If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ve probably seen me posting progress pictures of a matryoshka doll set I’ve been painting for the past few weeks.
In 2012, I bought a set of black chalkboard matryoshka dolls from Muji.
I love Muji’s stuff– I always think their “blank” products are perfect for customising (see the Muji colored pencil tube I turned into a kokeshi doll). Their matryoshka dolls aren’t any different. These chalkboard nesting dolls came in a set of five with white chalk included (I’m trying to look for a product link online but Muji seems to have discontinued producing these dolls). I bought the dolls knowing I would paint something on them, someday, somehow… eventually.
Last September, Katha Magazine asked me, along with other local artists, to contribute original art to be auctioned off to raise funds for an event by Paint Some Happy, a non-profit initiative that aims to brighten up the walls of underprivileged kids’ surroundings with hope-inspiring art. However, in light of the recent disaster Super Typhoon Haiyan caused in Philippines, Katha has decided to redirect 100% of the proceeds from the auction to the ongoing relief efforts via The Philippine Red Cross.
By then the blank Muji dolls had been sitting on my shelf for more than a year, just waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. This then became the perfect opportunity to do something with the dolls, and for a worthwhile cause to boot.
For someone who doesn’t really paint (I took a couple of (not very successful) oil/watercolor painting lessons as a kid, but that’s it), it was pretty ambitious of me to pledge doing something that was way outside of my comfort zone (painting a curved surface, painting with acrylic paints, and just painting in general), but it was a welcome challenge and a chance for me to do something different from my usual digital work.
I decided to paint just three of the five dolls. Matryoshka dolls are Russian in origin, but I wanted to paint Filipino faces on the dolls instead. I started with some rough sketches, drawing typical, everyday Filipinas:
I knew I needed to use high-quality acrylic for this project to make sure the paint won’t peel or crack long after the pieces have been completed. The cheap acrylic paint (*coughReevescough*) I use for general crafts just won’t cut it. So off I went to buy my first tubes of artist-grade acrylic paint. I’ve always wanted to try artist-grade paints (high quality, and more expensive, too) but couldn’t justify buying them when I don’t have a lot of experience painting in the first place. I never had a reason to make a purchase, until now.
I prepared my painting surface first by priming (with white gesso paint) and sanding down the Muji chalkboard dolls so that the paint adheres better to its surface.
I molded half a circle of hardening clay to serve as lola‘s hair bun and placed it on top of the biggest doll. Then I started sketching and painting.