Thoughts on the Changes in the Paper Doll World
Over the Last 35 -or so- Years
by Judy M Johnson
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Thoughts on the Changes in the Paper Doll World over the Last 35 -or so- Years
By Judy M Johnson
Copyrighted 2004, 2007, 2012
Updated June, 2018
OPDAG, THEN and NOW
Back in 1984 when I began publishing OPDAG News for about 20 brand new members, I did the typing on a miserable Amstrad word-processor. I copied the first 2-page, and 4-page issues on my little home copier. I went 6 miles to my church to do various size reductions of b/w art sent in by members, to cut and paste into the layout as best I could. Eventually I got a bigger and better copier...then another…and another. Then I got a Smith Corona type-writer/word processor, and later a Macintosh computer and printer, so that I could print out titles for my paper dolls...but I get ahead of myself.
Eventually OPDAG membership grew and the project went to a commercial offset printer. I'd have them also print paper dolls on white envelopes for mailing. After nine years of my creating OPDAG News, my daughter, Jenny Taliadoros, took over the job…and what a job she is doing! Jenny now prints FULL COLOR issues of OPDAG’s Paper Doll Studio member magazine. She and Marilyn Henry also publish –with color covers, and wonderful articles on paper doll history, celebs, designers, artists and more- in Paper Doll Review.
HOW ARTISTS WORKED in the 80s
In those early years we artists drew in black and white with croquill pens or technical pens. We worked on either a light box or on translucent papers to get our clothes to fit our dolls. We used cut and paste-on graphics, or press-ons, with tape-on trims and lettering. None of us had a computer or printer that could print out large lettering to paste into place. We made do with Letraset and other brand rub-ons, or if we were good calligraphers, hand lettered right on our original, or on separate papers which we'd paste on.
The paste-up method left us with shadows on the art, made while the b/w copiers scanned the image and translated the edges of the paste-ups into grey lines…which we’d have to white-out before running a copy of the copy…losing quality all the while. But we did it. If we did not have access to a good quality copier, we’d go to a print shop and have a minimum of 100 copies printed…it just didn’t pay to do less…and we’d sit on that inventory for years before it was all sold.
THE ARRIVAL OF COMPUTERS
Soon some of us got computers. My first was a Macintosh lap-top, then a full sized Mac with a printer. (And now in the late 010s, a PC with more design capabilities) Initially, I was delighted to be able to print out lettering in various type styles and sizes to paste onto my hand-painted paper dolls. I discovered if I did them within a pretty oval or rectangle surround, paste-up shadow problems were eliminated. One small problem out of the way.
Soon I added a scanner and could scan black and white line art, and print it out on bristol cover paper, and carefully watercolor that. There was a problem of black inkjet printer ink bleeding into the paint though…sometimes. Still not a perfect system. Later still, I could do preliminary artwork in my studio, with outlines done in Berol Prismacolors, some color washes and shading added, but not really finished work. This I brought to my professional, (like ones you find in print shops) Canon copier-printer and scan at 600 dpi high resolution, send that to my computer and perfect it in my design program. I can add borders, copy/lettering, design details, trims, accessories and such from my huge files of clip art. Resulting in professional, yet very individual, finished product.
A few years ago, after having been asked by John Axe to contribute to a collection of paper dolls to be presented at a paper doll convention, he talked about the artists and their work, holding up their original art to the convention audience…he was dismayed to have only a computer disk to hold up to show my work. That’s the way it goes these days…sometimes…. as many of my talented friends still have wonderful in-hand art to show, thank goodness. We still get to enjoy seeing the real thing.
FULL COLOR PAPER DOLL ART
In earlier days of designing paper dolls, often the only reason we would do full color art, other than for personal enjoyment, was for publication. Having our own work printed in color was cost prohibitive, although some did make the investment…including moi…in full litho color and in photo-prints. Usually color work meant the joy of having our art printed as a souvenir for a paper doll convention or big party, or for a magazine. Even more thrilling was being engaged by a commercial publisher of paper dolls like Dover, B. Shackman, Hobby House and others.
Color commercial publishers, in the 1980s, shot their artwork with big cameras, resulting in a large negative or color transparency. In-house artists would then touch up our errors and unwanted specks. In the late 80s, publishers went to drum scanners where the art would move around a fat drum while it was being scanned. Heaven help the paste-ons that they didn’t pop off in the process! So this meant we had to present our art, not on illustration board as learned in art school, but on flexible paper. Also scanners picked up EVERYTHING. Any corrections done with white outs of various brands, any erasures, any little bit of pencil sketching…it all showed on the finished product. How embarrassing! We had to be so darned perfect, we’d be nervous wrecks while producing a single page, all original paper doll layout, complete with copy (lettering). Besides this, colored pencil work translated badly unless every dot of paper was covered, either with meticulously sharp pencil work, or with watercolor fill-ins. Colors did not always translate the way we liked either. Sometimes our lovely skin tones came off too orange or too red, making little lobsters of our pretty dolls. And if we chose a paper with some texture to it, that would show in the finished print too. T’wasn’t easy for artists then.
Now in the 2010s printers all work digitally, and so do artists.
Copier manufacturers struggled to create a machine to quickly produce one or a 1,000 good color copies at the touch of a finger. Any who remember trying to adjust our own painted colors to accommodate the personal tweaks and twitches of our local print shop’s color copier knows what a challenge that was.
We are delighted that copiers have improved a GREAT DEAL, and do a wonderful job of translating colors as we wish them to be…especially skin tones. I lease professional Canon copiers like those in print shops. Now on my 4th lease agreement, upgrading equipment each time.
MANY PAPER DOLL PUBLISHERS to FEW PAPER DOLL PUBLISHERS
In the1980s and into the 90s there were many publishers who did paper dolls: Green Tiger Press, Athena Publishing (Johana Anderton’s company), Whitman/Western Publishing, Troubador Press, Belerophon Publishing, Magicloth Toys, Current, Hobby House Press, Merrimack/B. Shackman, Dover Publications, G.P. Putnam, Red Farm Studio, Bethany, and at least 6 doll and teddy magazines, plus a few other odd magazines. UFDC’s Paper Doll News always included a paper doll, since the early days of putting reproductions of old PDs, thence onto Pat Stall PDs, and later, other contemporary artists’ work. Doll and paper doll conventions could be counted on to add to our paper doll troves and treasures.
During the 80s, we enjoyed a flurry of comic books with paper dolls published by Archie Comics (re-issues and some new of Bill Woggon’s Katy Keene); the Vicki Valentine series by Renegade Press and artists Barb Rausch and Bill Woggon; the Misty series by Trina Robbins for Marvel Comics; Eclipse comics and Trina Robbins brought us California Girls. Renegade Comics also did some curious PDs in their Neil the Horse series. A number of greeting card companies featured paper dolls on their youth play-card lines.
By 2004, after Jim Lillemoe had sold B. Shackman- and the new owners not adding any new PD titles- and most of the smaller companies defunct, and the bigger ones just not doing paper dolls any more, it left Dover Publications, a few magazines and the occasional novelty title from the larger publishers. In the 90s Magicloth Toys enjoyed a flurry of success with their iron-backed cloth clothes to adhere to the magnetic dolls presented in a carry-case format with a sheet of magnet for a play mat. (Judy M Johnson painted 90% of their designs.) In the early 2000s, Schylling Toys, did a new version of the paper doll (also painted by Judy) …clothes on an iron-backed paper…to adhere to a magnetic doll, presented in a folder format reminiscent of the 1950s.
Now there are no comic series, no new small or large publishers, few greeting card companies, few magazines with regular PD features…. Sad days for the paper doll industry and collectors who reeeeally want new paper dolls.
But Wait! Today my daughter, Jenny Taliadoros has grown her small start paper doll publishing company, Paper Studio Press, into a new, exciting paper doll publishing enterprise. She initially reprinted a few vintage books with some success. As she is publisher of two paper doll magazines, and in the circles of most all paper doll artists of today, she has put together many of these talented artists with newly created paper doll books. Some of them are-happily for collectors of same- new designs of some of our favorite “old” movie stars. Jenny works either with the star directly, or with the estate of that star if they are no longer with us. A few of these titles are: Marilyn Monroe by Marilyn Henry, Doris Day by David Wolfe, Arlene Dahl by Norma Lu Mehan, Betty Hutton by Judy M Johnson, Bette Davis by Jim Howard, and many more! Many general subject are created as well such as; Fairyland by Sandra Vanderpool, Fashions of the 50s-60s by Charlotte Whatley, Cinderella by Brenda Sneathen, Speak-Easy by Kwei Lin Lum, Nancy Drew by Darlene Jones, Fun With Grandma by Tom Tierney, and dozens more. Now by 2018, she has about 200 titles, making her Paper Studio Press the 2nd largest publisher of paper dolls after Dover Publishing.
NEW PAPER DOLL HORIZONS BECKON
This is the day of beautiful full color laser printers and copiers- that print color fast inks, and accurate color reproduction! This is the day when all artists have computers of their own. This is the day that color laser printers are becoming more affordable for home office use so more artists have methods at their disposal to produce paper doll art for this wonderful niche market.
Certainly artists can create art all by hand, doing some fabulous work, but we have other options. We can scan and reproduce vintage paper dolls, improving them from all the errors of aging and damage, as well as original misprinting. We can create and paint paper dolls right on our computers! We can send images, zip, zoom, through cables, phone lines and satellite, to publishers. We can more easily get paper doll images out there in front of thousands of potential buyers and commercial markets via websites, and now several paper doll groups on Facebook, and Pinterest.
We may well be at a new beginning of a surge in paper doll publishing. Collectors, publishers, and artists working together, mutually supportive of one another, are building a new foundation for ….. What? Where? Who? How far? Only we who can imagine it can make it happen. So pick up your pens, pencils, brushes, and “mouses,” dear artists! Search the internet, and write for catalogues dear collectors! Get creative publishers! Let’s create a brand NEW Golden Age of Paper Dolls!
TWO NEW PUBLISHERS OF PAPER DOLLS
Since this article was first written in 2004, the author, Judy M Johnson under her publishing company name; Forget-Me-Not Publishing, has built an inventory of over 1500 paper doll titles of restored and reprinted vintage paper dolls, original artist designs, note cards, post cards, book-marks, paper doll art prints, and more. See them here; www.papergoodies.com Daughter, Jenny, publishes some restorations, and many brand new art books, with her company; Paper Studio Press. See a just a few of Jenny’s listings above. See all titles at www.paperstudiopress.com or www.paperdollreview.com We have picked up where other publishers have dropped the ball, and are thrilled to have such a wonderful response from collectors.
Judy M Johnson/Judy’s Place, Forget-Me-Not Publishing
PO Box 216
Skandia MI 49885