Saturday, November 28, 2015

Imaginative Play: Fashion Dolls Upcycled

Remembering Play

While I was pregnant with Emmeline I began thinking back my childhood. I wanted to remember what inspired me as a child, in the hopes of giving Emmeline the opportunity to experience something similar. For me it was always imaginative play that fulfilled me, whether that be mud pies, home made capes, having my dolls climb trees or ride my dog's back, drawing, coloring, reading, writing, creating masks, carving chalk, painting designs on my own skin, and in general imagining myself and my surroundings in different time periods and different places in the world.  

My first Bratz repaint. For this happy doll I created a face out of my imagination without an inspiration photo.
She looks like someone I'd like to get to know.

Tree Change Dolls

Around that same time period, while I was pregnant, I came across a viral video that was really meaningful to me. It feature a thoughtful Tasmanian woman named Sonia Singh who had created her Tree Change dolls from used fashion dolls, mostly Bratz dolls, removing their factory painted faces and repainting them to look younger and more natural. She dressed her dolls in play clothes and put boots on their feet, imagining outdoor adventures for them. It was such a hopeful outlook on childhood conveyed through a simple act of reimagining an everyday toy.

This is my second Bratz repaint. I wanted to make sure these repaints represented a variety of appearances
not just my own imaginary friends, so I found an inspiration photo online of a fully freckled young woman.
To get the right effect I repainted the entire face to have a cooler under layer of skintone
(by cooler I mean leaning towards light pink instead of yellow) and then layered in the freckles.

My Upcycled Doll Beginnings

I really wanted to try it out for myself, but my paintings had to be the priority, so I imagined I would create one in the next few years when Emmeline would be old enough to play with it. After Emmeline was born I knew it would be difficult to paint for a few months, at least, and assumed that this time would simply be a fallow period for my painting, and an opportunity to focus on living in a totally knew way and getting to know my little one. 

But, I found I was itching to create. I have managed to get in a few brief paint sessions, but one hour naps aren't very conducive to setting up to paint an oil painting getting about 30 minutes of paint time in and then rushing to take care of the munchkin. Also, I find sleep deprivation can endanger complex paintings. :-P Those lovely Tree Change Dolls kept coming into my head. It turns out repainting a doll is perfect for nap time. It is quiet, requires less set up, and can be stopped and restarted without losing focus.

This is my third Bratz repaint. Once again, to insure a variety of faces types are represented I found
an inspiration photo online of little dark haired girl. I'm happy with the subtle difference
in her facial expression. She isn't smiling, or sunny, but instead appears contented.

Imaginative Play to Come

Now that I have found so much enjoyment in just these few repainted faces I want to see what kinds of imaginative play memories I can incorporate into them. There will many accessories in their future. I have masks in the works, capes, and perhaps play dress up clothes. Some of these will be reserved for Emmeline's future play and some may make their way to my Etsy shop, Spicy Paprika.

I'll post my progress.

P.S. Oh, and there is a group portrait that gets worked on here and there that I'd love to share when it is completed and the client has received it, so be on the look out for that too.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful for Emmeline!

I'd like to introduce my daughter Emmeline!
We have lively times daily.

I have been absent from this blog for the better part of year, but I have not abandoned it! I have just been working on a very important project: Missy Emmeline! She has inspired me greatly, but of course having a small infant makes it a challenge to produce art. I have found a few work arounds and squeezed it in here and there. What surprises me is that she only makes me want to work harder, find ways to create no matter how limited my time, and inspires me even when I am exhausted. I'm hoping to share the little side projects she has inspired me to create as of late in the next few weeks.

For now I thought Thanksgiving was the perfect day to share my little person Emmeline who has created a great impression in just six short months of life! 

I hope all who read this had a beautiful Thanksgiving Day! I am very grateful that my husband's Dad brought most of the turkey dinner to us, as we couldn't make the journey to our big family get together and that my Dad joined in the fun. It was such a treat to just talk to loved ones most of the day.

The day's revelry below:
Gramps and Emmeline getting in a snooze before the main event.

First thanksgiving and already sitting at the table. :D
She has a fascination with chewing!

Some floor time at the end of a big day. She can't help but be awed by the giant camera zooming in on her.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Oils on Panel
10" by 10"
About a month ago a favorite artist of mine, Kimberly Kelly Santini, post a challenge to paint from the same photo (taken by a friend of hers) as she had already painted from on her Facebook page. The dog's pose (Zevon) is both visually powerful and intriguing because of its ambiguity. I was curious to see how I could make the image my own. I went through my Pinterest portrait art board to remind myself of what in a portrait makes me want to explore it and delved into Stanka Kordic's website for inspiration in creating a mood or sense of atmosphere and then the painting commenced. After I completed it I had to wait about a month for it to be dry enough to get a good photo and got it in to the challenge right under the wire. It was an ideal way to play with ideas in paint. I greatly appreciate Kimberly Kelly Santini for sharing her inspiration. And I appreciate her Facebook followers kind comments! She says she plans on doing more art challenges and I look forward to them!

Friday, February 6, 2015


8" by 8"
Oils on Gessoed Panel

A Loving Reminder

I have found that painting a portrait of a person I love is invaluable. Not only because I end up with a keepsake and record of at least one way I see that person, maybe even a portfolio piece, but because it always reminds me not to get too attached to photo reference. When I know and love a person, I have seen them in almost every possible lighting and expression, I have that visual knowledge to draw upon. Using that knowledge of a face or person I know well shows me that no matter how good the photo reference, it can't give me that full understanding to work with. Painting a loved one is a reminder not to be complacent when creating a likeness.

Finding Personality

So, how does this apply to portraits of people I don't know, or at least not as well? You might assume that knowing the difference in the painting experience might be disheartening to me when I approach a more distant subject, but in fact it helps me remember that I am not copying a photograph, but capturing something indescribable in other ways through my art. One way I can do that is just by having more than one photograph to work from, so I can see different aspects of that person. If I have met the person in real life I can think of my impression of them and how the light changed their face. And, lastly, I can pick up on some detail of expression that the photograph shows me, but play it up or find my interpretation of a bit of who they are through that detail and unravel it in my work.


In case you are wondering, the photo above is a likeness of my beautiful Mom. The paint is still wet, as this painting is freshly completed today. I'll get a nice, clear straight on photo of this painting after it dries. For now, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my process.

P.S. If you are interested in commissioning a portrait, pepper me with questions at

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Bun in the Oven"

"My Bun in the Oven"
Graphite and Photoshop
October 2014

I have been working on an important creative project of sorts for several months now. I'm expecting! This has very much influenced my art since I found out, from dealing with bad morning sickness to sussing out non-toxic options for my art materials so it made sense to finally share my pregnancy here. So you may be getting more info on how I've worked with being pregnant and creating in the coming months. Above is the quick illustration I created back in October to break the news to a dear friend.

P.S. If you are interested in commissioning an announcement illustration like this for yourself, email me at