How Joshua David McKenney designs his Art Pidgin dolls –


If you associate fashion dolls with Barbies, Bratz, Monster Dolls or any other similar trademark, you will also be delighted to discover the world of “art dolls”: real unique pieces. objects which sell for thousands of dollars, which have more than seven points of articulation, and whose clothes refer to either haute couture or the artistic sensibility of the designer. While the most energetic art doll market is in Asia and Eastern Europe, the United States, artist Joshua David McKenney and his “Pidgin Dolls” have widely popularized the medium beyond of the usual public of collectors.

In 2012, McKenney, a fashion illustrator, embarked on the art of making dolls. “It interested me as an art form,” he said, admitting he didn’t know much about what collecting communities were looking for. Most of all, he wanted to create something that he would have liked to own himself. After a period of trial and error, a viral story of artistic appropriation, and a pandemic year that “was big enough”, he created a series of dolls whose appeal extends beyond his pre-existing large collection base (which can spend $ 650 just for the body of a doll).

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On Instagram, where @pidgindoll has 175,000 followers, makeup artists and cosplayers recreating McKenney’s looks, and on Tiktok, McKenney reflects on dolls, masculinity, and doll history for audiences of 350k subscribers while also sharing many work in progress videos where he could sculpt a doll’s face with drag and contour style techniques or color and style a wig from scratch. He told ARTnews about the creative process behind his 1: 4 scale Pidgin Doll, his signature mold.

Resin for the body

Pidgin Doll’s body is made from resin and comes in a range of skin tones including milky white, light mocha, cocoa, and obsidian. The main sculpture, launched in 2017, is 1: 4 scale. The first Pidgin dolls were larger, 1: 3 scale. They were completely handmade from porcelain, and they had what McKenney defines it as a “sweet girl” about them. Then he scaled them to 1: 6 numerically – 1: 6 is the size of a Barbie doll. This new version had a very “delicate” beauty, but presented a different set of challenges. “As an artist, I found it very difficult to paint faces and make them look as expressive as when they were bigger.”

In the end, he opted for the 1: 4 resin scale. “Resin, I would say, is most similar to porcelain, but it’s not as brittle,” he says. “So when you hold it, you can see it’s a substantial work of art; it doesn’t look like a commercial plastic doll. The doll alone weighs three to four pounds. The construction of the body begins with a digital sculpture which is then 3D printed. Then he makes molds from the prints, which are ultimately cast in resin. “They aren’t 3D printed per se, but the master sculptor to make the mold to make the doll is,” he said.

Joshua David McKenney

Joshua David McKenney Pidgin “Theda” Doll
Joshua David McKenney

“Make-up” to sculpt a face

The blank sculpture of the doll’s face is designed to be ethnically ambiguous. “Pidgin’s idea is that she’s a sculpture of a doll, and she’s very fluid in her appearance: she’s not racially specific,” McKenney said. In fact, her sculpted face transforms completely through the makeup. “I have always loved makeup artists and have always been interested in how you can transform a face with makeup,” he said. “Makeup is all about style.” What differentiates a face from others is mainly achieved by eye makeup. “Most of the expressions are still in the eyes,” he says. “So it’s just about using color and shape so that it doesn’t really sculpt the eye, but just to give it a different vibe: my doll’s eyes are made without a lot of detail in the sculpture. So when I paint there is a lot of room for interpretation.

Pidgin Dolls sports eye makeup, such as glam smoky eyes, bold 1960s style, MOD twiggy look, and e-girl makeup. He credits the culture of drag as a source of inspiration. “I consider my dolls to be really an expression adjacent to drag,” he says. “I’m a male person, but I’ve always been interested in femininity and female makeup. I’m not an artist and I don’t really think of myself as a drag queen. But I have a lot of things, artistically, that I want to say about femininity and aesthetics, and sort of doing it through the dolls. Make-up is done with standard art supplies. “I use powdered pastel, which is the same consistency as the eye shadow, but the eye shadow has oils and things in it to help it stick to the skin, and you don’t want to put that on them. dolls because it’s added chemistry that you don’t need, and it could damage the resin, ”he said.

Joshua David McKenney

Joshua David McKenney Pidgin Dolls
Joshua David McKenney

Find the perfect hair

Each Pidgin doll has hair that makes Disney princesses and anime heroines look dull. Unlike in the case of resin and pastel powder, there is no one-size-fits-all process for making Pidgin Doll wigs, which by their own design are interchangeable – your doll will not be stuck with a Farrah cut. Fawcett if you want to upgrade to a Rita Hayworth mane or mod bob.

The three main materials are acrylic yarn, alpaca and wool. “If you do some sort of hairstyle that looks very artificial, you would use acrylic fiber,” McKenney said. “If you want to have some kind of natural, flowing mermaid hair, you’ll use alpaca.” For the texture of curly hair, wool is the best option. Materials also affect the dyes you can use: animal fibers can pull off human hair dyes, while synthetic fibers need dyes that match their makeup. Human hair doesn’t work for dolls: it’s too thick for a 1: 4 scale model, while alpaca and acrylic faithfully replicates human hair and texture on a doll this size.

A fashion-conscious wardrobe

As a former fashion illustrator, McKenney has, over the years, designed numerous series of doll clothes that range from rococo-inspired fashion and 1960s mod to ballet flats and game aesthetics. video, with a particular eye for touch and material in regards to a 1: 4 scale mockup. “Often times when you try to take a garment on a human scale and scale it down it doesn’t ‘There isn’t enough gravity to get the clothes the way they need to look good, ”he said. “So I tend to do things that are rather tight or very bulky because they look great on the doll.”

Recurring elements include holographic details, sparkles and reflections. “When there’s a little spark in there, it just makes her feel a little more special,” he said. “You don’t want to overdo it to make it look sticky, but I’m just thinking a little bit of sparkle – it makes a doll feel more special.”

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