A Fishy Exercise

I am taking a break from painting dolls during this down time. It’s true I still have stacks of unfinished dolls to paint, and it will happen, just not now. As much as I appreciate the amount of work that came my way in the past, the days were very long and sometimes grueling. I was painting seven days a week, but that’s only because my work and hobby is one in the same so my schedule leaves very little time for me to do anything else.

On my first full day off, I went to see my doctor and wisely requested a cortisone shot for my shoulder. This time I was determined to rest for a few days before doing anything to let it settle, which I had not done previously and the shots were herefore ineffective. Now that I’m back in a fairly good shape again, I decided to go back to basic and do some painting exercises on paper.

Like everyone else in this world right now, the Hubs is upset about the state of the world we’re in. We’re one of the lucky ones, but who knows what will happen from one day to the next? The Hubs is now deemed an “essential worker” and on top of everything else, he was responsible for the welfare of up to 150 employees at his job and he moved heaven and earth to make sure everyone still had their jobs and would be able to come back if they fell ill. He was forced to make some personal sacrifices and I am so proud of him for doing so. In the meanwhile, I decided to cheer him up by painting his absolute favorite thing in the world: Swedish Fish. Whenever I go back to the States, I would be tasked to bring back a 5 pound bag of this stuff just for him.

It took me two days to work up the courage to get this guy down on paper. Once I got going I stopped second guessing myself. It amuses me to no end that I’m always convinced that I’ve forgotten how to paint whenever I start a new project! But here we are, and it made the Hubs smile. My work is done!

Please stay safe, stay healthy, stay inside. If this is as tough as it gets, being indoors, then I consider us all very very lucky indeed.

Hedwig Revisited

Boy, I have never experienced so many emotions all in one day and for so many days running and the sad thing is, I am not the only one feeling this way. Nothing unites us globally like a disaster of epic proportions. We are fortunate enough to have the option to stay home and wait this out instead of being out in the wild fending for ourselves and I am glad to see a lot of my friends and their friends doing constructive things with their time while keeping themselves and their families safe.

Right before everything went awry, I was asked to paint another Hedwig and the Angry Inch set, which I did between staring dumbly at the wall and crying and processing all sorts of unfamiliar emotions surging through me. I myself have nothing to worry about since I’m practically a shut in and I have had hoarded supplies in the past as a habit so I didn’t have to go out and grab things I didn’t need and deprive others who truly needs them, but I worry about my family and friends and my husband, who all of a sudden is deemed an essential worker after years of having his job maligned and laughed at by the more elite members of society. I am so proud of my husband for being out there every day making sure everyone gets what they need while making sure those who work under him are protected and looked after and ensuring they all hold on to their jobs in these uncertain times. It doesn’t stop me from giving him a stern talking to when he trails bits of grass and bark all over the house but I am very well aware of his incredible ability to see things in a broad scope and implement it the best he could.

I made this Hedwig set with much sadness, but the music buoyed my spirits once I got going. If nothing else, we’ve always got art, don’t we? Please stay safe because the outcome of this devastation is going to be more spectacular than the life we’ve known before.

This new version of Hedwig has two new additions: The Menses Fair look which I adore because it’s so feminine and the look John Cameron Mitchell rocked when he did the “Return to the Origin of Love” tour a few years back.

And let’s do that. Let’s all return to the origin of love. Use this time in isolation to really think about what important in our lives and what we can do to help ourselves be even better human beings and from there we can help others as well as this planet that had been so good to us for so very long.



In these utterly chaotic and uncertain times I’m glad I have a little place to escape to. From time to time I wished that my work would allow me to be a bit more present in the real world, but for the most part I’m glad to be doing what I do…especially now. I am virtually a shut-in and therefore am equipped to entertain myself should I be forced into quarantine. There’s never a shortage of things to do around the house or my sweatshop. It’ll be business as usual, especially now I’ll have spades of time to work on stuff that’s on the back burner or laid aside due to scheduling conflict.

I always enjoyed painting musicians because it’s a challenge to not only capture their physical form in a set of dolls, but convey the essence of the music they make in a non-audio medium. I was so excited to paint Radiohead because A) I’m a big fan of their music and B) their physical appearance is somewhat monochromatic so I can really focus on just their faces and instruments, the former a bit of a challenge as I’m not always able to hit every facial portrait right on the mark. But I went into this set with a lot of confidence because, well, I more or less grew up listening to their music and feel like I could tackle the most challenging part of this set with all the skills I’ve incurred over the years. The end result was satisfactory for me and I was grateful for the many hours I got to turn off the internet and lose myself in my work.

Stay safe out there, everyone. We cannot allow the unseen enemy take us down. We all have so much more to do in each and every single minute of our precious lives.

In the meanwhile, queue up some Radiohead tracks and just leave the news and crazy rumors for a little while. It helps.

Beetlejuice Mega Set

I painted a Beetlejuice set a while back after unearthing some lime green batten wool in my supply closet. It had originally been intended for a member of The Misfits from “Jem and the Holograms” set I never got around to painting. Funny how one thing morphs into another in the game of babushkaring. I was asked to paint this nine-piece set of Beetlejuice just as I was about to bury my father so I was pleased to have this to look forward to when I return. I was also pleased that my idea of putting Lydia Deetz in her red wedding gown was okayed. The gown is reminiscent of a dress one of my friend’s bride had worn in a lavish Chinese banquet but of course, at the time, I didn’t have the heart to point that out to her. That wedding had been in Canada and my family had driven all the way up there to attend and had a blast. Painting this set had made me remember one of the many fun family trips we had embarked on and I was grateful to be able to reminisce about it fondly.

This set includes Beetlejuice, Lydia, Adam and Barbara, Delia Deetz, Otho, Charles Deetz, Juno, and an itty bitty Miss Argentina.

She’s only tiny, but I managed to squeeze her name into the sash because I had plenty of practice writing as tiny as I could when I was a kid…a skill my mom had claimed would amount to nothing. Boy, was she wrong on that front!

Bink and Olive

I’ve been getting a fair bit of requests from people wanting to commemorate their pets in doll form. At first I hadn’t wanted to do it because just the thought of these pets crossing the rainbow bridge made me so sad that I would tear up just looking at the photos sent to me. This was why I never went into taxidermy when I had an opportunity to do so. But then I thought, well, it’s for people who really love their animals and the little dolls I create can bring a little bit of solace so I went for it. After all, I AM surrounded by photos of my and my brother’s bullies and I haven’t burst into tears once (lately) when I look at them.

These are Bink and Olive, straight up Basset Hounds who just looked like they’re the best boy and girl in the world! I was a bit weepy at first but got over it.

I made a special blend of paint for Bink’s coloring which I am naming after him: Bink Black. It seemed like I’ve been naming my special blends after dogs I’ve painted. For instance, one of my blends is called Jett Black after a little black pug I painted some years before.

As with all my commemorative animal sets, there’s always a little Easter Egg surprise inside. This one is no exception!






I Dream of Jeannie

If I ever have the pleasure of being granted a wish, I’d ask for more time. And probably better eyesight. There is just not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do. I had experimented with cutting down sleep and replacing it with 20 minute naps 4 times a day. That didn’t work out too well. I was Zombie-Vampire Irene and had often caught myself sprinkling salt into my coffee. But I came to the realization that my circadian rhythm is vastly different from most people’s and it’s taken me that many years to realize that. It explains why I’m never fully alert until after dinner!

During one of my many late night working hours, I managed to cram in 15-45 minutes of fun painting time in which I’d work on some side projects. This was designed to keep myself interested in painting dolls day in and day out, because without some new and interesting challenges, I would have abandoned the babushka game a long time ago. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV growing up, but since I was also a latchkey kid, my brother and I would happily ignore the restriction by lunging for the TV as soon as we got home from school. Often, after a healthy dose of cartoons and my brother’s wandered off to do whatever big brothers do in the 80s, I’d continue to watch some old reruns of The Brady Bunch, Batman, Bewitched, and, of course, I Dream of Jeannie. I’d been feeling quite nostalgic these days and decided to tackle I Dream of Jeannie because it had always brought me so much happiness. I wanted to work the bottle in, but didn’t want it to be a mini version so the Hubs and I looked at some designs for Jeannie’s bottle and I found a fairly round doll to fashion it into one. The bottom bit wasn’t as wide as I had wanted, but it does keep the original nesting doll aesthetics!

It took several months and some tears of frustration to paint the bottle, largely because, at 3 AM and after a night of going through a heavy painting session, I wasn’t as sharp and with it as I would at 7 PM and kept making some glaringly obvious mistakes. But I would prevail after giving myself a good pep talk and put on some quirky TV shows and fix whatever boo boo I had made.

Painting Jeannie and Major Nelson wasn’t quite as hard, so I left it alone until the bottle was done and dusted. For Jeannie’s hair I had a very clear picture of what I wanted to do. The Hubs designed the fez hat for me with a hole in it so I could easily insert her pony tail through. I remember procuring an excellent facsimile of blonde hair that would do the trick, but I could not for the life of me find it! I tore my studio apart looking for it, only to remember two hours and a huge mess later that it was cast carelessly inside an easy-to-reach supply cabinet. Sheesh. In the end everything worked out and I was able to successfully finish the set without any more crying.

So here it is, a pure labor of love and some misery. Now, you will excuse me as I pull up a few episodes of this old favorite show of mine and sip some unsalted coffee.

Lizzie McGuire (Past and Present)

Even though I was too old to watch “Lizzie McGuire” when it first aired back in the early aughts, I was keenly aware of the program as it had been popular among the students I was teaching at the time. I knew nothing about it except for its star, Hilary Duff, because she didn’t seem like the type to spiral into madness like so many of her contemporaries (and I was right). It is why I was pleased when the show’s creator Terri Minski asked me to paint a duo faceted set of the show depicting the McGuire family as the revival is slated to be aired on TV shortly. It was fun painting the actors in both versions, as this technique had been proposed by many people in the past but had never come to fruition.

Side A features a young Lizzie McGuire and her family, plus her animated alter ego.

Side B is the grown up and older versions of the same characters. I was only a tiny bit disappointed that Hilary Duff had chosen not to wear her Mermaid Blue hair for this role.

Now, to bum you out a little…I usually do a Christmas set every year, which I actually started and was confident I would finish in time. But the Universe decided to throw a monkey wrench in the busiest time of my year and it literally struck my Dad in the head and he passed away two weeks before the holidays. The doctors weren’t able to determine what had caused his collapse and eventual death, so I imagined that all the synapses in his brilliant, clever mind finally completely misfired all at once and the fuses shorted out. His death caused no more of an inconvenience to all he’s left behind other than securing a plane ticket so close to Christmas, but I managed, so were a host of other relatives and friends, to fly in for his cozy memorial service (or participate in the simultaneous internet live streaming in other parts of the world where he had bevies of friends). It only goes to show how beloved my Dad was, and I found out all the lovely things he did for people throughout the years. I now must strive to be the person my Dad was already proud of and become much much more than that. And I know I have so much of my Dad in me that I really don’t have to miss him…he’s with me always…but hopefully not when I spend hours in a pretzel formation trying to do something about my ingrown toenail.



The Wes Anderson Diorama

Toward the end of my teaching career, I was invited to the Museum of Natural History for a professional development where the man leading the lecture was one of the curators of the dioramas there. I usually spent these PDs catching up on my sleep or daydreaming about what I’m going to do when I win the lotto jackpot, but that day, I sat, rapt and enchanted, and wished that I hadn’t turned down the opportunity to be an assistant to my ex-boyfriend’s friend, Taxidermy George, who, was one of the most illustrious taxidermist in the country back then and at present.

Taxidermy George, at the time, was running his business in his parents’ basement and was nice enough to have me over to show me his studio. I wanted nothing more than to quit my job right there and then and become a taxidermist, an impulse that practicality said a resounding no to. It turned out to be a mistake, as I found out, to even qualify as an assistant to work on the dioramas at the museum, I would need a rudimentary understanding of taxidermy.

Well, I probably wouldn’t have been too good at it since I’m not too crazy with the idea of working with dead things. But boy, would I love to do the backgrounds for the displays! As it was, the only time I got to really spread my wings was putting up the stage sets for the annual New Year’s performances at the school I was teaching and I wanted to do more of it. At 30+ years old, I felt it might be too much of a gamble to go into the set design/taxidermy business, so I kept it tamped down and wished that one day I would have the time and space to work on it, even at a miniature scale.

As it turns out, there was never time nor budget for me to indulge in this whim of mine, until one day I was looking for something in my loose dolls drawer and saw that I had an array of tiny “last dolls” that had been torn from its original set due to customization. I could turn these dolls into pieces for a diorama!

It took nearly two years for me to finish it, largely due to the lack of time. When the dolls were painted, I experimented with different ideas on the display itself and finally found the perfect frame. I learned how to do wood staining with materials I had on hand (isn’t YouTube tutorials wonderful?) and got to paint on flat canvases for the first time in years. It was a lot of fun putting the pieces together, and I wish I can remember most of the process as a majority of these dioramas were painted at around 3AM when I am in zombie-mode.

This is the first in the (hopefully) many series of a miniaturized large scale project. I admit it was a bit too ambitious for someone who didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t really know what she was doing. I chose to showcase some of the characters from Wes Anderson’s movies because I’d painted so many sets in the last 10 years that I didn’t have to do too much research. Just to let you know how long this project had taken me to complete: When I first drew out the rough sketches, “Isle of Dogs” didn’t even exist yet!

Bottle Rocket


The Royal Tenenbaums

Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Hotel Chevalier

Darjeeling Limited

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Moonrise Kingdom

Grand Budapest Hotel

Isle of Dogs



Cursed Toys

In my humble opinion, there is nothing scarier than toys that are designed to maim and kill. It’s because of the movies solely based on cursed objects that I was never really into dolls other than Barbies. Here is a collection of some of the dolls featured in a few favorite horror movies of mine.

Here we have the titular character from “Annabell,” a movie about the most evil doll in the world. IRL the said doll was actually a Raggedy Ann, which, aesthetically, does not look like a conduit of pure evil. Then there’s Brahms, who is technically not evil in any way, but still creepy tho. There’s Billy from “Dead Silent.” I don’t think I have ever seen a ventriloquist doll that is NOT evil looking. Then of course there’s Chucky, whom I’ve painted before but I cannot leave him out from this group. And can we ever forget what that clown doll try to do to little kids in “The Poltergeist?” Last but not least there’s Talky Tina from the hit TV series “The Twilight Zone.” She is more of an avenger for abused little kids so I approve of her murderous rampage.

Well, there you have it.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

Ghosts and Monsters

I did three Halloween themed projects this year, this being the main one, an idea I’d been toying around for years now. It is basically a little sampler of a grander scheme of things, and I’m grateful I had time to churn it out.

As my longtime readers might know, I am a fan of horror movies and literature. Naturally I ate up every single movie Guillermo Del Toro has ever made. It took a while for me to figure this one out, but once I sat down to have a good think, everything just fell into place.

The first creature is of course, Hellboy, quickly followed by Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and of course the Amphibian Man from “The Shape of Water.” I painted him realizing that in the movie, he seemed to glow if he’s scared, angry or horny and decided to try my hand at glow-in-the-dark paints. It’s one of those things I don’t know how to photograph, so just know that the blue bits on the Amphibian Man does pop once the lights go out!!

Although I am a fan of the horror genre, I’m not particularly crazy about ghost movies…to me it seems like a cop out. However, “Crimson Peak” was so well made in every aspect, from the stunning visuals to story telling, that it is currently on the top of my favorite ghost story movie.

The same could be said for “The Orphanage,” which I also loved, especially the ending! Maybe next year I’ll be able to paint a full set from each of these sampler dolls!