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!
5″x7″ acrylic, 2013. This stuffed Mary Poppins doll and blue-patterned blanket belong to Alistair, who will turn four next week. On a recent family trip to Disneyland, the “real” Mary Poppins was delighted to meet him and tickled to see his beloved doll! Mary blew him kisses and bestowed her little effigy with some special magic, which she keeps in her hat, to stave off bad dreams. Alistair has had his Mary Poppins doll for about two years, and the “Blankie” ever since he was a baby. Alistair’s mother Stephanie had me paint big brother Graham’s favorite things a couple of years ago, and so now the boys will have a matched set of portraits! The painting will be a gift for Alistair’s upcoming birthday.
9″x12 acrylic on board, 2013. This epic Mother’s Day portrait features the favorite childhood toys of five grown-up siblings. It will be given by Jennifer, whose yellow doll is shown here in a restored state… it is presently a faded and faceless shadow of its former self! One of Jennifer’s brothers carried the white dog with him everywhere. The blue bear was given to another brother when he was born, and the floppy lamb belonged to Jennifer’s sister. The green Baby Bop from the Barney show was the favorite of another sister, a huge fan of the program as a kid. I love the idea of each member of a family represented in a portrait by the object he or she treasures most!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2012. Thirty-six years ago, Sami’s mother’s company had a Christmas party which featured a visit from “Santa.” On that occasion, this doll was Santa’s gift to Sami’s then-two-year-old sister. With her soft, bean-bag body, a sweet-faced, plastic head, and a fabulous floppy hat, “Beans” was a cherished toy throughout childhood. Eventually the doll went into safe-keeping in their mother’s cabinet — until it was spotted by Sami’s neice, Ramsie! Beans now enjoys the adoration of three-year-old Ramsie and sleeps with her every night. I love to hear about toys that are beloved by multiple generations of a family!
Jessica, who lives in British Columbia, sews these beautiful dolls by hand to sell in her etsy shop. Having commissioned two portraits from me earlier this year, she decided to have one painted of a toy of her own design. She was kind enough to send me this wonderful doll as a model, and then wrote to tell me that it was for my daughter Sonja’s to keep! Sonja understands that, normally, toys that come into our house to be painted are not for her and will not be staying for long. She has always been very respectful of this arrangement, even when she deeply covets a toy. She had admired this doll since its arrival and is thrilled to hold it in her arms and have it for her own!
Jessica uses fantastic vintage and Japanese fabrics for her creations, which were a delight to paint. She also sells the fabrics, and currently her shop features cute pet collars made from them. Earlier this year I painted Ernie and Bert Little People for Jessica’s son and a Hot Wheels GTO for her husband.
8″x10″ acrylic, 2012. Don’t be fooled by the color of his clothes — this sweet doll has been known as “Baby Nathan” ever since 6-year-old Anna recieved him as a Christmas gift when she was one. She named him after her big brother Nathan, and to this day finds it perfectly natural that the doll retains his gender and moniker along with the pink pj’s. Anna asked her mother for a portrait of her beloved doll after Nathan recieved a painting of his favorite stuffed bunny last year!
5″x7″ acrylic, 2012. This sweet doll looks just like eight-year-old Cora did as a baby, and is now her most beloved toy. Cora’s mom Erynn tells me that when Cora’s little sister Hero was born, Cora changed, nursed, and burped the doll alongside Erynn and Hero. Cora adores her little sister, and now that Hero is older, she sometimes lets her play with the babydoll too. Erynn has commissioned a portrait of each of her three girls’ favorite toys… click here to see little Phillipa’s stuffed sloth! Hero’s Lamby is up next.
6″x8″ acrylic on cardboard, 2012. This “Tokyo Toddler” Blythe doll belongs to my friend Madeline, who tells me it’s a collecter’s edition which was made in Japan. Blythe dolls were introduced by Kenner in 1972, but due to a lack of interest (or perhaps an aversion to creepiness) on the part of the public, they were discontinued by a year later. In 2001, the Japanese company Takara began producing the dolls again, and today Blythe enjoys a profound popularity among collectors and hobbyists who modify them. I must admit that spooky toys are not my thing, and yet I’m very drawn to toys with huge heads and big, wide-spaced eyes (like Hello Kitty,) so I feel a bit ambivalent about Blythe! I think it’s something about the vaguely sexualized detailing juxtaposed with the babyishness (big head/eyes, the word “Toddler”) that bothers me. Are they just hipster Bratz? There is no denying that some very interesting people find them irresistible.
8″x10″ acrylic, 2012. This vintage 1970’s Knickerbocker Raggedy Ann is identical to the one I had when I was little. Mine is long gone, as her face was irreparably loved right off! I bought this one (along with an Andy) off of Etsy for Sonja’s recent fourth birthday. So far, she is fairly indifferent to it, but I’m hoping that she will eventually discover what an ideal sleeping companion this doll is. I have very strong sense memories of her firm flatness against me and the comforting, yarny smell of her hair. I was thrilled that the fabric of the dress is even the exact same soft, lightweight cotton with a tiny flowered print, and also to find the heart containting the words “I Love You” printed on her chest that I remember so well.
Sonja actually did instigate this painting, saying, “Mommy, I think I want a portrait of Raggedy Ann.”
“Sure, I can paint her for you,” I said.
“No, I’M going to do it,” she insisted. So we sat down together and worked on our respective versions!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2012. Oh, the expression on this face! I imagine that there is some sort of insertable pacifier or bottle that goes along with this very cute doll, but in its absence we can see through his mouth a slight sunlit glow within his faintly translucent head. Boy Boy belongs to Henry, the three-year-old son of Kelly who, aside from being a very entertaining blogger, is HANDS-DOWN the funniest twitterer on Twitter these days! Henry recieved Boy Boy as a Christmas gift in 2010 and the doll has rarely left his side since. He also enjoys hiding his baby in the evenings in order to prolong bedtime — clever kid, just like his mama!