Category: Toy Portraits

Custom portraiture and paintings of Sonja’s toys

Tin Tricycle Toy

11″x14″ acrylic on canvas, 2014. This painting was made specifically for my Brookside Museum exhibit “Storied Playthings.” The antique tin toy comes from the Museum’s collection of Saratoga County artifacts and is on display right alongside its portrait! Most of the paintings in the show can be seen next to their “models,” which is a thrilling opportunity for me and I’m so grateful to Brookside for facilitating it. I hope you’ll stop in before the exhibit closes at the end of October!

Red Riding Hood Trio, Take Two

11″x14 acrylic on canvas, 2014. This is my second study of this fascinating and strange group of dolls, which come from the Brookside Museum’s collection of Saratoga County artifacts. This piece can presently be seen in my exhibit “Storied Playthings” at the museum through the month of October. The show is particularly exciting to me because almost all of the portraits are on display next to the actual toys which inspired them!
My first painting of these dolls was made for the Trask Art Show and Auction and sold after a bloody bidding war! (Not really.) You can read about that here. Thanks to the Brookside Museum for this wonderful opportunity!

Red Riding Hood Trio

11″x14″ acrylic on canvas, 2014. It’s been a shamefully long time since I’ve posted to this site, but it’s for a great reason — I’ve been so busy with various art projects that I’ve barely had a moment to sit down and do so! I will catch up, or at least archive some key pieces here as soon as I can. This portrait of three very interesting vintage dolls was my entry for this year’s Trask art show and auction. This event is hosted by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, which promotes preservation and enhancement of the architectural, cultural, and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs. A requirement for submission to this event was that the artwork reference or take inspiration from Saratoga or its history, so of course I sought out toys that tick this box. Kathleen Coleman, the curator of the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa, was kind enough to let me arrange and photograph this bizarre group of toys from the Saratoga County Historical Society’s collection. The three jointed, hand-painted porcelain dolls belonged to the donor’s grandmother. I was fascinated by the strangeness of the wolf’s (apparently) human, female body and the witchy face and odd scale of the grandmother! The painting sold at auction, but I will be revisiting them again for a new painting that will be shown alongside the actual dolls in my upcoming October exhibit at the Brookside.

BlaBla Circus Parade

18″x24″ acrylic, 2013. Oh boy, was this ever fun! It’s a rare treat when I am given wide artistic license and a unique, clever project! Stephanie’s children, Louden and Meta, absolutely love Blabla toys. When she decided to commission a large artwork as the focal-point for their playroom, she envisioned her kids’ favorite toys marching in a circus parade reminiscent of the wallpaper motif pictured below… Stephanie also sent the (above) photo of the children’s most beloved Blabla characters, and asked that I include at least five figures in the parade. She asked me to use a script-style similar to the one seen in the wallpaper for the words “Louden and Meta’s playroom,” which I painted in a similar deep red. Blabla dolls come in a wide range of sizes, so I felt free to play with the scale of the toys in within the parade scene… in fact, the giraffe in the center is actually taken from a mobile of very tiny animals! As I pack the painting up to ship off to Stephanie’s family, I’m tempted to use circus peanuts rather than Syrofoam…


In addition to painting traditional “portraits” of your favorite toys, I’ve recently been dabbling in hand-cutting and printing stencils. What a challenge! I feel like I’m using the exact opposite side of my brain than I normally use to make art, and it seems to be good for me. I started with my new favorite motif, the classic Fisher-Price record player. I love to paint the toy turntable in particular because it draws upon my love of vintage toys while giving a nod to my long side-career as a dj. After experimenting with printing my record player stencil with airbrush, acrylic paint, and spray paint, I’ve moved on to some Little People figures, starting with the King and Queen from the classic Fisher-Price castle playset. I’m pricing my stencil pieces extremely affordably and keeping my etsy shop stocked with them as much as possible — they are moving fast, much to my delight! You can get directly to the stencil section of my shop here. I’d love to hear your ideas for future stencil projects!

Out On The Roof

8″x10″ acrylic on canvas, 2014. Here’s the story of two attempts to capture a family’s most infamous tale using toys and paint. Liza came to me with a fully realized idea for a Christmas gift for her grown daughter using Fisher-Price Little People figures and the classic blue and yellow Little People house. She hoped to portray a frightening and cathartic story from Liza’s daughter’s youth, in which Liza discovered the little girl climbing around on the rooftop outside an open window. We discussed the details and composition of the painting and Liza initially decided that she’d like a 5″x7″ canvas. It was a challenge to make sure we saw a good portion of the house and still were able to make out the details of the figures in this small format, but I did my best:
However, Liza had hoped to see much more of the house in the painting, and felt that my zooming in on the figures did not accurately convey the dangerousness of the situation. She also asked that I alter the mother’s facial expression to show surprise or horror. We decided to re-do the whole thing in on an 8×10 canvas vertically so that the height of the house would be evident. That did the trick, and when I delivered the painting to Liza in person she seemed delighted! I’m so glad we were ultimately able to convey the gravity of such an important family drama to Liza’s satisfaction.

Roan’s Monkey

9″x12″ acrylic, 2013.
So, you know what’s intimidating? Making a painting for your favorite painter. When our friend Matt commissioned me to paint his oldest son Roan’s Monkey as a gift for his third birthday, I was asked to avoid mentioning it or posting anything about it where Roan’s mom, Spring, might see it. “A surprise for all!” he wrote. Spring just happens to be one of the most awe-inspiring artists I know, and her own paintings of toys are Dutch Master level amazing. I was definitely challenged to bring my A-game! It’s always exciting for me when a pattern of some sort finds its way into the composition and I absolutely love the Art Nouveau wallpaper behind the monkey. Matt tells me that this toy has been Roan’s “main jam” since birth but is beginning to fall out of favor, so he figured it would be a good idea to honor it with a portrait. I’ll be interested to see if baby Calder adopts the monkey as Roan outgrows his interest in it!

Ruby’s Bunnies

8″x10″ acrylic on canvas, 2013.
These two bunny blankets were given to Ruby at birth, but rabbits do tend to multiply and she ultimately ended up with six of them before ultimately giving them all up a few weeks ago. Ruby is almost three, and the family had been preparing Ruby for quite a while for the moment when the bunnies would be taken away around Christmastime by Santa Claus’ liaison “Sparkles the Elf” (on the shelf.) Ruby’s parents assured her that the toys would be cleaned up and passed on to a new baby to comfort. You see, “cleaned up” is the operative term here. Ruby slept with all six bunnies every night and sucked on the tips of their ears to soothe herself. The situation became unhygienic, to say the least! Although the planned bunny surrender was to take place around Ruby’s birthday in December, a nasty red mark on Ruby’s face resulting from sleeping against their dirty ears caused Ruby herself to abruptly give them up several weeks ago. She looked in the mirror and said, “No more bunnies Mommy. Have daddy call Santa to come and get them.” Sparkles arrived that night and left a new teddy bear and some candy in the bunnies’ place and they have not been mentioned since! Ruby’s mom, Marla, commissioned this painting of the two original bunnies to hang in Ruby’s new bedroom (the family has just moved) in honor of the very important toys. It will be given as a Christmas gift along with a note from Santa assuring Ruby that the bunnies are safe, happy, and watching over her from the North Pole.

Patrick’s Bunny

5″x7″ acrylic, 2013.
It makes me so happy when past customers come back to me with new projects! Over the summer I painted a portrait of Sharon’s family as Fisher-Price Little People. Now that her son Patrick is about to turn six, Sharon suspects that his deep attachment to his bunny blanket might be on the wane. “I’d like to remember how much he loves to sleep with him now and worries when he is missing at bedtime,” says Sharon. I hope that this portrait will properly honor what a significant place he holds in Patrick’s young life! This is a particularly well-desined bunny blanket, in my opinion… I love that it’s plush on one side and smooth cotton on the other, and that it has defined “hands” and “feet” while still retaining its floppy blanket-ness.

Snoopy and Pooh

9″x12″ acrylic, 2013.

I love a challenge and I love wedding toy portraits, so this project was lots of fun! Just a week before leaving for her sister’s wedding on the Isle of Wight, it occurred to Rachel that a portrait of the bride and groom’s favorite childhood playthings would make a unique and sentimental gift for the occasion. She quickly contacted the couples’ parents to secure similarly-lit photos of the toys as well as their relative measurements so that I could create the illusion of their togetherness in the portrait. This well-loved Winnie the Pooh was given to Rachel’s sister Sarah at her Christening 33 years ago, and the classic Snoopy and attached (?) blanket belong to her beau. The painting was finished, framed, and wired just in the nick of time, Rachel and her adorable son Arthur stopped by my “studio” to pick it up before heading to the airport!