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Sculpting an Original Doll, Part I

Where do ideas come from?

the views, experiences and expressions of Michelle N. Lightner -
Original Doll Artist and Designer


Where do ideas come from? or, just a tad bit of "history"

Though I have sketched and painted most of my life, my sculpture did not come to life until a few years ago. As a child, I sat on the rocks overlooking what seemed like a vast valley to me, in the small community where grew I up in Kentucky. Looking back on it today, the mountains were not so vast, the world was not so remote and the dreams were not so far removed. That child's mind created the imagination needed to become an artist. It was an escape at that time, but is a reality now.

Sketching the rocks and landscapes quickly grew into sketching skirts and dresses, with dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Being a 60s child in KY demanded you learn the artistry of stitching and homemaking. I learned the artistry of many hand stitches including crochet and embroidery. I put the "artist" dreams aside to become a wife and mother, but continued to nourish the dream of being an artist "someday".

I started painting watercolours in the 80s. That was quite possibly the most "critical" time of my life as an artist and I was going through many emotional changes. Life had not dealt me the cards I had wanted, the "white picket fence" was fading. I began to discover my true inner self. At that time, struggling with the media and learning to paint, my Brother said the words that ring true to me today in all of life's circumstances. I beckoned him to help as I painted a landscape. What colour to use, what brush stroke? I was truly attempting to be the most "realistic" painter ever!
He smiled, sat back in his truly "at-ease" way, and said to me: "They're your clouds, Sis - paint them any way you want!"
From your heart - The "ideas" for my watercolour landscape came from a book, one that spurred my interest in the media and led me through the process in a way I could understand. It did not, however, awaken the artist within. Our true awakening begins when we discover we can master the media (if one ever can!) and begin to expand our imagination into a free form of our own art. Guided by the rules of the media, we begin to explore, create and define our clouds (or dolls) any way we want. It wasn't until a few years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to explore the form of sculpture and dolls as art. Hold on to your own happy innocence, dreams and realities. They will guide you along the paths of discovery much sooner than all the instructions and teachers you will ever find. Paint your own clouds, your ideas come from the heart.

Create your mental image - I first decided to sculpt as a means of improving my painting. I felt working in a three-dimensional form would provide discipline and allow me to transfer the quality of solidity to my paintings. As I mentioned earlier, abstracts didn't interested me. I was interested in modeling a likeness in clay, a portrait of my grandchildren, a sculpt of my favorite animal, those things near and dear to ME. Nestled deep in my heart was the memories of my first bride doll, the one my Mother gave me when I was 8 years old. Sprawled lavishly on top of a quilt in my upstairs bedroom, nestled among my very few toy dolls, she was delicate yet strong. My prize possession, the doll I never really played with, made our farmhouse come to life with fantasies for a little girl. Those memories, and the desire to sculpt a doll instilled the need, but - I lacked the full mental image of the doll I wanted to create.

Larry Art 101- My sculptor training insisted I find a model to pose for me. The kids are grown, my grandchildren live far away, so.....guess who got to be the "giuna pig"? I began seriously studying my husband's face, a bit discomforting for him as he had no idea I was embarking on the task of sculpting a likeness of him :-). Larry I didn't feel really secure in the idea that I had captured my husband's likeness until I exhibited my dolls for sale at a National Fly Fishing Convention. Those who saw my dolls and met my husband immediately remarked; "there's no doubt who your model was!"

Gus My initial sculpt produced a much more innocent and gentle demeanor than that of my husband. As the cleaning and costuming evolved, the child-like appearance of a young Roman Emperor came to life in my mind. His tiny feet would look great in sandals! The ideas poured from my head and I began to research authentic Roman Costuming, names, and the mental image came to life. I decided to do Agustus, the Roman Emperor, as shown on the GUS page.

Adding to my original sculpt what I truly "saw" of my model resulted in the "Catch & Release" dolls you see here today.

Changing Directions Creating a necessary mental image and concept of your doll is the first step but, don't hold those ideas so rigid they prevent your creativity from proceeding. As the clay develops it's own form, allow yourself to "redirect" if necessary. This is the stuff of art. Sometimes you have to stop looking.

Using my husband for a model was a necessary part of my journey. It allowed me to gain the confidence needed to let my imagination work, as well as a more complete study of the anatomy and how to give my sculpt form. Not all artist take this approach. And, not all artist choose the same media. Lessons-learned are unique for each of us.

I recently sculpted a lady doll, no model and no photos. That sculpt became my Lady Jelena The overall idea of her originated agin in my mind. I had a mental vision of exactly how I want her to look, her costuming and full details. This is the dreamers part, where you can let your creative juices flow and bring your personal images to life.

The more I sculpt, the more ideas come to me. I recently started making a list or journal of these ideas, whether they result from a dream, a thought while riding in the car, or anytime during the day. Sometimes I begin a sculpt with one of these ideas in mind and the piece takes on a "mind of itŐs own". The result is sometimes totally different than what I intended. Let your hands do the creative part that the brain is telling you to do, and your sculpt will result in feeling and expression.

Feel free to add your comments. If you like this article and are interested in follow-up writings in the series about sculpting a doll, you may email the contact below and we will notify you when the next article is posted. We do not do mass emailings and do not mail Ezines. We will be happy to notify you if the articles pages change. Thank You! You can contact the writer at Contact Michelle Lightner.


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