This is the first of a two-part interview with Caroline Seales, the renowned BJD face-up artist behind Viridian House, in which she talks about her passion for ball-jointed dolls and creating romantic face-ups.
BJDmagazine: How did you enter the world of BJDs?
Caroline: Well, it was about 5 or 6 years ago now, so it’s a little hard to remember exactly! I think the first time I saw a BJD was when I was on DeviantArt – it was a Delf El. I looked up the Luts website and fell completely in love!
BJDmagazine: Are you an artist by training?
Caroline: I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘trained’. I’ve always enjoyed art at school, so I took Art at GCSE, A Level and then Illustration at University. For me it just seemed a natural progression.
BJDmagazine: Why did you decide to do face-ups?
Caroline: I used to love browsing the customizers’ section on Den of Angels so it wasn’t my plan at first to paint my own! I’d bought an El head just to kind of practice on, see what it’s like – the result was not so great! Then I got my “dream doll”, which at the time was a Delf Woosoo, and I tried to choose who to send it to… the problem was that I was too afraid to risk sending away something so precious! I ended up painting it myself a few times, and every doll I got after that, till I started to get a little better.
BJDmagazine: How did you chose the name Viridian House?
There was a music album that I liked to listen to while painting/illustrating – it was more background music, and quite relaxing! It was called Viridian House, by Akino Arai. Having music on actually helps the process I think, having a ‘beat’ to paint to is quite helpful!
BJDmagazine: You live in Bowden, Scotland, a land of myths and legends. How does living there influence your work?
Caroline: Living in Scotland certainly has it’s advantages – in my opinion it is a beautiful country, and I’m lucky enough to live in a peaceful rural setting where I can easily go for walks to find inspiration. The downside however, is that occasionally it can feel ‘too’ secluded, so it would be nice to have a local artist community where I could discuss work with friends!
BJDmagazine: When looking at your face-ups, the words that come to mind are soft, subtle, and feminine, to name only a few. Can you expand on that?
Caroline: Painting a doll for me is about trying to achieve a semi-realistic look. Real faces don’t have hard lines or bright colours. Warm flesh colours, reds and pinks are my favourite for faceups, and those are very feminine colours – and my favourite process is blending all the pastel colours together which creates that softness.
BJDmagazine: All your faceups share the same ethereal quality, and at the same time each is unique. How do you decide which tones and brush strokes will best capture the spirit of the doll?
Caroline: This actually relates to the colour of the resin and the actual sculpt. If the resin is peachy coloured, then the tones need to be a warm reddish/pink to compliment that, or if it’s white coloured then the tones need to be slightly more peach/orange – pink tends to look harsh on white.The brush strokes depend on how the doll has been sculpted. It can seem like a small detail, but for eyelashes, the way the lower lid is sculpted determines exactly how the lashes can be painted! For example, if it has a ridge or if it is smooth. Gender also plays a role, for example for female dolls, I like to make the lashes less uniform and cross over each other. For male dolls I try to make them much neater and close together.
BJDmagazine: What is it that makes your face-ups look so romantic?
Caroline: Perhaps because I am a romantic at heart!
BJDmagazine: What materials do you work with?
Caroline: I use acrylic paints for all the main details, such as the eyebrows, lashes, lip details and freckles. Along with paint I mix a thinner to improve the flow of the lines. These lines are blended with chalk pastels, and the overall shading/blushing is with the pastels too. In between applying the paints/pastels I spray Mr. Super Clear to seal each layer. The final touch is to paint gloss on the lips and eyes, sometimes I mix a little pearl powder to this which adds a little sparkle.
BJDmagazine: The mouths you paint look like they are about to smile. How do you give them such life?
Caroline: I try to emphasize certain aspects of the mouth – I paint darker lines in the middle/edge, and use darker tones inside the lips. If you look at a person’s face, you’ll see a prominent shadow underneath the lower lip – I like to add a dark peach/red under the dolls lips in that place just to emphasize that depth. The gloss shine and pearl powder also add a little sparkle
BJDmagazine: With your face-ups, the doll’s eyes seem to have even more depth, at times reminding us of Marie Laurencin’s doe-eyed girls. How do you achieve this?
Caroline: Like with the lips, to give that feeling of depth or life you need to add shine! A human eye is bright and shiny, so adding a little gloss to the doll will give the illusion of that ‘life’. It’s the same principle as photography almost – the highlights in/around the eyes are so important.
BJDmagazine: Your painted faces are like the delicate flowers of an imaginary garden. What is your favorite flower?
Caroline: I like wild flowers best, especially in the evening when the sun is setting – the colours and light of a meadow full of flowers is so beautiful. I really love taking photos of them too. Luckily, I live in a very rural area, so whenever I go for a walk, I get to see plenty!
Please CLICK HERE for part 2 of this interview.
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