Feeding the Blog Monster

Sometimes, I think of my blog as a monster. I call it “DaBlog Monster.”

And it is my job to feed the monster paper dolls (other blogs may hunger for other things) lest it devour the world and/or the souls of children.

Feeding the blog is not always easy and can be stressful. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to keep me sane while I do it and I thought I’d share those today.

So, this is how I feel DaBlog Monster….

I work in several things at once.

I get bored easily. Having four or five different paper dolls in different stages of development means I can hop around and do what I feel like. If I want to ink, I can ink. If I want to sketch, I can sketch. If I want to color, I can color. If I want to mess with layouts, I can mess with layouts. (I never WANT to mess with layouts, but… it has to be done.)

The thing about paper dolls is they should be fun. Once drawing them stops being fun, I think you need to find something else to do. Not to suggest that slumps don’t happen (they to do everyone), but pleasure should out weigh pain.

I work in spurts.

Let me describe what last week looked like… On Saturday, I scanned a bunch of things including a Marisole Monday set, two poppets sets and some new pieces for Greta’s trousseau. On Sunday, I finished up the next Marisole Monday post. On Monday, I worked on my Grandmother’s 90th birthday present, did a little inking and cleaned my bathrooms. On Tuesday, I went grocery shopping, did laundry and spent the evening reading about World War One propaganda for a conference presentation I am working on. On Wednesday, I ran a few errands, worked more on my Grandma’s birthday gift and cleaned my apartment. On Thursday, I cooked for a dinner party I was hosting Friday and did more cleaning. On Friday, I had friends over, served them enchiladas and had a lovely time.

The moral of this story: I didn’t spent and I don’t spend every waking moment thinking about or working on paper dolls. I do work intensely and then I stop.

I space out my posts.

WordPress has a scheduling feature (as do most other blog platforms). Know it. Love it. Use it.

So, imagine you’d just finished two paper dolls and that’s wonderful. Now… when do you post them?

Think about schedules. Is next week insane like my last week was insane? Are there a dozen things you have to do in the coming month? Should you post one now and save the other for when you’re in a pinch? What’s the best option?

Just because something is done, doesn’t mean it has to go up. Save things for times when you’re crunched.

Plan ahead.

Okay, this one I’m not so good at, but I try to think about what holidays are upcoming. Do I want to do a Passover paper doll? This coming up fast. How about something for May day? Or the summer solstice? When is the summer solstice? (I have no idea without looking it up.)

I know it takes a long time for me to go from idea, to sketch, to final sketch, to inking, to coloring, and then to posting. I don’t like to rush it. I can if I have too, but I’d rather not have too.

So, these are the ways I feed my blog monster. How do you feed yours?

Melinda’s Leprechaun

I do have a plan for a St. Patrick’s Day paper doll, but it’s not a leprechaun. As many of you know, it can take me a long time to go from paper doll idea to actual paper doll (sometimes as long as a year), so I usually try to plan holiday paper dolls several months in advance.

However, I had some requests for a Margot leprechaun and one of my readers, named Melinda, decided to take things into her own hands and create one.

Stylish Lady Leprechaunby Melinda

I’d like everyone to meet the leprechaun by Melinda. Melinda is a sophmore at Seattle University and she decided we needed a leprechaun paper doll, so she took outfits from several different sets and created one of her own. I’ve added the leprechaun, along with another paper doll set colored by Melinda to the Showcase.

How cool is that?

So, I have a challenge for everyone else. Can anyone name all the sets these pieces come from? I’m embarrassed to admit that I got a few of them right off and then I had to search for one of them to make sure I was right.

10th Century Anglo-Saxon Women’s Dress

The internet can be pretty messy when it comes to historical costume and fashion research. When I started working on my 10th century Anglo-Saxon paper doll for one of my drawing winners, Gwendolyn, I found myself flummoxed. Additional AS 49598 depicting 960-970The 10th century is a transitional period in Anglo-Saxon dress and not one extensively covered in most sources. I hope to have my Anglo-Saxon paper doll up tomorrow.

A full bibliography is at the bottom of the post, each plate is credited underneath it. Since I can’t seem to get my footnotes plugin to work, I’m going to use inline citations (which I hate, by the way, but what can you do?). There is only one book I was able to find that covers the 10th century with the sort of detail I wanted and that was Owen-Crocker’s Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. You’re going to see me mostly citing her. (Funny story, I found another book which covered the period briefly and the person they cited was… drum roll please… Owen-Crocker.)

So… Let’s do this thing! More Below!

Six Paper Doll Drawing Tools I Can’t Live Without

Let us, for a moment, talk about supplies. One of the thing that keeps me drawing paper dolls is that I don’t need a lot of gear. I can get by on a pretty small set of art supplies.

Here’s what I use:

1. A sketchbook.

I keep trying out new sketchbooks. I’ll go to the store and I’ll stand looking at the sketchbooks and I’ll think… this time I’ll try this kind and then I try it and I don’t like it and I go back to my Carson Universal sketchbook. Seriously, I seem to always go back to this sketchbook. It takes both ink and pencil well. It’s a nice size. Also, it’s not too expensive.

By the way, I don’t date the pages of my sketchbook, but I do date the cover. That way I know when I drew the stuff inside.

2. Mechanical Pencils

I like cheap mechanical pencils with lead size .07. I buy them in bulk. I lose them all the time, but they’re cheap, so I don’t mind. I like Bic brand, because they have decent erasers. I tend to use the pencil eraser when I’m not thinking and if it’s a bad eraser than it ruins what I’m working on and I get mad.

3. uni-ball Vision Micro Point Rollerball Pens

These .5 mm black ball point pens are what I use for all my inking needs. I adore them. They are cheap, fairly smear proof (not entirely smear proof) and can make smooth lines. They work well on my sketchpads and they are much cheaper than actual art pens. Make sure you ge the .5mm size though, the larger sizes don’t work so well for delicate line-work.

4. Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser

Buy a few different erasers and decide what you like the best. I love these erasers, because they are soft enough not to damage my paper and I do a lot of erasing.

5. Brush for Eraser crumbles

I bought this brush on a whim. I am totally addicted to it now and sometimes take it with me when I travel. Seriously, I am not kidding. It sweeps up all those little annoying left over eraser bits and brushes off you image. How is this not the best thing EVER?

6. Drafting Templates

I use these to draw circles (because seriously, who can draw a decent circle? Not me) and other geometric shapes. I like that they are small and thin. I have one for squares too.

So, that’s it. That’s my gear. What do you use to do your art?

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.

Sources for Greta's Fencing Costume


    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?

Ellie, a Childhood Paper Doll

Okay, so after I posted Riven, a few people asked to see more of my childhood work. Today, therefore, I offer Ellie.

When I look at Ellie, I see a lot of how far I’ve come and also how far I still need to go. I still don’t feel like I know how to draw very well, but I like drawing and, as I always say, gusto makes up for a lack of skill sometimes. Anyway… here’s Ellie, a paper doll of my childhood (and also of the midriff bearing days of the 90s).

Childhood  Paper Doll Drawing

Childhood  Paper Doll Drawing

I drew Ellie 15 years ago. I was in middle school and I remember being quite proud of her. I distinctly recall carefully drawing her clothing. Clearly, it was the 90s and I was clearly used to working in Crayon. I worked in crayon for a lot of my childhood drawings. I was convinced it was better than colored pencils. In hindsight, I wish I’d learned to use colored pencils or markers earlier on, because those skills would be useful now that I’m older. Never the less… this is Ellie… She’s still pretty cute.

By the way, I just realized we’re mid-Kwanzaa here in the United States (I don’t know if it’s celebrated outside the US…), so I’d like to wish a Happy Kwanzaa to anyone who is celebrating.

Nine Fantastic Printable Paper Dolls from December’s Past

I think I’ve mentioned already that Paper Thin Personas is turning three in January and entering it’s fourth year of life. It’s been three years since the site crashed and I had to start over from scratch. I couldn’t be more pleased with where the blog is now.

But I thought it might be interesting to look back and where PTP came from… So, for today I have combed through the archives and found nine paper dolls from December’s Past that I thought were worth featuring. Step back with me and take a look at what I was drawing two years ago. :)

Three Printable Paper Dolls of December 2012

Marisole Monday: In Space!

December 3th, 2012 & December 10th, 2012
Thumbnail of the Printable Paper Doll Marisole Alien Marisole Monday went to space as an alien in color and to be colored. I remember being conflicted about posting the ray guns. There’d been some gun violence around the time I was working on this paper doll set. People were talking about the dangers of toy guns and children. I didn’t get a single complaint about my ray guns.

Shadow & Light Number 22

December 27th, 2012
Thumbnail of the Printable Paper Doll This paper doll has the dubious honor of being the paper doll set that I spent way to much time on the shading, only to realize I’d done it on the wrong side and having to correct it all on photoshop. I loved the outfit on the right so much that I thought it was worth it. :) Actually, I love both these outfits.

Puck as SuperHero

December 9th, 2012 &December 8th, 2012
Thumbnail of the Printable Paper Doll I got a request for some superhero Puck paper dolls. I confess openly that I wasn’t totally pleased with how the two of them seemed while I was drawing them, but I wanted to draw some male paper dolls aimed at boys and I thought for sure that boys would be into these options. In the end, I was quite pleased how they came out.

More Below!

Get a Free Printable Paper Doll Every Monday Sent to your Web Enabled HP Printer…

Logo for the HP Printer App of Free Printable Paper Dolls from Paper Thin Personas

I have cool news.

Last year, I was contacted by some people from HP about using my content in a downloadable application for their web enabled printers. After many months of conversation and discussion, I’m excited to announce the Paper Thin Personas App for HP Web Enabled Printers featuring Marisole Monday.

Once the app is installed, a Marisole Monday paper doll will be printed automatically from your web enabled HP printer every Monday in black and white or in full color (you choose when you set up the app).

I’d probably get them in black and white if I had kids, because than the paper dolls become a fun coloring activity. And who doesn’t like fun coloring activities?

(Plus, in an entirely unscientific study done by my friend with her cousins, small children + crayons + black and white paper doll sheets = almost 20 minutes of occupied time. And this time of year, who doesn’t want that?)

Logo for the HP Printer App of Free Printable Paper Dolls from Paper Thin PersonasA few things you should know… You need a web enabled HP printer to print out the Marisole Monday paper dolls. All of the paper dolls in the App have appeared on the blog in full color before, but not all of them have appeared in black and white.

I think the Paper Thin Personas App is great for parents or grandparents who want something for their kids or grandkids to play with every Monday or if you just want a Monday morning pick me up. It’s really very fun to walk into the room on a blurry-eyed Monday morning and see a paper doll waiting.

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to the wonderful team I worked with. They were all fabulous and made the process quite painless. :)

Download the Paper Thin Personas App for HP Wed Enabled Printers Here and have a great holiday season.

Flashback… Meet Riven… A Paper Doll I drew in 1999

I drew paper dolls when I was a child.

And after my apartment flooded, I found myself going through a lot of my childhood drawings checking for mold and water damage. Quite a few things were destroyed, but most of them were safely tucked away in plastic bins, protected from the water. I thought it might be fun to share some of them on the blog, since I often get emails from young people asking how to become better artists.

All I can say to that is practice. Practice. Practice. Also, take art classes when you’re in high school and have the time. Now that I’m out of high school, I regret not taking the figure drawing or the advanced water color courses that were offered.

Anyway, this is Riven. (I think I wanted to name her Raven, but there was a girl in school who was really mean to me named Raven, so I named her Riven instead.)

Childhood  Paper Doll Drawing

So, Tom Tierney was my favorite paper doll artist when I was a child and I admired his figures. This was my attempt at copying that style. She’s holding a brush, rather awkwardly, and brushing out her hair to cover her breasts modestly.

She has a streak of silver in her hair, but I don’t think it scanned that well. My first ever Tom Tierney paper doll was Christopher Columbus, bought for me by my sister when I was eight or nine, I think. She suggested that I not cut it out and I never have. It’s still sitting in my collection somewhere. I remember it had historical information about Columbus in it. I read all of that and then pestered by teacher about why we celebrated Columbus Day when Christopher Columbus was such a jerk.

I still have serious issues with Columbus Day, but that’s a whole different story.

“Traditional Native American Clothing of the Early 21st Century” By Steven Paul Judd & Native American Paper Dolls

November is Native American Heritage Month, so let us take a moment to consider the world of Native American paper dolls.

“Traditional Native American Clothing of the Early 21st Century” is a series of drawings by Steven Paul Judd. These illustrations come from Collecting Children’s Books, a blog which is no longer being updated, as I think the author passed away. “Traditional Native American Clothing of the Early 21st Century” includes four images of “Medicine Man” and “Chief”, “Scout” and “Warrior,” all drawn in colored pencil by Steven Paul Judd, Kiowa/Choctaw.

Mr. Judd writes that, “I’m not a psychologist so I can’t tell you the effects of seeing your people only portrayed in a certain way. I can only speak on my own experience of being a little kid and looking for others on t.v. that I could identify with. Only person I could find was Erik “Ponch” Estrada from “CHiPs”. So as a youn’un I pretended to be a motorcycle cop. So my thought is, what if our youth could see there selves not in just a historical context, but as doctors, lawyers, astronauts? So that’s when I decided to make these drawings.”

You can see more of Steven Paul Judd’s work from Indian Country Daily, his Etsy site and this nice summary from Southwest Indian Arts.

But I didn’t choose Judd’s work just because I think it’s amazing (though I do), I chose it because I believe it reveals something important about how paper dolls depict Native Americans.

Let us pause a moment, while I dust off my soap box…

Humans create societies and in these societies the dominate social groups use their position to create culturally constructed ideals which than are presented as self-evident and natural. One term for this process is “hegemony” (often used in a political science context) another term is “social construction” (often used in a psychological context), but most fields that deal with human societies have a term they use to illustrate this idea.

But what, you might be wondering, does this have to do with paper dolls?

Native American Paper Doll from Doll World 1987 Paper dolls are not mere playthings, rather paper dolls illustrate for how people look and who people are. When Native American paper dolls depict only traditional dress, the illustrations send a message about how and what Native American’s are as a people (or, more accurately, as hundreds of different groups of people). Not to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with depicting accurate, tribally specific, traditional dress in paper doll form, but when these paper doll sets don’t also include contemporary clothing, they create the illusion that Native peoples only dress in regalia or, more dangerously, exist only in the past. The obsession with traditional dress harkens back to the 19th century obsession with “documenting a culture on the edge of extinction,” a dangerous false idea.

When Native American children only see themselves presented in these limited contexts, they are denied the opportunity to be equals to others in society. When non-Native children see only traditional dress on Native American paper dolls, they are denied the opportunity to see similarities rather than differences, are taught that Native peoples all dress in traditional dress all the time and are presented an image of a “costume” rather than a person.

Do I think that all Native American paper dolls in traditional dress are bad? Of course not, but paper dolls should open up imaginary worlds, not limit them.

I shall now step off my soap box and welcome anyone else to express their views, politely of course, in the comments section.

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