Doll face-up artist Lyn Raftis took some time from her busy schedule to talk about, what else? Dolls and face-ups!
Q: When did you discover BJDs? How did you start painting face-ups?
A: I came into painting BJD’s in 2004. I’d been repainting Tonner Fashion Dolls, but was very unsatisfied with it. For me the fun was in the painting, once I was done I felt like, “Now what?”. Those dolls to me were very static. Then a fellow repainter got this doll that just changed my world. It was a Delf Chiwoo and I was smitten! I LOVED how customizable they were. That you could change the wig and eyes. It wasn’t long before I got a Chiwoo of my own and never looked back.
Before dolls I had previously painted and glazed model horses, so I wasn’t a stranger to an airbrush. I ordered a Vampire DES head and painted that poor thing over and over until I had something that I liked. I kept her for a while and then sold the head to buy another…you see where this is going? LOL! I would paint and sell dolls and after a while people asked me for commissions. Being a fairly non-confrontational person I hated saying ‘No’ to people and after a while I had an unmanageable workload and waiting list. It really started to stifle my enjoyment of the hobby so I had to LEARN to say no, and how to manage my commissions better.
Q: How do customers reach you?
A: These days I run commissions through my Livejournal. I don’t really have a website, mostly because I do not have the free time to spend maintaining it. When I feel like working (how awful does that sound, but it’s true) I open slots in my journal. When those are filled I am closed until I’m finished and can take more IF my personal schedule allows it. I do not keep a waiting list as I found that doesn’t work well for me.
Q: Can you tell me about your doll collection? Do you collect many dolls? Do you still sell many of the dolls you acquire?
A: I don’t know if ‘collect’ is the right word for me. I do have a lot of dolls – mostly boys, mostly Dollshe – that have stayed around. Sometimes I will get a doll because I want to paint it, photograph it and then I’m done and will often sell it. But some do stick around.
Q: How is working on vinyl dolls different for you compared to resin? Do you still do repaints on occasion?
A: I no longer work with vinyl dolls at all. I sold off most of my Tonner stock earlier this year. For me resin is my favorite medium. I like to work with the sculpt to bring out the features, as opposed to just painting them on. BJD’s have become so realistic – especially the Iplehouse EID’s & SID’s that I’ve found they offer me a canvas for realism that vinyl simply can’t.
Q: How many commissions do you likely take a year?
A: You know…I’ve never counted. If I had to guess I’d say 30? I don’t work very fast so I don’t have as large of a turnaround as other artists.
Q: Do you keep a mailing list to let people know when you are taking commissions?
A: No I don’t. I don’t do waiting lists. I tried to keep one when I first started out and it didn’t work for me. I’m not as organized as I probably should be (this is still a hobby for me, rather than a business) so keeping a waiting list is stressful. I can’t work as well knowing that it’s hanging over my head. What I do is open up slots in my Livejournal and it’s first come, first served. I always tell people to watch my LJ and follow my Twitter posts to know what’s going on.
Q: Do you have any favorite companies dolls you like best to paint and/or collect?
A: Dollshe, Dollshe, Dollshe! LOL! I also love painting Iplehouse and Volks. Volks has some of the most fantastic resin to paint on.
Q: Do you do face-ups on all sizes of dolls? Do you only paint face-ups or do you do body blushing and parts blushing as well?
A: I do. However I prefer painting the larger sizes over the tinies. It’s hard to paint that small! At this point in time I only offer face-ups for commission. I will do body blushing on occasion for previous clients (especially if I’m interested in seeing the whole doll), but it isn’t something you can commission me for. It’s because of the MSC fumes aggravating my lungs that I had to stop taking them.
Q: What materials do you use for your work?
A: Archival quality Acrylic paints (airbrush and regular), Unison Handmade Pastels, Mr. Super Clear UV Cut. I paint with a Professional grade Airbrush – Iwata Custom Micron. It’s an expensive brush intended for illustration, but it’s the best airbrush I’ve ever used in the 10+ years I’ve been using AB.
Q: Can you tell me about any memorable commissions (unusual or especially fun or interesting?)
A: Some of my most memorable commissions have been creating the characters from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood book series for Jackie Saunders. Jackie is a good friend of mine, and she got me started reading the books, and we’ve been working together to shell the characters in resin form. The most challenging was the character Zsadist because of his skull trimmed hair and piercings. Qhuinn, is another favorite commission.
The most challenging was when I restored an SA Bermann that had been modded to have an open mouth and eyes to his original state.
Q: Do you ever do mods, tattoos or piercing?
A: Sometimes. I don’t do commission mods as a rule. I won’t open eyes, etc. When I do piercings I make them permanent – meaning I will drill into the doll to set the piercings because I think it makes them look “cleaner” and more in scale.
Q: I assume that many of your customers come to you because they like your style. Generally, how much of a face-up comes from customer input and how much your design decisions? Have any customers ever asked for anything that led you to try something new or go in a new direction?
A: They do. Usually most of my customers give me a general idea of what they want, like a color scheme or preference and then trust me to deliver for them. Sometimes I will have someone give me very specific instructions, which is a lot more confining and difficult for me, but I always try to do my best!
Q: What is the hardest part for you when painting a face-up? What is your favorite part?
A: I don’t know if you’d say that it’s a ‘hard’ part, but one of the more tedious parts is gluing in the eyelashes…and painting eyelashes. That’s probably my least favorite part.
My favorite part is doing the eyebrows and other detail work to make a doll look realistic. I love doing freckles…they’re kind of my signature thing.
Q: Can you talk about your painting of Lagoon?
A: Sure! Batchix is a good friend of mine, and when she got her Lagoon samples in she asked me if I would be willing to paint her personal Lagoon. I was honored and thrilled to do it, especially because she let me paint the Transparent White Prototype. Beautiful resin too! She told me that she wanted her to be ghost like – given the transparent white resin – and I ran with it. She was lots of fun to paint and I can’t wait to get my own Lagoon.
We’ve talked about doing some OOAK Lagoon’s together when they come in. That should be a blast!
Q: Do you have any plans to expand your doll projects beyond painting? If so, what would you like to do? Is this something you are working on now?
A: Not really. Despite painting 3D art (the dolls) I am not a good sculptor or flat artist. I excel at detail work. One thing I would love to do would be to design a doll. Or wigs. I would love to design wigs…mostly because I am never satisfied with most of the available wigs out there.
Photos above: Face-up on Rosen Lied Tuesday’s Child, Iplehouse Arvid as a character from Black Dagger Brotherhood.