Art, Creative People, Creative Play

Paper Doll Palooza and Interview with Creator Cory Jensen

Sof with paperdolls

When I was in kindergarten, I got the chicken pox and was home on the couch for a week.  (Now, thankfully, my children will never Golflex fashion 1920know that “joy” due to the chicken pox vaccine, but I digress.)  My grandma and mom tried to help cheer me up and pass the time by making homemade paper dolls.  They tried to make the magazines of the day work , but the images were not like those of yesteryear.  When they were young, the girls in the magazines could be cut out and homemade paper dolls created because the pictures and drawings were roughly the same size and it was easy to make them fit together (see the advertisement for goldflex frocks).  Though we couldn’t make it work with the 1980’s magazines, that memory was the catalyst for my fascination with paper dolls.  On my sick bed, I imagined the gorgeous styles, clothes, and scenery and how I would play with them.

Fast forward to the computer age and my own children.  It is so easy to find beautiful paper dolls online that talented artists have created to be shared.  As we were searching, we came across some of the most beautiful images that I have seen.  My daughter went CRAZY!!!

I mean look at these:

Cory Jensen - Aladdin1

Cory Jensen - Aladdin2


An artist named Cory Jensen has a facebook page dedicated to paper dolls that he’s created.  He takes no money for them (as they are fan-based), but I think that it is a wonderful way to build a resume – and I’m sure that with his amazing talents, he will go far!

I contacted Cory in order to write this post and he was so willing to share some information about his creations and talent.  He modestly said that he didn’t have any professional training and wasn’t a professional artist, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that he is a talented artist nonetheless.

1. How long have you been an artist?

I have been interested in art my whole life and I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil! So minus the 2 years where I could only scribble, I would say I’ve been an artist for 20 years!

2. Where did you get your training?

As I said, I have never had any actual training or schooling in art…yet. Although, I would like to attend an art school in the near future. I never even took art classes in high school, which I do regret. I watched all the Disney classics when I was a kid and I was in awe of how the drawings literally came to came to life on the screen! So even without realizing it, from a young age I was studying these movies and learning the basics of art. Obviously, Disney movies have remained a big part of my life and I continue to study them as well as the work of countless artists. So, I wouldn’t say I am self-taught, but taught by hundreds.

3. Do you do “Paper Dolls, by Cory” for a living, or for fun?

As of right now “Paper Dolls by Cory” is something I do for fun. I started making these “retro” style paper dolls several years ago and posting them on my DeviantArt page. People seemed to like them and I liked making them so I started “Paper Dolls by Cory” to reach more people. I would like to make a living of making these paper dolls but because most of the dolls I make are of copyrighted characters I don’t feel comfortable selling them. I would, however, like to create original paper dolls and sell those in the future. But for now, knowing that people enjoy my work is enough for me!

4. Are your paper dolls hand drawn or do you use a program on the computer?

 I start off the dolls by hand drawing very rough pencil sketches which I then scan into my computer. Usually, the first sketch is far from perfect so I scribble several notes on what needs to be adjusted on the computer (i.e. slight pose changes, and proportions.) After I scan them I start using a program called PaintShopPro 9, which is essentially a less expensive Photoshop. I also use a Wacom Bambo Create pen tablet to more easily draw and color on the computer.

5. What other types of artistic work do you do?

 Almost all of the art work I do is done digitally. But I am always sketching ideas in my sketchbook and even on receipt paper from where I work…they don’t like that too much…ha ha I love to draw people! Whether it is a Disney character, someone I know, or just someone I thought of. My goal when I draw a character is to convey an emotion, from the eyes and facial features, to the pose and gestures. I feel like I have done good work if someone looks at a piece of art I’ve done and they feel something.

6. What advice do you have for kids who are interested in becoming artists one day?

Explore the world around you! Find what interests you, draw it, and study it. Draw what you see and how you see it. Make the world your own! I’ve found that another good way to learn about art is to look at other artists’ work. Study their technique, ask questions like “why did they draw that expression?” or “why did they use that color?” Let them inspire you, but find your own artistic voice and style.

7. If someone wanted to purchase a set of your paper dolls, or commission some work, where could they go?

 I don’t yet have paper dolls available for sale, nor am I currently taking commissions, but when I do the information will be available on my Facebook page.

I want to wish Cory the best of luck for his future and thank him for the hours of fun that my daughters had with his creations.  I know that he will go far!

  • Do you ever do paper crafts (or Paper dolls) with your kids?
  • What are your favorites?
  • When I was young, my brother had a set of Cowboy and Indian paper villages.  Any other great ideas for boys?
Art, Authors, Book Reviews, Writing

Book Review: Flora and the Flamingo

Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo is such an enchanting book – and absolutely wordless.  Now, as a writer – I am a huge fan of words, but this book is an absolute FEAST for the eyes.  My preschooler (who is getting tired of all of the ABC’s and “sound this out” that I’ve been feeding her lately) was thrilled with a book that she could lyricise.

See for yourself –

But I will give a quick warning, however, it is not for the younger babies.  There are wonderful tabs that you pull down to reveal more pictures that young ones will thrill at pulling off the book, thus destroying the masterpiece.

I’ve also become a fan of Molly Idle who was an artist at DreamWorks and has now jumped into children’s book illustrations – you can find her website here.

Blue Boy GainsboroughI am amazed at illustrators and the stories that pictures can make.  Sometimes I will go to a writer’s conference and I’ll hang out in the illustrator panels or spend time in the art galleries.  There is so much that a picture can say, and with each person, it can be a different story. I remember that my 4th grade teacher had us write the story behind Thomas Gainsborough’s Little Blue Boy (see the picture on the left).  I can’t remember the story that I wrote, but I remember looking at the picture and thinking, Who is this? What is his story? Today I think I’ll write the story of why his stomach is poking out and where the missing button went!

(My husband just said, “He ate too many mince pies, and when he was at high tea, his button popped off and hit Aunt Adelaide in the eye!” I’m crying laughing!!!)

I think I’ve thought of some fantastic creative ideas for the long summer that we have looming before us.  I only say looming, because I do NOT want the summer to be a TV festival for my girls!  Any ideas for the pictures I should use?

Art, Arts and Crafts

Totem Pole Artwork

Students and teachers at my daughter’s school recently did a project in which they took the 7 habits of Highly effective people and corresponded each habit with an animal and the animal’s strengths or talents.  The result was a beautiful totem pole.  I couldn’t tell you which habit corresponded to which animal and why, but I was so impressed with the level of work that was put into this project that I wanted to share it with you.

There’s an Owl at the top, a fish, an eagle, a fox, a bear, a chipmunk, and a beaver.   Well done teachers – incorporating art and creativity with this program.


Art, Book Reviews

Book Review: The Apple-Pip Princess

Jane Ray’s beautiful story

It’s not often that I find a book written and illustrated by the same person that I enjoy.  Typically one or other element is lacking (the illustrations are gorgeous, but the story is dull, or vice versa).   So I was thrilled when we found Jane Ray’s The Apple-Pip Princess. 

The story was very engaging, and the illustrations were breathtaking!  The artwork so unusual, unlike anything else, and quite stunning.  Reporter, Caroline Stockwell (Illustration Magazine, Summer 2006 issue) said of her work,

Ray’s style was, and is, unmistakable. Her use of shapes and vibrant hues, described by the Times Educational

Image from Apple-Pip Princess, Jane Ray

Supplement recently as an “exuberant patterning and celebration of colour”, is influenced by the Mediterranean and Middle East. It was her borders, in particular, that made her card designs so special: intricate, but not busy; decorative, but enhancing, rather than detracting from, the main image. Many of her designs in the early 1980s focused on urban scenes, but ones that were decidedly more exotic than those to be found in London. They showed cities in India and views of Venice – a plethora of softly shaded minarets, domed roots and towers rising from hillside towns. The skies behind them were as sultry as an Andalucian sunset. There were gold-tinged palaces and palm-lined walkways with perspectives that drew on her student years studying ceramics at Middlesex University. (See full article here.)

Magic Page image from Jane Ray’s book

Look at the lovely detail on left page of the image to the left.  When we got to the page on the right, my oldest daughter called out, “oh, that’s the magic page!” Meaning the one that matched the cover.  I thought she meant the one on the left (which is full of magical items) and then she explained her definition of “magic page.”  For us, it was one of those sweet, sublime, childhood moments, when you can tangibly feel a  shimmer of something  in the air.

This story is about a king who has three daughters.  His wife has died and he has grown old.  He tells the princesses that he will leave the kingdom to whoever can go out and make him proud.  The youngest, daughter humbly goes forward and uses her talents and her mother’s legacy to heal the kingdom and save the day.  It’s a lovely story, and with the amazing artwork of Jane Ray, I felt absolutely transported to a different time and place.

Art, Creative Play, Money Wise (aka Budgeting)

Motivating Kids to be Creative with Chalk Drawings

This weekend, we had my cousin’s daughter, M, staying with us. I wanted to motivate the children to play outside while the weather was good, and I had some cleaning to do and didn’t want to be constantly interrupted. So, I sent them out to the driveway with sidewalk chalk.

Less than five minutes later, she came inside and informed me that she was bored and didn’t like to draw with chalk.

Arrgh! How could I keep her in the sunshine and not in front of the TV? We’d be watching a movie that night, so I wanted to keep it special, and if she were to come in then, and I were to put her onto the tube so I could clean, the evening movie would be lame. Not to mention the fact that if our guest was allowed inside, the other kids would want to be inside as well.

And so, the quick thinking began…

A contest.

Winner gets a piece of candy – ooooooh!

You may think it’s silly, but I mentioned my contest and she ran out the door and grabbed up the chalk.

Then I added something to sweeten the deal – I would take pictures and put it on my blog!

“I’m going to be famous!” She yelled, and the wheels began to turn in her brain. I got a good hour of creative, hard work out of the kids.

The younger ones drew on the driveway simply because when you’re little, permission to draw on the ground – ROCKS! The older kids did sidewalk art because competition and reward motivates kids.

So, here are the art pieces and as I promised, I am blogging about them.

For most fun drawing – M’s Beautiful Sunset.


For most original piece – J’s Easter egg in a rainbow.


Honorable mentions go to the younger kids that just had a good time (we drew their outlines and they scribbled all over.)


And finally, just because I just think it’s cool – a blob of chalk. But why is it cool? Because they used water and chalk together and came up with some amazing textures!


Most of us need some form of motivation to do something (money, prizes, rewards, etc.) Kids are no different. I got my nephew to do some cleaning the other day, by saying in a really cheerful and excited voice that he could have a banana if he did the work. He did it, though I’m sure he wondered what was so great about a banana.

The wonderful thing about kids is that they are moldable and impressionable. If you can channel those qualities, they will do a lot of work for a very little bit of motivation. It’s all in how you present it.


Handwriting – A Creative Art

Is handwriting a thing of the past?

My sweet first-grader (who wants to be an artist one day) has the sloppiest handwriting.  At first, I thought that it was just a she’s-learning-to-write thing,  but the more I watch her, the worse her handwriting is.  She just wants to get the assignment done as quickly as possible, but the problem is that her letters are taking on a life of their own that make them unrecognizable.  For example, her Y’s look like X’s.  Which can be very confusing and problematic depending on the word that she is trying to write.

I also found out, that my older niece can’t read cursive.  (She was aged about 10 at the time of my discovery).  So I began to wonder, what kind of education my daughter was getting in which she comes home worrying about the green movement, but has no practice in forming letters.  Where are the hours and hours of school work in which my daughter has to painstakingly form each letter on the three lines (dotted line in the center)?  Why in the world is she holding her pencil that way?  Why can’t my niece read cursive?

I mean, yes, we’re in a computer world, but let’s just say they get trapped on a desert island one day.  How will they write the message in  a bottle if they can’t form the letters?  I’m being so extreme I know, but there are several practical things for which handwriting is necessary.

And so, I decided to become my daughter’s handwriting coach.  We’ve been fighting about the correct way to hold the pencil since pre-k.

I'm such a drill sergeant, but look at those lovely letters!

Now, I would add more fighting to the mix, by insisting that she do the letter forming practice.  To make the deal sweet, I promised her two things –  1) an art set that she’d been begging me for, 2) and that I would teach her how to do cursive when she mastered the ball-and-stick letters.  Off we went to Wally-world and we got the special paper.

Amazingly enough, she loves it.  (Whew!)  She’s enjoying learning how to be precise and how to control her pencil.  Another benefit is that she gets a feeling of accomplishment and pride in her work (not to mention extra one-on-one time with her handwriting coach 🙂 ).  I can’t imagine how learning basic skills could be a bad thing.  Perhaps our story is different from most and we were just hit and miss with her teachers (each thinking someone else had done the teaching).  I hope that this is the case and that most of the students are learning pencil holding,  handwriting, and cursive.

Meanwhile, on an adult level, I began to think about my own handwriting, and how I am sometimes lazy with it.  I have been reading a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by artist and teacher Betty Edwards, who coincidentally has a section on this subject entitled, Is Beautiful Handwriting a Lost Art? in which she gives different

Calligrapher Painting on a Scroll

exercises for improving our hand.  She writes a quote from William Reed, Japanese calligraphy expert.  He says that personality can be developed  and strengthened by Ki (Japanese calligraphy) practice, and goes on to say something that has been haunting me lately –

“On the other hand, careless calligraphy is also a form of practice, reinforcing bad habits and stunting the growth of the personality.”

Wow, it makes me really ponder the importance of practice.  Yes it can seem monotonous, but so can too much entertainment.  For example, I was playing fruit ninja on my iPhone the other day and I got really bored – (wow I can cut virtual fruit!)  And yet, when I spent time practicing my handwriting on the paper that I bought for my daughter, even now (at age thirty-something), I felt in myself that same surge of pride and accomplishment that I saw in her face.  

Art, Arts and Crafts

Elementary School Art Show

Two weeks ago, my daughter’s school sponsored an Art Show for families. There was an Art competition, and displays of student art work. The school is fortunate enough to have an artist-in-residence who was able to work with the classes. My daughter is in 1st grade, and they made these amazing paper mâché hats.

I’m just posting pictures below for you to see the scope of the work. It was such a lovely activity and so great for the children.










Art, Creativity, Waldron Publishing, Writing

Summer Blues? Hearing “I’m bored” a little too much?

Pirate Image copyright Jana Friel 2011

Encourage the kids in your life to CREATE!

Have them enter the Waldron Publishing Summer Stories Contest –

WHO: All children and youth ages 5-18 are encouraged to enter.

WHAT: Original stories or artwork based on a pirate theme.

WHEN: June 25-August 20th, 2011

WHERE: Find out more at

WHY: Plenty of great reasons:

  • To stop the summer boredom blues.
  • To get kids reading and writing.
  • To develop talents and skills.
  • To build resumes.
  • To give them a chance to learn about the publishing process.
  • To have a chance to win fabulous prizes.
  • To contribute to a children’s charity.
Get writing and drawing today!!!
Art, Parties, Songwriters

Home Concerts

Several months ago, my dear friend, Cydnee had been to a home concert of Indie artist, Sarah Sample. Sarah makes her living as a singer/songwriter and Cydnee, a very talented musician, set up a house concert which I was able to attend last month.

It was a brilliant evening of socializing, eating and celebrating art and music. What a nice way to spend a night. I wonder why more people don’t do these types of activities. I know they did years ago before we “plugged in” and art forms became things that we observed rather than participated in.

Cydnee with her other true love.

This is Cyndee at her piano, she performed several songs that I enjoyed immensely (I’ve always been a fan of her work).

When we walked into her house, I thought, “wow, did Cyd get some new art?” I forgot that part of the evening was to show off Melissa Gaddis-Simkulet’s beautiful work.

Melissa's art was unique and engaging.

They put out a spread and we socialized, passed a hat for Sarah and then enjoyed a lovely concert. Sarah did a showcase of her work after Cydnee. She is a brilliant lyricist, I was quite impressed with the depth of her songs. Her work can be found  here.

Sarah Sample - Image
Sarah's beautiful smile, such a great performer!

It was such a special evening and I’ve been pondering it since, trying to think of ways to encourage friends and family to share their creative pursuits.   Any ideas?

Art, Creativity, Music, Uncategorized

Royal Wedding – Jerusalem, inspires you to greatness

Kate Middleton enters Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011

I was so touched by the words of the anthem/hymn, Jerusalem by William Blake (1808) music by Sir Hubert Parry (1916) during the recent Marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Poetry is not written like this anymore, where the words are so powerful, they move you not just through emotions, but with the desire to become something greater than you are now.

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Beneath this poem, William Blake inscribed an excerpt from the Bible: ‘”Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets” (Numbers 11:29).

Please see more of the interpretation of this poem here.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exit Westminster Abbey

Much has been made of whether this is a Patriotic Anthem or a Hymn, to me it’s both.

So here’s my challenge.  Try writing poetry, not in the Modern style (devoid of rules, rhyme, meter, or sense)  but in a Romantic or Classical style that can be seen as an anthem or hymn.  Something that is moving, both with words and phrases.  It’s harder than it looks.

We have come to a time when mediocrity is celebrated.  When people scoff at attempts to live enriching principles.

There was nothing mediocre about the wedding that was celebrated last weekend.  Extreme lengths were taken to prepare for this wedding in the name of perfection and the celebration of Marriage.  It was simply, Historic.

I want more from the art that comes from our time.  I want Art that speaks to the inner goodness inside mankind.  Words that don’t mock or deride a person for trying to be more than they are now.  Creations that breathe life, action, and a desire to be better into our minds and hearts.

When people desire to undertake worthwhile challenges simply because it builds the soul, we will be better people on this earth.

Here is a video of the event –