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!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, and a lovely set! Thank you for sharing it!