One of my Pinterest boards is titled “Paperdoll Reference.” It may as well be titled my “Why Can’t I Draw Like That?” board. I’ll pin dresses with interesting coloring, particularly shiny dresses or dresses with great draping, with the intention of using them to study from. Not being the most diligent artist in the world, I’ve been piling up interesting examples and not doing all that much with them. Then the thought came to me, why not make the learning process into a paper doll outfit? (Everything’s better with paperdolls.) Sort of like a tutorial, except I, too, start out with no clue what I’m doing. Let’s learn together!
Here’s my first digitally colored mermaid tail! I’m not entirely satisfied with it, because without a little scale pattern I think it looks too flat, but I’m only just getting started with digital coloring so for today it will work.
I’ve had mermaids on the brain, because I read a book called Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, which was all about how to construct a compelling, well-paced and satisfying story. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but it dealt with universal principles, so I got a lot out of it even though I’m not planning on writing a movie anytime soon. It’s a great book, but also pretty dense and something like 400 pages long, so I’ll also recommend Hilari Bell’s writing tips, which present much of the same information in a way that may be more understandable.
I always enjoyed writing my mini-stories about my mermaid world for this site, and I’ve often thought of making it into an actual story. I have a rather large amount of information already written about aspects of mermaid society, actually. Where I trip up is my lack of understanding about oceanography, general scientific principles and experience underwater, which has a direct bearing on a story set somewhere besides dry land. What does it feel like to hear things underwater, and what sounds are easiest to hear underwater? What might materials mermaids could possibly use to build cities look like after years spent in the sea? How far down can mermaids dive before they start to have problems with the pressure? Can they breathe underwater, like fish, or do they have to come up for air, like dolphins? If I want the geography to look a certain way, how did that come about? If you can’t store paper books underwater or too close to water, is there a good way of distributing and storing reading material?
For many of these questions, I don’t even know where to start looking because I have only a vague recollection of my science classes. I suppose if it’s my fantasy world I can answer all these things however I like, or simply not care, but to me it’s more fun if the world is plausible and the fantastic elements are placed elsewhere. I love worldbuilding, especially stuff like this geological history of A Game of Thrones where the setting is taken quite seriously. Still, it slows me down because I’m imagining a lot of things from scratch and learning a lot of things for the first time. If I actually want to write something, I’d probably do better with a setting that is easier to nail down, but I keep returning to my mermaids. And I do like it when I have the time to learn new things that I can apply to the world – I keep reading books about science or marine animals and coming up with mermaid world applications for little details.
In any case, it looks like an elf dress won my poll, with 51% of the vote, so I will sketch some out and be back next week with a black and white dress and a new contest, plus a 1930s outfit. Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for site updates, previews and mermaid jewelry. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.
I didn’t finish the dress I meant to have up today (the contest winner), so for now, I will present the recoloring chosen by one of the two winners of my Oscar contest, dannyscotland! Technically, it was chosen by her 5-year old daughter, and it did turn out to be vibrant. She wrote:
I have consulted with my ‘assistant’ a.k.a. daughter, and she would like to have you color the Valentine’s Day Regency Gown. For five years old, she’s pretty specific, so please feel free to alter as you see fit. :-) And thanks for understanding. She (and I, I guess) would love to see turquoise gloves and bottom ruffle, a pink shawl, lavender dress (the body of the dress), red roses, and pink draping over the bottom ruffle, kind of like it is now. Maybe it could be a different shade of pink?
Dannyscotland, I hope you and your daughter like it! It was fun for me, because the finished dress is quite different from the original, but it does some fun things in and of itself. The blue of the ruffle actually complements the forget-me-nots, and with the lavender background, you can see that there is a very subtle swirl pattern on the fabric, which was pretty hard to see on the earlier version.
But wait – that’s not all there is today! RLC of Paper Thin Personas has been doing interviews with paper doll bloggers lately, and for this month, she interviewed me! Check out the interview for my thoughts on why I love paper dolls, how I created the pose for the new doll series and whether I prefer sparkly things with some shine or shiny things with some sparkle. Plus, I did a blue princess gown exclusively for RLC’s site! If you’d like to see and download the full dress, you’ll have to check out the interview.
Come back next week for the 1912 gown with colors and patterns chosen by my husband! (I’ll give you a hint: Beetles.) I’ll do the poll next week, too. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for site updates, paperdoll thoughts and very pretty opals. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.
This outfit is the result of my second contest, which I held over Twitter. An ancient Greek outfit won out over a 1930s dress or a fairy outfit, so I started a Pinterest board and did some research into what they were like. Happily, in this day and age plenty of the relevant information is easily available for free!
- The Costume of the Ancients, by Thomas Hope. Entirely made of illustrations taken from vases and other sources.
- Ancient Greek Female Costume, by J. Moyr Smith. A nicely illustrated book about what Greek women wore.
- Greek Dress, by Ethel B. Abrahams. Another very detailed, illustrated book about ancient Greek clothes.
- The Grammar of Ornament, by Owen Jones. Information about patterns and designs, including one on Greek patterns.
I’d be happy to hear about other good sources of information — for all I know, something new has been found since these books were printed! I wanted to read these books thoroughly and do more research, but didn’t have time. So I will probably continue, albeit slowly, even though this outfit is all done.
The winner of the contest, chosen by a random drawing, was Karen Martin, and here’s what she requested:
I think for colors, I’d like white, blue, and gold, with maybe some purple thrown in?
She also got to choose from a list of patterns, and she chose the wave, scroll and heart patterns you see on the outfit. So here it is! Karen, I hope you like it.
Let’s start a new contest! Part 1 is a poll, which will close next Thursday. Once I know what I’ll do next, I’ll do my research and draw a sketch, then hold the contest on the 21st. Here are your options…
Come back next week for a dress based on a key scene from one of the coolest games I’ve played in a long time! As always, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterestfor updates, sneak previews and lovely Art Nouveau pendant pictures. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.