character design

All posts tagged character design

Mama Kringle Final Photos!

Published April 5, 2017 by baileyquillincooper

For my last Mama Kringle post, here’s a huge collection of finished photos that I snapped over the weekend. They’re unprocessed, disorganized, and taken from just about every angle I could think of because I’d always rather have too many photos than not enough! Enjoy!

Mama Kringle

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And one more, because there’s just something inherently awesome about allowing a two-dimensional character to transcend into the corporeal plane!

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Mama Kringle Work-in-Progress Part 2: Costume Fabrication

Published April 5, 2017 by baileyquillincooper

Now I had created my 19″ posable polymer clay soft body Mama Kringle doll.

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She was finally all ready for some clothes and finishing touches! Costume fabrication is one of my all-time favorite parts of doll-making; probably tied with painting depending on how interesting the costume. Again, this is what I was going for:

Mama Kringle Design

For some reason I felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of Mama Kringle just being skyclad underneath her robe, so I decided to make her a pair of cute frilly undergarments that you will never see (unless you’re a creep like me who has always had to look at what’s underneath dolls’ dresses.) For this purpose I have an enormous bag of antique lace scraps that I once was lucky enough to find secondhand. Then I was even more lucky, because I happened to find in the bag a crinkly Victorian lace collar that was the perfect size to use as a one-piece negligee.

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I fitted the front of the lace to her body, then wrapped the straps of the collar around her shoulders and down her back. It really was such a perfect size that I was able to create the rest of the onesie with just a couple of carefully-placed contrasting lace panels.

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I know the garters and tiny buttons were completely pointless, but I kind of had to.

Here’s the back of it:

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Before I made her robes, I also decided to give her a fluffy layered petticoat to add some more volume to her silhouette.

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Next I cut out her robe. I forgot to take a photo of this before I had already stitched most of it together, but I used this generic robe pattern that I found online as a reference.

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The fabric I was working with was a very messy, long-pile silver faux fur, so I didn’t bother with cutting a pattern out of separate pieces of paper. I just folded the thick fabric over and used it as a pattern for itself, cutting everything on the floor fur-side down with very sharp scissors at an angle in an attempt to make slightly less of a mess.

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It was still a bit of a fluff massacre, but whatcha gonna do? I also attached the white fur trim to the panels of the robe before I had sewn it all together, which was a little tricky as I had to fold the trim in half as I worked for the desired thickness. Since I don’t have a working sewing machine, I also sew all of my costumes by hand. I finally caved and bought my first thimble during this project because I had to use extra-large needle to get through this tough fabric, and after a while it was pretty brutal on my fingers.

In the following nightly work sessions I made her sleeves and feathered collar, which I embellished with antique lace and tiny real freshwater pearls.

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Next a few more finishing touches–more feathers on the collar, gossamer white eyelashes, a shiny red bead for a bindi, some additional delicate opalescent fiber strands in her collar, some perfect little round lavender Barbie spectacles that I found on eBay, lots of additional glittery winter twigs and flora in her hair, and a sprig of mistletoe in her hand/hair.

IMG_6495.JPG I didn’t have any mini mistletoe on hand, so I actually custom-made this for her by combining three different kinds of artificial plants together; the frosted heart-shaped leaves from one, the white berries from another, and the little yellow clusters from the third. I twisted it all together in a tiny bouquet to hide the drops of glue.

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And for the very last touch of magic…I wove a fine strand of micro LED fairy lights into her hair, and hid the little battery pack with the on/off switch in a slot in the back of her robe. I think the warm white glow when she’s switched on is really beautiful.

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Much like Lucia with her glow-in-the dark skin, she could also double as a night light! The shadows she casts of the wall are really cool; much like being in a forest at night.

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I’ll make one more post for the finished photos!

Mama Kringle Work-in-Progress Part 1: Design, Sculpting, Painting, and Assembly

Published April 4, 2017 by baileyquillincooper

As promised, I took a lot of work-in-progress photos of Mama Kringle. Normally I like to write a series of many entries as I’m working on a doll and so I can post my progress photos as I go along, but let’s just say that I have a lot of catching up to do this time. Due to the sheer volume of the photos I have taken since I first started on her, this entry and the one that will follow are going to be mostly photos with very brief explanations in between. If you guys have any questions about any of them or my process in general, please feel free to comment below!

I. DESIGN

Without further ado, here are first some images of Mama Kringle from my children’s book, Kris & Krampus Kringle, to serve as a reminder of the character design.

Mama Kringle Design

I usually make my dolls just based off of a singular idea or sketch and sort of make the details up as a I go along, so making a three-dimensional version of a pre-existing fully-formed character is somewhat rare for me and a lot of fun.

Mama Kringle Portrait

II. SCULPTING

I took inventory of my massive polymer clay collection and gathered an assortment of colors to make a custom skin tone. Some of them were quite sparkly.

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My workspace, complete with weird Netflix documentary about men who like to dress up as giant masked dolls.

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A pair of beautiful glass eyes that I found on eBay.

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A lot of the more ornate and unusual glass eyes that I buy are intended for Dollfie ball-jointed dolls. I know that the Frouds and many other doll-makers out there really don’t like glass eyes because they can be somewhat restricting and a little bit tricky to focus, but I personally really have a thing for them. There’s always such an interesting variety of them online that sometimes I will even get an idea for a character based solely on a pair of eyes that I find.

I always start by making an internal structure for the neck and skull out of looped armature wire, epoxy putty and fine jeweler’s wire for some extra grip, shaped pieces of aluminum foil, and then masking tape.

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I made sure to gore out some eye sockets before putting any clay onto the skull.

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Then I mixed up all this clay by hand. It took a while.

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I seriously need to get me a food processor.

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I then set the eyes into the sockets as I began to cover the skull with clay. This is how I started to form the face with basic shapes first.

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This is what she looked like by the end of my first all-too-brief sculpting session.

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This one is from my Instagram, probably after I returned to her for another brief session a day later.

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Another Instagram photo after she was ready for her first trip to the oven.

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A wonderful thing about polymer clay is that you can bake it in layers to better save your work. It definitely helps you to prevent stressing over things while you’re working quickly, like delicate facial features that you wouldn’t want to accidentally smash when you’re working on the ears or the back of the head. You can bake most polymer clays at least three times before the coloration or texture changes that much.

Into the oven with you!

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Creepy…I really love my Amaco craft oven though.

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The glitter clay shines even more after it’s been baked!

Ears next.

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Next I made her hands, while watching my old Wendy Froud DVD and rocking out with my rod puppet, Lucia.

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As per Wendy Froud’s hand sculpting technique, they actually do start as a simple throwing up the horns shape before I add the other fingers on one by one. Apparently I didn’t take any pictures of that, but here they are going into the oven.

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Just waiting around for some hair.

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I think all the glitter clay worked out great for her skin, but by this time I had also discovered another kind of special effects Premo Sculpey clay at Blick called, “Opal.”

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I thought this one was so cool, and was pretty excited to try it out in her hair!

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I made the basic structure of her hair by twisting many different other colors of polymer clay together into tapered rope-like shapes, fixing them onto her scalp, and then adding additional little branches onto the larger ropes in the same exact way. Working my way in a circular pattern from the forehead and the nape of the neck to meet in the middle on the crown of the head, I eventually ended up with this.

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III. PAINTING

Time for some paint!

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I love that photo.

After trying out many different kinds of paints and doll-painting techniques over the years, I now prefer to use many thin glazes of acrylic paints over the polymer clay until I can build up the depth of color that I want.

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I occasionally will also use glitter and metallic paints, acrylic varnish for varying levels of shininess, and even stuff like nail polish and clear nail varnish for things that I want to be really shiny and wet-looking (like a tiny doll manicure!) Mama Kringle ended up being very colorful and sparkly, and a very fun one to paint.

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Next I made her some feet, which were even balanced enough to stand on their own!

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Although you can only ever see the tips of Mama’s shoes poking out from her robe in all of my illustrations of her, I decided to make the the tops of the shoes a little bit fancy. I looked at lots of photos of Victorian shoes for reference.

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I think they looked way better after I stained them with acrylic paints so that they would more closely resemble worn leather.

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Here she is all painted and ready to be assembled!

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IV. ASSEMBLY

To assemble her body, I began by making a basic skeleton out of armature wire with a spinal cord, pelvis, and stick limbs. I used more epoxy putty on the pelvis, kneecaps, and wherever I needed to make some strong joints that would’t shift around while I got the proportions on the shoulders and the limbs right.

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I also added some wooden skewers to the femurs and other larger bones for some additional strength.

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I made her elbows on loops of wire like hinges so that I would be able to pose her arms later.

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Next came the foil.

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In case you are wondering what I was watching this time, it’s “The Secret of Roan Inish,” a charming Irish film about Selkies. It was great to watch it again along with my small collection of other Irish movies around St. Patrick’s Day!

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Side view:

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First layer of masking tape to hold her all together:

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I later added a bit more masking tape to bulk up the limbs and strengthen the skeleton.

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After I get a strong yet still posable skeleton, I begin to flesh out the body with batting…yes, just like in the Wendy Froud video in the background.

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Batting sticks to itself and is pretty easy to shape and sculpt with a little finagling, so I usually tend to make a pretty detailed body shape with this step.

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The very last step that I do before I move onto the costuming is I make a cloth body stocking over the batting. This creates a more cohesive “skin” and holds everything underneath in place. To do this I use some kind of thin, stretchy fabric; lycra in this case, and carefully stretch it over the toro and the limbs. I cut it all to size and then glue and hand-stitch it tightly over the batting “guts.”

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And there you have it, the design, sculpting, painting, and assembly of Mama Kringle! The last bonus photo I found on my camera roll before I moved onto the costuming was one of Mama standing next to Lucia for a size comparison. For the record, Lucia stands at about 17″ tall, and Mama Kringle is about 19″ tall without a stand. I’m really enjoying working in this larger scale!

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Ok. Well that was pretty exhausting, and I again apologize for all the major catch-up posts that I’m having to do now! The good news is, you won’t have to wait very long at all for part two of the work-in-progress post since she’s already finished now, and I just have to type it all out. Be sure to check in again for that sequel soon!

Beyond The Bramble: Character Design

Published July 18, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

A good friend of mine, Sarah Marie Bacavis, has also written a children’s book called Beyond The Bramble.

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It’s a middle grade short novel (not a picture book) that is best classified as a children’s fantasy adventure story. The book is now nearing completion and is currently in a similar stage of production as mine; getting the first reader/first print copies made so she can get some feedback and send her book out to some literary agencies. The story is about an imaginative girl who goes with her dachshund puppy Annette to visit her grandparents, only to discover a hidden world inside of the overgrown bramble in their backyard. The book is also about, you guessed it, goblins!

To simplify things, the three main reasons why Sarah and I are friends in the first place are Glam Rock, goblins, and the internet. We both fairly active with our Deviantart accounts back in 2008/2009, and we sort of found each other through our artwork and our extreme affinity for this somewhat odd combination of subjects. Some major influences of ours included David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Cuddly Toys, Brian Froud (well all three of the Frouds, actually), Jim Henson, The Dark Crystal, The Labyrinth, and The NeverEnding Story. We later discovered that we had even more of the same influences in common that we had just never bothered to mention before. Maybe we’re just like one of those creative matches made in heaven, like Henson and Oz. Either way, it’s always a pretty amazing thing to chance meet a creative who is from your very same “planet.”

When Sarah asked me if I could help her with designing the characters from her book and then illustrating the cover art, I was more than happy to help. She already had drawn that idea for the cover and some sketches of three of the characters from the story. We decided that I would first help design the characters, and then do some more basic cover artwork for the first read copy. The first read copies will be be going to the printer very soon, so for time’s sake and to differentiate the first read edition from the more finalized text, we are going to go with a more simplified design for now.

So far I have completed the designs all three characters. First we have her sketches of a goblin named Sim Sala Pim, “but Pim is plenty.”

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Here’s my pencil drawing:

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Inked:

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Colored:

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Then we have her drawings of another goblin called Wilden.

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Here is my final design for Wilden (because I guess I forgot to take more work-in-progress pics again!)

Wilden Design

And last we have Coragrinn The Finder, a very scowly, grouchy, and somewhat pretentious junk collector goblin who spends most of his time digging through dirty garages.

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Coragrinn was by far the most difficult character to design. I actually had a feeling that he might be, so I ended up tackling this one first. The reason he was so difficult was probably because he has such a strong personality and needed to have a scowl that was just right. Sarah also had the most trouble envisioning this one and left her drawings very open to interpretation. I took a long while playing around with the shape of his face before I ever got started on the final design.

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As you can see from my sketches, I had pretty much decided from the beginning that he needed to have short, lopsided bangs and some very deep frown lines. I also decided that I liked him better with a taller forehead and a longer face, because it somehow made him look more intellectual but also a lot grumpier. Putting all of the things that I liked about the different face designs together, I then came up with this:

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Here is is all colored in (and yes, that is my sneaker!)

Coragrinn Design

That’s the design that I first ended up sending to Sarah. She loved his scowly face, and she said that he reminded her a little of Rabbit from Winnie The Pooh crossed with the Gallagher brothers of Oasis (a disturbing yet hilariously apt observation!) The term “Squidwardian” was also tossed around a bit when designing this guy. Ultimately the only major changes that Sarah wanted to make to this first design was to darken the coloration on his muzzle and feel to make him look even grungier, and to give him longer, gnarlier toes with claws more similar to those of a kangaroo. Since I am an old school traditional artist, a correction as minor as that just takes a little bit of creativity:

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Presto!

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After his “pedicure” was complete, I got the final approval from Sarah that he was at last “the perfect grouchy filthy hoarder” that she hoped he would be!

So that’s all I’ve got for the character designs. Next I will start work on the illustration for the first read cover, and I’ll be sure to post more about it in my next one!

 

 

Work in Progress: Bertha Illustration

Published June 29, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

I wrote in my last post about a new character that I designed recently, Bertha:

Bertha Design

She is based off of a pagan winter goddess/witch from Alpine folklore, Perchta or Berchta (also mentioned in my last post.) There’s just something about her that I really like. She’s both beautiful and dangerous, with a false air of innocence that you would totally understand if only you got to know her a little.

Last week I started an illustration of Bertha knitting under a wild rose bush tunnel in the woods. When it’s finished I’m going to use the image for promotional postcards, which I plan to send to publishers and agents along with my contact info and dummy book/manuscript. Here’s the pencil drawing:

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Here’s the line work after I finished inking it last night:

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That’s all I have so far. Now it’s at the “personalized coloring book” stage that’s so much fun to come home to. After I celebrate my 30th birthday on the 30th, I will start with the coloring and be sure to post some more in-progress pictures as I go!

 

I’m Back/Recap 2: Bertha

Published June 23, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

It’s been a month since I’ve been posting weekly or on the regular, so here’s recap part two! Some of you might recall how I fell down a lucky rabbit hole on Wikipedia a few weeks back and discovered Perchta. Please actually click on the wiki link that I just provided for the complete article, because it’s entirely fascinating and obviously much more articulate than anything I could possibly ever describe in this post! She’s also quite a looker:

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From what I have gathered, Perchta (or Bertha in English) is another Yuletide character from Alpine folklore who is kind of like the female counterpart to our good friend Krampus. Her name means “the bright one” and she is a pagan goddess/wintertime witch who is sometimes said to be a ruler of beasts and the leader of the Wild Hunt. She appears during the Twelve Days of Christmas in two very distinct guises. Sometimes she is very beautiful and fair; clothed in white robes as she visits the dwellings of good children and rewards their yearly efforts with gifts of silver coins left behind in their shoes.

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At other times, when children have not been good, and especially if they have committed the particularly loathsome crimes of not spinning their entire allotment of wool, or eating something on the night of her feast day other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel, then Perchta would appear as a haggard, hideous monster and slit their bellies open in the middle of the night!

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She would then proceed to disembowel her prey and replace their organs with pebbles and straw, presumably then stitching them all back together nice and neat since she is also a goddess who oversees sewing, weaving, and spinning. She can really make Krampus look like a nice guy…and that is saying something!

Speaking of which: I guess Krampus has a girlfriend! Don’t they make an adorable couple?

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I’m in love.

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Seriously though–from all that I have read so far, Perchta and Krampus do kind of go hand in hand during Krampuslauf parades and similar events involving all manner of Christmastime merriment and debauchery. Festival goers might dress as “beautiful Perchten” (the plural form of Perchta) for good luck:

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Some were perhaps not quite so beautiful.

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Alternately, others would don animal skins and scary masks as flat out “ugly Perchten” to scare away the local ghosts and devils from the town. A lot of the ugly Perchten masks even resemble Krampus, but often with lighter fur and multiple intertwining horns.

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I always love the group photos.

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Perchten on parade!

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Some of the masks even highlight her dual nature and serve as a two-in-one!

Frau Perchta

Frau Perchta

Another interesting aspect of Perchta is that the older stories describe her as having an odd, extra-large foot, or goose/swan feet.

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In some of the older portrayals of Krampus he also has mismatched feet; one human foot and one cloven hoof.

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I always assumed this was a demon thing. Since I was that weird kid who spent all of my free time in the library reading everything I could find on mythology, the paranormal, and the occult, I actually do know a thing or two about demons, or at least how they were oftentimes depicted in medieval artwork. The medieval Christian explanation went something like: Man was created in God’s image, so although demons are known for their powers of deception and their shapeshifting abilities, they can never truly take on the sacred form of a human being. Like, they can ALMOST do it, but they’ll always be at least one thing that’s a little off about them–like a cloven hoof or a tail or something.

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As a fellow person with unusually large feet, I can only imagine how this would make shoe shopping an absolute nightmare. I feel you, dude.

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This explanation also accounts for changelings and fairies and all kinds of other weird fantastical humanoid critters that were ever said to roam the Earth before Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe. A clever way to transform the pagan gods into something that you wouldn’t want hanging around your village, and probably further enforcing the need to go to church!

However, just like Krampus, the origins of Perchta predate Christianity. The only two explanations that I could find about the odd foot thing is that it’s an indication of Perchta’s shapeshifting abilities, since she is a goddess after all, and my favorite explanation…she needs a big ol’ goose foot to work the treadle on her spinning wheel! And that, my friend, is evolution if I ever heard it!

So with all of this amazing inspiration, I quickly decided that I need to draw my own Perchta character. I’ve already been considering writing a sequel to Kris & Krampus Kringle someday down the road. Other ideas for possible characters in the second book include some other cool characters from Nordic Christmas folklore, The Yule Cat, The Yule Lads, and their mother, the wicked giantess Grýla. With all of these characters essentially originating from the same universe, it makes me want to write crossovers and backstories on them even more. I also think that I will write the sequel to take place four years later, so that Krampus would be as old as Kris was in the first book (nine years old) and Kris would be about thirteen. This would set things up perfectly for an awkward first romance!

Based on the idea that my Perchta character would be the same age as Krampus in the second book, I started sketching what I imagined she would look like as a young girl. For pronunciation’s sake I decided that I should call her by the English spelling of her name, Bertha. I mostly based her design off of the beautiful Perchten form, but I decided that I still wanted to incorporate a few of her more monstrous features as well. This is the first sketch that I drew.

Bertha Sketch

You see, this way she’s still very beautiful but she also looks like she can be a bit of a brat if provoked. I kept the long blonde hair and let the golden halo/stylized rays of light in some of those beautiful Perchten masks morph into a more naturalistic braid crown. I also added some small curled double horns. Her nose is also a little bit beastly, but still more delicate than how I draw Krampus’s nose. I was happy enough with the initial sketch to then refine it into a finished character design.

Bertha Design

I made sure to include her lacy bonnet this time, as well as the goose feet and her love of the textile arts! I also gave her an ugly Perchten mask that I imagine her wearing most of the time…like maybe she’s really shy so she doesn’t usually let people see her real face. It ended up looking a little like a creepy tiki mask, but I swear that I based the design on the wooden masks in the old drawings posted above. I think that someday I would also love to make a puppet of her just like I plan to do with Kris, Krampus, and Mama Kringle.

So that’s about it for this post. Over the past few days I’ve been working on an illustration of Bertha knitting under a wild rose bush tunnel in the woods. It’s going to be another pretty little portfolio piece when it’s done, and I might also be turning it into a promotional postcard to send to agents and publishers along with my info and dummy book. I will be sure to include some work in progress pictures of that piece in my next blog entry!

 

 

 

Lucia the Puppet: Final Photos!

Published April 26, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

Here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the final photos of Lucia, the rod puppet that I made at the Toby Froud workshop last week!

Lucia Full Body

Upper Body with Ear Visible

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Back of Hair

Close Up Bodice and Hand

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The crazy collage I made of all of those close-up shots:

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A silly one of her looking shocked and horrified in front of my bureau mirror, because she does that so well:

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If you remember, I made Lucia partially with FIMO Effect Nightglow. Here is the best picture I could get of her glowing in the dark, which was really hard to photograph and looks way more creepy cool in real life…lately I’ve been using her as a night light!

Lucia Glowing

That’s all folks!