How has your style evolved over time, and where do you see it going in the future?
My style has definitely gotten better since I’ve first started. I’ve vastly improved on eyebrows and eyelashes. In the future I for see myself finally figuring out how to do nice lip lines. I still struggle with them.
Describe your perfect client. Do you like to get a lot of direction, or just be given a general mood, or do you like to see visual examples?
My perfect client would have to be someone that gives me direction but also some freedom to play with the face up. After all, they’re commissioning me because of my style. I like it when I’m told what mood and look they want for their doll so I can interpret it the best way possible for them.
Of all the face-ups/customizations you’ve done, do any stand out to you in particular? Howso?
One of my customization jobs that really stands out to me is the fully body work I did on my partner’s Fairyland LTF Dark Elf Soo with Daisy Dayes hooves. I blushed her horns, wings, tail, and hooves and did her face up. She took a long time to finish but she looks amazing. Sadly we misplaced her wings and tail. They should show up at some point again. She stands out to me because the gradation is so smooth on her that a lot of people mistake my work for airbrush, but it’s all pastels.
Do you paint/alter other types of dolls, and if so, how does that compare with working on BJDs? If you do other types of art (drawing, painting, etc) does that influence your faceup style?
I sometimes paint Monster High dolls, but I definitely prefer resin dolls. I don’t mind ABS Hujoos and vinyl dolls, but getting the face up off of a MH doll is such a pain. I’m an illustrator by trade and draw digitally a lot. I specialize in drawing characters or people. That really helped with drawing eyebrows, and face up-ing helped me get better at my illustrations.
Have you ever refused a commission? Why? Or if not, can you think of a circumstance where you might?
Kind of, someone once inquired whether I work on recasts, and I said no. It’s a loaded subject, but that’s the only commission I’d ever refuse because as an artist I find them unethical.
Is there something that is still difficult for you to do? What is the most difficult?
Lip lines, they are the bane of my existence. I’m still trying to find a good way of doing them. I used to do them with watercolor pencils, but I didn’t like the look of them so I switched to pastels that I apply with a wet brush. It’s a hassle, but I’m determined to get it right eventually!
How important is customer feedback to your creative process?
Feedback to me is very important, after all I’m being commissioned to bring their vision to life, and a happy customer is a good customer.
Is there a mold, doll, or company that you prefer to work on?
Not really, but I do greatly enjoy working on fairyland sculpts. I love working on lots of different types of dolls and in all sizes too. I’ve worked on everything from a Fairyland RealPuki to 70cm dolls. I’ve worked on over 60 different sculpts of dolls, including fantasy parts and bodies.
Do you prefer working on male or female dolls? Why?
I personally prefer female dolls because then I don’t have to be quite as careful with keeping the eyelashes short and the lips are easier since I can tint the lips more pink without worrying about making them too girly. That being said, I still enjoy working on male dolls because of the challenge they give me.
What is your background? Have you had any special schooling (art school, sculpture, painting, etc)?
I studied Illustration at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but most of my skills are self-taught for face ups. Though it did help to break out of my usual color palette. I tend to gravitate towards dark blues and purples, but now I’m going into more saturated and bright colors. It’s fun and I enjoyed it.
When you were a child did you ever work on dolls or create with similar things?
Nope. I broke my Barbies as a child. I’d rip off their arms and legs and draw on them with markers. I didn’t get interested in dolls until I was introduced to BJDs and I’ve been hooked since. Having a 3D canvas is so different from working on paper or the computer.
Do you have any other interests that might have helped you in your development of customizing ABJD (like customizing other dolls, action figures, etc)? Please tell us about them.
I don’t really have anything else that compares to customizing BJDs in that way. As mentioned before, I love to draw and color. I sometimes sculpt as well, I’ve made 3 teapots in the shape of women wearing ball gowns before getting into BJDs, but none are painted.
Do you have any other interests? Collections?
Since I’m trying to turn my art into a career, collecting BJDs is pretty much my main hobby. I can sew plushies though, I should make some again. I can make them for people and dolls, though the doll ones have to be completely hand sewn.
What factors do you consider before giving a doll its make-up so it will have the expression you want?
Mood is a huge thing for me before I start working on a doll. Mainly because I start off with the eyebrows so if I do the wrong expression at that point, I can just start over again. I also keep in mind the skin tone of the doll and the colors that’ll work best with it.
Are there any painting techniques that can make a face look more masculine or feminine?
Yes, there are definitely techniques to making a face feminine or masculine. For feminine I use more pinks in the blushing and draw longer eyelashes along with thinner eyebrows. The lips are also more defined. With a masculine doll I’ll draw on thicker and bushier eyebrows and use more browns and oranges for blushing. I also go a lot lighter on the lips. The eyelashes are done a lot shorter too, and when I apply real eyelashes to a male doll, I trim them to keep them shorter.
How long does it usually take to do a face-up (or custom alteration job)?
For a natural face up I take about an hour, that is without any extra make up or the such. Now with a fantasy face up that requires heavy make up and facial tattoos it can take anywhere between 2 and 5 hours, sometimes even longer.
Can you offer any helpful hints to the amateur face-up artists? Can you recommend a list of supplies including colors, paints & pastels etc?
Keep practicing, and seek out constructive criticism. A fresh pair of eyes on your work will point out things easier that need improvement. It’s even a good idea to step away from your work for an hour, or a few, just to get a break and then have your own fresh eyes. Don’t skimp on sealant or your supplies in general, always go for high quality stuff. I like to use MSC UV Cut, even if I have a can of Purity Seal. I only use the Purity Seal on my own body blushes and I’m still testing it how I like it. It stinks a lot more than MSC. For pastels I use Schminke (which are my favorites), Daler Rowney, and Winsor & Newton. For a nice shimmer I love the Pearl Ex Interference line. It’s subtle but beautiful.
Do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when not creating for BJDs in your spare time?
Pencil and digital are my favorite mediums for fast art. When I want to take a long time with a peace, like a really long time, I will bring out my watercolors. One of my favorite paintings I ever did was a watercolor self-portrait in high school. I still have it today.
How long have you been doing face-ups/customizing BJDs?
I’ve been painting dolls since about July 2011, I started with my second doll. My first doll was painted by my friend who got me into the hobby. Then with my second doll she taught me how to paint them myself and the rest is history.
What is your biggest inspiration for your face-ups and customizations?
This is a tough question. I love going with the flow when I work on dolls, but looking at actual faces of people helps a ton. My favorite types of face ups are fantasy because I can go really nuts with that. I just love observing faces and how people present themselves. That kind of makes me sound like a creeper, doesn’t it?
Do you have any tips you’d like to share for people that want to learn how to do what you do or just want to improve? Something that’s helped you a lot or something that you think is important to know when doing a successful customization/face-up?
Yes I do! Don’t be afraid of the materials, play with them, and experiment. One thing I figured out by myself (even if I’m not the first to do so obviously) is that you can paint bold colors with pastels. Just get a small brush wet and coat it in pastel dust. That way you can apply it bold like acrylic while still being able to fix mistakes without having to redo the entire face up! And if you use watercolor pencils and you mess up, just dip a q-tip in water and dab away the lines. Be sure to seal your work several times through out the process, because that way you can build up the colors more saturated. I’ve painted a white skull over a dark tan head with just pastels, simply by painting with a wet brush and sealing between layers.
Closing Comments (anything you’d like to tell us)?
I just want to say that I’m grateful to all those that have commissioned me over the past two years. The feedback and practice has gotten me to the point I’m at now. And if you’re going to get into face ups, don’t ever be discouraged by your early work, see it as a stepping stone to getting better. Like Thomas Edison said, he did not fail, he simply found 99 ways not to make a lightbulb.
Thank you Iza for doing the interview.