As far as I can tell, Belgium-based artist Claudine Roelens is one of the most talented art doll makers working in Europe right now. Although she designs lush costumes out of silk and lace, her real strength lies in the delicate proportions and realistic gestures of her work. Maybe it’s Hollywood’s influence, or maybe it’s because I learned how to draw the human form from my dad’s comic books, but I’ve always struggled against the habit of exaggerrating one feature or another, and I notice other artists have the same problem. But if you look at Roelen’s pieces before they’re dressed, you’ll be struck by how subtle and realistic their curves are.
In her biography, Roelens claims a background filled by romance novels and fairy tales, which shows in the romantic subjects and poses she chooses, and in their long, flowing hair. She says when she first learned to sculpt, she was unprepared for the fact that “… Dollmaking is a virus, there’s no antidote, no cure, it gets in your blood, and it never leaves you.” I think many of us can relate to that!
Finally, you have to applaud an artist who keeps learning. Roelens has recently joined the ranks of original dollmaker sculpting ball-jointed dolls (pictured below). She reports that although the doll is sculpted in air-dry clay, many people mistake it for porcelain. You can see more pictures of it on her website. The other thing she has done recently that has everybody talking about it is the mermaid pictured at the top of this blog entry. Take a look at the ocean spray surrounding the mermaid’s joyful leap out of the water. I suspect she has borrowed this technique from dollhouse miniaturists, but I have rarely seen it employed to such great effect.
The leaping mermaid was exhibited at this year’s Ahoy International Doll Show, where Roelens took first place in 2007 with her Ballet Dancers (pictured above, next to the centaur). Her site says the Ballet Dancers also won the Dutch Doll Ring Award last year. Like I said, there are few who compare with her skills.
Check out Roelens’ website for more pictures of her work, including work-in-progress photos of most pieces. If you happen to live in or near Belgium, you might also check out her doll supply shop and her class schedule.
Have a great weekend!