This is the second of a two-part interview with Caroline Seales, the renowned BJD face-up artist behind Viridian House, in which she talks about modifying ball-jointed dolls, and the art of beautifully blended face-ups.
BJDmagazine: You are a wonderful photographer and illustrator. How does this influence your face-ups?
Caroline: Oh they both definitely influence my faceups! I used to paint the faces quite pale with few colours, and then after taking the photos the colour would always be washed out and quite bland. So I began to layer more colours with the intention to make them show up better on camera, which actually turned out to be a real learning curve. Also, I think painting all these dolls has actually influenced my illustration! Learning about which colours work best on which part of the doll has improved how I draw portraits
BJDmagazine: When you paint a face, do you see more than just a face?
Caroline: When I look at an unpainted doll, I see a blank canvas and I just can’t wait to get stuck in! For customer’s dolls, I try to think about what the character is like if they’ve described it, and what kind of expression it has. When painting my own dolls, I’m happy to just paint how I like and then see what kind of personality has emerged in the end!
BJDmagazine: You are not afraid to modify a doll. Can you tell us about your experiences with modifications? (We are thinking of your sleeping face Shushu.)
Caroline: Well for the first time I was actually very afraid! The sleeping Shushu was originally meant to be a practice, since I knew that if I messed up it would be easy and fairly cheap to get another one. It’s actually much easier than I thought it would be, I started by just opening the eyes but now both my Shushu heads have had other modifications! My favourite kind to do is in the lips and nose – I like to make the face softer and rounder.
BJDmagazine: The blending is perfect on your face-ups? How do you achieve this?
Caroline: At first I would try to get a strong colour by just choosing a darker colour – for me this just ended up a mess! I prefer to choose a normal colour, but the key to building up the colours without making them patchy is to do it in layers – making sure to spray the MSC in between. I also like to use a large soft brush and lots and lots of cotton buds! The cotton buds are perfect for blending in small areas like just under the eye and the lips.
BJDmagazine: Would you say your work is more like a watercolor, than an oil painting?
Caroline: It’s quite hard to say really, watercolors are more subtle and delicate whereas an oil painting has a richer colour, so I’d like to think my work is somewhere in the middle!
BJDmagazine: How does the music of Akino Arai relate to your work?
Caroline: Oh it seems like I long time since I last listened to her music! Music is important to me when doing any kind of art, I think most artists feel this way! Right now I’m drawing inspiration from a Scottish band, Cocteau Twins. Music certainly creates all kinds of images and colours in my mind so this band is definitely my favourite for that!
BJDmagazine: You paint mostly female sculpts. Why? Would you like to paint more male sculpts?
Caroline: I’m very happy to paint either, though I think I do slightly prefer female sculpts! This is mainly because I like to paint pretty, rosy colours so that just suits girls more. Saying that, I do love to paint more natural styled boys – getting to paint hairier eyebrows is quite fun! I’ve had a few commissions where I was given photos of male models as reference and I was very happy with the results
BJDmagazine: You choice of eye lashes is always perfect. Do you have a recommendation for our readers on how to chose the best eye lashes for their dolls?
Caroline: It’s quite hard for me to get hold of good eyelashes, so my customers usually send some along for me to attach. I would recommend joining a group order if you just need one or two pairs, but sometimes human lashes can be used if you’re desperate. I’ve seen some really lovely styles on the 4D website (vier4d.com) which I’m dying to try out! The best kind of lashes to look out for are the kind that taper off at the end, so that they have that fine feathery effect.
BJDmagazine: Why do you say YO-SD Nana is one of your favorite paints?
Caroline: Oh this doll is just so cute! The ‘four sisters’ sculpt is one of my all time favorites, such a classic by Volks! And the Yo-SD one is just a miniature version so to me she is just so completely adorable – I would never get tired of painting either the SD or Yo versions!
BJDmagazine: Which sculpt would you dream of painting?
Caroline: Over the course of the past two years I’ve painted a few of my ‘dream dolls’! I used to always want to paint an Alice by AIL, Supia Rosy, and a Volks Williams. I’ve managed to paint these (in fact I’m painting a Williams right now!) so I guess my next dream commission would be a female School Head A & C… and a Michele. Oh and I’d love to be able to modify a Volks Nana – especially the mouth area to exaggerate that cute pout! There’s just too many to name!
BJDmagazine: What is your work process? How do you approach a commission?
Caroline: I ask for written instructions or pictures as an example from my commissioners, so I’ll start by looking over these first, and then comparing them to the actual doll, for example, working out how a particular expression will fit on the doll. I’ll paint really faint guidelines for the brows, and then start to build up all the hairs, and the lashes too. After I’ve painted the ‘base’ details I’ll begin to start working on the blushing and colours – and then continue to layer up more paint and more pastels. I think it’s easier to work with more broad terms rather then specific instructions on each part of the face, so I stopped using a questionnaire and now I just ask my customer to describe in their own words.
BJDmagazine: How often do you open commissions?
Caroline: I open up whenever I can, but it can sometimes take a long time! Rather than to strict ‘monthly’ slots, I just take on commissions whenever I have the time. It’s not so easy to get hold of some of the materials, so sometimes I have to wait till I’ve got enough stocked up.
BJDmagazine: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Caroline: First I would just like to thank those who have read what I had to say! And second, to thank all my customers who have trusted me with their dolls in the past I’m still amazed that people want to send them all the way to Scotland just to get painted! I hope I can continue to improve my work and I look forward to what comes in 2011.
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