Posted in Aimeraidoll, BJD, Buu, doll adventure, general discussion, graphic novel, Jinjur, miniature adventure, Mudoll, photo novel, toy adventure, Writing

(Doll) character development

I entered doll adventure land through a side door – somewhere between play and play therapy – so many of the building blocks of photography, miniatures, and writing are unfamiliar to me.

Because I could see their effects in every shot, I focused my learning on photography and miniatures. But, as I start to branch out into new adventures, I’m really seeing the gaps in my story-telling abilities. So, this week, in my mini-adventure land of Underfoot, I’m working on character development.

My Doll Adventure has mostly believably static characters. Most of Rosie’s development lies in front of her, and most of Lily’s lies behind. In the few months in which we capture them, they’re understandably unchanging. Camellia’s most drastic change happens right before the story begins – before she puts her foot on that boat. We’ll catch up with her at the moment in which she has to make a decision and a drastic change, but won’t know her well enough at that point to understand who she was before that night when we first meet.

Daisy, though, *should* have changed and grown during the adventure. It’s really a complete oversight on my part that she hasn’t – that there’s no moment when she really grasps that following the call to adventure means giving up the Daisy she’s known and becoming the Daisy-to-be. Some of that is because she was carrying so much of the weight of the developing plot that it just consumed her own development, but most of it is because I got so distracted with other things that I couldn’t see that I needed to dedicate some time to allowing her to grow into her new character.

I’d thought, right up until this week, that I’d work on the final version of my doll adventure right after I finished posting the draft – in a few months from now. Now I can see that there’s so much that I don’t even know that I don’t know that I should take a year or two to learn before I try a more final form.

Which is all to say that Jinjur, unlike Daisy, is going to change during the Underfoot adventures, starting in this, her second episode. It’s possible that Buu will, as well, down the road. But right now, it’s Jinjur who has to adjust to her new understanding of the world. The world, it turns out, is not a place where two 1/6 scale dolls can walk into a hotel, hand over an eyeball, a bag of playmobile coins, and a dime, and get a room for the night.

And, as she learns in this episode, the world is a dangerous place for little things. And it will take a different Jinjur to navigate this world.

Posted in Daisy, doll photography, Fashion dolls, general discussion, graphic novel, Lily, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography

The sequential art of dolls – Scott McCloud’s Making Comics

I read Scott McCloud’s “Understanding comics” years ago, when I was thinking of making an adventure game. It’s a high-level look at the art of comics – well worth a read if you’re doing anything in the realm of sequential art. I’d missed his more practical guide – “Making Comics” – which is totally fantastic for what I’m working on now.

I’m only through the first chapter, and I’m already overwhelmed (in a good way) with great ideas.

Here’s just one really useful way of looking at sequential art – what are the transitions between the panels? He lists six different types, and what they’re useful for.

* Moment to moment: A single action portrayed in a series of moments. Creates a movie-like effect, and is useful for slowing the action down. I notice I use this a lot for Camellia’s episodes, like the slow approach of the panther in Episode 13: Danger afoot or dolls in danger
* Action to action: A single subject in a series of actions. Efficient, and moves the plot along at a brisk pace. I tend to use this in my “plot-ty” episodes, where I’m trying to drive the plot forward, for example in Lily’s second episode where I have to communicate both that she has some special ability to paint lost objects, and that something has happened to her daughter.
* Subject to subject: A series of changing subjects within a single scene. Also drive the plot forward, but are used more for dialog. Since I don’t have dialog in my doll adventure, I don’t tend to use this much, although I did do it when I wanted to pick out what each one of Daisy’s friends was working on in Episode 15: Putting the pieces together
* Scene to scene: Transitions across significant distances of time and space: Help to compress a story by leaping across time and space. The most obvious examples of this in my doll adventure is the movement between Rosie’s real and dream states, like the distance between Episode 6: Rosie’s Doll Adventure, Part 1 and Episode 10: Rosie’s doll adventure, part 2
* Aspect to aspect: Transitions from one aspect of a place, idea, or mood to another. These create a sense of mood by making time stand still and allowing the eye to wander. Interesting idea, and I don’t think I’ve ever used it.
and finally
* Non-sequitur: A series of unrelated images and words.Because . . . why not. It may seem like I’ve done this, but I haven’t 🙂

And that’s just three pages worth of ideas.

I worked a lot on transitions this week. One that I’ve never really done is using framing shots to place an event. This is a kind of aspect-to-aspect that you see all the time in movies (start with a shot of a city, jump to a shop, focus in a single character), and it works to place the subject within a context. I used it this week to explain something that I’d have to explain in words otherwise (and, again, spoiler alert) – what’s the relation between the Secret Garden photo that Daisy has and the places where we see Lily?

So, spoiler, Lily owns the shop. Her apartment is behind it and out back from her apartment is the garden I often picture her in. Easy to tell if I were making a movie, but not so easy in a doll adventure. I was originally going to build a flower shop for her, but it just seemed like a ton of effort for a tiny piece of information. Instead, I’m using the aspect to aspect to tie the places together.

The curtain in the back of the shop is actually a separate image that I placed over what used to be the front door of the flower shop in the original image, and then I use it as a layer in the final shot and set the layer blending mode to “overlay” to make it so that you could see the picture of Lily and Daisy behind the curtain.

Anyway, Friday’s episode is going to be full of transitions – I even use a split frame in one to create a kind of dialog between two characters who are separated in space.

Posted in Fashion dolls, general discussion

Doll adventures need an action stand

Mid-adventure, I find myself (and my dolls) sorely in need of an action stand.

You’ve all seen doll stands. They look something like this:

and they hold the doll, upright, around the waist or the legs. Which is great, if your doll is just standing there. But, not so great, if she’s mid-fall, like this

Rosie and scruffy dancing

I ended up kind of pinning her dress around the stand to get her to hold still in this posture. Even something simple, like bending forward to retrieve a photo, like this

Daisy retrieves the photo

is surprisingly difficult to accomplish. And forget getting three dolls in a sideways dance pose, like this:

I had to lie them flat on the floor, and then photoshop the background in.

So, imagine my surprise at the ease with which a simple Japanese action figure can leap into action on her stand:

It’s very simple. The stand had a rod at the top

Action stand
Rod shown at top of action stand
Action stand hole
Hole for action stand in back of figure

which inserts into a hole at the back of the figure:

The figure can be turned in any direction on the rod, and the stand can extend and bend.

It all seems very simple. There are some shortcomings to the stand – I would prefer that I could tighten it in certain positions because there are some positions it simply can’t hold on its own. And I wish the base were heavier so that it didn’t tip if I move the figure too far over the edge.

But, really, those are small considerations for something that lets your dolls leap, dance, and fly. An adventure doll needs an adventure stand.

Speaking of adventure, next week it’s time to continue from Camellia’s storm at sea.

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Tumblr, WTF?

I feel like I’m missing the point on Tumblr – what exactly is it good for? After a few weeks, I’m still struggling to find people who are actually making/doing/saying anything. Instead I’m lost in a bewildering world of reblogs, where I can watch the same damn post spread through my feed, like a contagion. Trying to follow anything back to it’s original source is well nigh impossible. It’s just z reblog y reblog x to infinity. I get the idea of curation, and I found a few feeds where people are scouring the wider web for their content to convert into a Tumblr post. But, in general, they’re not going any further than their feed to find material to curate.

Am I missing something?

Posted in Fashion dolls, general discussion

Dollhouse decorating on the cheap: AliExpress

Tiny objects are surprisingly expensive. Inch-for-inch, I’d spend far more furnishing a 1/6th scale room then I’d ever spend on a full size one. One way I’ve found to trim the costs is to purchase from AliExpress.

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The economics of AliExpress are bewildering to me. For less than I’d spend for a few stamps, I can get an envelope from China full of tiny objects. How they manage it, I really cannot figure out. I’m guessing there are maybe tiny elves who fill empty envelopes with elf dust, but it could be some other equally mysterious method.

I was a little wary about purchasing straight from China – I’m working outside of the normal US consumer protections. But so far all of my transactions have been trouble free. I had two items with problems – one where an item was damaged, and another where an item was missing from the envelope – but AliExpress quickly put everything right.

There’s an odd honesty to the shops – maybe based on the idea that everyone knows that they’re cheap because they’re a bit shoddy. Because of that, shop owners are very upfront about the quality of the products. But that also means that you agree to a general state of imperfection. I had one piece with a broken part that the shop owner readily refunded the money on. But I’ve seen lots of feedback where puzzled purchases of scuffed flocked dogs, or wonky-eyed ball jointed dolls discover that a certain level of imperfection is baked into the price.

But, once you understand that you’re not being guaranteed top quality, the transactions go fine – you send in your $1.50 and a month or so later an envelope full of tiny objects appears in your mailbox.

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Posted in doll adventure, Fashion dolls, general discussion

Review: Moana – A true adventure doll

Fashion dolls were not built to have adventures – they were built to model fashions. The store shelves include some half-hearted nods to a life beyond the closet, but they largely support the most mundane day imaginable – including playsets for, I kid you not, cooking spaghetti and cleaning up dog poop.

So, when I went to create my own doll adventures, I populated it with one-of-a-kind dolls and custom made dioramas.

Imagine my surprise when Hasbro released an actual adventurous doll with an actual adventurous playset – a Moana doll and some adventurous critters on an outrigger canoe.

My favorite feature of the doll are her feet.

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Look at those feet! Those aren’t little princess feet that you can cram into a glass slipper. They’re the big, sturdy feet of someone who can run and play.

dsc_0102Here’s the doll sitting on her canoe. Note that the doll that comes with the playset doesn’t have articulated elbows – I bought an extra doll for the articulation. But she’s otherwise just the same as the doll that comes with the canoe.

The canoe rolls forward on wheels in a kind of a rocking motion, and there’s even a little lamp that projects starlight on the wall (which I haven’t tried out yet.)

dsc_0101It’s hard to define the line that separates this adventure-ready doll from pretty much every other fashion doll out there. Barbie has adventure-worthy accessories, but it’s as if they’re meant to go with her outfit instead of designed to be part of an adventure. The Moana playset isn’t plucked out of a coordinated closet – it’s a snippet pulled from a larger adventurous life, from the tip of it’s fabric sail to the bottom of her big, sturdy feet.

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Posted in Dollhouse, Fashion dolls, general discussion

Gradual stiffening, in miniature

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Flower detail in Lily’s garden

Lily’s garden wall of brick and foam represents the idea of gradual stiffening – the second, but probably not the last, time I’ll mention the influence of Christopher Alexander and his pattern language in my work. I like to think that he would be amused to see his patterns applied to these tiny worlds. In any case, it amuses me.

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Flower detail in Lily’s garden

Gradual stiffening is a philosophy of building which says, loosely, don’t plan everything down to the last detail and implement it all at once. Instead, continue to make approximations over approximations until you lay down enough layers of approximations to create the finished product. Or, from the language:

“Recognize that you are not assembling a building from components like an erector set, but that you are instead weaving a structure which starts out globally complete, but flimsy; then gradually making it stiffer but till rather flimsy; and only finally making it completely stiff and strong.”

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Here’s the solid brick wall, which shows realistic depth and texture in photographs.

I’ve violated the rule, somewhat, by creating some wall fragments from sturdy stuff, but I needed to see how the solid bricks would photograph.

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. . . and it’s foamboard companion, which looks fine as a background but suffers in focus.

I’m holding to the rule in principal. In my mind, I see Lily in a high-walled secret garden with a solid wooden door. What I imagine, though, may not suit Lily at all. So I’m mocking up the secret garden with flimsy bits and pieces until I see how she wants to live in it. Only then will I put in the hours necessary to create a sturdy little world for her to live in.

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Camellia chilling in Lily’s garden

 

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