Paper Doll Subjects: Randomness Reigns

Some years ago, I made a paper doll of Frank Merriwell, a character from a late 19th century nickel weekly called Tip Top Weekly. It was a lark: I liked the idea more than I liked the character. Frank himself was insufferably righteous and his stories were invariably pretty standard fare. Though he was incredibly popular at the time and survived into the radio days, I was pretty much done with him after reading half a dozen adventures. The appeal for the paper doll was mostly that he was playing some new sport every week, so always had a new uniform which was kind of fun.

Frank notwithstanding, I have had a long love affair with nickel weeklies. These trashy things predate comic books and though they were a moral bore now and then, some were quite gruesome. There was no “code” so often you had characters meeting all sorts of murderers and opium addicts. Painted ladies were mostly out, though–that remained a taboo.

Last year, while I was taking some time out in the Pacific Northwest, I dug up my copies of Young Klondike. For sheer appeal, this was one of the more interesting of the weeklies for me. It didn’t have the steampunk travel-around-the-world fantasy of Frank Reade’s Library or the crime-solving hard boiled noir of Nick Carter, but it had something far more attractive: snow! For me, an adventure in Alaska was way more exotic and exciting than gumshoes and robots.

Young Klondike ran for 39 issues, 27 of which are available online. I haven’t read them all because they’re obviously a finite resource. So I like to savor them–as much as one can savor what amounts to pulp trash. Objectively they aren’t great, but I started thinking about re-purposing the text. If Young Klondike were written today, what might it look like? Last summer I took the text and began appropriating it into something new. I kept the basic plot and left its quirkiest character untouched for the most part. But I re-imagined the other three central characters for a modern audience. Three hundred pages later, I might have something that could be a book, but that’s not the point. I’m telling you this because I idly started sketching paper dolls for the characters and I thought to myself: this is so completely random.

But then, really, all my paper dolls always are.

I don’t know what the appeal is for half the stuff I make. But I make things for my own amusement and if they amuse others, three cheers! I just know there are lots of paper dolls for fashion models or popular personalities/characters. I enjoy those as much as anybody (and I make them too!). But I’m also probably that one person who, if I saw a paper doll book of Klondike explorers from 1898, would go completely nuts for it.

So, like it or not, you’re probably getting 19th century Klondiker paper dolls in the coming months. It’s just the way this blog rolls. To be fair, I warned you from the start about my esoteric tastes ~ ha!

Catwalk Couture: Gucci [Plates 9 & 10]

The House of Gucci is 96 years old–one of the oldest fashion houses around. And certainly one of the most recognized brands in fashion. This year’s fashions have some fun patterns that were difficult to draw, but I’m glad I challenged myself with them. Once again, these pieces all came from farfetch.com.

I really love Ifu’s zebra shoes. And the purse with the bambo handle. I’m not good about making accessories for paper dolls, but always glad when I do.

These are the last plates with each character on their own plate. After I built the first ten, I saw it was hard to fill the plates in a way that made sense (particularly for the men due to their difference in stature).

So from here on out with this series, instead of two plates a week, it will only be one, but if I can continue to produce these at a quick clip, I might be able to post two a week after all. We’ll see, I’ve been super busy lately. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going.

Once again pieces of these plates can be mixed or layered for additional looks.

[click each black & white plate below to download a printable .pdf]

Catwalk Couture: McQueen [Plates 7 & 8]

Because I don’t have any Judy Tuesday in the wings, you get some midweek couture instead.

I really need to do something with Lonan’s hair. He looks like a lion. Also, I gotta say Niall’s shirt was a horror to draw, but now I love it. And the gold sneakers.  Niall’s clothes are ridiculous, but somehow they just work for him. I gave Lonan my own aesthetic, but I’m trying not to put him in so much black.

It continues to be a major temptation to just make all-black and white clothing. It doesn’t help that it’s what’s on the runway recently.

All of the Alexander McQueen stuff this week came from farfetch.com, which it only just occurred to me that I should archive regularly. It’s a commercial site, so the fashions comes and go. I’ve already lost images from the collection. But you can still get those gold sneakers for 30% off at $648. And the shirt? That will set you back $825.  Sorry, Lonan’s red beaded jacket and the other jacket (which was khaki), are sold out! 

[click each black & white plate below to download a printable .pdf]

Catwalk Couture: McQueen [Plates 5 & 6]

I can sit around and draw plates for this set all day long, but the coloring doesn’t come as easy. There’s a block in my head that differentiates something born color vs. born black & white. Not that these don’t look fabulous in color on the dolls. It’s just how flat the plates themselves look that bothers me for some reason. Hence why it’s been a little quiet on this blog recently.

After lots of finagling, here’s how it’s going to go. I’ll post a colored dressed thumbnail (like the one at right), and the black & white plates. Because maybe what’s fun about these is coloring them for yourself!).

I plated Ifu and Xia’s fashions separately here, but later I mix the plates up. I went through a lot of aggravating decision-making about what the heck I was doing. To be honest, I don’t think I resolved any of it. So for the first dozen plates or so, this is all sort of a mishmash.

And speaking of mishmash, these Alexander McQueen pieces are mix and match (more or less), and can be layered by design. In case it wasn’t obvious, I started with some pretty basic stuff just to get my toes wet. The more extravagant things will likely come later.

[click each black & white plate below to download a printable .pdf]

Judy : Vol. 31, 1882 Plate 8

Here it is! The final Volume 31 Judy Tuesday plate. It’s definitely a doozy, too!  Took me forever given all the details, but was so worth it. I especially love the insane plumes on that hat and the sunflower designs on the sleeves. It was fun to do all those textures!

I haven’t made any progress whatsoever on the next volume. So I guess you can expect a little break on the Judy front for a while.  I’ve actually been too busy to do much of anything exciting paper-doll-wise for the last couple of weeks, which is kind of a bummer.

I have buffer for Catwalk Couture, but it’s all black and white, which I am tempted to just go with. I really am so bad at color most of the time. And I’m even worse about it when I’ve already finished something in black and white and later face the prospect of having to go back and color it. Which makes no sense–I do like coloring (maybe when it’s someone else’s work-ha!).

Maybe if I leave the black and white plates alone long enough, I’ll be able to come back to color them as if they aren’t my own.

[click this link or the image to download a printable .pdf of these costumes]

Judy : Vol. 31, 1882 Plate 7

Today’s Judy Tuesday theme is…skinny skirts that can fit facing one another on the page with room to spare?  Also, big ridiculous hats.

This is officially the most number of plates I have made for a Judy volume. Usually I only make 6 at most. This set will have eight. And there were still two plates worth of costumes that I just decided not to render. We’ll see how future volumes yield.

One final Judy post next week and then there might be a break in Judy for a spell since I haven’t even started on Volume 32. Peeking ahead it looks like the costumes in the next volume are a little less fanciful overall–but lovely all the same.

Don’t know if that means I’ll drag my heels with the drawing–or maybe I will get really ambitious and plow right on through to the next one in a mad rush.

It’s always a roulette spin here for me. Either way, you know I’ll always come back to Judy eventually.

[click this link or the image to download a printable .pdf of these costumes]

Catwalk Couture: 2017 Oscars [Plates 3 & 4]

My fashion paper dolls are so unfashionable!  They’re not wearing 2017 couture to the Oscars. I’m going to blame it on the fact that this is their first time going and none of them knew any better. Well, Niall should have, but he’s kind of prone to break the rules.

So Ifu is wearing a two year-old Chanel gown–but c’mon, it’s not like Chanel goes out of style! And Xia is wearing last year’s Valentino-esque fashion. The wrap and bolero for the women are completely my own designs. I needed something to fill out the plate and clutch purses seemed too chintzy.

For the men, I separated the Tom Ford tuxedo jackets from the pants because it’s easier to pair the slacks and tuxedo shirt with multiple jackets. And yes, there’s that tiger-striped jacket of Niall’s that I mentioned on the salvage post. But rather than repeatedly draw more tuxedo slacks, it seemed the sensible thing to do here. I mean, I probably will draw more tuxedos, but the slacks are really only differentiated by colors–the style is typically very similar. Especially if they are black.

I should also say that the reason Xia’s dress is described as “Valentino-inspired” is because I drew it before I was being methodical about my choices and the reference picture I used said it was Valentino, but then I couldn’t actually confirm that anywhere, so I have no idea.

I’m being much more careful going forward! Rather than doing random Google searches, I’m using a variety of fashion-specific sources for reference, particularly:

Vogue Fashion Shows: comprehensive runway site!
Farfetch.com: couture outlet!

I made a conscious decision to fill in as little of the blacks on these line art plates. First, because it’s a drag on your printers, but also because you can color stuff however you want. The lapels and cuffs on Lonan’s Tom Ford tux jacket are black, but maybe you want them to be neon orange. Have at it!

I’m still working out the best way to plate these dolls, so prepare for a few bumps along the way. I’m trying to avoid leaving the plates too empty or too crowded, but it’s hard to find a middle ground. For the women it’s not too bad, but the difference in physique on the men makes plating their clothes an interesting challenge.

I decided to throw everything into this post since it’s the kick-off and I might as well make it sorta special. I also just haven’t figured out the best way to post these plates. Sometimes the colors look kind of flat to me when you can’t see what they look like on the dolls. I’m not sure why I have this impression.

To find all plates related to a character or designer, use the tags!

[click on each picture to download a printable .pdf]


Geneviéve: At the Oscars

Sunday is Oscars night! What better excuse to dress to the nines? In addition to a formal red carpet gown, Geneviéve has a flirty after-party dress (she’ll have to borrow some shoes, though: oops!). If I was smarter, I would have made it so that you could layer the dresses. But that didn’t occur to me until too late. Yes, I was too lazy to fix it. Or squeeze in shoes.

These dresses and wrap are based on this look from Blumarine.

Find more theme outfits to match this doll at the following fabulous blogs:

This collaborative doll will be posted at the end of each month all throughout 2017 with a new theme each month.  To find all related posts on this blog, just click the “Geneviéve” tag.

[Click on this link or the picture to download a printable .pdf plate!]

Catwalk Couture: Salvage [Plates 2 & 3]

Despite the fact that I completely changed Niall’s pose, I was able to salvage more from the men than I did from the women. This is why Lonan and Niall each have a plate, whereas Ifu and Xia only had one to share. Also, I had fewer painting disasters with the men’s clothes. They just came out nicer overall.

I’ve been posting paper dolls online for at least five years, give or take. Anyone who’s followed me for even part of that time knows I have an incontrovertible bias toward men. This morning I was drawing gowns and found myself mentally wandering. I love beautiful dresses, but I just find men’s clothes more interesting to draw! Maybe it has to do with the fact that most men dress badly ~ ha!

Anyway. Originally everyone started out with a foundation of Burberry.

For the men, I chose Tom Ford next instead of Balmain. There are only a couple of pieces from the original set that I didn’t salvage, and all of the shoes for both the men and the women. I really liked the shoes and wanted to salvage them. But since I had no line art and space on the plates was at a premium, I decided to recycle them into the new plates later on.

Also worth noting is that I redrew Niall’s Tom Ford jacket for his Oscars tuxedo. I just really liked the style for him: he would so wear something that borderline tacky. I really had to work hard to salvage Niall’s stuff, but there were pieces–like those tiger shorts and that hat that I refused to let go. Lonan’s stuff made it over like Ifu’s–with minimum fuss.

It’s been so much fun to work on this series for this last month or so since I scrapped the first set of dolls. There’s no end to the resources to draw from and I feel like a kid in a candy shop. There are fashions from the last five years I’d love to get to, but just the new stuff coming out has been immensely consuming!

Once again, if you have a favorite designer, let me know because my tastes run pretty particular. I’m trying to branch out and pick unusual things to challenge myself. But Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Marchessa–I could stick with those three and be in hog heaven forever.

I’m still figuring out this series as I go. And learning to render lots of interesting patterns and textures!

Sunday: an outing at the Oscars!

[click on each image to download a printable .pdf]

Judy : Vol. 31, 1882 Plate 6

Clockwise we’re going backwards this Judy Tuesday, but the designs seem apropos for an unseasonably warm February. Since it feels like spring outside, here are some spring-themed outfits to enjoy!

I’m not sure I did Chasemore’s Butterfly costume justice. But I do like the way the headpiece came out with the little butterfly earring. The headpiece with the grapes also had a leaf earring, but for some reason I didn’t draw it.

I work on Judy when I’m too tired to do anything else. That means I can sometimes be sloppy about it. In this case I was overall kind of lazy about the September costume grape dress–I’m frankly amazed I managed to finish it! There were four additional outfits I originally selected from this volume that I ultimately weeded out. They had their charms, but somehow seemed more effort than they were worth to actually render. I always try to pick only the best for my readers!

So there are two more plates for this volume of Judy and I promise we’re going to end with a great big bang!

[click this link or the image to download a printable .pdf of these costumes]