The Munsters

This set had been on my wish list for years. It’s been so long that the ink I used to write down the Munsters set idea on was completely faded! Someone had proposed the idea and I quickly agreed. There were several challenges to meet for this set and I’ve met all but one, unfortunately.

First off was Herman Munster’s head. Keeping a round dome wouldn’t do. I decided to go ahead and paint all of him and come up with an idea at a later time. When that time was up, quite on a whim, I popped this little round platform I use to stand the shorter dolls on to paint on his head and problem solved! The Hubs designed and 3D printed the flat top head for Herman and I finished the rest. Done and done!

Woof Woof was not in the original brief, but I remembered wanting that doll as a kid so in he goes.

There was also a request to paint Spot the Munsters’ pet. I vaguely recall just seeing his eyes and mouth emerging from the stairs but don’t know what sort of beast he is. After some intensive research I managed to find some photos. At the time I was also working on some Beastie Boys sets and had neon green paint handy for his eyes! The nose was sculpted on because, like Herman’s head, it wasn’t working out initially.

Lastly, the request was “somehow work 1313 Mockingbird Lane into the set.” I had initially thought about turning the biggest doll into the house but architecturally it would not work. Then I thought about turning it sideways and make it into a box of sorts with roofs and domes sticking up. It’s going to run into a lot of money and time and effort in terms of supplies so I think I’ll have to nix the idea altogether. It’ll be made at another time, I suppose. But it might not be a bad idea to just paint the house on the back of Herman for now.

I did a mock up of the house. This had taken 2 hours to make and it’s not even finished…so I can’t imagine how much more time I’ll need to make the actual house. Perhaps if there are an extra 8 hours in a day…or if I don’t require sleep…!

 

Poison Poison Tasty Fish!

My studio has been set up to accommodate painting of the dolls so it’s been pretty hard to transition to flat paintings. I need a sloping desk top and some bits and pieces to hold my paints in while I’m working. It’s a bit of a nightmare, really, trying to paint on paper, but I’m making a go of it. I’m painting on top of a dinner tray that I can tilt up or down and since I don’t use palettes I’ve been taping pieces of cardboard on top of the actual painting I’m working on to mix the colors. I’ll figure it out soon. In the meanwhile, I am having some fun practicing new techniques and working on projects that I never got around to doing.

This is the latest, inspired by my Dad’s penchant for fine and sometimes dubious cuisine and an episode of The Simpsons. My Dad had an insane zest for life. He loved trying new things. When Colorado legalised a certain green thing, he happily drove me to the nearest dispensary and went in with me and paid for my “goods.” And when he drove me to my first gynecology appointment, he repaired to the nearest sushi bar while I was getting checked out and ordered himself a plate of fugu to calm his nerves, as my appointment, he had claimed, was more traumatic for him than it was for me. Fugu, if you are not aware, is deemed both a celebrated and notorious cuisine in Japan and selected countries. The difference between eating this dish and the garbage they serve in the “wet markets” of Asia is that fugu is only legal if it is prepared by a highly trained and licensed chef. As ambitious as my Dad was in his epicurean endeavours, he wasn’t about to make his own fugu in the kitchen.

Later on in his life, he more or less stopped eating fish. He hated seeing fish struggling to breathe when captured and then slowly asphyxiate, and that man LOVED his seafood! After he passed away I went through his files and found that he had been making substantial contributions to the WWF and other animal charity groups. And so this painting is not so much a study of an obscure Asian cuisine but more of a celebration of the life of a man who truly lived his own to the fullest.

The earthenware pot and the sake set are replicas of the ones my Dad owned! The pot is a representation of all the fun family dinners we’ve had to mark a special occasion. Shabu shabu is one of our favourite meals, even for me, who would not voluntarily eat 5/8 of the stuff I painted here, but I always sat around with everyone for hours on end as the pot bubbled and boiled with a seemingly never-ending array of food. At the moment, when visiting families is now either forbidden or a huge ordeal, I’m glad I have plenty of memories to hold onto.

Nadja’s Creepy Doll

These past few months had been the grimmest I have ever experienced in my life…and I had just lost my Dad in December! Like everyone else, my emotions were a roller coaster ride and I had trouble being my best self on a daily basis. I am fortunate enough to live in a self imposed bubble which I had established a decade or so ago so I was doing okay…until the recent events arose.

As usual, there are always unseen helpers out there getting me through great many trials and tribulations in my life and I cannot thank these people enough for what they’ve said or done for me. One such angel had pointed me toward season 2 of “What We Do in the Shadows” TV series and asked if I could paint Nadja’s creepy doll. I got out from my doldrums long enough to have a look and what I saw made me believe that there is something I can focus on other than doom and gloom. Even though I had other things going on I set the time out to paint Nadja’s creepy doll, who, on the show, was inhabited by a ghost and she was just as droll and funny as the actual Nadja. I love her, I love the show, and I had great fun creating a babushka version!

I mean, how can you not want one of your own?

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.

 

Radiohead

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!

Bink!

Olive!

 

 

 

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.