By Marcia/ Pink Hazard of Think Pink!
I discovered BJD’s thru magazines such as FDQ and Haute Doll. I didn’t feel a huge drive to own one at that point, but I did think they had beautiful faces in general.
Back then, Joyce and I were avid Barbie collectors. When hosting a party for fellow fans, a girl (Allanieew on the forums) attended, and she brought along her Volks Show and a Four Sisters girl, I believe it was a Nana.
In the meantime, I started developing an interest in doing my own customizations. I started doing face-ups on my own dolls and, admittedly, started offering the service before my skill level was actually sufficient. The thing with that is, for some reason I thought I was doing quite alright with them, but when I look back I do cringe often.
In the very beginning, I was using various brands of acrylic paint such as Apple Barrel colors and Aleene’s, but they were very hard to work with for me. Someone suggested Liquitex to me and that is the brand I have learned to work with over the years. It’s not the easiest and I’m looking for a new brand as my tubes are almost finished now.
When I just started out with face-ups, I was so grateful for all the tutorials posted on the internet. The one that has helped me most has been taken off a long time ago, but I would like to share that basically it explained how to create the shape of an eyebrow with pastels before painting the hairs. Getting the eyebrows to look the same was something I was really stuggling with, so that helped me develop some skill in a short amount of time! Also, diluting paint is a tip that has helped so much, I can’t stress enough to people starting out in the hobby that in most cases, their first face-up attempts would benefit greatly from this.
Someone once suggested to try painting thin stripes on the headcap of my doll, until I got the hang of it. This way, you can familiarize yourself with the feel of the brush and the paint on resin, so it will be easier to replicate it in lashes and brows.
Another useful pointer was to mix pastel colors and even brands. I have learned the difference between my Rembrandt, van Eyck and Mungyo pastels (some are more vivid in color, others are softer), so I can play their strengths to create a certain effect, shade or color intensity.
To soften my pastels, I use a dry piece of cleaning block after applying pastel to a certain area, this way I can intensify or highlight without overdoing it. Do note that there are tiny airborne particles of the cleaning block flying around that will affect your lungs, so ventilate well and use a mask if you can.
One day, I bought a gift for a friend of mine, Yera, who likes drawing and also does face-ups. A scriptliner brush. She came over to my place and started painting a Unoa B-el faceplate (that was horriby modded by the previous owner). It belongs to Joyce, but she wasn’t intending to keep it at that time. She discovered that this brush is awesome! Using well diluted paint, you can draw long, smooth and flowing lines with it. Perfect for dramatic lashes or eyebrows. She gave Damian some crazy eyebrows and the result was so cool that we decided to cover up his sanded-off lips with stitches and create a character for him. He hasn’t been nominated to go since!
After mastering the basic techniques, I started to take a look at face-ups by companies and people such as Clockwork Angel and Volks that I admired, to try and copy some of the specific techniques they use to create their face-ups. I still haven’t been able to master all of them, but it did help me a lot to grow my own style and ways of doing things.
It also inspired versatility in myself, I wasn’t content with one style, I wanted to be able to do anything that pops into my mind. I’m pretty happy with my ability to create a character for a doll now, just by painting it’s face. I am still very much learning to do ‘tattoos’ though. I haven’t practiced that much yet and although I can do flowers and swirly doodles nicely, I want to be able to paint tattoos like Follow the Wind or Naghmar Vunderlan/ Frankenmar can.
I’m also pushing myself to become better at modifications, I’d love to be as good at it as Little Labs/ Holvirus and Jade Citron Rouge are. I’m still nervous everytime I work on something though, as I know I that if I make a mistake I can’t undo it as easily as with painting.
I do love how supportive people in this hobby are about creativity, that is such a good breeding ground for talented artists and for insecure people to find something to be good at and proud of. I love how it can transform people into being self-assured! As long as they don’t overdo it ofcourse.
I’m actually an introverted workaholic (and, as people may have noticed, prone to stress and bad at handling it), so being alone grounds me perfectly. I love painting dolls in my sparse own time, in my own space. There is a great serenity in seeing the image of a fictional little person grow in my hands for me. Admittedly, I like it best to paint my own dolls or to pull a doll from the shop and take it home to paint. I can just let my hands paint whatever they feel like, and that is such a smooth process that I can paint a head in a few hours if I’m in a good flow. I’m not the fastest artist, I’m always way too fussy and keep taking off what I’ve just painted to try again, but with a better result (doesn’t always work though).
Doing commissions is harder for me, because in the back of my mind I’m constantly questioning myself about what I’m doing. “Is this the color she meant? Am I getting the expression right? Would he appreciate it if I add some very light freckles or a mole?”.
At the moment, I love painting dolls as realistically as I can, somehow when I’m done I feel like the perfect resin ‘skin’ needs some tiny flaws to make it look more alive. So I start adding dark rings around the eyes or nearly invisible freckles in various shades. I would also like to get better at making scars, so I could add more tiny flaws such as the nick you got from your cat’s claw or that time you fell when skating and got a cut.
I think that helps to create vivid characters that have had a full, fictional life, almost like real people. I guess I’m just not crazy for perfect doll faces at this time in my life, they feel like they’re lacking something for me.
I love this style and I’ve been influenced by for instance Kamarza and Bluoxyde.
Another style I love is rainbows! I greatly enjoy color explosions on dolls, adding little doodles or full blown make-up drawings like hearts, butterflies, flowers and even fireworks. Using tiny nail gems for embellishment for some, these expressions of happiness are ready for a party or a fairytale. Elf ear sculpts especially ask for cute colored blushing of the ears, they look so adorable with a splash of color on the pointy tips
Combining the BJD hobby with my work in the doll shop is very challenging at times. I do have a love/ hate relationship with the shop, especially in weeks when too much is happening for me to be able to handle it all. Especially since my mom Joyce has been in and out of the hospital since December 2012 and hasn’t been able to come to the shop in the meantime, things have been hectic (we also remodeled the shop in January). Thank goodness we have very sweet friends who help out when I’m really in over my head.
The hard times are balanced out by the good though, this work can be so rewarding, the moment you can see the look on someone’s face when they come to pick up their doll, or they’ve found exactly the right wig or outfit for it. That reminds us what we’re doing it all for.
Photos above from top: Angell Studio Mell, Doll Chateau Faramita, Bambicrony Elf Lullabye Lotti, Dollzone Hanhan