Wonder Woman is the 1000th Set

Nine years ago around this time I ordered two sets of blank nesting dolls—one was to be a gift for my hostess when I was in Japan a few months earlier and the other was a just-in-case-I-messed-up-the-first-one. I’ve never painted nesting dolls before and wasn’t sure how I would feel about repetition. I mean, that’s the reason why I never took children’s book illustration seriously even though that had been my concentration at SVA. The first set went all right and I wanted to paint another one. And another. And another. 1000 sets later and I’m still going at it.

For a few weeks I was low-key anxious, wondering which set would become the 1000th, as I normally work simultaneously on 4-6 sets daily. When it became clear that Wonder Woman, one of my favorite movies last year, was to be the one, I immediately decided to give up my sugar-free diet for the day and made some cake to celebrate. I’m regretting the cake now, but thrilled about how the set had turned out.

I started painting these dolls at the dining table, wondering if I could ever make a living at it. Turns out I can’t, really. But it does provide me an ample opportunity to meet with people from around the world and hone my craft to a very sharp point on a daily basis. To quote the friend who had gotten me on this path: “When you love what you’re doing, you got it all, man.”

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Memorial Portrait Doll

My 2017 ended on a sad note. Shortly before Christmas my landlord passed away. I am fortunate enough to be one of the very few people who is actually fond of their landlord and his family. Paul was one of the first people that I’ve met when I moved to Australia who had shown me nothing but kindness. When I informed him that I was trying to make a go at the babushka game, he immediately pulled a few strings and connected me with people he thought might help me. He had been, apart from fixing things when they broke down, exceptionally helpful, which made me think of him as my fairy godfather.

I felt awful that the only reason why I  painted a set of him and his family is under these sad circumstances. It is the one thing I know I can do for his family after all the kindness they’ve shown the Hubs and myself through the years.

He was an incredible man with an exceptional family. Thank you, Paul and Sharon, for everything.

Intergalactic Planetary

Here’s another Beastie Boys set based on “Intergalactic.” Honestly, I can spend at least half a year painting different versions of them, they are that much fun to do.

Just for fun, I decided the last “doll” of this set should be a ghetto blaster…a little Easter egg special if you will!

I used to have one of these back in the day…it was a gift from my parents. They didn’t think people were walking down the street blasting music with it. I would’ve too if I could get my hands on a dozen D cell batteries, but when you’re eight-years-old, they’re a bit hard to come by.

Mean Girls Version 3 (Spring Fling)

Before I got started on this version of Mean Girls, I had to figure out how to rig up Regina George’s spinal halo and make it removable so the dolls nestled inside her can be taken out. It’s a good thing I suffer from a mild case of hoarding so after rummaging around a bit in a huge box of abandoned bits and pieces from the time when I was really into extreme scrapbooking, I managed to cobble together the spinal halo and made it functional.

Here’s the set of Mean Girls all gussied up for their Spring Fling.

Here’s the breakdown of the spinal halo I made, which, in mid-construction, I discovered my pliers were missing AGAIN and had to have a serious talk with the Hubs about returning things to their rightful place after use. It’s really my fault because I didn’t hide my tool box. I’ve already succeeded in hiding my snacks, now I’ll just have to figure out a way to hide my tools.

Mean Girls Version 2 (Halloween)

I have to admit that my high school experience is vastly different from ones portrayed in film, TV and movies. First of all, I had to take the subway to school (which was why “The Princess Diaries,” the books, not the movie, jibed with me), and a bus. Second of all, my high school was located smack dab in Manhattan, but in fact so removed from all the fun parts of the greatest city in the world that it’s pretty boring. If it weren’t for the Forbidden Planet and a few movie theaters nearby, I’d probably transfer to my local high school in Queens and used the time commuting to study for my SATs. No, I’m just playing with you. I wouldn’t be studying. I’d get my own teenage gang together and wreak havoc on the streets of Flushing.

So when movies like “Mean Girls” came out, I couldn’t really relate. There were some cliques here and there in my high school, but not so distinctive that people in those cliques don’t mingle with ones outside their own. I myself bounced from group to group. There weren’t any apparent bullying either, just a bunch of really focused teenagers trying to hone their craft. It might have a lot to do with the fact that I went to an art high school with a special concentration on architecture and commercial arts. From what I gathered, these fine people I graduated with are functional members of society, most of us still pursuing our dreams of being an artist or have attained that near-impossible goal. So, “Mean Girls” is a largely fictional piece of entertainment in my book and I genuinely feel bad for people who DID have to deal with horrible people in terrible situations because I myself have been spared of such trauma. Still, I did have fun painting this version where the girls were all slutted up to go to a Halloween party except for Cady, who didn’t get the memo. And also Janis, the only voice of reason in the high school jungle.

When WWE Was WWF

As a child growing up in the 80s with an older brother, I would watch “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” on Saturday mornings as a warm up to the real thing almost immediately thereafter (rounded out by G.L.O.W) before changing out of my pajamas and starting my day. Saturday morning was the only time my mother would allow us to watch TV so my brother and I would abuse this decree to the max. It was quite fortunate also that my mother happened to be a Chinese language arts teacher and had decided to retain our linguistic prowess herself, or else we would’ve had to forfeit our Saturday morning toon time in a Chinese language classroom instead like so many of our Asian peers did. I can’t say my mother’s efforts allows me to speak Mandarin as fluently as I’d like, but I am grateful for being able to soak up as much 80s pop culture as I could back in the day because it’s quite useful in my line of work these days, largely because I know what people are talking about when they come to me with proposals.

Like always, I am always thrilled to receive emails from people requesting sets from my childhood, but this latest one took the cake. I was asked to paint the “old school” WWF stars so I was beside myself, thinking: Junkyard Dog! Andre the Giant! Roddy Piper! Mr. Fuji! Wendy Richter! The Iron Sheik! But I must’ve been A LOT older than the requester because aside from Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, I only vaguely remember the rest of the wrestlers in the lineup since by the time these guy came around, I was already a teenager and was busy smuggling V.C. Andrews books into my room. Still, this was a fun set to paint and I am now moving things around on my schedule just so I can paint the wrestling stars from my childhood.

This set features Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, The Ultimate Warrior, and the ever so sexy Bret Hart who probably goes through a gallon of Soul Glo a week.

Edward Scissorhands

Although Edward Scissorhands isn’t technically a “Christmas Movie,” I always lump it in with my usual cache of holiday binge this time of year. And why not? I now live in a place where snow is non-existent, sort of like in the movie.

This set features Edward, Kim and Peg Boggs, Jim the hoodlum boyfriend, the Inventor, and a mini topiary dinosaur.

Well, Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

Repo Man

I have to admit this had been quite a roller coaster ride of a holiday season for me, so I was grateful that I can escape into my little world of paint and music and TV shows…just to hide from reality for a little while each day. One such escape was painting “Repo Man,” which was a lot of fun although the recent death of Harry Dean Stanton kind of made this project bitter sweet.

Houston Astros

I’ve never done a sports team set before so I was super thrilled to be tasked to paint the Houston Astros in their retro uniforms. It was a bit daunting, having to paint this double set, on top of other projects, in two short weeks, but I churned it out in time and had a ton of fun doing it—but that was probably because I had my friend’s dog Gypsy staying with us during those time and she was good company, although she was not please by the fact that I couldn’t walk her until I was done with work, usually around 1 AM these days.

These two sets feature the same players: Correa, Verlander, Springer, Reddick, Kuechel, Gonzalez, and Altuve