Repainting dolls and action figures is a fairly new art form, but it has been around long enough to spawn a handful of super stars in the medium.
One of those super stars is Noel Cruz. His work is a true art, as he brilliantly transforms average dolls and action figures into breathless likenesses of the subject. One such work, Noel's latest, a repaint of the '19-inch big fig Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, has made quite the buzz.
When I first saw Noel's rendering of the action figure, I honestly thought it was a picture of Gal. When I found out it was a repaint of the fairly lackluster figure, I found myself saying, "Whaaaaaaaat?"
Not only is it an amazing art form, it can be a fairly lucrative one, as well. Noel's repaint wound up selling on eBay for a sweet $1700!
We were fortunate enough to get to chat with Noel about his inspiration and process.
Michael Fitzgerald Troy: A lot of people are doing doll repaints, but you are arguably one of the very best. How did you get started?
Noel Cruz: Thank you for saying so. It was really quite by accident that I discovered doll repaints. One summer day in 2001, I was casually browsing online when I stumbled upon these intricately painted faces on dolls. Although these dolls had gorgeously painted faces, what struck me was how these repaints were so far removed from their original, factory-painted versions. Suddenly, in my mind these dolls were no longer just dolls. I saw a three-dimensional canvas on which I can create portraits. Having drawn portraits my whole life, I immediately knew I had to give it a go. As it turned out, the technique, although seemingly familiar, proved to have its own challenges. I wasn't quite yet familiar with the particular set of techniques of 3-D portraiture. Needless to say, my first attempt to sell on eBay fetched no bids; however, I was determined to learn this "new" art form, so I went back and spent some more time practicing. My second auction attempt finally realized my first ever repaint sale of $160.00 - not a significant amount, but it didn't matter nearly as much as the validation of a buyer who was interested enough to pay for my first work.
MFT: Can you tell us a little about your process?
NC: If you think of the doll's face as your artist canvas, you, therefore, naturally want a blank canvas. So, the first order of business is to strip the doll's face of the factory paint. Then, the repaint process begins, carefully laying out the features of the face with a faint grayscale outline. This process can sometimes take several hours, as it is almost inevitable to make several adjustments and tweaks to get the precise scale and proportion of each facial feature. This particular step is especially important when replicating a likeness. Once the outline is complete, the application of color, shading, and contouring follows. This step is where the repaint take its life-like depth and dimension. Just as the outline is critical to laying out the likeness, the pinpoint precision in the shading and highlighting is important to maintaining that likeness established during the outlining stage. It is always very satisfying to see when the outcome matches your vision, and I usually start getting excited once the outline is in place and I can see the likeness of the celebrity staring back at me.
MFT: How long does the average repaint take from start to finish?
NC: Anywhere between 3 days to a couple of weeks. It really all just depends on the intricacy and amount of detail required. Some repaints involve hand painting facial hair, or elaborate tattoos, or intricate hairstyles and these can take days to complete.
MFT: How do you choose the subjects of your dolls?
NC: As an artist, it is very important to me that I am inspired by the subjects I create. When a particular character or celebrity resonates with you, it is a source of immeasurable motivation. In addition, I am a big pop culture and movie/celebrity fanatic. So, I would usually create characters from currently popular films or celebrities that have current significance or relevance.
MFT: Have you ever gotten a response to one of your dolls from the person it's based upon?
NC: Absolutely. And this particular celebrity happens to be my ultimate childhood idol, Lindsay Wagner, who played Jaime Sommers in the 1970s TV series, The Bionic Woman. To see her reaction to my work was nothing short of surreal. She was largely responsible in my motivation to learn drawing portraits in my teens. I was very honored to meet her on a few occasions and what's even more special is that she owns one of my portraits of her. She saw the portrait which I brought in person during a signing event and liked it very much. She asked if she could get a print of the drawing. There was no way I could give her just a print. I was more than happy to give her the actual drawing. She was thrilled, I was thrilled - it was a special day!
MFT: Lastly, a lot of people are terrified of dolls and think they are super creepy. What do you say to them?
NC: Well, I think that's what makes this world a wonderfully diverse place. Each one of us has unique tastes and preferences. Some of us like pizza and burgers and others like mostly fish and seafood. Dolls are no exception. For the most part, I find that people have been very receptive to the kind of work I do. It definitely isn't for everybody, but I can't worry or be affected by people who criticize or are not able to appreciate my work. Whatever anybody's reason is for being averse to dolls, it's important to not take it personally. I focus on doing the best that I can do and do it for those who appreciate dolls and the art of repainting.
Thanks so much to Noel Cruz for taking time away from his amazing repaints to give us a glimpse of his genius. Make sure you check out his site at www.ncruz.com.
Well, that wraps up another Wonder Woman Wednesday. Be sure to check out the I Am Wonder Fan Facebook page.
See you next week!