Friday, June 21, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Sets 9 and 10

I have two more sheets in the 100 day day project.  They're my last (for now....) I had to stop at 50. There's been A LOT going on lately! I do plan on going back to it and when I do, I'll start from day 51 & continue. 

One of the things I've been up to is working with the team at Paperdoll Review magazine.  I've been helping with miscellaneous bits & pieces and I'm hoping to continue.  If you aren't getting this magazine already, take a look at my brief (and rough! ugh!) flip-through.  It's available at Paperdoll Review. I'm not really into vintage paper dolls all that much but I love this magazine anyway! Well worth it!! And I always learn something.

The other thing I want to mention is that the old blog here is SEVEN!! I think of the blog as one of my babies because it came about at around the same time.

Look at those faces! My oldest (who is now 9 and a half) is nearly as tall as I am.  My youngest (who is 7) is the main reason why I started the blog in the first place.  Motherhood was fine with one kiddo, but a tough pregnancy, a medication with depression as the first side effect, AND a round of post-partum depression left me in a bad place in 2012 with kiddo number two.  Sometimes I wish I had shared that then, but I wasn't ready.  This little blog and my internet friends helped keep me sane and active creatively when that was exactly what I needed even if I couldn't say it then. So thank you to all of you from the early days and all of you who put up with my more sporadic posting these days! 

And a lot has changed in 7 years! Sure, I post a bit less but that's because I'm doing more out in the real world.  I've had a book published, help out with a magazine, attended a terrific paper doll regional gathering, and joined a local paper doll group. And in my "real" life, I'm still raising two kiddos with my awesome husband and my grandmother moved in with us a couple of years ago.  At almost 89 with vision and hearing loss, she needs more help than she used to, so I handle that, too.  My hours get pretty full pretty quickly!


Here's a couple of paper doll sheets!

I'll definitely get back to this with a companion doll as soon as I can. And I plan on continuing with the blog even if it's a bit random at the moment. Thanks, as always, for sticking with me!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Paper Doll Collaboration - MerMAY

The end of May sure did sneak up on me!! I've had the worst cold - it came with a fever and 12 hours of sleep a night for the past few days. Pretty sure I've been pushing myself to hard.  It's the end of the school year and I'm in the thick of field trips, fun days, soccer, and end-of-the-year shows. Honestly, I love it but it does get a bit chaotic. And I love having the boys home for the least in June. Ask me again in August!!

Today's doll came together quickly.  Like, an hour and a half! I'm fairly quick but not generally THAT quick...

The swimsuit can be worn alone or under the tail.  The dress is meant to be seaweed and can be worn alone or with a tail.  It's not the finest sheet I've ever made.  There's a phrase I see occasionally that I sort of love/hate: finished not perfect.  I love the idea of taking something to completion and then letting it go - it's easy to fuss over something forever.  But I don't like the implication that you can complete something without giving it your best effort and calling it done just to be done. If I didn't feel this wasn't good enough, I wouldn't post it. I try to push myself to do more and try more. I encourage everyone to do the same!!

For more in the series, see Paper Thin Personas, Miss Missy's Paper Dolls, and Pop Culture and Paper Dolls!

Friday, May 17, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 8

If this sheet has a slightly 1940s vibe and not a more Neo-Victorian vibe, I blame it on Morgantown! I drew this sheet in my hotel room one morning and I think I absorbed a bit of the theme.

In non-paper doll news, today is the day I met my husband 13 years ago.  It's been a pretty happy run so far! He's far and away my biggest fan and strongest advocate.  And tomorrow is my birthday. Another trip around the sun and it's been a good one :)

I've decided to break this project up at the 50 day mark.  Days 51-100 will feature a new, complimentary doll.  That's on my agenda!!

To follow along, check out my Instagram....or join in the fun with #100daysofpaperdolls!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 7

Although it's May, New England has not exactly felt very spring-like.  We've had a ton of rain! I know we aren't the only ones across the country dealing with crazy weather.  It's been dark and dreary and depressing for a couple of months.

So I channeled that into a winter-ish set for the 100 Days paper doll!

I have an embroidered jacket with a fur-ish trim (it's like a faux sheepskin kind of texture) and I LOVE it! This set is inspired a bit by that.  There are things I'd like to re-work about this sheet when I get to the coloring stage. But that's another project for another day!

Follow along daily with my Instagram....or join in the fun with #100daysofpaperdolls!

Monday, May 13, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 6

Last weekend, I went to the Morgantown PA paper doll party. It was AMAZING!!!! I got to meet Jenny Taliadoros, the publisher of Paper Doll Studio Magazine and Paperdoll Review (and my book, of course).  She's just the best.  In fact, everyone I met was great.  It felt more like a family reunion than a first-time meeting!

I didn't take many pictures while I was there - I was too busy having a great time! There were lots of fantastic artists and collectors. I was also the big winner during the raffle! This is all of the raffle prizes I won along with souvenirs from the convention and the Barbie paper dolls books from my childhood that I just had to have!

I highly recommend attending a local or regional paper doll party. It's really a lot of fun with a lot of really cool people.

Ok, ok, I have a paper doll sheet to share!

I'm a bit behind on posting these. I have three more sheets ready to post after this one. To follow along, check out my Instagram....or join in the fun with #100daysofpaperdolls!

And if you subscribe to Paper Studio Press magazine, check out my submission for the Green theme.  I'm really happy with it!! (You can order issues or subscribe here.  Totally worth it!!)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 5

Apparently, I messed up my last 100 Days posting - it's the wrong set! So I'm going to post the CORRECT page today...

THIS is the page that should have gone up last time.  Still really trying to keep the Neo-Victorian vibe going here.  I've got a working title for the set, maybe something like Ruffles & Frills: A Neo-Victorian Paper Doll.  I love it today, I may hate it tomorrow!

To follow along, check out my Instagram....or join in the fun with #100daysofpaperdolls!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Paper Doll Collaboration - Cosplay/Fandom

Here we are, another month over! I can't even handle how quickly this year is going.  It's nuts!! For April, I have another installment of the 2019 Collaboration paper doll.  The theme is cosplay or fandom.  I'm not a cosplay kind of person.  In fact, I'm trying to dress like it's the 1940s at the Morgantown paper doll party this coming weekend and I fell...overwhelmed. So I bought pants and a blouse.  I'm really a jeans & t-shirt kind of person. We'll see how it goes....

Anyway, cosplay is outside my comfort zone. 

I decided to create a set of costumes based on Adventure Time.  It's such a fabulous cartoon an my kids LOVE it.  I still don't think I've seen every episode.  The kids probably have, though.  What I love about Adventure Time is it's very complex for a "simple" kid's cartoon.  There are lots of strong women and most (if not all) characters manage to shatter or subvert stereotypes.  It's pretty great.

For my fandom paper doll, I went with Princess Bubblegum.  She rules over her own kingdom, is a genius scientist, and also manages to be a good friend/mentor to the main characters Finn and Jake.  LOVE her!!! Also, she has a huge variety of outfits over the course of the series, which I also love!

The outfit on the left is her "typical" everyday outfit - a dress and crown.  The middle outfit is one of her many lab coat outfits.  And the last one is a dress/hoodie/leggings/boots combo that shows up in "What Was Missing", one of my favorite episodes.

For more fandom inspired outfits, check out Paper Thin Personas, Miss Missy, and Pop Culture and Paper Dolls!

Friday, April 26, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 4

Day 25 of the #100daysofpaperdolls project! I'm a quarter of the way through!! There are some great artists drawing some fun stuff so I suggest you check it out in Instagram if you can.

I'm trying to keep the neo-Victorian vibe going.  No pants this time but that's alright.  I want that jacket - the whole outfit on the right is based on this pin I found on Pinterest.  The more I draw of this, the more I want to color it! It's such a huge project.....

Also, I'll be in Morgantown (you can find the details here) the first weekend of May! This will be the largest gathering of paper doll enthusiasts that I've attended so far & it sounds like a great time! Hopefully I can snap some pics and share them on the ol' blog.

I'll post more 100 Day pages as I complete them or you can follow along on Instagram

Monday, April 22, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 3

I'm continuing to work on the #100daysofpaperdolls project and today I have another full sheet to share.  This one is full of ruffles!!!!

This set covers days 11 through 15.  Lots of ruffles and some ringlets, too.  I like having a neo-Victorian and yet modern vibe to these sets.  I'll keep it up as long as I can! Feel free to follow along on Instagram (@julieamatthews) or wait for the full sheets here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 2

If you follow me on Instagram (@julieamatthews), you'll be up to date with the whole project.  I'm posting complete sheets here on the blog when I complete them (and remember!!!!).

This sheet covers days 6 through 10.  I'm trying to keep with the neo-Victorian vibe.  And I'm already thinking about how to color these! I don't think I put out any books last year aside from Kitchen Kitsch (which you can get here and here. It's really beautiful!! Highly recommend. Shameless self-promotion!)  I've been kicking around the idea of putting together a sketchbook type of book, too, but haven't quite gotten around to it.  There simply are not enough hours in the day!

Anyway, watch for sporadically posted pages from the project here. Or follow along on Instgram.  There's a few of us there doing this and it's all great!

Friday, April 12, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls - Set 1

We're cranking along at the #100daysofpaperdolls over on Instagram! So far, all is going well.  The black & white set has been fairly easy to keep up with and that's been great. 

I sort of accidentally developed a neo-Victorian aesthetic with this set.  If you follow me on Instagram (@julieamatthews), you can see these every day but I'm only going to post full sheets on the ol' blog.  I'm trying to keep it in the Victorian vibe but this is going to end up being about 20 pages at the end.  That's a lot of Victorian influence!!! We'll see how it goes.

Anyway.... check it out on Instagram.  Our tag is #100daysofpaperdolls and its all really great work!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

100 Days of Paper Dolls

I've had a hard time settling into a project this year.  Don't get me wrong - I'm incredibly lucky! I've been working on paper doll projects every day but they aren't anything I can really share here at the moment.

That changes today!

Starting today, I'm doing The 100 Day Project! We're posting on Instagram every day.  It's me, Rachel of Paper Thin Personas (@paperthinpersonas), and Elizabeth Joy McDonald (@elizabethjoymcdonald).  I'm probably not going to post every day on the blog. My plan is to post each completed sheet here.  With the exception of today!

For this project, I took out a random sketch I had started with no real goal in mind. I had seen a model in an elaborate corset on Pinterest and I loved the pose. So I sketched it one day and waited for inspiration to strike.

Here's the final drawing.  I'm estimating 5 to 8 pieces per page so there will be about 20 pages total (give or take).  Feel free to follow along (or jump in!!) on Instagram every day with #100daysofpaperdolls

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Paper Doll Collaboration - Sweet Treats Costumes

I swear - I haven't dropped off the planet!! Honestly, if you want to see the most current projects, follow me on Instagram (@julieamatthews).  Even that has been sporadic lately.  I just wrapped up two submissions to the souvenir packs for the 2019 Paper Doll Convention so that's been fun! A lot of the stuff I'm working on right now simply isn't ready to share.

I'm also heading to Morgantown! There's still time to register and join in on the fun.  This will be my first time to Morgantown and I'm really excited.  I haven't been anywhere alone in TEN YEARS so that'll be an experience....!

Ok,'s a fun wardrobe sheet to print....

The theme for this month was sweet style.  I decided to go crazy with candy stripes and a bit of Rococo flair.  The dress on the left is supposed to be a bit of an ice cream sundae.  It may not entirely work but it's still pretty cool.

For more in the series, check out Paper Thin Personas, Miss Missy's Paper Doll, and Pop Culture and Paper Dolls.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Convention 2019 Drawings

Although I haven't settled on a proper project for the blog yet, I AM actively working on stuff! One of my projects at the moment is a convention souvenir.

That's a screen shot of the sketch I've been working on.  I asked my boys to pose for me - one kiddo loved it and the other....well, he wasn't thrilled. I promised him I wouldn't share the photo.  He's 9 and a bit self-conscious. I decided with this project to try colored lines instead of black and it worked out rather well.  Made inking it MUCH easier!

I recently got a tripod and remote so I'm experimenting with video.  That's an 11 minute video of me drawing on my Surface.  Admittedly, I have a lot to learn about video creation! I'm planning on creating a video that show my drawing process at some point but I'm not there yet. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Paper Doll Collaboration 2019 - Awards Season

Let me start by saying I did not expect this to be the ONLY thing I posted in February!! I draw every day, but not all of it makes it on here.  And I haven't settled on a project for the ol' blog yet.  I'm still percolating...

So today is the next installment of the collaboration project. I'll admit, I have very little interest in awards season. Some people love it. I don't.  The dresses are always interesting, naturally.  If I have any interest in ANY awards show, it's probably the Grammys.  This year one of my absolute favorite musicians WON for the first time - Brandi Carlile.  I swear, she's been a big part of the soundtrack of my life since I saw her in Boston in 2007.  Love her SO much!

I feel like the older I get, the fewer people I know at these award things! For this sheet, I have Brandi Carlile in a fantastic suit.  Next, is Jennifer Lopez partly because I knew who she was and partly because I loved her dress.  Last is Meghan Trainor for much the same reason! I also have a love of women's suits!

You can check out the remainder of the collaboration project at Paper Thin Personas, Miss Missy, and Pop Culture and Paper Dolls.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Paper Doll Collaboration 2019

It's been a while since I posted. I had a list of administrative stuff I wanted to get done in January, so I've been focusing on that instead of drawing.  Most of that is done (including a little update to the appearance of the ol' blog here....!) and I plan on getting back to drawing & posting.

Today is the first installment of the 2019 paper doll collaboration project! The base doll was designed by Rachel Cohen of Paper Thin Personas.  I'm really excited about working from her base!!

My doll is a very slightly modified version of Rachel's.  The idea behind the collaboration paper doll is flexibility - in theory, every outfit will fit every doll across the project.  There may be exceptions, of course (like hairstyles), but we really aim for consistency.

The theme for this first installment is "trendy".  I will tell you that as a late 30-something mother of two sons "trendy" isn't really in my vocabulary! It's jeans & t-shirts most days. I'm also not much of a haute couture fan.  There was a time when I really enjoyed runway shows but it's become so much artifice and so little actual clothing that I just can't be bothered anymore.

All that said, many people who know better than I do defined a few trendy things for 2019. Statement sleeves, pleats, and jumpsuits are all considered trendy right now.  The blouse in this set is designed to wear with either the skirt or over the jumpsuit.

There are a few people participating this year and I'll update the links as they go live: Paper Thin Personas, Miss Missy's Paper Dolls, boots over at Pop Culture and Paper Dolls, and Cory Jensen over on Facebook!

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.