hours or so.  And then a fully colored sheet took anywhere from 4 to 8 hours depending on the complexity.  So each post took from about 8 to 16 hours.  Each post. Conservatively, I have over 500 hours into this project! Or, put another way, I was spending at minimum 10 hours a week on this project.  That's huge!!

The next step is to figure out what to do with this project.  Should I make it a calendar? A massive book? A series of themed prints? I don't know yet. 

This ended up being a huge write-up!! Did you love the project? Did you have a favorite doll or month or themes? I'd love to know!

The next post will be a summary of a really unique project I did for a collector. So look for that soon.





Monday, December 31, 2018

December Paper Doll - Set 5

BOOM! It's done!

I wasn't sure I'd manage it, but I did! This is the last page of the December paper doll and the last page of the year-long paper doll project.

In January, I plan on writing a proper wrap-up of 2018.  It was a busy year & I have a lot to share.  But for today, enjoy this last page in the series.  There are 63 sheets in this year-long set - so PLENTY of fun to be had!!






The final set of themes are here! First up "peace" - I went with an angel.  "Log" is leggings that match the fireside top from a previous sheet.  "Snow" is a fur trimmed, snowflake patterned dress. "Swan" is a simple sweater. "Deer" is a patterned skirt and boots. "Coat" is a fur coat with satin bow.  And finally, "ring" is a large, bright diamond ring and a red silky top.

So that's it. Did you love the project? Did you hate it?! I fall a little bit in both categories! I enjoyed making all of these but it was a much bigger project than I should have tackled. I don't think I'll ever take on such a big project again.  Next year will be a bit more compact here on the ol' blog.

Happy New Year to all of you - I'll be back in January with more!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

December Paper Doll - Set 4

There is ONE more sheet to go after today and I am really, really hoping to get it posted on the 31st and be done with this project! It's been fun and I have learned a TON but I'm ready to move on.


I didn't get this posted in time for Christmas.  Our December is always incredibly hectic (as it is for most people, I imagine) but it's done now! The first theme is "wreath" and I went with a sort of Victorian inspired blouse & skirt with a wreath brooch. For "lights" I created a festive Hanukkah sweater - even though I know it's long since happened.  "Winter" is a blue leather and fur jacket with matching hat.  "Cookie" is a top that matches the gingerbread leggings from a previous sheet.  "Stocking" is a bright skirt.  And finally, "Santa" is a hat & fur trimmed top.

Enjoy - now it's back to drawing the last sheet!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Paper Doll Collaboration - Holiday Sweaters

2018 is wrapping up and today is the last of the 2018 Paper Doll Collaboration project.  It's been a lot of fun - Rachel and Melissa always come up with such fun ideas! Don't fret, though - we're looking to do more next year! If you've created outfits for the 2018 doll, feel free to share it! We all LOVE seeing other paper dolls just as much as we enjoy making them!

The final theme for this year was ugly sweaters.  I love crazy holiday sweaters (bought my husband a Deadpool one this year!!) and I have a hard time thinking of them as "ugly". So this final sheet is a sweater mix-and-match set.

Since this is the last set, I have a PDF ready to download of the whole collection. It's always nice to see how the whole thing has come together! To round out your collection, visit Rachel and Melissa!


Monday, December 24, 2018

December Paper Doll - Set 3

Happy Christmas Eve! I'll keep this short - we, like so many, still have lots to do! I'm still shooting to wrap up the doodle-a-day project by the end of the year.  We'll see!!


This set has loads of holiday themes! "Fireside" is a cozy sweater with a yule log necklace. "Gingerbread" is some fun patterned leggings. "Tree" is a patterned dress with a wide tie. "Ornament" is an ornament patterned skirt.  "Frame" is an ugly sweater.  And "nutcracker" is a jacket, hat, and leggings set. The leggings could probably mix & match with other things.

I won't be posting again for a few days.  Have a merry Christmas to all those that celebrate! Look for the last two doodle-a-day sheets after Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

December Paper Doll - Set 2

There's a point in December where there's a little bit of a lull.... After the chaos of Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, and an early December birthday, things calm down a bit before ramping back up for Christmas.  I'm trying to fill this lull with the December paper doll!


The first theme this week is "letter" and I made a graphic tee.  "Giving" is a festive red top with a little present. "Bake" is a holiday shirt, apron, and a tray full of cookies. "Gold" was tough - it's a short party dress that works really well in color but less so in black & white. "Rabbit" is a short shirt with rabbit leggings - it might match the April rabbit top but I didn't test it out.  Finally, "sparkle" is another party dress. There's also a denim jacket and a pair of pants to mix and match.

I'll keep working on the next set.  I'm also starting to think about next year.  Any projects you'd all like to see?  Let me know!!