Art Dolls Only is over the moon to have Scott Smith from Rucus Studio join us for this month’s guest artist spotlight!
Scott, please tell us a little about yourself, what type of dolls you create and how long you’ve been creating your phenomenal art dolls.
I graduated from the Burnley School of Professional Art in Seattle, WA, majoring in illustration and graphic design. My career lasted for over 20 years, starting as a freelance illustrator/designer which lead to my position as an Art Director and Project Manager for Weyerhaeuser.
I founded Rucus Studio in 2000. At that time, my work was quite simple in nature. I sold pieces at folk art shows and had wholesale accounts across the country. My doll making skills are all self-taught, but many of the skills from my previous career continue to be utilized in my current work. As my skills developed I began experimenting with larger and more detailed works.
I also started dressing my characters which put them into more of an art doll category. When I dress figures I prefer to use antique fabrics as much as possible. I love the faded colors and feel these recycled textiles give the piece a sense of history.
It takes time to find just the right fabrics, but even more time consuming is the prospect of dressing. Since my pieces are static figures (not poseable), I create their clothing by laying fabric over the armature and cutting to fit, just like using a dress form.
The art dolls I create are inspired by fantasy and childhood wonder. Most have holiday-related themes, drawing from what I imagined as a child and even more now as a grownup. I love to get lost in painting the faces. Many washes of color and shading until it starts to come to life. I save the eyes for the very last and work hard to get just the right position for the character to make eye contact.
I use many different mediums in my work. From paper-mache, Paperclay, antique textiles, wood, and epoxy. Each serves a different purpose for building and finishing.
What research do you do before you create a doll? Do you sketch, write a story, or follow some other practice when coming up with the concept for your art dolls?
Some pieces require research for reference, especially with animals, while others practically make themselves completely from my imagination. The personality or “story” is revealed as I sculpt, so I just run with it. This is how many of my most unexpected characters have come into being.
Many of my characters can be seen holding something, like a lantern or toy. I would love to be able to find these things already made, but I almost always end up making them from scratch. It adds to the time involved but helps complete the story their story.
Each piece has its own challenges. Painting, building armatures, and costuming is time-consuming and just can’t be rushed.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? What advice would you give new doll artists?
Best advice given to me is to stop comparing my art to other people’s work. My advice: Even if you work in similar mediums and themes, your skills and ideas are what will set you apart – be original.
Q. Do you have tips or tricks to take great photos of your dolls?
Take lots of pictures at different angles and heights to get the best shot. Work-in-progress shots are great for social media, but when it is time to market or promote your art to publishers or galleries, good quality images are a must.
Q. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
At every show, there will be someone who discovers your work for the first time. Seeing their face light up makes all the efforts worthwhile. I also love seeing photos of how people decorate with the art they collect.
Q. What other art do you create? What do you do for fun?
I like to paint but don’t often give myself enough time to experiment. This past winter I played with watercolors again and created a series of illustrations that ended up being used on a deck of playing cards, called The Halloween Royals. That is something I’ve wanted to do for years.
Q. What is your dream project? or who would you love to do a collaboration with?
A dream project for me would to work on a single theme for a full year and make characters that relate to that theme and one another for a one-person gallery show.
Q. What are you currently working on?
My latest project was creating several pieces for Roger’s Garden Halloween Boutique in Corona Del Mar, CA. Their theme this year is Malice in Wonderland.
Currently, I’m preparing pieces for The Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween show in Marshall, Michigan on September 28th. I have pieces and parts everywhere just waiting to be assembled.
We’ve really enjoyed have Scott Smith from Rucus Studio join us this month, we’re looking forward to seeing his future work! Here’s a bit more about Scott Smith that you may not know.
Scott is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator. He worked for ad agencies and the corporate world for many years before making the leap of faith to become a full-time artist. His artistic career has also included the role of producer for several art shows. By promoting these events, along with the work of his fellow artisans, he has helped to raise awareness of Halloween art among collectors and set a standard for future shows to follow. Now retired from show promoting, Smith returns his focus to Rucus Studio and looks forward to sharing new works. You can follow Scott online here: