After building a rough platform in their last episode, Fern and Olive are finishing off the floor of the treehouse.
Well, maybe Fern is doing most of the work.
When it’s all done, they relax and admire their work.
Then Willow puts on a record . . .
. . . and everybody dances.
All three sisters decide to spend the night in the treehouse.
I loved every part of working on this episode, from the sweet vibe between the siblings, to being able to totally forget about developing a plot and really focus on the moments.
I tried to get real moonlight for the two nighttime shots, but it’s been extra especially hazy up here in Portland and the quality of the light just wasn’t all that great. So I relied on the toy lantern and a long exposure for the first shot (with the sisters awake), and I rigged up a small flashlight on a microphone stand for the second one (with only the dog still awake).
We’ve got one more week in the trees, where I’ll try to complete the treehouse structure. Then I have to catch back up with the Mia Fiorello story. Surely they’ve made it to the island by now . . .
My Up Above doll adventure starts out slowly – two sisters sit in the glade behind their house and plan out how they might build a treehouse.
I got one day of clear weather, so I was able to take the last two shots outside (although I still photoshopped a background behind the picture of Strawberry in the tree.)
My PhotoShop lesson this week was about tweaking your photos, and I did a lot of that this week. I’ve started to get a feel for how to smooth the join between two layers. IMO, the picture of Strawberry in the tree is the most successful, suggesting that a pretty busy upper layer is a good way to merge in a background. The mixture of the two layers in the “Sketching the treehouse” is harder to make realistic, since they both exist on the same plane.
I realize I wrote but never posted about the newest addition to the dolls house. Here’s a little background I wrote a few weeks ago.
I’ve been gathering together two groups of dolls. A smaller set of dolls (19 to 25 cm tall) for my Underfoot story, and a larger set (43 – 45cm) for my treehouse story.
Then, I went and fell in love with a doll who’s not in either size group. She’s Strawberry, from Dollsbe (also called Be With You dolls).
At 28 cms, she should be a good fit for the Underfoot crew, but there are three significant problems:
She’s bigger than Jinjur, and that seems to rob Jinjur of her primary role as protector of the group.
Although she’s just a few centimeters taller, her head is disproportionally large in comparison to the very small-headed Jinjur, and that just makes her seem completely out of scale. Buu is also big-headed, but she’s so much smaller that it seems in scale with Jinjur.
In her features, she’s far more similar to the toddler-like Buu then to the more mature features of Jinjur, and that makes her seem like an overgrown toddler.
Altogether, she’s just not a good fit for that story, although she bears such a strong resemblance to Buu that I keep wanting to make it work.
That leaves her to hang out with the tree house crowd. That cast is far less filled out (just Amy, so far) so it’s harder to visualize how she’ll fit in altogether.
Again, her enormous head poses a problem. Even though she’s a full 15 cms smaller than Amy, her head is larger. Even so, she’s a good fit for Amy – the two look like they might hang out together, even if they don’t necessarily look related.
As a doll, she’s absolutely fantastic. She’s far and away the easiest doll to pose – she moves into all poses easily – and she has a fantastic center of balance – she can stand pretty much no matter how you set her down. On her site, her creator (the very helpful YG) is able to get his dolls to stand on just one leg. I just have to fiddle with the poses to figure out where he’s finding that center of gravity, but I’ve gotten her almost there with just a little bit of time experimenting.
Since writing this, I’ve come to really like how the two dolls look together. Strawberry has a sweet wide-eyed look that balances Amy’s more cautious approach. And the mix of ages brings up all kinds of interesting subplots.
Here’s one I’m thinking about now. I plan for almost all of their scenes to take place outside of a conventional home. I’m planning a tree house, I have a rowboat, and I’m planning on getting some combination of RV and tent. So, really, there’s no space for them to also have a regular bedroom. That makes me think that maybe there’s not much home to go back to. That means either that they’ve been set adrift through the loss of their parents, or that something is very wrong in their house. I’m not really loving either option – i see the story as being sweet and dreamy, and I don’t want them bogged down by a grim backstory.
One idea I’m kicking around is that they have a loving but distracted father – he looks up from whatever he’s deeply immersed in and realizes he hasn’t gotten food on the table and doesn’t know where the girls are. That would give them a safe base, but also give them fairly boundless freedom. Anyway, I’ll see how that sits with the girls once I’m a few more episodes in.
So, the rain hasn’t actually stopped here yet, so I have to use Photoshop for the first episode of my Up Above tree house story. I’m hoping I’ll still get one or two good days before Friday for a few of the shots, but I’m starting out just fiddling around with Photoshop to get my fake outdoors shots.
Here’s the picture I’m fiddling with:
It’s the two sisters starting to sketch out the design of their tree house.
The accessories – blue blanket, notebook, ruler, and pencil – are all courtesy of Our Generation dolls. That’s Amy nearest the camera – I’ve changed her wig to blond with braids – and that’s her little sister Strawberry behind her.
I started out with this photo:
Because, apparently, I can’t be bothered cleaning off my surfaces before I take photo. I paid for my sloppiness in a lot of extra time getting rid of extraneous elements. Note to self, don’t place white paper on a white surface and expect Photoshop to be able to figure out where the paper ends and the surface begins.
I added it to a free stock photo (from Pexels) of trees in a grassy expanse.
I did very little to the background photo, other than blurring it slightly and upping the midtones. On the layer with the girls, I softened the edges around their hair with a little bit of light erasing and a tiny bit of blurring.
The most significant change I made, though, was one of the simplest. With the background layer selected, I chose the Burn tool, and then I drew a shadow on the background beside their blanket, their book, and under Strawberry’s hair. It was a tiny change, but it made a huge difference – the shadow makes it look as if they’re resting within the background, instead of existing in an unrelated layer.
I know there’s more I can do with feathering (again, especially around their hair, particularly the crown of Strawberry’s head) to soften the edges between the two images, but that’s another lesson for another day. For this day, I’m happy with the result for a small investment of time.
One of the very best things about having a 43 cm doll is that I can buy them 18-inch doll accessories.
I’ve been pining for American Girl-type accessories for ages, but they just loom over my 12 inch dolls. As soon as I got my first 43 cm (about 17 inch) dolls, I started shopping in earnest. Having now spent a few months searching under “18 doll accessories”, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what’s available.
Here’s the low-down:
* American girl accessories: If money is no object, start here. American girl hits a high point with some of their accessories (I’m looking at you, $400 Lea’s treehouse) that just cannot be matched by any other manufacturer. At their best, their accessories create a complete little working world. And it doesn’t always cost a fortune to buy a piece of that world. My sister got me an amazing little set, with a Secret Garden book, a little stuffed elephant, and a tiny yet completely functioning radio for around $25 on sale. It even had a few small posters to go on the wall. OTOH, if the set doesn’t have magic, you end up with extravagant prices for ordinary objects, like an $8 doll hairbrush. In general, I look at the pictures on the American Girl site, but I only buy if it’s right on target and under $30.
* Wellie Wishers: I always feel like I should love the Wellie Wishers stuff (same company as American Girl, but in a 14 inch size). It’s brightly colored and quirky, but nothing really feels like it’s part of a complete world. I feel like the company doesn’t have a good grasp on how these girls spend their days, and it really shows in their accessories.
There are three other major companies that all have their own brand of American Girl-type dolls:
* ToysRUs – Journey Girls
* Walmart – My life as a doll
* Target – Our generation
The ToysRUs Journey Girls line doesn’t really hit the mark, for me. If a set has the kinds of things I like – like a music room set with flute, violin, and guitar – then it’s rendered in such shoddy materials that it doesn’t seem fun. I like the idea behind them, and the cities-of-the-world themed set, but the execution just isn’t good enough. Some of their furniture looks nice, particularly a few of the beds, but they’re much more expensive than the other lower-tier brands and, from the reviews, suffer from the same shoddy execution as their other accessories.
Walmart’s My Life As is much closer to the mark. Although none of their play sets capture the American Girl magic, their furniture is cheap, cute, and seems sturdy. I’ve got my eye on a furry saucer chair, and may go with the bunk beds if it turns out my sister dolls like them. Decent, functional stuff.
Saving the best for last, Target’s Our Generation has some American Girl level magic at a budget price. I stumbled on them first when I needed some tree-building tools for the doll to create their tree house. For $6.99, I got a saw, hammer, jar ‘o nails, paint can, and tiny birdhouse, all fitting comfortably in my dolls hands. After a few more small purchases, I sprung for the big one – a rowboat, big enough for three (or maybe even four). It’s so evocative that it’s making me dream about Huck Finn-type adventures.
So, for doll adventures, and all the accessories they need! 🙂
And these last few weeks, it’s been much more thinking than working 🙂
My Doll Adventure: At 20 episodes, we’re about halfway through the story. These last weeks I’ve brought the stories together, which means that they need to mesh going forward. Next week, I’d like to get back to Camellia, but there are about to be some big changes on her set, so I may have to flip her story with Rosie’s.
Underfoot: I don’t mean for the Underfoot characters to follow a real story track, but I do want to finish up their opening sequence before I launch them out into the world. So, that’s been the main focus of my planning. Once that’s done, I should be ably to knock out a picture or two from their story whenever I hit a lull in My Doll Adventure.
The treehouse: This story is probably not going to launch until next year, but the set is complicated enough that I may need that time to figure it out. The general idea is a group of kids up in their treehouse, and then adventures that take off from there. Because it’s a big set (large enough for 4 1/4 size dolls to fit into), and because they spend so much of their time there, I’d like to use some of my learnings from the stop motion class into practice.
So, as you can see, lots and lots of things to work on. So what did I spend last night doing? Playing with my doll’s hair. In my defense, playing with her hair is largely playing with her character. But, really, it’s playing with her hair.
The one thing I want to guard against is making Amy look too old and too polished, so I’m looking for hair that makes her look young and like she doesn’t care how she looks. OTOH, I don’t want to push her so far to that side that she ends up looking like a young boy. So, here’s what I tried. First, the no’s
Which left me with the possibles:
And, after all that, I ended up right where I started.
So, it seems like nothing got done, but actually I feel now like I have the right look for her and I’m ready to move forward.