Which came first, the Doll or the Art?

Mar 20, 2010

    1. Which came first for you, the doll or the art? This is a question I have wondered about myself and it just kind of came out in my conversation with another doll owner who "shells" characters from her book in dolls.

      The other night my husband, who is an underwater photographer, asked me if I would play with the dolls if I didn't take the photographs. I said, "Oh, no, of course not." He gets jealous sometimes because I always have a ready-made subject where-as to get to his he has to have perfect weather, good water conditions, and a full-wetsuit and scuba setup to do any photography.

      So it kind of made me think....
      My dolls only really come to life when I am photographing them. The rest of the time they lounge around, but I don't do anything with them. So do I only have the doll addiction because I have become obsessed with this artform of photographing the dolls? I "was" an artist before I started with the doll thing- worked as a fashion illustrator, had my artwork in galleries and museums, they have toured the country, have sold fairly consistently, did a degree of free-lance work for various publications, held open studios, etc. In this very artistic community (Mendocino County) I am recognized by the major artists around here as a peer, and they have all actually been very supportive of the doll tangent I have gone off on.

      So would I even have the dolls if I didn't photograph them?

      On the other hand, I have had a camera for thirty years, and took randoms photos here and there, but didn't really get obsessive about it until I started photographing the dolls. I love my dolls. Photographing them, doing the book, being able to hand out cards and links to my photos online gives me an excuse to have the dolls and to take one with me everywhere I go. Until the dolls came into my life, I really was not a photographer (God knows everyone else in my family is- my daughter went to Brooks Institute and is an amazing photographer, my husband is a fairly-recognized underwater photographer and part of that international community).

      So do I take the pictures to give me an excuse to play with dolls, which I have always, my entire life, loved? I loved setting up scenes and tableaus with my dolls as a child, and loved miniature items.

      It's kind of a "chicken or the egg" question. I know a lot of people have dolls as three-dimensional representations of characters they have developed, either in their writing or online or role-playing lives. So do they have the dolls only because of their characters, or at some point do the characters give them an "excuse" to own dolls?

      So do you have the dolls as a way to develop your character/art, or do you develop characters/art as an excuse to buy another doll, perhaps without even realizing it?

      Please let me know what you think.
       
    2. I just like having dolls around. I appreciate when an artist puts work into them, for instance a very nice sculpt, but I don't consider them "art" of my own or some kind of artsy expression on my part. I don't develop characters, write stories based on the dolls, or photograph them. I thought about or tried all those things a couple times because that's how I saw others in the hobby playing with their dolls. I didn't really enjoy any of it.

      I suppose if I imagine a way I want the doll to look or the type of personality I'm trying to give it, that's a form of character, but for me, dolls always come first as dolls. I like dolls, so I have them. I have always liked dolls since I was a kid, without thinking too much about it.

      As for "an excuse to buy another doll" I don't feel a need to make up reasons to buy a doll or do anything else. If I find myself thinking about a certain doll and really want to buy one then I buy it. I figure out what I'm going to do with it somewhere down the line. Years if need be.
       
    3. Actually, for me it's neither. For me, the story comes first, and both the dolls (I've never liked other kinds of dolls, except in that I've occasionally tried and failed to make them into story-incarnations just like my BJD collection currently is) and the photographs I take of them (I didn't own a camera before I started collecting dolls) are simply an extension of my desire to create a "whole" narrative and the world in which it takes place. Just as I purchase the dolls in order to have a physical and/or visual representation of characters that I write about, so do I take pictures of them in order to create a visual representation of scenes, sequences of events, and moments that I have written using those characters. Sometimes I create a series of photos for a scene that I haven't written yet, but that I imagine happening sometime in the future, or in a tangential storyline, but for me it all comes back to the narrative.
       
    4. Story first and foremost, dolls are illustrations of characters. HOWEVER, I am planning a couple of doll in the future, who are not a part of my main story, just because there are some interesting visual concepts I want to see in resin. Its a thin line.
       
    5. My dolls are all "shells" of characters I've had for years... the characters' looks are all pretty set in my mind, and it has been important that the doll look as similar as possible for me to buy it. It took me four years to decide to even get a doll in the first place, as I couldn't find anything even remotely close for a long time.

      I don't do a lot of photography, myself, but I do spend time with them working on the aesthetics to get them looking progressively more like my characters, which is the important part for me. In my case, ultimately, there's very minimal connection back from the dolls to the characters; it's the existing character that influences the doll, but the flow doesn't go two ways. (This isn't counting my fantasy family, which doesn't have strong characters yet, they're my attempt at trying it the other way and buying dolls for the sake of the doll, not my existing character.)
       
    6. This doesn't really seem like debate material, but you never know, something may flower from it.

      As for the topic, it's a mix of both. Sometimes I find dolls I love that fit a story perfectly, other times, I just buy them because of how much I like that particular sculpt. During a meet-up today, myself and two others came up with a rather entertaining story, and I feel compelled to get a few dolls so I can have fun with this concept. But, I don't really do this normally with dolls, as I mainly have them because I do just enjoy them as dolls. Certainly I like BJDs more than other dolls because I can incorporate an art hobby with this one; I don't have them simply to fulfill my cravings for creativity.
       
    7. I wasn't sure whether it should be debate or discussion- but it seems like discussion is more for particular dolls, companies, etc. and this is more of an intangible. But if it needs to be moved the mods will move it.
       
    8. Most of my dolls do come from a series of short stories, and originally were also planned as art models. And they did pose for me on a number of occasions, when I couldn't understand the general angle or wanted a more dynamic pose - but then again, I only needed to understand the general idea, as I have had a lot of life drawing classes before.
      The only thing that came after the dolls was a DSLR. In this case, the dolls were the excuse for buying a camera I craved for for a couple of years.
      I also found a lot of pleasure in creating face-ups and tattoos, somehow it's been very relaxing for me. Especially when I put a wig on, insert the eyes, put on clothes and get a tiny human being looking at me from the side of my table.

      So to sum it up, it is somewhere in the middle, and the dolls are also definitely just nice to have around, to look at and to play with ^__^
       
    9. My answer is actually kind of complicated and labrynthine...

      I'm a writer, and for a while, I had some characters and a vaguely-sketched-out world rattling around in my head. I hadn't actually written any of their story, but I 'knew' a lot about them, had done a couple of sketches of what they looked like (also an artist). And for the most part, they stayed in the junk drawer of my mind.

      Then I saw sculpts that really just *looked* like the two main characters.

      Then I started really rolling on the novel (well, first novel. It's looking to be a series). I haven't bought the dolls in question yet. They're actually relatively low on my wish list. But seeing the faces did kickstart me into actually writing about the people and places that had just been idling for over a year.

      =^__^=
      Anneko
       
    10. first of all, THANK YOU for NOT typing the "if this has been done before, please delete, etc " disclaimer on the 1st line. this actually made it easy for me to place my mouse on the topic title and see part of the original post, so i could decide whether i wanted to take part in the discussion without having to go into the thread and locate the original post.

      i believe mods already made clear that they would do the necessary ie delete or move when appropriate . I remember reading a mod post on this. but seems that most people are obliged to put in a disclaimer. i was even thinking of incorporating a disclaimer in my signature line at one point *lol*.

      as to the topic, for me it was easy. the art came first.

      i'm a (mature) fashion design student and was looking for a 24 inch doll for experimenting with draping. i have since bought a lim hwa half elf for this, but my interest in dolls expanded and i next ordered 2 CH anges simply because they were so cute. now I have a list of dolls on my to-buy-when-i-can-afford-it list.

      Currently i'm experimenting on making my own face plate for the half-elf body.....the half elf is beautiful but her face is too sweet for some of my edgier designs so i'm making a different face with more attitude. i actually wanted to make my own doll and bought the ryo yoshido book and the "designing the doll" book, but decided to start off slowly with a face plate first.

      the other thing i found myself doing is developing stories/characters for the doll and then designing a look and clothing for the character.

      so in a way, the dolls has over-taken my original fashion art, but at the same time is expanding my creativity in different directions and also providing inspiration for my fashions.
       
    11. I think this is an interesting topic, whether there' room for debate or not. I'm always curious to see how other owners think of and use their dolls.
      I draw my characters but I don't try to put them into doll form- not least because I've never seen dolls that look enough like my charas. My dolls form their own characters, I suppose. I've also had an interest in photography since before I had dolls. I generally think of everything staying in it's own box and the doll photos are just doll photos - they don't relate to anything else I do, they just add a dimension to how I enjoy my dolls. So I'd have to say the dolls come first.
      And yet when I got my first doll I had to justify it to myself by thinking of her as a photography prop or an excuse to start sewing again. That BS idea didn't last long and I now just enjoy her for her own sake. Like you Cirquemom I just like minature things and setting up convincing scenes with dolls.
       
    12. I will for ever will love a company of dolls. Yes to a certain degree i would be consider obsessed with them. But my passion comes from loneliness. If i wasn't lonly i porbly would not have ever gotten any. Right now i'm waiting for my first ball jointed doll to come.

      But using it as excuse to photograph them? I'm not sure yet. I do have a really nice camera to take pictures with. But i will find out soon!
       
    13. Right well what's become a debate on this topic is whether or not the 'mods' will remove it or not...

      Back to your debate Cirquemom, in my not so esteemed opinion I think the doll comes first; for instance in the case of my doll Persephone (Elf Doll June) I can honestly say that when I saw her I just loved her, I didn't have a character design in mind and I didn't like anyone else's idea of her (no offence to anyone but this was two years ago, maybe it's different now?) and then when I was paying for her I was suddenly struck by the thought that she could be a resin persona of the Greek Goddess Persephone and then I was inspired by what she should look like and how best to represent the Goddess (in my interpretation). I'm not too sure how Persphone feels about it...I haven't won the lottery but then again I haven't had piles yet either so I think it's a happy medium. There's definately more I can do with her and I intend to when I've started an art course and have the inclination to get my butt in gear. :)

      It will be possible, I imagine to have character designs and then see one such doll so I guess the question is...do you choose the doll or does the doll choose you? (I shall now wait for a million people to tell me'that's already a possssssst) hehe.

      This is a good topic.
       
    14. I think it's all a bit more organic than what came first--rather more like the proverbial chicken and egg, it's all wound up together and the answer isn't simple.

      I've always liked dolls because I've always liked characters and personalities and people. I've always been an artist and have been a professional artist for decades (I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, I've done art and animation for computer games for a decade or so and I've been a free-lance illustrator for even longer than that). And I most prefer to draw and paint people and characters (and mythical monsters and wildlife and animals--they count as far as I'm concerned, as 'characters' with personalities). So the doll thing isn't a big leap for me. And because I like people and figurative work, I like clothing and fashions and hairstyles and such, so the customizable BJDs are totally down my alley!

      Now, I do not do much, art-wise, with my dolls. Nor do I buy dolls because of my art. They aren't really related much to each other directly. I have the dolls because they just mesh into what I happen to enjoy-- stories and characters and fashion and figures and pretty stuff, and things I can fiddle with to individualize and make them more pleasing to me...

      I'm not much of a photog, but because of the artistic side of me, I like taking photos and I like taking photos of my dolls. It's helped along because I have some sense of how to compose a scene and pose a figure, etc., but it doesn't play much of a part beyond that.

      Anyway--it's all neither chicken nor egg first, but both and all and neither! :)
       
    15. For me, as it was the art that first drew me to the hobby, I would say it came first. I never really thought, hey, I could do with a massive hunk of resin sitting in my room. I thought, wow, those photos are incredible, I'd love to do something like that. Secondly came the creation of a character- the idea of customizing something to your exact tastes has always appealed. I used to love those games where you can create and customize your character, so much so that I just stopped there and never got round to actually playing the games. Then the story was important- I wanted to explore ideas and inspirations and characters in a narrative form. So for me things came in this order of importance:
      1 Art
      2 Characters
      3 Storyline

      I don't think I wanted a doll just for the sake of having a doll, if you see what I mean ^^;
       
    16. I think ultimately for me the story comes first. I didn't originally get into dolls with the idea of shelling characters in mind. I just couldn't get over my attraction to them. But with my first doll I found myself totally disconnected. She was no more fun or interesting than my Little Apple Dolls. I like looking at them but I'm not overly attached which I found really disappointing. I wasn't even sure that this hobby was going to stick for me because as attractive as the dolls were to me I didn't really "feel it". Then I saw the DZ Yuu and when I looked at him I saw a character of mine. That was when I realized these dolls could give me a new outlet for interacting with my characters and suddenly a whole new world opened up for me. So while my initial attraction to BJD's wasn't about the "art" the reason I have stayed with them is all about the art. Typically I search for dolls that have just the right "look" to suit a long standing character and then work towards making them perfect. Every once in a while I will see a sculpt and it will spark a new idea for a whole new character or world and I will take off writing, and naturally feel the need to bring the doll who inspired me home. I don't take a whole lot of photos, I'm not good at it, the dolls are more for my pleasure. I enjoy holding and interacting with my characters in a different way.
       
    17. My dolls are expressions of preexisting characters. Zin's character is about three years old, and the character for my next doll has been around for eight years. Chances are that to keep my collection under control I won't be getting any dolls that I don't already have characters attached to them... otherwise, I'll just waste a bunch of money on gorgeous sculpts that I probably won't get too attached to.
       
    18. While I am currently wirking on "shelling" some of my characters, my original group of dolls created themselves when they arrived. I've always been very artistic (drawing, writing, photography, sewing, building, painting, etc.), and I stumbled into the hobby while I was making OOAK animal dolls. I saw a Haute Doll magazine and had to have one. But while I purchased my first doll originally to take with me on my travels, I didn't intent to do much sewing for him once he had an outfit. We all know how that works, and before I knew it I had four dolls and had painted them, sewn them several outfits, built a bunk bed, and started a scrapbook. The art was there first, and the dolls were there later, but they both came together. The dolls have become a focal point, taking all those random creative things I like to do and giving them a purpose. As such, I've learned a lot more about photography and sewing than would have without them, and certainly a lot about painting.

      So as a chicken or the egg thing, the art was the egg that came first, but the dolls are the chicken that needed to come along and hatch it.
       
    19. Well, the dolls I got (and the one that's on its way) are basically "3D-photos" of characters in some of my stories. I guess I would have got Luken just the same (my first doll), even if I hadn't had that idea to turn him into Luken (a character from a story). But I did get Morgan more or less for the sole purpose so that I could dress him up and have him face-upped to look like the pirate from a story of mine. So that I could better imagine what he looks like. Same for Luken. I like to know exactly how my characters look. I like to be able to see them in my mind. Of course, photos of random, unknown actors would work just as well, I guess. But with those pics, either the hair's not right or the clothes or whatever else. Dolls are much better - you can really make them to look like whatever you picture in your mind.

      I guess that "having to be able to see them in my mind"-thing comes from writing fan fiction the most part of my life, so far. With fan fiction, you always know EXACTLY what the characters look like (except when you make up your own original character(s) for the stories). You know what they sound like. How they talk, act, move, etc. I'm used to being able to "see" that kind of stuff, thus, when I write. With my original characters from my original stories - nada. In case of Celaran (my incoming doll), I couldn't even "see" his face before Denny sent me the preview pics of my Minimee head. But it's essential that I can. Getting the dolls was probably a very expensive option (you can always try photoshopping said actor pics to suit you) but one that, I think, works for me.
       
    20. My situation is similar to yours, I think. :3 But instead of photography, it's sculpture. Drawing has always been my main thing, but for a couple years I kind of poked around in sculpture, and it was really enjoyable but I didn't get far with it because I didn't really know what to do with it until I decided to make a BJD. (I hadn't owned one before this.) Now it's all I've been doing and all I can think about, and I can see myself potentially doing it for years. I'm also looking forward to the more widespread artistic aspects of the hobby like painting/blushing/customizing and creating clothing and developing characters and everything else that goes along with a doll. So many new things to learn, and I finally feel like I have a good reason to learn them~
      The art came first, but the dolls are taking it in a completely new direction for me.