So, one of my first jobs while working in library school was to assist with the digitization of a massive collection of costume design drawings from a group known as the Motley Group (not to be confused with Motley Crue). This let to me eventually finishing my library degree and going onto a degree in Theater History with an emphasis on the history of technical design work.
All branches of theatrical design are about communicating information to the audience seamlessly. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, it is traditional to costume the warring families in different colors. Romeos family might be all in reds, oranges and yellows while Juliet’s family might be in greens, blues and purples. This is useful, because it communicates with the audience immediately which character is associated with which group- important in a play with about 20 characters. Opera and ballet also have costuming traditions. In a medium where people don’t speak and the plots are often rather odd, identifying characters by their colors and style is even more important.
So, when I was selecting colors and costume designs for my ballerina paper dolls, I was well aware that there were traditions that I needed to take notice of. I did my best to keep these costumes fairly “traditional” with the exception of the Firebird. I didn’t like either tutus or the unitards that seemed to be common, so I went with something a little more contemporary.
Working left to right, the first costume was from the ballet Coppélia- usually costumed in a “folk” style which is also often used for the first act of the ballet Gisselle or any ballet where there seems to be milkmaids and/or county fairs. Next is a costume for the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker. This is a costume I entirely invented when I didn’t like any of the versions I was seeing online. For my firebird, I chose to do a more modern costume, rather than a traditional tutu. If I was going to costume something no in a tutu, the firebird seemed like the logical choice. Monica is dancing the part of Odette in Swan Lake- next week’s paper doll, Mia, will have a costume for Odile. It is traditional that the part is danced by the same ballerina, but I wanted to split up the costumes across two sets. For Swan Lake, I settled on a traditional sort of costume with some feather detailing and a headdress. From Sleeping Beauty, Monica is dancing the part of the Lilac Fairy. Obviously, her costume was going to be lilac.
For years I avoided drawing a ballerina paper doll. I was asked a lot, but I always shied away.
Mostly, because the idea of drawing tutus frightened me. I work in ink. Ink is great for a lot of things, but I have always struggled with transparency and tulle (that stuff they make tutus out of) is known for both its transparency and its texture. That alone was enough to scare me.
Then, on a fateful day last year, I had no choice. I had to draw a tutu for a contest winner. I hated the outcome of my first tutu attempt, but I swore I would tackle tutus again.
I learn to draw tutus (and I still am learning), I have had to learn to let go a little of my natural instinct for controlled linework. I’ve had to embrace the risk of messy linework. That’s been a struggle and while my tutus still aren’t perfect, they are getting better.
So, for my ballet costumes, I chose to do some classic ballets that I love. The characters are Swanhilda from Coppelia (or Gisselle before she dies, either way), The Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, Odette from Swan Lake (though if you color it black, it could be Odile), the Firbird from The Firebird, and the Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. I chose Monica for this set, because I was thinking about Misty Copeland and also that I’ve only seen one African-American ballerina paper doll before. That would be one doll in Dover’s book- Ballet Dancers. So, here is a second African-American ballerina paper doll. She’ll be in color next week.
You’d think after having done hundreds of paper dolls that I would actually never struggle to come up with color schemes. And yet… I still have trouble.
The problem with steampunk or anything steampunk inspired, is that there’s a lot of brown. (This is actually the same problem I have with gothic things as well- too much black.) So, I selected several diverse shades of brown to use and then set them off with some ochre, orange, olive green, and teal. Pale blue was added so that every shirt wouldn’t be cream. I wanted to avoid red or pink- these are both colors I love and colors I tend to fall back on when I am trying to come up with color schemes and I also thought they were too girly for this menswear inspired set.
The tiny braids in Mia’s braided hair created a new series of challenges. There’s three choices when highlighting a feature like that- go darker than the main hair color or do lighter than the main hair color or go a radically different color than the main hair color. I knew I didn’t want to do option three and I decided the lighter braids looked better than darker braids.
I will confess that this set took forever to color and while I really like how it turned out, doing the layout of all these pieces was a pain as well. I need to remember my “10 to 11 pieces plus 2 pairs of shoes” rule when I’m drawing or else doing the layout takes forever. This set was 13 pieces and 2 pairs of shoes, plus a lot of these pieces are big. Anyway, it might not seem like a big difference, but it does make a difference.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys Mia in her steampunk get up. Next Monday, there will be ballerinas. Actually, we’ll have a whole month of ballerinas- because I might have gotten a little carried away.
I previewed this paper doll back in April, but even when I previewed it, the paper doll set had been sitting in my sketchbook for a month or more. I was dreading work on it, not because I didn’t like the paper doll, but because the idea of coloring all the detail was terrifying.
So, last week, when I was finally out of everything else I had drawn for Marisole Monday & Friends that I could feed the blog, I found myself finally tackling this paper doll set. Sometimes I have to be forced into these things.
All right, so inspirations for today’s paper doll set include the film Newsies and that’s really about it. Though I confess I do rather see today’s version of Mia hanging out with my airship mechanic Marcus. I mean they both have tools and newsboy caps.
I try to create for all my Marisole Monday & Friend’s paper dolls somewhat evenly. Currently though, this is only Mia’s second set this year. That puts her behind well… everyone else. So, she’ll get some more love soon though since I’ve got a ballerina set in the works for her and Monica. (Yes, I tackled my fear of tutus.)
Today’s paper doll set will, of course, be up in color next week and then… I have no idea what’s next, actually. Probably ballerinas.
Yesterday, I posted Xylra my new alien paper doll and I wanted to get her fashions up today. Not just because I think they are neat, but because I have been rather neglectful of the blog this July and if I post these this week then I won’t feel so guilty.
Blog guilt is a powerful motivating factor in my life.
Xylra is a fashionable intergalatic astrophysist and I confess I have no idea how practical any of these pieces would be for someone studying astrophysics. Truth be told, I have no idea what an astrophysicist does all day, but then I suppose most astrophysicists probably don’t know what Special Collection librarians do all day which makes us even. (For those of you who haven’t read my about page, I am a Special Collection librarian when I’m not drawing paper dolls.)
Anyway, one of my rules with paper dolls is to avoid being bogged down by practicality or common sense when designing fantasy or sci-fi clothing. A rule I haven’t violated here.
I did want to take a moment and talk about the colors in today’s set of paper doll clothes. Originally, I was planning on a more traditional cyberpunk color scheme, but I wanted to see if I would work with colors that I actually didn’t like. Perhaps an odd mental exercise, but important, I think, to growing as an artist. I considered doing two coloring jobs, one with colors I liked and one with colors I didn’t, but once I’d colored the paper doll clothes with my “ugly color scheme”, I found that I actually rather liked them. Perhaps spending time with the colors softened me up towards them or perhaps I just didn’t want to recolor the whole thing. Either way, enjoy my foray into an “ugly color scheme” and if you don’t like it, well… there’s a black and white version for a reason. Enjoy!
Back in March I mentioned that I was working on an alien/sci-fi Ms. Mannequinn paper doll set and this is the first part of that paper doll creation. After all, you can’t do alien fashions without having an alien to show them off. So, today I present Xylra, a leading intergalactic astrophysicist who happens to be fashionably dressed, though you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see her outfits. I was going to say she was an intergalatic fashion model and spy, which of course she still could be, but I was reminded of something I read years ago on the Toy Box Philosopher when she reviewed the Nova Stars dolls by MGA.
Novi Stars were aliens who had come to earth to to “try new things, update the fashion trends, and make new friends.” The dolls were cute enough I suppose, but as it was pointed out by Toy Box Philosopher at the time, “Why, oh why, does fashion have to be such a huge part of every doll’s personality? I mean, I love a fashionable doll, but can’t they be, say, rocket scientists who happen to have a good sense of style?”
So, I decided that Xylra would not be an intergalactic fashion model. Of course, if you personally want her to be, than I say go for it! That’s part of the fun of paper dolls.
Xylra’s skin patterning was inspired by the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine race called the Dosi who show up in only one episode. Frankly, I think their makeup is a bit over the top for a Star Trek species, but I liked the patterns on their faces enough to adapt them. Besides, I see Xylra as being much more of a retro-space fantasy than anything even vaguely realistic. After all, how realistic can a paper doll with teal skin and pink eyes really be?
As I mentioned a while ago, my computer died while I was traveling to visit family in Alaska. I’m pleased to report it is working fine now and it just cost money. Also, I should really back up my data more often, because hard drive problems suck.
Anyway, let’s talk about nicer things like paper dolls.
One of the reasons I keep a backlog of paper dolls is that should disaster strike, I have some things to post. I confess that my backlog has gotten lower these last few weeks and this has been a rough week for finding time to do blog work. Five hour power outage, jet lag, computer problems… Yeesh.
So, here is Greta and she is going out hunting. I didn’t give her any arrows, but…. err…. No excuse for that one, actually. I just kinda forgot. Maybe she can garrote things with her bow string or something. The image of paper dolls garroting small fuzzy woodland creatures in order to make them into stew is now going to haunt me.
Other news… Assuming I get my act together, there should be a Marcus paper doll on Monday and then some other stuff in the coming weeks. I am trying to get excited, but I am struggling to feel inspired at the moment. I’m sure it’ll come back. It always does eventually.
How do other people deal with lulls in inspiration?
Summer in Alabama is probably my least favorite season. First of all, it is very hot and humid. Secondly, there are cockroaches. Thirdly, it rains in the afternoons, but the rain doesn’t actually cool anything down.
We are having a freakishly hot June. It’s been in the high 90s for the last week and it is not looking to cool down at all next week. I am miserable in this heat, but I suppose it could be worse.
Someone who is not miserable in the heat (or at least isn’t showing it) is Marisole in today’s colored version of Beautiful Boho. A big part of color selection for me is finding colors I wouldn’t normally think to combine. Part of this is instinct, but I borrow most of my color schemes from various sources around the internet and then alter them as needed. Design Seeds more muted palettes were what I used on this paper doll set. I wanted to use colors that felt like they were modern and came from nature.
I went back and forth about what to do about Marisole’s glasses in this set. Originally, I had them plain silver, but it just seemed so… well, plain. So, after some debate, I decided to make them a soft grey-teal color. It’s a color that shows up a lot in the paper doll set, but it is also fairly neutral. I also had a lot of fun painting her toe nails with her different sandals.
I don’t think I mentioned this last time, but the paper doll’s hair is based in part on the last hairstyle in this fantastic video of 100 years of black hairstyles 1910 to 2010. My only complaint about the video is that it ignores wigs which were commonly worn by black women, particularly 1940s through the 1960s. Never the less, it is a fascinating time-lapse piece.
Later this week there will be the first Flock post of 2015 (embarrassing but true).
It has been a while since we saw Marisole, hasn’t it? I mean… at least since early April, I think.
As her friends grow, I find I sometimes miss her. She is the longest running paper doll on this site and I really do still have a fondness for her.
Today, Marisole is rocking a wardrobe inspired by the boho looks of brands like Free People. I have only recently discovered Free People and if I had a job where I could get away with wearing their clothes on a regular basis, I would. I also wanted to draw a jumpsuit. I don’t like jumpsuits, but they are in fashion and I am trying to be more open minded about them. Today’s Marisole paper doll also has glasses, because I think glasses are cute and I don’t draw enough paper dolls with glasses.
I also have horrendous eyesight and am blind as a bat without my contacts in. As a child, I had glasses and I hated them. Maybe a paper doll or two with glasses will help kids not dislike glasses so much.
Over the years that I have been drawing paper dolls, which has been a fairly long time, I have come to realize that I really value diversity and variety in my paper dolls. I can’t imagine just drawing modern paper dolls or just drawing historical paper dolls or just drawing fantasy paper dolls. One of the things I like about paper dolls is that they can literally be anything. I’m about to get through the last of the backlog I have of Marisole Monday & Friend’s paper dolls. I have one more after this colored and one more waiting to be colored.
That means it is time for me to return to my sketch book. I’ve made a poll to help me decide what I should make next for them. Below I’ve listed my four major ideas. Vote on one of them and I might make it.
What Should I draw Next for Marisole Monday & Friends?
A ballerina or dancer. Tackle your fear of tutus. (38%, 36 Votes)
Space princess! Like a normal princess, but with ray-guns in space! (29%, 28 Votes)
Something for Marcus. Anything. Poor boy needs some more clothes. (19%, 18 Votes)
A warrior with armor. Lots of Armor. (14%, 13 Votes)
Today’s color scheme is based off the Pantone Colors of Spring 2015– though I confess I don’t really like the Pantone colors of Spring 2015. Still, I try to do Pantone paper doll sets, because it gets me out of my comfort zone. Every once in a while, that’s crucially important.
Since the theme of this paper doll set was color blocking, I obviously had no pattern in it. The pieces were based on fashion magazine content that comes out in Spring. While I confess that the color scheme isn’t my favorite, I really like how both pairs of shoes came out and the blue top with the orange and yellow accents. I’d totally wear that top which is not something I can say about most of what I draw for paper dolls.
In the real world, my taste is fairly conservative and leans towards tweed trousers or boho blouses.
I don’t have much else to say about this paper doll set. She’s named Maeghan which I explained last week and you can see more of her with the rest of the Maeghans in my new, Maeghan category. I’d love to say that new exciting fascinating things will happen on the blog in the coming week, but I am pretty sure it will be pretty much just paper dolls.
And while I like to think paper dolls are new and exciting, its hard to argue that they are also what people come here expecting. Surely no one shows up thinking that this place is going to be full of cat GIFs or delightfully trained mongooses.
For the record, I have no idea what you would train a mongoose to do or even if you can train mongooses.