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How I Create Go Marielle

Why did I create Go Marielle?

I’d been thinking about doing something like Go Marielle for quite a long time. Simply put, I wanted to combine my original doll artwork with a story telling medium. When I began thinking about the idea, it seemed large and kind of un-doable to me. There were so many moving parts to the project.

I worried that I didn’t have the right computer programs or technical know-how. And that my camera skills and equipment were sorely lacking.  To be honest, all those things were true. They weren’t going to change any time soon either. But the idea still wouldn’t leave me along. So I wanted to give it a try.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? No one would like what I made?

Getting started

A central character was needed. The 12 cm tall dolls with boots I’d been making seemed a good choice. Their size made them easy to transport. I had made their faces very simple, so altering the photos as I had planned, would be easier.

Interestingly, I chose another doll for the central character while I was in the planning stages. Malvi was the doll I had chosen initially. But by the time she was finished, I had created several additional 12 cm dolls. Marielle was one of them. She just seemed…I don’t know, right for the role? Marielle had a je ne sais quoi that Malvi didn’t.

My husband helped me to come up with the title Go Marielle! I liked the translation into Finnish, Mene Marielle! as well. It has good alliteration, which is something I like a great deal.

I now had my main character created, as well as a name for her stories. Now to get some pictures taken.

Always taking pictures

I now never leave the house now without Marielle in my bag. Or more often, just tucked  inside my jacket pocket. Traveling with her this way means that I can take pictures on the fly. When-ever and where-ever I feel like. On the bus. Taking a walk. Looking at nature. Reading a book.

I may take a series of pictures for a longer story, or I may just get one or two pictures for a single daily post. There is some longer-term planning done for specific longer stories. In these cases, I need more detailed plans for when and where I will be taking photos with Marielle.

So far, the vast majority of the photos have been taken outside, or in stores and other public places. Natural light is the best for an amateur photographer like me. There are plans for a bedroom for Marielle in the works. I just need to find the time to build it!

Computer based programs

Remember, I’m a one-horse operation with a shoe-string budget! I have two different cameras that I can use to take photos, but the vast majority of the Go Marielle photos are taken using my Samsung mobile phone. It’s just convenient to the way in which I structure the Go Marielle stories. I can take pictures quickly and conveniently.

My computer is an older MacBook Pro. I use the Preview feature for the viewing, sorting, renaming and resizing of the photos. Adobe Photoshop is not something I can’t afford right now, so I’m using GIMP 2.10. There are some parts of GIMP that are less than intuitive. But I’ve been fortunate that there are YouTubers with good tutorials that have helped me quite a bit. It’s an excellent alternative to Photoshop.

To put the stories together, I’m using Canva. My husband had been using it for quite a while. He suggested that I give it a try. There are parts of Canva that I find really, really frustrating. It makes me wish that I could just magically have Adobe Illustrator at my disposal at times.

For me, the lack of finesse with the fiddly bits, like color, text and layering is what I find the most frustrating. But I know that’s because I have experience and training with more creatively flexible types of programs. Canva is a great tool though. With a price that is more easily absorbed for me at present.

Processing photos

I’ve begun to wear a path in the creation of the different daily and twice weekly longer story Go Marielle posts. All photos need to be uploaded to my computer. There are some days that I upload 60 to 80 photos, then others when I may upload 2 to 3 photos. I never completely know how many photos I will take on a given outing.

I sort them into two categories; longer stories and daily posts. I then go through all the photos, discarding ones that are duplicates, or blurry, etc. I resize and rename the remaining photos. Then it’s time to sort the photos into sequences that make sense for the longer stories.

My aim is for 10 photos, as Instagram posts have a limit on how many photos can be posted at once. More often than not, the stories either fall well short (around 6 to 7 panels) or well over (12-18 panels). Instagram has stories that I think I may look into for posting some of these longer stories.

Once the photos are chosen, sized, named and sequenced, they need to be color corrected. I admit, this is something I do not enjoy. My color correction skills are at best a bit ham-fisted. And I am painfully aware of this. Once they are all color corrected, I need to go through and remove the faces embroidered on the doll in GIMP. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes for a couple of photos, to almost an hour for a longer story.

Once the photos are completely processed, I upload them to Canva and begin putting all the pieces (photos, faces, text) together into a cohesive story.

Creating the faces

All of the pieces of Marielles face need to be dropped in and placed individually. Each piece of the face is drawn by hand. I don’t have a printer or scanner, so I photograph them instead. These photos also require photo processing on my computer (Back to Preview and GIMP!). The style in which I’ve drawn them is incredibly simple. So my rather clumsy work around of photographing my drawings doesn’t suffer too much through the photo processing.

Each of the facial elements has the backgrounds cleared, so they can be easily placed into an existing photo. Each of these facial elements are uploaded to Canva. I can then pick and choose from them after I finish writing the story.

Writing the story or text

Once the photos are sequenced in Canva, I drop in the text. I have an idea of what I want the story to be while I’m taking the initial photos, but nothing is ever carved in stone. Decisions regarding the final story aren’t made until I have the sequence of photos finalized. And even then, I sometimes pull out or add photos, as the story dictates.

The rough draft of the story is left at least overnight, so that I can edit it with a clear mind the next day. Usually it takes one or two story edits before I land on the story I want. Even then, I know I’m no great writer. There is a lot that I still have to learn. Fortune has graced me with a husband who’s a writer, so he’s there to help!

I have established days in which I work on the stories and the daily posts, so that I can leave them alone for a while before editing them prior to publication on Instagram. My Tuesdays and Fridays are largely spent working on computer on Go Marielle and other things, like blog posts.

All of the stories so far have been a learning lab of sorts for me. Discovering what works, what doesn’t. As well as finding the direction of the whole idea itself. I feel as though I’m getting closer to figuring out what I want Marielle herself to sound like. But again, I’m still in the discovery phase of this whole creation.

Adding the personality

The story dictates the facial expressions that Marielle will have. Happiness, shock, anger, frustration, surprise, etc. I want to show the emotion without being too complicated in the final product. Eyebrows are essential! So much emotion can be conveyed with an eyebrow!

There are times in which the angle of the photos makes it challenging to add the correct type of face. Especially when it comes to the eyes. I’m just kind of plowing ahead and trying to not let myself think too much about some of the really wonky angles and perspective that some of the finished stories have. I keep telling myself that the fantasy element of my storytelling and art creation allow for some of this wonkiness.

There are times while working that I need a new facial feature. My clumsy ‘draw and photograph’ method makes quick work of this. However, it should be noted that even the most simplistic facial feature usually requires two or three drawings on my part in pencil and pen, then looking at it on computer before I make a decision regarding which ones to keep and continue processing by removing the backgrounds, color correcting and resizing.

Finishing work

Once the photos, faces and story are completed. Then it’s ready to download from Canva. Each of the longer stories and the daily photos are downloaded so that I can give them a last look before posting them. If I’ve forgotten a face, or there is a spelling error. It’s caught at this point.

Now, here is where Canva becomes frustrating for me. I have had difficulties getting the smart phone version of the program to work on my phone. A work-around was required. The longer story and daily Go Marielle posts for Instagram are then sent to myself via Gmail. They can then be downloaded from my Gmail to my phone. I know this a clunky solution. But for now, it works.

I usually ‘batch’ my daily Go Marielle posts, and send myself several daily posts at once. Then I download each daily post as needed. There is a part of me that is always terrified that somehow my files are going to get lost or corrupted. Having a copy hanging around in my Gmail for a little while quells those fears. Yeah. I’m weird.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a bit of a headache for me right now. I’m doing some experimenting with them. They don’t seem to be working the way in which I would like them to. Well, the English language hashtags aren’t working as intended. The Finnish ones are fine. But this is an entirely different post!

The take away

What I have learned so far is that there is a lot more work in creating the daily and longer story Go Marielle pieces for Instagram. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the creative work a great deal. It’s just a lot of work! There are long-term plans that I have for Go Marielle. So I know that the investment of time and energy into building the foundations of the project are well worth the effort.

The take-away for those people who read and enjoy the Go Marielle posts that I post each week is that there is much, much more work going on behind the scenes than perhaps non-creatives know about.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.