Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Brother's Makeup

A digital capture of page 133 in the Ultimate Barbie Doll Book by Marcie Melillo illustrates Sun Set Malibu Francie.

Sun Set Malibu Francie is one of a few doll specimens purchased during the 1990s when my desire to deepen the complexion of white dolls was in full force. Various techniques were used, which include but are not limited to the use of Rit clothing dye, acrylic paint, vinyl spray paint, and clear varnish.

The use of Rit dye was the preferred method, but the doll specimen, I discovered by accident, has to be porous in order to absorb the dye. It works well, of course, with cloth and soft vinyl, but hard plastic surfaces will not absorb clothing dye. Instead these materials turn an ugly gray to green color or they do not change in color at all. Synthetic hair, depending on the material from which it is made, usually absorbs dye, but in a rare few cases it does not.

In the case of Sun Set Malibu Francie, a doll composed of a variety of porous and nonporous materials, the Rit dye changed the color of her soft vinyl face and her slightly firmer vinyl arms and legs. Because of their different porosity, the dyed colors were not an exact match. Her rigid plastic body did not absorb the dye. Her yellow hair color also refused to change. I tried to match up the colors using acrylic paint that was sealed with a clear varnish, but never could achieve the desired perfect match. As a result, she was tossed aside, stored for years inside a file closet.

I rediscovered the doll recently, looking more pitiful than she did on the day of her banishment. Her face had impressions of hair strands where it had pressed against the vinyl paint used to match the face and body color. I examined her body, arms, and legs and was pretty impressed with the even color I had achieved so many years prior. This is what prompted me to do something about her face and stubborn yellow hair.  She, too, wanted to be freed from her closeted dungeon.

I used Oops! to remove the old paint from her face and experimented with Old English Scratch Cover for dark woods in an attempt to darken the face vinyl. It did, but but not enough. With no desire to paint her face, I needed to think of something else to use... finally, I remembered my brother's Flori Roberts makeup palettes.

My brother in 1997

During the 1990s, probably around the time I first began experimenting with colorizing dolls, my brother worked with his then girlfriend as a Flori Roberts makeup artist in major department stores. They traveled from store to store, usually on the weekends, where my brother's good looks and his innate talent as a gifted graphic artist, drew in women seeking makeovers or perhaps just to have him touch their faces. Even though I did not wear makeup at the time, I allowed him to make me over once, and he was pretty good.

Camera-shy me and my always-smiling brother, circa 1957 in a photo taken by our oldest brother

My handsome and talented brother succumbed to colon cancer in 2007. He was four years my senior and always so full of life until his last eight months.  He was given two years to live after his diagnosis.  Unfortunately, he gave up the fight in eight months.  Even though I know we all have our appointed time, if he had been afforded access to better health care, and, had the doctors not given him such a grave prognosis, would he still be here or would his surrender have been postponed?  I wonder.  I never even dreamt I would surpass him in age, let alone in life.  I have done both.

I have a few of his things as tangible reminders of his existence in the earth realm and of course his memory will always live in my heart as long as it beats. One of his unused Flori Roberts (FR) makeup palettes is one tangible reminder. I kept it because I knew I could use it for my dolls in some way.

Using a makeup sponge, Sun Set Malibu Francie's face color was deepened with FR Brown Satin cream makeup followed by #6 pressed powder from the same palette. I used some of my blush for her cheeks.  (Yes, I wear makeup most of the time now... age and vanity have forced that upon me.)   Her eyes and lip color were repainted with acrylic paint. I even used some of the cream makeup to darken her yellow hair and gave it low lights with black hair color mascara (something else age and vanity force me to use to cover up my graying temple hair).

Dyed, polished, painted, made up, perpetually smiling, Sun Set Malibu Francie free at last!

Like me, Sun Set Malibu Francie is not perfect, but she looks much better than she did when I retrieved her from the file closet, thanks to my brother's makeup. 


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  1. Very touching post. My own brother is so important in my life I can't imagine what it would be like to lose him.

    I also appreciate the tips on "body blushing." I have a few dolls I would like to make-over.

  2. Too early in the morn to be crying. You know the picture of you and your brother did it to me. Of course the passing of cancer story, my second of the morning, wasn't much help either. So sorry for your loss.

    Love the makeup transformation. How does it stay on?

  3. Limbe Dolls and Vanessa thanks for your comments.

    V - sorry for the tears this caused. I shed some as I typed it.

    The makeup stays on because you don't touch the made up area.
    :-) I only use it on dolls that I have no plans to manipulate, but after it is applied and allowed to remain on, after a couple of days of air drying, it won't rub off with gentle touching.

    I used his makeup on Tammy. I just didn't share the source of the makeup in Tammy's post.

  4. Tammy has makeup on her face and arms only; her body is painted and sealed with clear varnish.

    I suppose the makeup can be sealed with clear matte varnish, but I did not have matte on hand.


  5. Debbie, thanks for sharing your stories about your brother. My condolences for your loss. But I think you still "have" and "hold" your brother in your heart and in your memories. After time has passed of course. Recent grief feels too raw to consider any kind of consolation or bearing.

    Two of my dolls remind me of my Dad - Hasbro's Lando Calrissian and Mattel's Happy Family AA Grandfather. I gave them some of his views and his statements. I like how your doll keeps some of your brother vibrant for you - my guess, that is.

    And you have a lovely one of a kind doll now.

  6. Thanks so much for your kind words, D7ana.

    Your dad must have been extremely handsome!

    It is wonderful that we can use our dolls to remind us of loved ones that have passed on. I have other dolls in my collection that remind me of family and friends who are no longer here.


  7. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. I can guess he loved making women feel more beautiful, and look at that, he's done it again. She's fabulous.

  8. Thanks, Kristl. I'm sure he did enjoy his work as a make-up artist because he truly loved women -- all women; and they loved him.



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