My Digital Painting Addiction

“Glimmer” done in Corel Painter 2020

I discovered Corel Painter over a decade ago when I was still a tattoo artist. I wanted a faster and easier way to manipulate, twist, and shape my designs, and to be able to present the proposals to my clients mapped onto actual photos of them.

My digitally painted tattoo proposal.
My proposed design in the process of being inked on skin.

I’m not a vector gal. Never have been. Never will be. I’m a painter, an illustrator, a tattooist, and much more. I’m very hands-on. I needed a program that would allow me to use my drawing hand the way that I use it with brushes, pencils and a tattoo gun. Corel Painter is the closest thing to actual painting that I’ve been able to find to this day.

Sometimes I just paint for fun. I created this character just for practice and as a vacation from work.

My first purchase after Corel Painter was a designated drawing screen. I went with a Wacom Cintiq. I use it still.

To transform all of my pen and ink art into colorable adult pages for my newest book Inkandescence, I worked in Corel Painter on a Wacom 24″ drawing monitor.

The first version of Corel that I got was Corel Painter X. I used that version for about eight years before upgrading to CP18, and today I’m enjoying Corel Painter 2020.

“Wish you were here” – one of my first digital paintings done in Corel Painter X

These days I create a lot of line art and grey-scale colorable art for the adult coloring community. Frequently, I actually create a full color digital painting, and then transform it into a coloring page.

One of my recent digital paintings that later became a coloring page

One of my favorite things to paint in Corel is portraits. Here’re some of my latest that I’m preparing for a new Udemy course on skin tones.

My latest portrait work in Corel Painter 2020
Another portrait done in Corel Painter 2020

As much as I love it, I don’t always work on my giant Wacom screen. Some nights I like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and an ipad, and work on my designs on a smaller scale.

There’s a popular misconception that making art digitally is somehow cheating. This way of thinking comes from a lack of knowledge. People who are not familiar with digital painting software assume that to create digital paintings we punch in a bunch of computer commands, press some buttons and BOOM – art appears. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I paint digitally, I use all the same skill sets as I do when drawing on paper, painting on canvas, or inking on skin. What the program does is it gives me a boost in magical powers. For instance, I don’t need to wait for paint layers to dry, yet I can customize my brushes and even pressure sensitivity. I can work on a virtual canvas of any size, while in reality I’m limited by physical space. I can work in media forms that are not available to me in real life. And my ultimate favorite – I NEVER have to clean my brushes.

I started using a painter program when I was already an accomplished artist, as a means to speed up and fine-tune the delivery of my art, so that I can spend more time on the creative process and less time on, well, watching paint dry.

Working digitally did not prevent me from continuing to make classic analog art. I draw and paint daily, and find that the two ways (digital and analog) only strengthen one another.

If you’re a creator, give digital painting a shot. There’re lots of programs out there. Find the one that’s best for you.

INKandescence – my audience reacts

Setting my very personal and vulnerable art, Inkandescence, into the world as an interactive art book was, to say the least, terrifying.

“Lisa, this could be your best book yet. I think it’s genius!” – Dee Myles (fan and artist)

I was fully prepared for trolls, haters, and critics, but am pleasantly surprised by the warm reception.

Dune Dancer colored by Tiffany Kleinsteuber

“I’ve watched you bloom from your very first book all the way through to now. It has been a privilege and a trip to watch and to take part in it. I always knew you were a great artist, but you only grow better! Exquisite art! Bravo Lisa! Bravo!” – Madame Laurie (fan, colorist, art student)

I was also pleasantly surprised by this amazing write-up on my book by Colouring Heaven Magazine. Read article here.

The people who are already coloring the pages, have much praise as well. I found that many colorists enjoy working with colored pencils directly on top of the dark photographs that are featured in the book, while others prefer the grey-scale line art versions of the pages. Likewise, my digital colorists are having a blast.

Inkandescence is available in print as well as a PDF download.

Harebrained colored by Isolina Aviles

I’m a realist though. I fully understand that this book is not for everyone. For some it’s too racy. For some it’s too dark. For some it’s just too detailed. I’ve learned a long time ago that if you try to please everyone, you will please no one.
My aim with Inkandescence wasn’t to release a popular and “safe” book. There’re plenty of those out on the market already. My book is for those who are like me: artistic, daring, different, somewhat on the dark side but not stereotypically gothic, and ultimately positive and energetic.

I’m thrilled that those who don’t fancy this work, just walk on by without leaving hurtful comments, while whose who appreciate the work take the time to let me know.
Granted, it’s only been a week since the book’s release.

I’m thrilled to see how new audiences react in a few weeks when Inkandescence will be reviewed by multiple YouTubers. Stay tuned for those updates and announcements.

Hide and Seek colored by Tiffany Kleinsteuber

Most of all, I enjoy seeing the colorings and reading about your interpretations of my drawings.

I hope to hear from YOU.

Join my free private community TALM, and share your art and thoughts with the rest of us.

Join the TALM family
Eye Candy colored by Mel Flay

Stay dark. Stay humorous. Stay positive. These attributes don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Art, Boobs, and Closure

My new book, Inkandescence, is not for everyone, and that’s just the way I like it.

Harebrained – “If all this stuff in my head was audible instead of visual, it would be very loud in there, all the time.”

This is the first adult coloring book that I didn’t design to be a coloring book from the start. All of the art in this volume is based on the drawings that I did during Inktober 2020, and all were greatly influenced by 2020 itself.

For me, this book is a way of getting closure on this very difficult year and punching my way out of burnout. I hope that my audience also finds comfort and resolution in its pages.

It was a very different experience for me to take my ballpoint pen and ink drawings and transform them into colorable art. It was especially tricky to take the leap of faith and share art that is so personal. After all, none of these images were intended for coloring. They were my way of interpreting the Inktober prompts while dealing with stress, and also practicing my ballpoint pen technique.

In the end, it was a great decision. This is the book that I’m most proud of. Is it perfect? Art never is. But I’ve learned to accept and embrace imperfection, because chasing a flawless outcome is a guaranteed way to never accomplish anything.
It’s honest. It’s beautiful. It gets you thinking, and you can interact with it.

So, how “adult” IS this book?

Watch this behind-the-scenes INTERVIEW and decide for yourself.

“I grew up on classical art. I grew up on marble statues and Michelangelo’s bodies all intertwined. To me, artistic nudity is just natural. It’s obscene that we have to drape our women in drapery, and hide nipples and curves.”

Swing by my private community TALM, and share your thoughts and feelings about this volume, and also show off your colorings.

Get INKANDESCENCE downloadable PDF here

Get INKANDESCENCE in print here

How to deal with Burnout in 2020

My burnout face

Burnout is that horrible state between depression and exhaustion, that seems to hit us very suddenly and linger. It’s like running into a brick wall, and it happens to all of us at some point. You work and you work, and no matter how well you do, one day – boom! Burnout. The irony of it all is, the harder we work and and better results we produce, the rougher we fall.

When we get slammed with burnout, we suddenly feel that the effort, time and skill that we put into our work are significantly disproportionate to the reward. Imagine having to work one extra hour each day for the same pay. Ok, maybe you can deal with it for a while. How about two extra hours? How about working for free for a while? Maybe throw a few daily insults in there as well? At what point will you stop and say “To hell with it all. It’s simply not worth it. I’m walking away.”

That’s how every person experiencing burnout feels. The worst part is, most of the time we can’t actually walk away from it all. We have jobs and responsibilities, so we feel trapped, enslaved.

However, there IS a way to get out of this rut.

The biggest problem with burnout is that it’s self-feeding. We work too hard, and feel underpaid, unappreciated, used even. So we force ourselves to work even harder, thinking that increasing the quality and quantity of what we produce must change things for the better. But we’re exhausted. As we work more, we exhaust ourselves further, and with every new push of effort we get slammed with even more negative energy, as we’re still not getting the reward that we ultimately seek.

It’s quicksand. You need to get out, and you CAN, without quitting your job.

Here’re eight ways to deal with burnout that worked for me

Full disclosure, I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a human being dealing with the stress of 2020, and these are the things that helped me get out of my burnout.

The first and the most effective step in dealing with burnout is also the most difficult one.

1. Force yourself to stop working

I know, I know, I said without losing your job. “Stop working” doesn’t mean quit your job and go live under a bridge. What I mean is, analyze your work day, and cast out every single item that isn’t absolutely essential. At first, you’ll hold on to all of them for dear life. “Of course I can’t skip that weekly staff meeting.” “No way can I not answer work e-mails after dinner.” “I simply can’t NOT release YouTube videos every week. My audience will freak out.” You can, and they won’t.

Decide what can stay and what can go by testing it. Sit out every other meeting, politely excusing yourself, and see if anything at all in the universe will change, other than you having an extra bit of energy. That heap of e-mails – you’re not paid to go through them after hours. Look at them in the morning, and if they compete with your actual work, bring it up with your boss and ask him/her which task they would rather have you perform. Your audience will still be there if you don’t show your face on YouTube for a month or even longer. Jesse Driftwood, who became famous by making DAILY short films of Instagram for several years in a row, just took 7 weeks off publishing anything at all on Instagram or YouTube, and nothing happened to him or his channels. He’s back in full swing, making absolutely amazing short videos with his new crew. Check him out by the way, instead of reading those e-mails.

YOU, need to actively force yourself to take time NOT to work every day. It’s harder than it sounds.

For me, I spent the last year and a half filming and producing professional art tutorials every week. Never missed a publication date. I was a on a roll. Burnout hit me as always, like a brick wall. No one particular incident occurred to cause it, I just started waking up feeling crappier and crappier every day and dragging my feet. A simple act of forcing myself to stop producing highly detailed tutorial videos every week, and instead spend more time on my art community and on my private students, changed my life instantly. And guess what, my YouTube watch-time hours and subscriber count did not come to a screeching holt. Literally, nothing changed. I just feel like I can breathe again, and my audience actually has opportunity to get personal feedback from me now.

2. Keep company of positive and happy people

This is difficult to do when you’re feeling down. We tend to hide from people all together. We don’t want to bring our friends and family down with our misery. Today, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s especially difficult because of social distancing, and because of the very obvious lack of happy people. Let’s face it, we’re all under tremendous amount of stress.

However, this step is expremely important. You NEED to find positive company and keep it. Think about all the times that a friend, a family member, or a colleague were not feeling so hot and you kept them entertained and cheered them on. Did you feel like they were dragging you down in any way? Probably not. You were probably glad to help out becasue you cared about this individual. And, if you had the opposite experience, you probably just distanced yourself.

Give people a chance. Let THEM decide if they’re up for being your positive company. It’s not up to you to make that decision for them, to spare them or otherwise. Reach out. Say hello. Start to mingle.

Now, while our strange 2020 lockdown lifestyle makes things a little bit difficult for social interaction, we do have the internet. Join a forum, or a group, or a community. Find like-minded people, who are all on the same journey. What are you into? Do you like diamond painting? Or motorcycle repair? Maybe you’re into scrapbooking or training dogs? Whatever it is, I assure you, there’s an online community out there that suits your passion or hobby. Spend at least half an hour a day there. It’s positive fuel.

In my private community TALM, we start every week with “Feel Good Monday,” where members share one thing that they are thankful for, hopeful about, or happy about that day. Some of these are very small things, like being thankful that the rain had stopped; some are larger, like celebrating a daughter’s graduation. I cannot avoid smiling and genuinely feeling good for the rest of the day after reading a whole thread of comments, all glowing with positivity. Not everyone shares, but enough people do to light up many other people’s days.

Find your light.

3. Laugh

Laughter is the best healer. I know, it’s 2020. There’s very little to be happy about, but humor isn’t dead. If you watch tv or movies, or YouTube, make sure to watch comedy. I kid you not, you will feel a million times better if you spend at least an hour every day laughing, even if it’s at the dumbest things. The very act of laughing has healing powers.

4. Say at least one positive thing every day, and mean it

This ties in heavily with 2 and 3, but it’s more specific. Just like with my Feel Good Monday tradition, saying one positive thing about YOUR life is extremely important…

Did I pick a bad year to join INKTOBER?

Is Inktober truly dead? Am I late to the party? What’s all this noise and drama?

These were my first thoughts when I started seeing articles and YouTube videos with titles like “Did Jake Parker ruin Inktober,” “Is Inktober cancelled this year?,” and “Jake Parker plagiarised my Book.”

The kind of ink work that I do.

SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel and follow my daily Inktober 2020 uploads.

Year after year I’ve been watching other artists and friends post their daily pen and ink doodles for the October challenge known as Inktober, and every year I made a pledge to myself that “next year will be the year I join for sure.” The trouble has always been that October is my busiest month, with all the Halloween content that I produce for my adult coloring following. Ironically, this year being the busiest of them all, I suddenly decided that THIS is finally the year! But lo and behold, what do I find? Controversy! Drama! Noise! Ahhhh….

Run awaaaaaaay!….

Wait. Hold on. It’s YouTube. Of course there’s drama.

So, I took a few days and did some reading and watched some videos. And …

I’m not going to go through all the dirt on Jake Parker with you. Sorry. You can find it all on YouTube if you’re into that kind of thing. The truth is, a month ago I didn’t even know who Jake Parker was, and I didn’t care.

Inktober, the event, has been on my radar for years. Jake Parker, the person, has not. I stopped an analyzed all the reasons that I’ve always been excited by this challenge. Have they changed? No.

My additional challenge to myself is to do the whole 31-prompt list with female subjects. Since the list is already public, have a test character already drawn, filmed, and time-lapsed.

I still find the concept of a drawing bootcamp extremely appealing. I still want to have the pressure of a deadline and the discomfort of an assigned subject matter to push me to create something out-of-my-comfort-zone. In my experience, all the best art is made under pressure, and with collaboration.

We get cozy and lazy by ourselves. When we’re alone in our studios we draw and paint things that are easy and obvious. We may even think that we’re challenging yourself, but we’re really not.

I truly need an outside force to push me off my balance, and it’s the attempt to get back on my horse that inspires me to create art that is unique and risky, and opens new doors. Maybe not perfect, maybe rushed, but the concepts that pour out of my head when I’m under pressure are way more interesting than the stuff that I come up with when I’m relaxed and stress-free.

That’s just me though. A pressure-driven creative process is not for everyone.

Having determined that my interest in the Inktober drawing challenge has not changed, I asked myself the following questions?

  • Am I able to organize a multi-thosand participant event that will challenge me to draw something new every day? No.
  • Am I able to simulate such a challenge by myself or with a handfull of friends? Absolutely not.
  • Did I care about Jake Parker, his cause, or supporting him in the previous years? No. Inktober has always been its own beast in my mind. To me, Inktober is a game. I love games. Will I stop playing Borderlands if I find out that its creators are involved in some YouTube controversy? Hell no.
  • Will NOT doing Inktober improve my art skills? No.
  • Will DOING Inktober improve my art skills? Yes.

So, after writing all these thoughts down, I came to a conclusion that I just don’t care about the drama.

I’m going to do Inktober 2020.

Follow me in on Instagram for daily posts and subscribe to my YouTube channel to see my drawing time-lapses.

If you’re on the fence about Inktober like I was, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as well. Your answers may be different, and that’s fine. But whatever you decide to do, do it for yourself, not for Jake Parker, not against Jake Parker, not for Inktober, FOR YOU.


Draw for YOU.


My first year on YouTube

Remember my article “A new adventure begins, on YouTube?” Yeah, the previous one. That was almost a year ago. Joining the ranks of YouTubers turned out to be a fall down a rabbit hole, and I absolutely love it. It’s nothing like what I expected, and it’s pretty much a full-time job. I certainly didn’t expect to be talking to hundreds of people on daily basis. But I’m getting carried away. Let’s go back a bit.

I’ve always been terrified of video recordings and camera appearances. Hell, even actual phone calls, where you have to use your voice to communicate with another human being, have always been traumatic for me. It’s so much easier and safer to put things in writing. When writing, you have the privilege of taking as long as you want to produce content. You get to shape and reshape your words until you’re 100% happy with what you want to say and how you want to say it, and you get to do it all in your pajamas, with no makeup on.

I got comfortable at my keyboard. I didn’t ever want to get into video, except that many of you, my fans and colorists, kept asking for video art lessons. So, one day, after watching Peter McKinnon videos, I declared that it was time. I would take the leap and just set up a YouTube channel. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

What I immediately discovered is that video is scary. Recorded video is straight up weird. That whole “just pretend that the camera is your friend” thing is not helpful at all. I don’t have any friends who look like lifeless, glossy, unblinking, black circles. You can’t just flip a switch in your head and pretend that you care about sharing something with the camera. Live recording is even more terrifying, because you get just one shot. No post-production, no chances to take out all those Um..’s. You just talk and hope for the best.

In my very first video I look like I’m about to cry. That’s because I am. That awkward, tense, three-minute episode took a full day to record and three days to edit. Scratch that. It took three months to record, considering all the time necessary to get the first camera equipment, make the art, film the art, write the scrip, rehearse the script, and then spend the day recording it over and over again.

Today, I can produce a video like that in less than three hours, artwork and all. Instead, of course, I still take three days, but produce much more involved episodes. So, what changed, and how did it change?

The one biggest piece of advise that you will hear from any YouTuber is “stick with it.” Producing weekly content, basically grinding, is the way to make it on YouTube. And, what do you know – it’s true.

I thought that getting used to the camera, to the workflow, and learning the editing software would take many months if not years. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I advanced at a geometric progression, leaping from terrified to mildly uncomfortable, to pretty chill, to “hey, this is cool,” to “hell yeah, let’s do this!” within the first three months.

I cannot stress this enough, if you’re new to YouTube, STICK WITH IT.

Of course, an entertainer is nothing without her audience. YouTube only works if someone’s watching. You wouldn’t think it, but one of the biggest time hogs in art and video production is marketing. I spend almost as much time talking about my new video releases and upcoming live-streams as I spend on video production and editing.

I believe that this is one of the most difficult things for artists and creators to overcome. We just want to be left alone and create art. We unrealistically expect that the simple act of posting a video will get someone to watch it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet is oversaturated with information, and getting anyone to see your video takes nothing short of a miracle.

Building an audience is as big an art form as the actual art that I share with you, and this is where things come full circle. Remember back when I could not for the life of me think of the shiny black camera lens as my friend? Well, now I can. In fact, now I have a difficult time seeing anything other than a curious, smiling face staring back me, because that’s essentially what’s happening.

All of you, my viewers, the people who say hello in the live streams, and hit me up on Facebook chat after the show, all of you with profile pictures and personalities, and coloring styles – I’m talking to all of you, each of you, individually every time I look at that camera lens. I see you Laurie, and you Sam, and you Kat, and you Cyndie, and the rest of the 1,000+ colorists in my Facebook group TALM. I see all of you, and all of you are there in my studio, and I genuinely enjoy our time together.

This is why now, you will rarely see me without a huge glowing smile on my face and my arms spread wide open when I start my show yelling “Hellooooo! aaaaaaaand welcome!!!!!” You can’t fake that emotion. You can’t learn it. You have to experience it. But, to get there you have to grow your audience and you have to get to know them. One feeds off the other. As I get more animated and personal and professional, more people join. As more people join, I get an emotional reward for all the hard work, and I take my game a level higher. And on and on it goes.

Now, I’m not at all a big channel. This isn’t one of those “I went from nothing to a million subscribers in a month” success stories. The truth is, my niche – adult coloring tutorials – is quite small, and having started my channel with no video or social media history at all, I had to work very hard and a lot to get to 1.5K subscribers.

I won’t tell you that it’s easy, that you just need to do it and have fun. That wouldn’t be truthful. The truth is, you have to work your butt off, spend some sleepless nights, sacrifice some hobbies and even jobs, accept a life with perpetually dirty dishes and piles of laundry, and reevaluate your whole attitude towards public feedback and criticism, if you want a chance at simply remaining active on YouTube.

I look at channels started by friends and family of famous YouTubers, or see celebrities bored with quarantine kick off brand new channels and immediately get a million or more subscribers on day one. At first, it’s discouraging, but then I remember that it didn’t take John Krasinski one day to get 2 million subscribers. It took him 20 years. 20 years of building up his professional career as an actor and a tv personality. That first YouTube episode invited his entire 20-year dedicated audience, his virtual family. I didn’t have that. I’m building it up now. I’m on day one.

Some of you may look at my channel and think it a huge success. You may have been on YouTube for two years and still have 200 subscribers. You may think you’ll never get to where I am now. You will.

Don’t compare apples to oranges. You are not me. I am not John Krasisnski. We cannot be jealous of each other or be discouraged by the other’s success. We should learn from it. You absolutely can be where I am now. And I absolutely can get to 2 mill subscribers. But we all have different paths that we take. Paths that have already been greatly shaped by the lives we’ve lead so far.

We cannot complain about not getting a head start or a boost, but we can work hard to get to the milestones that we set for ourselves, and remember to set realistic expectations. If I really want a multi-million subscriber channel, I probably need to explore more popular niches, but I may not necessarily want to. I would rather be a big fish in a small pond, and stick to what I’m good at and passionate about. An epic adult coloring channel is better than a mediocre lolcat channel.

So, what’s happening on these days?

When the pandemic started, I switched from my weekly high production 10-minute recorded art tutorials to daily live streams called  Survival Coloring, and it dramatically changed the mood of my channel.

Coming up on two-months of Survival Coloring, my personal community has grown quite a bit, and I developed much closer connections with many colorists. I enlisted the help of my husband, inviting him to be my “lovely assistant” and a character on the show, known as Tek Support. We’ve had weekly live guests, including molecular biologists, med techs, professional artists, homeschooling parents, crystal collectors, etc. It’s really been life changing, and now it’s time to re-adjust to the flow of things yet again.

Starting Mid May 2020, I will reintroduce recorded tutorials, keeping occasional live-streams, and of course the big two-hour weekend shows like the one I have coming up on May 23rd. I’ve been really enjoying having special guests on the show, and the next guest is indeed special. Albert Jones, the man behind Black Widow pencils, my new favorite brand, will be live on my stream.

I will be working on my original drawing of Black Widow, the Marvel character, using only Black Widow pencils, while Albert talks to us about his new pencil set release, how he got started making pencils, what’s involved in this business, and anything else that the live chat participants wish to know. Additionally, we’ll have a giveaway, where three lucky winners will get new Black Widow pencils sets sent to them directly from the source.

This kind of a collaboration is one of the greatest rewards of being a YouTuber. Suddenly, the people and the companies that you look up to as giants and deities, become regular approachable people that you can invite to your house for a chat. Where else would this be possible?!

If you’re an artist or a colorist, I hope to see you there. It will be quite epic, with much to learn, enjoy, and even win. Coloring Black Widow with Black Widow Pencils

Help my channel thrive!

Many don’t realize, but video production takes A LOT of time, time that I don’t get paid for. What you can do to help my channel grow and succeed is simple. All you have to do is watch my videos all the way through, and hit that thumbs-up button. That’s it. It’s free and fun.

The watch time hours and the likes are literally what drives my channel. The more minutes and likes that my video gets the more likely it is to get picked up by the algorithm and be recommended to someone else, therefore getting more views and more likes. So, if you enjoy my content, please let me know by doing this one simple thing.

I have to say, so far you guys have been an amazing audience, and I cannot thank you all enough for making this journey possible. I’ll see you on shortly.

Bye. Don’t lick strangers.



A new adventure begins, on YouTube!

This week I took a giant artistic step in a terrifying direction – I created a YouTube channel!

I have been avoiding video cameras for years, and lately I realized that I can’t escape them any longer. I simply have too much information to share with you guys, and visual demonstrations are far more powerful than written text.

My aim is to release new content weekly. I will keep my videos short and sweet, professionally filmed and edited, and full of useful information for developing artists and colorists. From specific drawing techniques, to behind-the-scenes of my personal art projects, to deeply philosophical art discussions, my channel will take you inside the mind of an artist. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

For me, the most exciting part of this new journey is that YOU guys are driving my content. I get so many private messages and comments with specific questions, that I am in no danger of running out of topics for hundreds years to come.

I always say that art is a conversation, and you are proving me right. When I release a time-lapse or a tutorial, you comment on it and it opens a whole new can of colorful worms, a new video is born, you comment on that, and on and on it goes. I thank you guys for your support and the inspiration that you give me. I hope that I inspire you as well.

If you enjoy my videos on YouTube, please take a moment to click the “thumbs up” button, and subscribe to the channel to get all the new video content. Your support makes my channel possible.

See you there.

Lisa Mitrokhin channel


Inspiration vs Plagiarism

If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” – Edward Hopper

Inspiration: noun  in· spi· ra· tion | \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən – A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation. (Merriam-Webster)

Plagiarism: noun pla· gia· rism | \ˈplā-jə-ˌri-zəm – The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. (Oxford Dictionary) Continue reading

Nights And Mares dolls 2017-2018

Nights And Mares Toys is my line of unique and unusual dolls, skulls, and taxidermy displays. In this article I will focus only the dolls. Some of these characters are figments of my imagination, while others are very specific commissions. From elegant ladies to wild winged shape-shifters, each of my creations is made with all of my heart and all of my craft.  I take into account every possible little detail, including undergarments that will never see the light of day, nail polish, individual hairs on the eyebrows, jewelry that actually sits in pierced holes, etc.

Nights And Mares is a strictly no-kill workshop. Every taxidermy element, every feather, or bone, or tooth, or wing or hoof, are specimens that I gathered from local roadkill or natural farm deaths. I live and work in a rural part of Chile, and there is no shortage of animal remains if you know what to look for.


PERSONALITY: Leonora is a porcelain-skinned beauty and she knows it. Her skin is flawless, with tiny freckles like intricate constellations, ruby red lips, and half closed eyes.

DESCRIPTION: Lenora’s face was an absolute joy to create. It took days of delicate painting with the tiniest of brushes to get her skin tone and expression just right. What took even more time and required even more tiny detail was her dress. Hand made from three types of cotton fabric, chiffon, lace, ribbon and leather, her dress is light weight, elegant and perfectly fitting. Underneath she has black lingerie and red high stockings. She wears long black lace gloves and a matching ribbon on her black and silver hair. For jewelry she wears only a black lace choker and a simple silver cross on her neck. Even her fingernails are individually painted. Her tiny boots are handmade from leather, plastic and adhesives, with hand-painted tiny gold buckles. She is a picture of perfection.  She stands perfectly balanced on a wood cut stand, with a soft felt base. Together with the stand she measures about 26 cm tall.

CURRENT HOME: Among dolls and curiosities. USA.



PERSONALITY: One of the three children of Loki and Angrboda, Hel is the ruler of the land for the dead that did not die in battle. In life, Hel was a beautiful and polite girl. Well, at least half of her was. Her other half was rotten and withered like that of a corpse. Hel is well mannered and elegant. She has nothing against living people, but she prefers the company of the dead. Her kingdom “Hel” is not a place of punishment, it is a great hall that provides a sanctuary to all those who did not die fighting. Her hall is for women, and children, and the old, and the sick… for all of us who will most likely not go to Valhalla.

DESCRIPTION: My Hel is a tiny marionette. As she hangs effortlessly on her strings, she appears weightless and elegant; polite, but a bit of a tease. The half of her face that is alive is innocent and radiant, like that of a gullible child. The side that is dead is void of all expression of life, but it is neither evil nor scary, it is simply dead. Death is a part of every life, and Hel wears that side of her without hesitation or embarrassment. She knows that were are all already dead and she does not judge us for it.
In the hands of a handler, however, Hel can move her arms, wrists, knees, and bow her head, in a playful manner.

She is hand crafted and constructed from wood, plastic, discarded doll parts, copper wire, and cloth. Her arms are made of wood from the forest by the river where I live – hand carved and polished to match her size and personality. Her face is sculpted and painted as well as lacquered for protection. Her hair cut, colored and styled in various shades of blue, purple and black. Her dress and undergarments are tailored and hand stitched to present a cute but daring little girl.

Hel’s lacquered, black, wooden handle is lightweight and easy to use with one hand or both. The strings are threaded through tiny holes and anchored by shiny black beads. On their other ends, the strings are attached to Hel’s joints. The attachments are easy to remove should the owner chose to replace the strings, lengthen or shorten them, or move them to different joints on the body. As a matter of fact, she does not even have to be a marionette. Many of the strings can be removed and she she can be hung as a display doll, or sat, or laid out, or otherwise posed, should one find the strings unsightly or the movements unnecessary.

Head to toe she measures 28cm. Arms outstretched, fingertip to fingertip she is also 28cm. With her current strings from handle to toe, the whole assembly is 66cm.

CURRENT HOME: Home of a doll and taxidermy collector. USA.


PERSONALITY: This girl knows exactly what she likes and she will stop at nothing to get the perfect accessory to make her feel like “herself”, even if that accessory is a new face.

DESCRIPTION: Purslane is a remodeled doll, with a hand painted face, handmade garments and haircut, and a collection of unique accessories picked especially by Lady Purslane herself. In her hair she wears ribbons as well as real animal vertebrae. Her right ear is actually pierced. She is wearing earrings, a chain and a choker around her neck, and bracelets and anklets of stainless steel as well as leather. Her outfit is made of silky fabric, lace, leather, velvet and fishnet. She stands effortlessly on a wooden base, which is lined with black velvet. Her attachment to the base is virtually invisible. She appears to just be casually standing on it on her tiptoes. Purslane’s head, hips, arms, elbows and wrists move in almost all humanly achievable directions, but she prefers this pose the most. Her actual hight is almost 25 cm, but with the base she stands the full 30 cm.

CURRENT HOME: Among other collectable dolls. Australia.



PERSONALITY: Aiden is a shapeshifter. She can be all girl or all bird, but she prefers to display her favorite parts of both. In her most comfortable moments she takes advantage of her highly functional bird feet, while also enjoying the dexterity of human hands. She displays her magnificent wings every chance she gets, and while her face can pass for a human girl, it always maintains an owl-like stare. She is a quick and silent hunter. Her small fairy size limits her kills to field mice and road lizards, but that keeps her satisfied. She prefers to come out at night, but is stealthy enough to hunt in daylight as well. Make no mistake, however, she is no beast. In her human form, Aiden is a very clever and well-spoken young lady, when she needs to be.

DESCRIPTION: Aiden is my most unusual OOAK taxidermy doll to date. Her body is constructed out of various plastic doll body parts, hand painted to give her a new face an personality. Her plastic doll’s legs gradually transition into real talons from a roadkill bird that I collected not far from my rural home. Her magnificent wings also come from a road accident avian victim, combined with feathers from my personal chickens and peacocks, and shaped to look like what I imagine angel wings look like, but also predator wings. She wears a tiny pelt dress made of hand-tanned rabbit fur, also roadkill. Her hair is styled and died to reveal several shades of grey, blue and black and well as silvery white. Her face, body and feet are lacquered for protection and for aestheticism. The delicate sheen gives the face a feel of some kind of a sentient porcelain.

Aiden is a wall display doll. She is permanently mounted onto her picture frame.  Above her head is a crown of costume jewels and a vertebrae from a small mammal, possibly a weasel of a cat.

It was a rare alignment of all these roadkill parts that came to me around the same time, plus the inspiration for this particular doll face that made the creation of Aiden possible. This is why an Aiden replica (honoring my no-kill taxidermy code) is virtually impossible. I can create other winged dolls, but there will be variation in wings, fur, and talons.

Her dimensions are: across or wingtip to wingtip = 43cm, lengthwise or top of the frame to bottom of feet = 43cm, depth or from wall to tips of the wings = 17cm. The doll herself, from head to talon = 26 cm.

CURRENT HOME: I created Aiden as a personal companion for myself. She lives even now in my home studio. However, she says that if the right new human comes along, she would be willing to travel, and see other parts of the world.

If you suspect you may be that human, you can view her complete profile and details here.


PERSONALITY: Playful, innocent, easily engaged, but also easily bored.

DESCRIPTION: Patches is a commission puppet. I was asked to a create a clown marionette based on a drawing of a clown that I did a while back. I chose to make the boy version of that clown. The name was selected by the client. I had a name a personality to work with. Everything else was up to me.

Patches is made almost entirely out of hand-carved wood. His creation took two weeks and a lot of patience. You can read the full story of his creation here.

He is one of my largest dolls. When standing on the ground he comes almost up to my knee, which makes him roughly 35 cm (measurements get tricky when hats are involved)


Harebrained Jane

PERSONALITY: Jane is an enigma.  She is silent and reserved, but not shy. Better to leave her to her own thoughts, and no matter what happens, DON’S ASK ABOUT THE RABBIT.

The original painting inspiration

DESCRIPTION: Jane was a commission. I was asked to create a doll based on a very odd painting of a girl with a rabbit on her head. The painting was childish and charming, and as strange and unrevealing as Jane herself. It was not at all obvious from the painting whether the rabbit was real or not, dead or alive, or if the girl was even aware of him. I replicated the face and the costume as accurately as was humanly possible, while also making Jane a bit older and more elegant as was requested, and making the rabbit more toy like as requested. I think the tiny silver jacket with the fringe collar was the most challenging part to make.  It was quite a rewarding experience all the way to the end.

My older version of Jane with a toy rabbit for a hat.

When I was ready to present the photos of my creation to the client, who has been very eager to chat but who still hadn’t paid me even a deposit on the piece, I was suddenly unable to reach him. When at last he replied with some awkward excuses and explanations, it became obvious that he was just a tourist client. Tourists happen in my profession. They are people who like the experience of being served. They enjoy ordering the commission and seeing it come to life at their bidding. They go through all of the emotions and the actions of a client purchasing an art piece, but they never intend to pay for the work and when the job is done they leave. I’ve been burned by tourists before.  I did not, however, feel like my time was wasted with this creation. I loved making Jane and was sure that her right owner would come along one day. So she did. Not a month later, Jane was spoken for.

CURRENT HOME: With her real human owner.

Tooth Fairy (original)

PERSONALITY: Tooth fairies are somewhat of a pest in this neck of the woods, yet a fully preserved specimen is very hard to come by. Apparently they go off to some magical place to die when it’s time. This one is quite fresh and well preserved. She has all of her limbs and wings, and most of her teeth. Found already dead, rigor mortis setting in quickly, she was clutching a tiny fairy skull. I believe that in life she was a prankster, as most tooth fairies tend to be.

DESCRIPTION: The Tooth Fairy was the first doll I made. She is about 14 cm tall and the entire display in a frame is 34 x 24 cm. I sculpted her from discarded doll parts and various adhesives. Her face is entirely reconstructed, new eyes set, teeth added, warts hand planted. Her wings are two peacock wing feathers and two chicken feathers from my own birds. She is a framed, wall mounted display.

CURRENT HOME: I can’t recall if she flew off to Europe or the Netherlands, but she did go in the same box with Harebrained Jane.


Tooth Fairy (copy)

About a year after the creation of the original Tooth Fairy, I was commissioned a look-alike. The second version of the Tooth fairy is identical in size, color, and character, but with minor variation. The most obvious difference is in the wings. This version has fuller, rounder wings. They are two tail feathers from my pet peahen, and two wing feathers from exotic pheasants I met at a local botanical garden.

Tooth Fairy (baby)

PERSONALITY: As infants, tooth fairies do not yet have a sense of humor or the cunning of adult fairies. Baby fairies, like baby everythings, are innocent, naive, chubby and clumsy.

DESCRIPTION: My tooth fairy is becoming a recognized character among Nights And Mares followers. I have had multiple requests for the four armed, feather winged, small blue creature holding a tiny skull. She has to have spiked black hair and warts on her face, mismatched eyes, and a signature ear to ear smile full of tiny teeth. The tooth fairy is always framed as a wall display. This one meets all the requirements of my blue tooth fairy, but it is a baby.

CURRENT HOME: My home studio. Available here.


PERSONALITY: Layla is an angel trapped in a doll’s body. She is slightly disoriented by the transformation, but her angelic nature does not allow her to despair. She is gentle and loving, a little bit spaced out most of the time, and always reaching out to the heavens.

DESCRIPTION: When I began working on this doll, I didn’t know what the result would be. I had to listen to what she was telling me. Laylah wanted to be an angel. An unusual subject matter for me, but the doll has spoken. Laylah’s face took two full days to paint and polish. I tailored and hand stitched her dress and head-dress, and I also hand made most of her jewelry. Her wings are real bird wings, having once belonged to a male quail (native to central Chile) that I found dead several months prior. The wing preservation took about a month.

Laylah is an upright decorative doll. She stands on a small wooden block, finished with a soft felt base, as most my doll bases tend to have. There is slight play to her position, but only slight. Both of her arms move freely and her head tilts just a bit if desired.

She is an exceptionally detailed doll, with much character in her face and eyes. She seems to like to raise her left hand a lot, almost in a blessing manner. Laylah is the name of a angel of conception and childbirth. To me she is the guiding spirit of the birth of inspiration.

CURRENT HOME: Home of a doll collector. Australia.


The original drawing of “Human Nature” is an adult coloring page that appears in my book Nights And Mares – Femme Macabre. Rosemary is the one in the womb. This is the page colored by Laurie Gregory, the current owner of Rosemary.

PERSONALITY: Rosemary is a sweetheart of a baby. She is quiet, gentle, and likes to be held.

DESCRIPTION: Rosemary is a very unique creation in that she has a canine skull grafted onto her human head. The original concept for this doll was called Human Nature, and it was a human baby with a wolf head. I have a set of illustrated characters who are a human/wolf family. The idea being that part of human nature is a beast – something primordial, simple, honest, logical, but also formidable and impulsive – a wolf.

Since there are no wolfs where I live, but there is no shortage of roadkill feral dog remains, I used a dog skull and a babydoll. I work with skulls a great deal, but this is the first time I combined my skull work with my doll work. The preparation of the skull was pretty standard – a month of water treatment, cleaning, bleaching, removal of all the teeth for a thorough cleaning of the holes, resetting of all the teeth back in their places, gluing of the jaw for immobility, and finally painting and lacquering. Grafting the skull onto a baby doll’s head was tricky. It took several days, a great deal of sculpting of the connection points. I wanted the hollow eye sockets to have very realistic interior, very deep set, but without leaving the entire head hollow. The result was actually quite cool. The elongated dog snout protrudes from a baby-like skull structure and the giant hollow eyes sockets actually look like wide eyes of a very disturbing baby. I was quite pleased, and for the final touch I put a pink pacifier into one of tooth gaps.

Rosemary is a soft stuffed doll, with hard plastic hands and feet. She wears an adorable pink onesie with little cat designs, she has two large black buttons and some black lace ribbons here and there. Around her head, she wears a little pink ribbon to mach her outfit.

CURRENT HOME: With a surgical technician at a labor and delivery unit. USA.


PERSONALITY: Impulsive, unpredictable, with no insecurities. Being a fairy, Mab is a trickster. She is always looking for a new scheme.

DESCRIPTION: Mab is a mutant color-changing forest fairy. She is a commission doll. My client gave me a personality description and a color scheme, and told me to go crazy. Crazy I went. Mab has a whole other baby face on the side of her main face and a smile that is shared by both. While I couldn’t make her actually change color, I gave her a very pleasant gradient of purples, violets and fucsia. Mab would be fashionable if she wore clothes. She, however, does not. Her feet naturally morph into high heel shapes, and her short hair is styled into something that resembles my own short messy hair. Her wings are peacock wing feathers. She stands locked into a pose, looking like she is just about to do something, possibly crazy. She stands about 28 cm tall.


Fay the baby troll

My usual use for this size bird feet – talon amulets.

PERSONALITY: Fay is a bit mischievous. She looks small and sweet, although a bit crazed, but she has the reflexes of a feral cat and the appetite of a full-groun troll. She mainly feeds on birds, but small rodents will do as well.

DESCRIPTION: Fay is one of the smallest dolls I have ever made. She stands only about 10cm tall. Her dress is made of rabbit fur (personally tanned by me), and feathers (collected from my aviary). The blue ones are tiny neck feathers from my pet peacock. In her hand, Fay holds a bird foot – evidently all that remains from her latest meal. The foot once belonged to a local thrush. Usually I collect the dead bird feet to make charms, pendants or earrings, but it seems that Fay needed this one.

Fay was a surprise gift doll that I made for a good friend of mine here in Chile, so I actually get to visit her very once in a while.


Susie May


DESCRIPTION: Susie May is a very unusual doll. She doesn’t have the typical wide eyed, smooth skinned face of most of my other dolls. She was a commission with very specific instructions. She was to be made to look like a doll from the 2002 film May. In the movie, the main character, May, has a doll named Susie. This doll has a very distinctive white ceramic face, a burgundy leather dress, straight brown hair, and she holds one arm behind her back. In the movie the doll, Susie, never leaves her glass box. My client didn’t want the glass box, but she did want some kind of a stand or a support. Instead of a box I put my version of the doll on to a hand crafted black wooden stand, equipped with what looks like a red leather back support, framed in black – very reminiscent of the original box.

Sculpting her face and making it look like rough ceramic was tricky. Mainly because my doll was much smaller than the one in the movie. Her very specific dress was also a challenge, but after some trial and error I finally achieved the leather look and feel as well the identical shade of burgundy.

The doll is called Susie May, and not just Susie, because she has attributes of May as well – mainly her long human legs. My doll is a morphing of Susie and May into one creature which, if you have seen the movie, is quite fitting.


Bone Collector

PERSONALITY: For a feline creature BC is surprisingly lacking in stealth. This is why she is not a hunter, but rather a gatherer – a gatherer of bones. Stumbling through the forest, stepping on every possible branch and twig as she goes, the only things left for her to collect are scattered bones. She doesn’t mind though. BC has an exceptional collection of razor sharp teeth. They may be tiny, but there are 200 of them. Eating that canine vertebrae is no big deal for her.

DESCRIPTION: BC has a body of a recycled doll, while her face is constructed from scratch, hand painted and lacquered. She is a feline humanoid, and has a cat-like face with a surreal set of tiny teeth, a pair of cat ears and a cat tail (made form real raccoon fur scraps). Her hair is a deep violet color and so are the stripes on and around her face. Her dress is hand-made from several different fabrics. It is decorated with tiny leather belts and she even has little metallic skull and bones badge. The bones she is holding are real animal bones – two feral dog and two rabbit vertebrae to be exact. She sits on a tree stump. It is dried and lacquered, and finished with a green felt base.

In her sitted position BC is only about 18 cm tall.

CURRENT HOME: In a home of a skull and taxidermy collector. USA


PERSONALITY: A bit timid, but very bright. Deathica is a great workshop companion. I enjoyed her company in my studio very much.

DESCRIPTION: Deathica is not a doll that I made. She was sent to me for a make-over. Not much work was needed. Just a new dress, and new hair and makeup. The client provided me with the name Deathica and asked that the doll be made up to look a bit more gothic, but not scary or gory. A shade paler skin, with my signature shiny lacquer finish, and some deathly purple shadows around the eyes did the trick. New eyebrows for a more engaged expression, and a bit of a licorice tone on the lips that once held a pacifier.

Her hair was cheap synthetic and not very densely filled. You could clearly see her scalp, which made her look like an old lady or a cancer patient. I did some hair magic (artist’s secret) and gave her a full head of fluffy dark hair, and a cute haircut that frames her adorable face.

Her dress is vey simple, using some of my favorite fabric. Hel has a dress from this same fabric, and so do I personally. She has a clown-like Elizabethian collar with a single oversized button.

The new and improved Deathica was very well received, and I am told that she has a much happier doll energy now.

Here are her before and after shots.



I am currently working on a duel marionette commission of a very special famous couple, another elegant glamor girl doll, and a two-headed baby sister to the tooth-fairy. To see my creations as they happen, please visit and follow Nights And Mares Toys. If you wish to purchase any of my current or upcoming creations, my ETSY store is the place to visit. The inventory there is constantly updated with new dolls, toys and curiosities. Please feel free to reach out to me via Facebook or ETSY with commissions or restoration projects. Even though I live and work in Chile, I ship to clients all over the world. My dolls and curiosities have already gone out to many of the States, Canada, Several countries in Europe, the Netherlands, and Australia.