Where do Ideas Come From? Finding Inspiration for Paper Dolling

Remember yesterday when I posted those sporting costumes? Well, today I want to talk about sources of inspiration.

Sometimes, everything I see seems paper doll related. Ideas flow from carpets or co-workers hair styles into paper doll form, almost like magic. Other times, it feels like the wheel is spinning, but the gerbil is dead. Nothing looks good. Ideas don’t exist. I hate everything I draw and nothing looks good. I know what I want to make, but I can’t seem to make it happen.

I went through one of these slumps lately. I knew I needed to do sports costumes for Greta’s Trousseau, but I hated everything. The fencing costume was the worse. I kept looking at fencing gear and feeling uninspired…

So, I finally did what I usually do when I can’t come up with ideas. I started collecting source images. Somewhere, I thought, there must be cute fencing gear and… what do you know? There was.



1. Fencing Jacket from 1902

This was the first women’s historical fencing jacket I found and I thought it was beautiful. Plus, I was struck at how stylishly it was constructed. I mean, check out those sleeves. I knew I’d want to change the collar and the placement of the buttons, but I thought it was a viable option for a top.

2. Edwardian women’s fencing attire

Thanks to Costume and Construction on Tumblr, I found this picture of this very bad ass looking women holding a sword with a Gibson girl bun. Seriously, she looks amazing, also I think she could totally hurt anyone who insulted her bun. Originally I conceived of the fencing outfit has having a skirt, but after I drew it I felt odd that her skating costume and riding habit didn’t have skirts, but her fencing outfit did. The skirt got nixed in favor of leggings.

3. Two women fencing 1885

The idea of women fencing in bustles amuses me. (Not that these chicks are wearing bustles, but still… it is 1885.) The masks in this set were what I based her mask on. I liked that they didn’t cover down over the neck like some fencing masks do (though neck coverage is probably safer).

4. 1920’s Fencing Outfit

Another Met piece, because the V&A totally let me down on my fencing search. I love the bleeding heart on the top and the flirty style. I would totally learn to fence if I got to wear this. The bleeding heart motif I thought would be really cool on a fencing jacket and added something a little dark and almost flirty to the otherwise rather plain outfit.

This is how I get out of slumps. I collect and then I draw. I often use my Pinterest board to collect my source images. Mostly I use them as electronic bulletin boards. What inspires your art? How do you find what makes you want to draw?

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  1. Ooh *hits the follow all button SO HARD*

    I use Pinterest, too, but mostly as a consumer – I just open it up and let the pretty things come to me. I followed someone recently who posts a lot of Middle Eastern clothes and outfits that go well with hijab, and it’s like, wow, enough flowing fabric to make me happy, that’s something!

    What I’ve found is that if I have a story in my mind, even if it’s just the beginning of a story, my drawings are more lively. I’m working on my new doll, and I want to draw what I’m thinking of as “buffer” outfits, for times when I have nothing and I’m supposed to post something for the next day. I’ve sketched out some masquerade dresses, and here’s the thing, they’re all pretty and decorated and will be very impressive when I color them and add patterns and sparkles, but they’re fundamentally dead boring. Which is OK for what they are, but I don’t have as much fun with them. So I think my best pieces are all about that underlying story. I think this realization is going to make the blog quite interesting, when I get back to it! (Hoping to post the new doll soon! For once, I am quite happy with her.)

    Thank you for the peek into your creative process, I really liked to see the influences and how you incorporated the elements into a cool costume. I especially like the lace-up part on the legs, which I note is all you. Very cool 🙂

    1. I think what I love about your work, Liana, is that you always seemed to have such a strong story behind your pieces. Yes, on one hand the Mermaid world was a little wacky, but it was fun to hear about mermaids wearing red and tattered clothing and how colors of tails meant social status. The world became very vivid to me (and, I gotta tell you, I don’t even like mermaids that much.)

      I think having some “buffer” is really important. Life is complicated. My rule of thumb is to have a months worth of paper dolls before I start a new paper doll series. I didn’t do that with the Mini-Maidens, but every other series I had at least months worth of posts. For me, that’s about four to six, ideally.

      I think it’s interesting when you’re doing “filler” you tend to go fantasy dress, when I do filler, I tend to go modern. It’s easy to draw from magazines and so that’s what I do when I don’t know what to draw.

  2. Hah 🙂 I’m glad you liked my mermaids, whatever your feelings may be on mermaids in general!

    That’s a really good rule of thumb! Complicating my new doll’s release is the fact that I’m working with my husband to update the old page. Domain name and everything 🙂 We want to release her at the same time we get the page going. She’s further along than the page is, though, so I will probably have some time to get those next posts done… What I worry about is what happens to the page if we have another kid. I’ll actually know what I’m doing the next time around, so assuming the pregnancy goes well and the kid is healthy I think I’ll be in a position not to abandon the page again. But I didn’t get a good night’s sleep from April to late December! So I’m wondering if I can make up… at one post a week, that’s 36 posts I’d want to have in reserve before we start up that particular project!

  3. love this post (and the ensuing conversation!). we can never have too much inspiration!

    i love how you synthesize from various sources to create your own original works! and we need more fencing dolls, period!

    : D

    1. Personally, I know nothing about fencing, so I get a little nervous about drawing costumes for it. Never the less, I suppose a fencing doll or two can’t hurt. 🙂 It’s more interesting then say… basketball wear.

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