I posted an entry a few days ago about my own face-up escapades, and you can see it's no easy task. It takes lots of skill and patience to do beautiful face-ups, which is why lots of owners are willing to pay quite a bit to have their dolls painted by a talented face-up artist.
Propertyoftheuchiha, better known as Anj to her peers, is one such artist. I'm lucky to know her personally through our local BJD community, ManikaManila. In our interview, she shares her experience and advice about face-ups and the hobby in general. It's a little lengthy, but I promise it's a good read!
Hey there Anj! Tell us something about yourself.
a.) I like dogs more than cats.
b.) I love looking at trees and telephone wires across poles.
c.) I have a collection of foreign drink cans/bottles.
d.) I'm more scared of ghosts than rapists. And I can't sleep in the dark.
e.) I like weird food, and like trying new ones - these include taboo foods like bugs. 8 D
f.) As a child, I collected the book series Goosebumps, Polly Pocket and the Jurassic Park Dinosaurs.
g.) I love tomato, especially Campbell's Tomato Juice.
h.) Barbie and eye-batting dolls scared the crap out of me.
How did you discover ball-jointed dolls and how did you get into the hobby?
One day, I stumbled upon the old shell of Hayden Romance. He was a Migidoll Ryu who belonged to Hiritai of Deviantart, and I couldn't stop looking at him and wondering what he was and why he was so beautiful. I was hooked, everyday looking at the same photos from her.
From a link she provided, I researched and eventually fell into the world of BJD. I was like someone who'd been deprived of food for years! Literally couldn't stop looking and reading - "eating up" all the information and sculpts and photos I could get. Night and day, went on for a time like this. I was especially obsessed with Migidoll and Dream of Doll and visited their site daily.
When did you start doing face-ups and what prompted you to open commissions?
I first started when Cen (my second doll - Dollshe Husky) arrived. He had a faceup that was very out of character and I'd decided right after I bought him off Den of Angels, to suck it up and do it myself. I was nervous and horrified and constantly thought I was crazy to even try.
After studying Helene's photo tutorial, reading through DoA threads and watching Armaleia's faceup video, I gathered up my courage. I started by practicing my brush strokes on bond paper with cut-out holes for pretend eyes. Then moved to painting spoons to train with more aerodynamic surfaces. Yes. Spoons. Gradually, I migrated to the headcap. Haha.
Nonetheless, my first faceup was a disaster! Cen became my practice doll and I redid his faceup 6 times in total before other people offered their dolls for me to practice on as well. I have these people to thank for my experience to this day.
I didn't think of opening a shop in the beginning, I just wanted my dolls to look good if the time came I had to remove their faceups. I did faceups for free so I could become better. But after a time, a friend suggested I should open a shop for others - which I thought at the time was ridiculous because I personally didn't evaluate my skill as "worth paying for." I found it very embarrassing and awkward to ask for payment too.
Soon though, with a few more cheers and lots of amazing and very surprising support, I opened and was accepted by the local community.
And with the help of that, and a 10USD starting price + a 5USD promo, I got some interest and slowly learned how to run the shop!
How would you describe your face-up style? Any particular sculpt or face-up style you enjoy painting the most?
Hmm, first of all I work with a fine brush, acrylic paints and pastels. So I can say it is pretty unpredictable and thrilling/scary, because you can't simply "erase" your work. I like the look of painted lashes more than other mediums I've tried, so I am most comfortable with this.
My style is probably a bit heavy on colors and emphasis. I don't work well with minimalism because I tend to think something is lacking. I like rich blushing, and including/enhancing details that are not natural in the sculpt - I like altering a sculpt to make it look different. The biggest reward for me is successfully being able to change the expression of a mold, or bringing someone's character to life.
My favorite resins to work on are Volks, Crobi and Switch. They have great tooth and are very smooth so there's never a problem with blushing. My favorite sculpt to work on - probably Migidoll Ryu. They're very versatile in expression and many kinds match the sculpt. I like the flexibility.
Which of your creations is your favorite so far? Which one was the most challenging?
My favorites (hard time choosing just one):
1. The IOS Anos, Ciel. Just because he surprised me, came out better than I was thinking.
2. Fairyland Karsh, Chester. Because his freckles were fun and he is just different.
3. Iplehouse Arvid, Zeno. Because I had fun making a broken nose, and the scartissue.
The most challenging:
1. In terms of face details, probably, the half-cyborg IOS Anos named Rodo.
I really enjoyed it, though. And the process of designing the mecha part for approval was a lot of fun too. :)
2. In terms of frustration (LOL) - Iplehouse Carina named Zita.
Only because I'd finished her faceup once - and then accidentally nicked it somehow.
After the redo, I encountered another problem - which involved having to use thinner to correct. I was mourning and accepting I'd have to redo again, but BY THE GRACE OF THE GODS - it worked out and I never forgot it.
Describe your workflow. Do you have any strange habits or preferences while working on face-ups?
I have my laptop with me when I work on faceups. If I have a current favorite song, it'll be on loop. Plus, inspiring/reference photos. If the one who commissioned me has photos of his/her other dolls, I like looking at those to visualize how I can fit my style in with the person's crew. I also like to have a hot cup of coffee while I work. I don't like being stopped midway through painting. It's probably the most annoying thing that could happen. :\
I clean the head (even if it's new) and seal twice before blushing. Always. I powder up my pastels on bond paper, have a separate brush just to mix both pastels and paint, and a variety of brushes for blushing, down to detail work.
Usually I work on blushing/pastels, guiding in the outline and color scheme of the faceup. Then I paint in the details. Then I reinforce with another layer of blushing. And then reinforce the paint if need be, and then seal.
I work with a combination of Tamiya brushes, acrylic brushes and makeup brushes. I have a mixing palette for the paint and a mechanical eraser to sharpen details. I also have various metallic powder (which I actually need to start using) - and glitter powders. Plus, watercolor pencils to guide for tattoos and beauty marks before I acrylic them in.
Strange habits.... HAHAHAHA. When I concentrate on detail work, my tongue sticks out a little. I DON'T KNOW WHY I DO THIS. I also tend to look angry when the head I'm working on is supposed to be angry. Sad when the head is supposed to be sad... Happy when --- Well, you get the point.
Other than that, probably using my pinky to create a makeshift eyebrow on the sculpt before brushing it in. I hold the head upside down when I work on eyebrows and upside-down/right-side-up/sideways when I work on eyelashes.
Usually, I visualize the character for the doll and keep the mindset the whole time I'm working on the base look (which probably causes me to pull off very stupid faces while working). I personally believe the faceup will take on more personality when you're projecting the character on to it while painting. I know I'm weird.
What part in doing face-ups is most difficult for you?
Eyelashes and eyebrows. Because I never just paint them once over. I paint the same lashes and brows again and again till they get the tone I want, I usually want to make the roots thicker and darker than the ends. And the brush, just like any of us, has its good and bad days. Sometimes, it doesn't cooperate and things can be very frustrating.
Any artists, both in and out of the BJD hobby, you admire?
In the BJD hobby, I admire a lot of faceup artists for chosen aspects of their work.
But I can specify two that just leave me speechless - Crobidoll's Liebe and the talented Ladious.
For clothes, I think EVERYONE is better than I am. HAHA! I respect you all.
And various random other artists I respect:
I like Kerli and Kimbra. 30 Seconds to Mars. The director M. Night Shyamalan. The artists Artgerm, UdonNodu, Samurai-PET, JohnSu, Mikeinel - all of Deviantart. The writers Stephen King, Alory Shannon, and currently - George RR Martin.
The photographers IMustBeDead for Photomanip and Creatives, and hellfirediva, who is just amazing at capturing motion, nature and macro. Just so many - too many to mention. :/
Major influences are probably Kingdom Hearts, anime drawing style (though I really seem to just fall half-way through it.), an artist who calls herself "Lily," and lots of bishie boys.
To be honest, it takes a lot of effort for me to draw. And I would rather write, which comes more naturally to me.
Let's talk about your photography. Your photos often have low-key lighting. Is it your style? Why is that so?
It started out as a style, I was most comfortable with, I suppose? But now, not so much a style as it is a convenience. Haha. In all actuality, the biggest reason why my photos use indoor lighting is because I have limited resources in my room, and don't have much time (or drive) during the day to take good photos. Plus, I can control where the shadows fall - which is a huge factor in enhancing the appearance and expression.
And I'm not very good at photography, in general, so I don't know how to experiment much.
Yes, I have to expose myself to more settings. Though I will try to take more shots like these, because I think they're nice. I love colors a lot. <3
Lastly, any tips for budding face-up artists?
Your first and last MSC layers should be your strongest. First layer provides the tooth for base blushing. Two sealings are my habit. Remember that if you cheat your first coating by making it thin, the rest of your faceup will fall apart. Even coatings produce finer blushing coverage and more pigmentation to cling. The last layer is also important. This will protect your faceup - hopefully for a long time.
Don't spend on cheap Pastels and Acrylics. Invest in good quality with high pigmentation, and professional brushes. In the long run, cheap things always have setbacks, and bad brushes never last long.
Be patient. Your tools are your medium and you have to learn them well to master them. Expect to paint many heads and learn many things along the way - whether it's after the first 3 or the next 30.
Some techniques are discovered by accident. :)
Find out more about Anj and her work through deviantART, Livejournal, and her Flickr. She takes commissions at the Den of Angels forum. You can commission her through her thread, FabulaRasa (registration is required to view it).
All photos featured in this post are by Anj.