Santa Selena

Okay, as far as I know, Selena Quintanilla-Perez hadn’t been canonized, but she might as well have been (there is a Selena Day in Texas, however). What an incredible life this singer has led. 23 is too short a life to live, but the legacy she’s left behind is aspirational and spectacular. 

Selena in various outfits from her Astrodome performances.

I was asked to paint this set and I immediately cleared a spot in my schedule for it. It took an ungodly amount of time to get it finished as it kept getting pushed back to the after after after hours of my work day. Then, at 3 AM, when all is quiet, I sit down with Selena to work on her costumes or beading and think about what a magnificent musician she was and what she had to do to get to the top and it rounded a usually hectic day up very nicely. 

The request is for the first Selena to have real hair. I’ve never made one of this particular nature before and had to think about it for a while, as I am not a wigmaker. I love requests like this since it exposes me to different materials although I had to consult Luba from Handcrafted Gifts for the type of spinning fibre which most resembles human hair. This exercise has given me the courage to make several more wigs for subsequent sets!

And, just for fun, I made a little microphone in case someone wants to sing along to any of Selena’s hit songs!

Top That!

I’ve always referred to the 1989 debacle “Teen Witch” as “Top That” because of the epic cheese rap off between the lead’s BFF Polly and the Vanilla Ice wannabe in the middle of a deserted suburban neighbourhood. The movie, when I first watched on TV, was met with sheer disbelief due to the out-of-nowhere musical numbers, the fact that it never made it known if it was a comedy or a drama or even a straight up musical! It was so bad, and vaguely uncomfortable to watch but that’s most adolescent-hood isn’t it? I can’t even look at pictures of me from that era without shuddering a little.

Teen Witch cast featuring (clockwise from the biggest doll) Louise, Madame Serena, Hunky Boy Brad, the Mr. Weaver VooDoo doll, Richie, Top That guy (I’m sure he has a name in the movie but…) and Polly.

I have been wanting to paint this set for a very long time, and finally got to it after having a session with a tarot card reader. She was someone who had helped me out with a few issues in the past but this time I’d just wanted to see how she was doing because she was undergoing a serious operation. As always, we always ended up chatting before and after the session and “Teen Witch” came up because she had just been on a podcast discussing this very movie. She encouraged me to go ahead and paint it, which naturally took a while to get to but I wanted to make it happen this time as it would be a gift for her for having to go through such an ordeal.

The problem with making dolls from the 80s era are the hairstyles. They are always so voluminous and don’t usually translate well painted on, so I decided, even though my wig-making skills are still sub-par, I should give it a shot. Creating Louise’s hair happened at 2 AM one night after one too many cups of coffee and pain tablets the day I got a cortisone shot on my shoulder so I was a bit cranked to the max, so to speak, fuelled also by the most exciting chapters in Ruth Ware’s One By One on audio. When the dust cleared, there were wisps of hair everywhere, coffee splotches here and there, and me nursing only a few injuries from felting needle related accidents. Still, I wonder if I could ever Top That night.

The Mr. Weaver VooDoo doll. He was a disgusting teacher so this action by Louise the Teen Witch was just.

The Wolf of Wharf Street

Happy Halloween! I am swamped as always this time of year and hadn’t originally planned on doing a Bob’s Burgers Halloween set but I had mistakenly ordered a tiny set of three dolls and decided it shouldn’t take too much time to knock them out after after after hours.

This year features only the Belcher kids in their costumes from season 8’s episode Wolf of Wharf Street where Tina is dressed as “Mom-bie” (a zombie Linda), Gene as a bunch of grapes, and Louise as Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Man.” She is so cool. For years I’ve been trying to talk my niece into dressing as a shirime, which is an easy enough costume to make (a body suit and a big styrofoam ball cut in half) but so far no joy. Louise would’ve been all over it!

A shirime is, as far as I know, is a step above a flasher. As you see no naughty bits are really on display as the “winking brown eye” is an actual eye but those who were flashed by a shirime find it upsetting all the same.

Okay. I never said I was a good aunt.

Mini Addams Family

Due to the descending diminutiveness of nesting dolls, I don’t often offer the option of mini sets past six dolls. I did, however, for the Addams Family set because I had been able to procure a smaller sized set of 7 dolls in the past and knew I had one more of those left in my arsenal. Unfortunately, when I went into my supply bin to unearth what I am convinced now is a mythical product because I couldn’t locate it, I spiraled into a mad panic. Now, panicking is not allowed in my sweatshop for more than 2 minutes at a time so I got my act together and quickly pulled out all my bins and attempted to Frankenstein a mini set. “Frankensteining” is a term I use to put together a set of dolls using loose ones sitting at the bottom of these bins. In the past I have successfully put together many sets using this method and the belt sander so I was hoping to do the same here.
The only problem is that in order to put together a set of 7 dolls with this method, the last two dolls had to be extremely tiny, the girth approximate to the other ones, the descending height not incongruous, and that they all fit together. I was so relieved to have found two extremely tiny, specks, really, dolls for the last in the set. The best one is just a hair too big for the sixth doll so I got to work with my Dremel, which died as soon as I turned it on. I had no choice but to use Husband’s one, which is plugged into a coil of messy cords out in the garage. A minute later the speck of a doll skittered out of my hands and promptly disappeared. I conducted a half hearted search and knew exactly how people who were tasked to find a needle in a haystack felt before giving up and went to examine the second and last speck doll.
It was a little tinier than the one I lost, but I was confident I could successfully paint Wednesday Addams on it. Just in case, I made a tiny barrier in my work space and hardly breathed at all whilst painting her. Between painting she is kept in a sealed jar, just in case. I’ve learned my lesson.
So here it is, the set that I’ve painted many times before but made me think a lot about eye and mental health nonetheless.

The Vampires of Staten Island

I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious when I heard there was a TV version of “What We Do in the Shadows” in development. I watched the first episode filled with that very same trepidation. By the very end, I was hooked. I was glad there’s an entirely new cast of characters for the TV series instead of trying to get someone to fill the bloody fangs from the movie. Due to the recent global events, I had forgotten all about season two until someone emailed me and asked me if I could paint a doll modelled after the lone female vampire in the cast. Intrigued, I watched a couple of clips recommended and all my recent troubles were forgotten. Yes, it was this show that had pulled me out of some serious funk. After I painted the Nadja doll, I decided to give the cast a whirl. It took about an eon to finish it since I was only able to paint it at the end of very long work nights but it was worth it!

The guy playing Nandor, Kayvan Novak, is an uber hottie under all that hair and beard! He’s like the English’s version of Jason Momoa. Apart from Matt Berry I don’t know anyone in the cast (except for Mark Porksch, who had a brief cameo in “Corporate”) and I must admit I find all of them delightful.

Tish

Tish belonged to my friend Karen, who had rescued her and her brothers and sisters from a Very Bad Man with Bad Intentions. It was one of the best animal rescue stories I’ve ever heard and I’m glad Karen and her friend had the courage to fend off this Evil Man and save the pups. Tish was the only one who was not adopted so Karen took her under her wing and she went on to have a great life.

Tish!

United We Fall

I was asked to paint some characters from a new sitcom titled: “United We Fall” and here it is! I’d been a huge fan of Will Sasso’s ever since he was on MADtv so it was a thrill to paint him. Same goes for Christina Vidal, who had stolen countless hearts when she played a sassy child actress in “Life with Mikey.” And let’s not even go into how much I squealed upon discovering Jane Curtain was in the cast and that I also got to paint her! I loved Guillermo Diaz in “Half Baked.” Let’s face it, the cast, and the fact I got to paint them, was a dream come true!

I was painting this set around the time when my best friend’s Dad’s health took a sudden downturn and to get through it she and I had a great time talking about some of the fantastic sketches Will Sasso was on, notably the severely edited version of “The Sopranos.” It comforts me that in trying times like this, we always have some sort of joy in our lives to help us through.

Triple Trouble

I’ve been feeling all kinds of nostalgic these days. I miss my family, my friends, New York City, and weirdly enough, the 80s and the 90s. Those were simpler times when I could wander around the street without making sure there are hand sanitisers in my pockets first (they didn’t even exist then).

To combat all these weird emotions, I reached into the deep archives of my music catalogue and unearthed the soundtrack of my formative years. I painted to Nine Inch Nails, White Zombies, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains…with a bit of Squirrel Nut Zippers, Oasis, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morrissette, Tori Amos, Bjork, Taj Mahal…etc. It reminded me of that one hot afternoon I spent on Randall’s Island at the Tibetan Freedom Concert organised by the Beastie Boys and that had propelled me further down memory lane.

Anyone growing up in the 80s and 90s, especially in NYC, will tell you something nice about the Beastie Boys. Think long hot summer days biking around the hood or walking down the street with songs like “Sabotage” or “Intergalatic” or “Ch-Check It Out” blasting in the background like it’s our own personal soundtrack. An ex boyfriend had scored us some tickets to the Tibetan Freedom Concert and we made our way to Randall’s Island and basked in the sun and watched with wonder at all the biggest names in music play on the same stage that day. Those had been some of the best times of my life and I am slightly miffed at myself for not realising it then.

I’d been mulling over the possibilities of painting another Beastie Boys set, but I wanted it to be something unusual and fun, just like them. After rummaging through my drawers, I decided to do another Shake ‘Em Out set. I gave it some thought and tossed around some possibilities and I finally got my act together and narrowed all the ideas down to two, and then managed to squeeze it in all together.

This set is based on “Triple Trouble” off the Beastie Boys’ To the Five Boroughs album. I had wanted to include all the fun scenes (via costumes) into the set but due to size constraints I picked the best two. This one also features Mixmaster Mike, who was the coolest cat in the music video.

While I was at Lincraft during the height of the pandemic, trying to be considerate and not touching every bottle of paint on display (even though I had squirted a massive amount of hand sanitiser upon entering the store), the idea of incorporating the actual DJ table hit me. So I ran home and organised that as well, feeling pleased because everything was coming together so nicely.

The original goal was to paint the fur on the Sasquatch, but then I would have a bit of trouble with the trick or treat costume. I turned to my big bin of felted wool and quickly piled some fibres onto the creature. The husband and I talked about using different fasteners to keep the vest and chaps on and in the end I opted for snap buttons, which promptly got lost inside the wool as soon as it was sewn on. Since I wasn’t planning on selling this set, I figured it wasn’t a problem. Until it was. Before I even finished painting it, this set was snatched up, so I had to create a little instructional card to go with it so the buyer can successfully find the snaps!

I felt joy and peace whilst working on this set. It’s one of the first sets I painted during the pandemic that got me out of a deep dark funk. I think it had a lot to do with playing around with that day glo green!

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.