Guest Artist Virginie Ropars
Guest Artist Virginie Ropars shares with us her journey into doll making! A little background on Virginie before we start her interview:
Born in Brittany (France) in 1976. Virginie Ropars figures are in between sculpture, illustration and character design. She primary expressed her inner world in drawings while she worked as a 2D/3D graphic artist for computer games and TV cartoon industry. Virginie’s work is shown throughout Europe in art galleries and art shows and also in United States and Russia. Her work has been featured in many magazines and publications. She won several awards in France and in the United States. She is a member of the advisory board of Spectrum, annual publication and international competition about the best in contemporary fantastic art. Aside from her personal works, she often collaborate with other artists, mainly illustrators, on some special dimensional works. She currently lives and works in Brittany (France)
Virgine, can you please tell us a little about how you got started making art dolls, did the art come to you naturally or did you learn your skill?
I started 16 years ago, I made my first doll back then, I was searching for something that would gather everything I loved to make and create, with practically endless possibilities. I used to make drawings, digital modeling (it was my job), jewelry, embroidery and clothes on my spare time. I love textures and colors so much, that making dolls seemed quite obvious, I first thought about making cloths dolls, but I thought it was a bit restrictive for what I had in mind. I wanted to find something very challenging, because I get bored very very quickly with something if I can see or feel the limitations coming too close ahead, I also need diversity, dolls seemed the perfect matter, because it can gather so many things all together. Most importantly I felt it was perfect for constant improvement. From the start, making always the same thing or build up the perfect popular doll to sell again and again wasn’t my thing at all. I’m looking for a journey in creating, the goal doesn’t matter much. Like climbing a hill and then see another just behind you also wish to climb, there is no end to this.
I’m completely self taught, I have a degree in advertising art, that’s all I have, but I’ve always been creating art. The rest is practice and experimentation. I started when youtube didn’t exist, no tutorials and no books available ( don’t forget I was in France and honestly, 16 years ago, art doll making wasn’t even a thing, it was SUPER confidential for a handful of collectors). So I started from scratch, I’m very bad at following tutorials or even a cookbook, that is not how I learn.
What kind of art dolls do you create?
I make polymer clay and mixed media sculptures. I like polymer clay, I use different types of clay, it is very versatile and I get a quick result. My dolls are one of a kind. It is imaginative realism mainly, with a strong fantastic background.
Can you tell us about the first doll you ever created?
The first doll, was more of a test to feel what could possibly lie ahead if I did more. When I start something, since I’m a kid, I experiment the first thing I make, like the first jewelry, the first clothes, the first embroidery etc… as a door wide opened to something new. I don’t know if I’m clear, I mean by jumping with your whole brain and body on something totally new, if you experience everything about it completely freely you get a whole picture of the possibilities for the future creations
Do you have a favorite doll, or one you have never been able to let go of?
I love all of them, but the one I prefer is always the next I have in mind. Once it is made, It lives its life, it lives with a collector or a viewer, it is not my story anymore. I stand behind my work all the time, but I don’t feel connected to it anymore when it is finished. It stands alone.
How do your beautiful dolls begin? Do you sketch, write a story or follow some other practice when you when the idea comes to you for your dolls?
I do little sketches, but I rarely follow them. I start a work when it is finished in my brain, when I have a clear picture, when the choices have been made. I can’t take a piece of clay and see what will come up, I think ahead a lot, if the work isn’t ready in my head, I won’t start it until it is. I do some research when it’s needed, but mainly it is always ‘I have this idea, how can I make it’. That is part of the fun, scratching your brain to find technical or artistic solutions.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Anything can trigger my imagination, a color , a word, a fabric etc.. It is striking cords, and ideas come up, I think it’s something you can’t explain properly, inspiration is quite mysterious sometimes, and leaving it being mysterious is the best.
From time to time all artists seem to come up against a creative block, how do you deal with it?
I just do something else, take the time, doll making doesn’t need any stress or worries, I just feed myself with other things and the problem will vanish. I’ve been through a long term depression for two years, it took me one more year to be fully creative again and excited again by what I do. I’ve been able to create while I was depressed though, but I couldn’t care much about my work and it was very painful to work and create, reconnecting with the inner self took me some time and dedication to myself in solitude. Even if you’ve always been following your very own creating path, you can lose track.
Virginie, Can you tell us what you find most difficult in your doll making?
Difficulty is the greatest fun, so I won’t call them that, challenge is more appropriate I think. Sculpting probably is the thing that takes most of the time , but sometimes It can be something else I really want to try and don’t know really how to make it.
Do you have a favorite part of the doll making process?
I have no favorite part really, each sequence of work is fun in its own way.
When you are creating your dolls, what part of the dolls you spend the most time on?
Sculpting. But clothing can take a lot of time too, headdress as well. The thing that takes the most of time is probably thinking about the piece before anything starts.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? What advice would you give new doll artists?
Go deep and find yourself and be yourself.
Do you have tips or tricks to take great photos of your dolls?
Think of them as real people
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I had so many. But it is always moving when people come and say Hi on shows and let me know that they’ve been following my work for ten years or more and support it.
What other art do you create? What do you do for fun?
I try to find enough time to start to making jewelry again, in a more professional way. I love to paint too, and I’d like to dig more on oil painting side to express things I can’t express in sculpting. I like needle works too, and cross stitch is fun, I’d like to make some weaving too. I can’t live without books, and I’m constantly reading. I take some walks in nature everyday. I love to spend some time with dear friends but need to be alone 90% of my time I would say.
What is your dream project? or who would you love to do collaboration with?
I’ve made several great collaboration in the past. I’d love to work after Brom’s art again. Because the art is so beautiful and I feel so much connection to it, it seems natural to me to make it in 3D. No dream project, the dream project is always the next thing coming ahead, so I have no plan, and let the chaos of life express itself.
What are you currently working on?
Aside from commissions and shows I took some time to make something more personal lately, I felt it was the time for those things I have in mind and in my heart and soul too. So it is more about talking about Pagan forces, and human beings, I’ll add more Breton things in my work in the future I think, lineage and traditions being more and more important for me. I don’t know where this will lead me eventually, but I love the journey. I need more paths and deeper paths to explore in the future.
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