27 October 2005


Fairy-princess-zombie-butterfly (from Silly Pixels).

I'd heard of this a couple of times before, but then it was in my peripheral vision. Now, the "dolling" hobby has caught my front and center attention. Salon.com's teaser (with sample illustrations) does a good job of introducing it:

Playing with dollz
This isn't your mother's Barbie: Welcome to a Web subculture where pixelated gothic Lolitas, preps and weirdos are good wholesome fun.

By Mitch Borgeson

Oct. 7, 2003 | Petite but curvy, Lolita is a knock-out in a matching black leather corset and knee-length skirt. Her wide, oval face and saucer-sized eyes are accentuated by rings of light brown hair infused with delicate blonde highlights. This mass of curls is held back with frilly, girlish red ribbons that reveal a choker and an attached chain that drops between her small breasts. Under the skeletal remains of a Victorian hoop skirt, fishnet stockings end in mammoth Japanese-style platform boots. Lolita is nothing if not a study in contrasts.

But there is more to Lolita than a hyper-stylized, post-modern fashion sense, as the bloody stump of her right arm and her broken wings attest. Lolita is a fallen teen angel -- the very picture of innocence lost. With her smudged cupid's mouth and wide eyes bleeding tears, Lolita is both haunting and, somehow, impossibly cute. This, perhaps, can be attributed to the fact that even on her mighty platform boots, Lolita is 2.5 inches tall and occupies only two dimensions.

Scarred, broken-hearted, and gothic, Lolita wants only one thing. "She's sad that her wings are broken and she wishes she had new ones to fly back to heaven," says Jenny, Lolita's 17-year-old creator. Lolita is a doll, but not in the traditional sense. She is, according to Chris, a 15-year-old California sophomore, a "badass Bo Peep." Lolita wants to go home -- to that great dollhouse in the sky.

Lolita is an example of a new type of doll found in the almost entirely female Web-based community of "dolling." Dolling is a hobby in which tiny characters are, at their most time-consuming, created pixel-by-pixel in graphics programs such as Photoshop, MS Paint, and Paint Shop Pro. These dolls are roughly 1/2" to 4" tall -- about the size of a Nintendo character.

My dear wife has done hand drawn doodles in this genre since she was a teenager, so I guess the online version was inevitable. One fan of this craze, who tipped me off to it, posts at the Silly Pixels blog, which also has links to a couple of online dolling bulletin boards. The author appears to be the better half of Kyle over at Pit Of Babel.


Anonymous said...

Your wife would probably love it. I find it very zen to sit at my computer with a glass of wine and doodle in MS Paint.

If you want to see some truly incredible art, Jaeden is a wonderful example (http://mistress-jaeden.deviantart.com/)

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

rybys, thanks for the tip, I'll pass it along.