One of my early paper dolls with an elaborate background.
Today, I want to talk about Artistic Quality and my belief that paper dolls should be beautiful both before and after they are cut out.
Listen, let’s do something radical for a moment, let’s think about Art.
No, let me say right now that I do not think of myself as an Artist. I just don’t 99% of the time. I am an avid doodler, a lover of paper dolls and someone who likes to draw.
But in that 1% of the time I do slip into that Artistic Head-Space, I realize a few things.
The first is that paper dolls are not fine art. There, I said it.
Now before people get out their pitch forks, let me tell you why.
Art is useless. By definition, a piece of art has only a decorative function. And this is wonderful. Making art is part of what makes us human and we should darn well continue doing it, but paper dolls are toys.
One of my more recent paper dolls with her custom background and layout.
That means they have a function- to be a plaything. (Remember my first Principle about playability?)
So, I think of paper dolls not as an art form, but more as a craft like sewing or quilting or knitting.
(This is not the place or the time to get into a debate about craft vs art. I will NOT go there, today.)
However, in the 1% of the time when I enter Artist Mode, I do consider two things.
The first is that paper dolls actually exist in two states.
State One is as a flat print object of a doll figure and her clothes. Sometimes, as a booklet, but often just as a flat sheet.
State Two is when the pieces have been cut out and then the paper doll can be fully realized as a toy.
If a paper doll is art, it is when it is in State One- flat sheet mode, before it has been cut.
Sometimes I use the same backgrounds on all the paper dolls in a series for coherence.
So, when the paper doll is just a sheet it needs to be attractive, just as it needs to be attractive when it is cut out.
The point I am making here is this- Layout and Format Matter!
The backgrounds I put on my paper dolls are there, because I think it makes for a more attractive work before it is cut out.
Now none of this matters if you are just creating for you, but once you start putting your work into the world, you have to ask, “Does this look good before it is cut? Does it look good after it is cut?”
So, I charge anyone who is thinking about these issues to go look at their favorite paper dolls and notice the layout, notice the time spent thinking about spacing, about placement, about clarity. These things are all important.
It’s not just about the doll and her clothes, it is about the whole experience.
Thoughts? Comments? Let me know 🙂