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.

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.