Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inspiring Eyes

A friend forwarded a few amazing pictures to me- this one really grabbed my attention. Click on the picture to enlarge and just have a look:

I have no clue where this picture came from- must be from National Geographic. These are just eyes- I can hardly imagine what the rest of this creature must look like. Just look at the details and all those colors- isn't it astonishing? I see so much potential here. If this isn't insiration, I don't know what is.
Imagine using this as a model/starting point for a fantasy doll of some sort... a dragon? Maybe even a faerie? Or a goblin with mischief up his sleeves...It makes me excited just thinking about what might evolve from this. It would probably turn into a masterpiece, don't you think?
I'll put it on my list of things I must do.
So many ideas, so little time.... Maybe you will give it a try?
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lighten Up

It's raining. It's late at night. I'm totally inspired and I've got to do art right now! What type of lighting do I need?

Have you ever pondered this question? I'm sure you have. There are some conflicting and even very misleading (dare I say convoluted) ideas out there about this subject. I am a professional in the lighting industry and I thought it's about time I shed some light on the subject.

First off, I'm going to make a daring statement. Here's what I've got to say: Stay away from so-called "craft lights." It's a marketing ploy to get you to buy cheapo light fixtures and pay a lot of money for nothing. A good example of this is a company sold in many fabric and craft stores, who shall remain "nameless..." I guess I "OTTa" explain this!

First of all, let me make something clear. Some "special" light is great for reading. That's one thing, but art is another. Why? First of all, becuase when you read you want very high contrast between the [white] page and the [black] print. Makes it easier to see and stay focused. But when we are engaged in art, we do not want that type of contrast. We need to see how the colors blend together.

The next issue is much more complicated. Let's understand how we see colors.


Color temperature describes how "warm" (reddish) or "cool" (bluish) a tint of white appears. Color temperature is a reference number that "quantifies" the appearance of light. The terms "warm" and "cool" refer to subjective experiences, such as a warm flame or a cool winter sky.

The COLOR TEMPERATURE of a light source is measured on the scientific Kelvin scale.
Imagine a piece of metal heated to a high temperature: it glows. At a high enough temperature, it will give off light (or incandesce) as when heating iron at a forge or when sterilizing a needle by holding it over a flame. As the metal is heated, the higher the temperature, the bluer the light.
Think of the cooking gas flame in your kitchen oven. The inside is blue and the outside is orange/red. Which is actually hotter (higher degree temperature)? Blue. But when we think of a warm pleasing fire, we think of orange/red colors.

Blue is a color that makes us feel think of cold. Ice is bluish, for example.

"Cool light" is considered blue- a high color temperature. Warm light is more reddish, yet the color temperature is low. I know this sounds confusing, because it's the opposite of Fahrenheit. . You'll see what I mean.

In lighting, we measure the cool/warm spectrum in Degrees Kelvin (K), and we can "see" between 2500 K to 7500 K. That is the "visible light spectrum." We can measure light sources (including light bulbs) on this scale.
As mentioned above, "Cool" light is a high degrees Kelvin (7500K) and "warm" color would be about 2500K.
Don't let the "daylight" fool you. True, daylight comes in at 6500K. But that is not a desirable color for an indoor application because there is simply too much blue in 6500K. There are reasons why it's wonderful outside- it has to do with reflectance, spectral power distribution, color rendering index (not to get off on tangent- this is not the place for it) - which is very different when the light source is indoors as it is outdoors. (Thus the need for a good lighting designer)....

To summarize, let me ask you a question.
If you buy a "full spectrum" Fluorescent bulb, what does that really mean?
Does it mean you are getting more bang for your buck? The whole kit and caboodle? Sunlight in a bottle? NO.
It means you are buying a bulb that is 7500 degrees Kelvin. It's merely a very high color temperature. And you got it- cool, blue, eerie and high contrast.

Great for reading, but try putting that lamp next to a lamp with a halogen bulb, or even a regular light bulb. (which is about 3500 K)

And if you do art next to such a bulb, how do you think your art will look after you take it into the sun the next day?
Ever been to the Twilight Zone?
It won't look the way it did working under blue light.
I once tried it, and my doll's face turned out as ugly as sin because I used too much ochre. I was adding more and more yellow because I couldn't see any!

Oh and one other thing- that "full spectrum" also includes UV rays. So to all you SAD (seasonal affective disorder) sufferers- beware. Use the bulb but don't sit right in front of it. I'm a Seattleite- we get a lot of SAD cases out here. My own doctor uses a huge full spectrum lamp for a half hour a day in her office. I like coffee instead (just kidding!)

On the flip side, I hear this a lot.
No need. Fluorescent used to not be available in lower color temperatures. A standard regular non-energy efficient bulb is about 3500K. You can get fluorescent bulbs with that color temperature nowadays.

When lighting a home office or artist studio, you will want to create a comfortable environment that is free of harsh contrasts and distracting glare. You will need task lighting for art, reading and writing, etc.; and general lighting for the surrounding area. You may also want to include accent lighting for art on the wall. Two large ceiling fixtures, containing energy-efficient fluorescent tubes (3500K so they are a comfortable color temperature) will provide plenty of well-diffused general lighting, while eliminating shadows on the desk or work area. Place the fixtures overhead and to the right so the light comes over the shoulder. Lighting placed in front of the desk will cause troublesome shadows. Track lighting will illuminate the artwork. A desk lamp will provide task light. Position the lamp so it does not reflect on the computer screen. The best type of lamp for this is a reading lamp with an opaque covering above, not a shade (as you would use on an end table). The best type of bulb to use is Halogen or Xenon, because they have the best color rendering index of all man-made light sources. Halogen has a reputation of being very hot. If you are worried about this, use Xenon because it does not get as hot.
Well, there you have it. My little lighting sermon. Hope it was at least enlightening! Go back to art- go go go! And let me know how it goes...

If you would like to ask me anything about lighting, or need to source something out, maybe need a good price on lighting fixtures- you may email me. I do have a lot of resources at my disposal and well- it's my job!
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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How to design your own doll

A reader asked me a very good question this morning:
How do you design your own doll?
Well, that is a very good question. Let me try to answer it.

The answer is- it depends!
If you want to make a cloth doll which you sew entirely in cloth, turn and stuff- well that can be a challenge. It takes a lot of trial and error- first making dolls from other people's patterns and getting a feel for how certain tucks and turns and darts and "smarts" (hopefully not farts) contribute to a pattern.

Once you get the hang of that, you can try making your own pattern based entirely on your own design. It's a process and a bit time consuming but nevertheless fun. Truth is, there's more than one way to make a doll- and I would recommend trying all different types of doll making processes- cloth, polymer, mixed, wrapping over wire, pattern, etc. I won't get too involved in all the different techniques- I will just focus on the sewing pattern to answer this question:

Last night I was checking out your website and reading your blog and was inspired to TRY and design my own cloth doll. Francesca & Fuscia are just beautiful, from their face sculpting & coloring to their costumes.
My question to you is, "What is the first thing I need to do too design a 3 dimensional cloth doll?" I have ideas in my head and some on paper, but I'm just stumped.
Don't get me wrong, I have purchased patterns from different desginers & love using them and will still continue to do so, but I want to create my own originals.
P.S. Thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you and the free Francesca pattern. I'm going to start on her this evening.
Happy Dollmaking!

To answer this question, the first technique that comes to mind is something I learned from Patti Medaris Culea. I can't draw the pictures to illustrate what I mean because I'm worried about copyright- but let's see if I can explain the basics in words.

1) Sculpt a doll body from clay. You will have to make a wire armature- like a simple skeleton- so it isn't so heavy it will just fall apart. A good clay to use is an air-dry clay like paperclay. Note I said Body- not arms and legs. Just the body. Yours might look like a butternut squash with bubble boobs- that's ok.

2) Next, using an inkless pen or some such tool, make pretend seam lines going down the sides of the body, where you would expect to sew. You'll be engraving them into the clay, so to speak, as markers.

3) Next make lines over the boobs, from neck down to the bottom, and one down the spine.

You've got your stitch lines, and now all you need is to figure out what the actual pattern looks like, so when you sew it and stuff it, it will look like your lump of clay (hopefully a little better)

4) Get some strong paper towels, and lay them over. With a felt tip pen, draw into the grooves you made before. Cut out your pattern. Transfer it onto regular paper, and add a seam allowance.

That's it! Basically, at least. Just in a nutshell. You will probably need to do it a few times to get it right. And if your doll has big boobies then you will need to make darts. That's done with the paper towel again- just fold it a few times till it sits over the boob nicely- mark the dart and transfer it over to your pattern. Until you have gotten used to this technique though, I would probably recommend cutting circles out of stretch material and attach them by hand applique.

I learned this technique from Patti Medaris Culea. She taught a class on pattern design quite a while ago. I am aware of a pattern making class by Kathryn Walmsley- I think it might be on Doll Street Dreamers. Write Judi Wellnitz and ask - maybe she'll get something going if it isn't! :-)

Last but not least I would highly recommend a book called ANATOMY OF THE DOLL by Susanna Oroyan. We in the doll world are unfortunate to have lost this great artist to the big C last year- I don't even want to write the name of that disease on my computer. But any of Susanna's books are must-haves and will give you tons of information to get you inspired and on the right track.

Happy Dolling!!
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Little Big Girl Blue

This is a thrift shop find. I have no idea where she came from or how old she is. She is obviously a porcelain doll with a classic cloth body, painted in one color- blue.

I saw her and was completely intrigued. I cold not figure out who she is- she looks partly Russian, partly Oriental, part little girl and part old woman with jewelry, old fashioned boots, and buns in her hair. Her body is skinny and her face is fat with double chins. I would think she was antique except that her body doesn't look old. There are absolutely no markings on the doll whatsoever, so she leaves me no clue as to her identity. What an interesting doll! I paid a whopping $2.50 for her. I think she is a treasure. I think about altering her, but I don't know. At least for now, I think I should leave her alone.
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Sunday, March 02, 2008

What a CARD

This is breathtaking. My favorite doll artist of all time- his name is Alex Mergold, a Russian Israeli. He taught me to sculpt for a while before I moved back to Seattle. I wish it was for longer than it was because Alex's work is unforgettable.

Alex makes marionettes, as you can see. He makes utterly fantastic dolls with such expression you would be shocked. What's even more shocking is the utter simplicity in his palette... he uses a Mc Donald's type coffee stirrer spoon while he sculpts- it's one of his favorite tools (!) He makes joints for his marionettes with old thrown away umbrellas- the kind that fold up. Can you believe that?
Never mind. Just don't ask. He's ingenious and humble, and can literally make something from nothing. Probably one of the finest art lessons I've ever learned.
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