Doreen Kassel: Pigs and other extraordinary creatures

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Happy New Year!


This was too cute not to share. I love Kassel’s quirky subjects and the old-fashioned illustration sort of vibe they give off. They seem to be made of polymer clay and then painted, but the paint scheme is interesting; it’s over-highlighted, giving the effect of a washed-out vintage photograph, or an illustration in pastel watercolors and sepia ink. Her “about” page says she considers classic illustrators to be her influences, and I think it really comes out in her piggies and her “League of Extraordinary Creatures” series. I hope to see more of her work as time goes on.

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Carmen Lozar’s natural wonders

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Carmen Lozar‘s work is another example of “narrative sculpture” in the best sense; each piece tells you a little story with its character, pose and accessories. I love her menagerie of imperfectly mended animals, and her series of empty garments on hangers.

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I had no idea you could even do this with glass. Some of her pieces have opaque finishes, while others take advantage of the translucency of glass, even becoming transparent to reveal little secrets. Can someone please explain to me the difference between flameworked and lampworked glass? This isn’t the first time I’ve been amazed by someone working in this media.

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Via Daily Art Muse.

More Creepy Halloween Art

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Today I have for you a couple of great Halloween-themed creepy artists.

LoopyBoopy works in the same creepy/primitive category as Michelle Steele and Scott Radke.  Her polymer clay “dead kids” use marbles for eyes and include tragic little stories about their lives.  You can find LoopyBoopy on Etsy or Flickr and there’s an interesting article about her here.

Now don’t get the wrong idea about Sara Lanzillotta. A lot of her work is not that out of the ordinary. She makes big-eyed deer plushies and cute little cloth girls with definite personality. Her Octobabies (pictured above) are kind of unusual, but in a loveable way. It’s all the conjoined twins that have earned her a place on this list. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a three-legged pirate, or a conjoined Bambi before. To use Internet lingo: o_O

Hope you have a good week!

Impressionism in 3d — Rachael Direnna

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Rachael Direnna is an unusual artist working in an unusual media. Well, I guess paper mache isn’t that unusual, but the fact that she makes her own paper mache completely from scratch is.

“I make my own clay out of shredded papers (office paper,newspaper, etc) I like the idea of making something from nothing, starting from scratch kinda. I like the idea that I am recycling. But mostly I just love making stuff. Sometimes its weird stuff.”

Sometimes it’s creepy stuff, too, as evidenced by the photo at the top of this post.

Maybe it’s because of this connection with the paper that Direnna can make such striking tree spirits. Many people who make tree spirits end up sculpting female forms with rough skin and branches sticking out in odd places, or else perfectly normal trees with faces in their knotholes. Direnna is one of the few artists who finds a good balance between the two shapes, uniting human and tree in a way thats too distorted to be human, but too familiar to be entirely tree. Like many great works of the Impressionists, it looks like one thing when you casually glance over it, and something else when you look more closely.

Most of her pieces can be divided into three categories: trees, women, and animals. The women are strangely lifelike. Some of them make you think they’re photographs when you see the thumbnails, but then up close you see they are actually quite stylized. The animals, too, are strikingly realistic in their general shapes and poses, but up close are more abstract in their textures and details, like Impressionist paintings.

Direnna’s artist statement implies that her work isn’t painted at all, but uses colored paper for its finish. Sometimes she uses patterned paper to add to the impressionistic textures of a piece. In fact, Direnna is a brilliant example of an artist who works with her medium and is influenced by it, because most of her pieces could only be done in paper mache. It would be extremely difficult to accomplish these textures in polymer clay or any other sculpting material, and why would you want to, when paper mache does it so well?

You can see more of Direnna’s work on her Flickr account or her blog, and you can purchase your very own piece by visiting her Etsy shop.

Tutorial Tuesday — Cedarseed’s drawing tutes

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Hi and welcome to our newest weekly feature on Needle and Clay! A lot of you seem to be arriving here from search engines looking for dollmaking tutorials, so, since it just happens that I am a compulsive link hoarder, I have decided to start sharing a new dollmaking tutorial link with you every Tuesday. Eventually I’ll compile all the tutorial links into a single page, like my Featured Artists page, but for now you can use the “Tutorials” category on your right to find all the tutes I’ve posted as blog entries.

Today’s Tuestorial (hee hee) is actually a collection of tutes from Joumana Medlej, a Lebanese illustrator who goes by the name CedarSeed on Deviantart. She has created a large collection of drawing tutorials which I think you will find very useful for sculpting. Her tutorials include studies of human ethnic groups, facial expressions, and body movement, as well as animal studies including horses, birds and cats.

You need these tutorials. I have rarely seen such a detailed treatment of human and animal anatomy, all laid out in a way that is visually appealing to an artist. Besides viewing the tutorials online, you can buy them in book format at her Lulu shop, She also has a book about Zulu costume and culture, and I believe she plans to cover more cultures in the future, so keep an eye out. Her work is a great window into cultures and topics that are rarely discussed.

If you’re not comfortable with your sense of human proportions and anatomy, I would recommend Drawing the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm and Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure, by Barbara Bradley.

Alarming Antiquities — Melisa Matkin

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Apparently I’m doing a series on paperclay-over-cloth dolls. :) Really, it wasn’t intentional. I’ve been meaning to blog about Melisa Matkin, the artistic power behind Coppermouse Dolls, for a while, and it just happened that she has some work-in-progress photos on her blog that detail her sculpting process.

But first, let’s talk about her dolls. Coppermouse dolls are very distinctive in style, combining primitive with creepy in a way that’s sure to make you grin. With their round faces and popping eyes, they resemble characters in some demented kids’ cartoon, or maybe an Edward Gorey illustration. But, like all really good abstractions, they have a firm basis in historical knowledge and technical expertise.

Coppermouse dolls wear costumes based on actual historical styles, only simplified. You can see the one above with her hairstyle and leg-o-mutton sleeves indicative of the styles of the 1830s, and most of her other pieces wear children’s styles from the age of the Addams Family, including black-and-white stripes, big ribbon bows and lace.

One gets the impression that there’s some kind of mythology behind Matkin’s work, and one wouldn’t be disappointed. The story involves the unlovable children of Mrs. Blatherby’s Orphanage, sometimes known by its acronym, MRSBO. Each piece made for the MRSBO group includes a story about its horrible background.

Visit Matkin’s blog, I Am a Dollmaker, for work-in-progress pictures that spell out her sculpting techniques pretty well. You can see more pictures at her Flickr site, but they’re not as well organized as her blog is.

Happy weekend everyone. Watch this space on Tuesday for a new Needle and Clay project.


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Remember that Halloween show I mentioned earlier? My doll club has decided to exhibit there, so we’re trying to scrape up enough Halloween-themed work to fill up the booth. We have to have pictures by July so we can be juried. I’m thinking that even if the club doesn’t make it, I might rent a booth myself, if I can get enough stuff done. I’ve always wanted to do a Halloween show.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll forgive me for having Halloween on the brain. I’ve always been fascinated by the modern “creepy/primitive” doll style you see now and then, and here are some great examples I found on Flickr. They belong to an artist named Guste, who seems to also be an illustrator, though like many Flickr artists, she is otherwise anonymous. If anybody knows more about her, please leave a comment.