Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It's Raining Kewpie Dolls!......or How a Media Blitz Helped Win the Vote for Women

It's Raining Kewpie Dolls
8 x 11 inches Watercolours and acrylic paints on watercolor board 
Basic photo reference a family photo of my grandmother

This week's blog is about a fun mixed media piece called It's Raining Kewpie Dolls. I had done the original watercolour painting of the two women dressed in 1910 era clothes a while back. I did the watercolour from an old family photo of who I believe was my grandmother and a relative (?) who was pointing up in the sky. In my watercolour, to show what the relative was pointing at, I made up the shadow of a bi-plane .....and adjusted the second figure so she was looking up. But once I was finished with adding colours …... I didn't quite know where the watercolour needed to go to finish the itty bitty story. It sat in the finished bin until recently. 

I've been working on a painting series about the effort to win women the right to vote. The 100 year anniversary for the passage of the 19thAmendment is coming up in August 2020. In my reading I came across a neat story about what would be called today a media event. Apparently in November 1914 a convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association was held in Nashville Tennessee. A week after the convention, at the Nashville Fairgrounds a female pilot, Katherine Stinson staged an air plane demonstration. As she flew over the assembled crowd, she let loose a shower of Kewpie dolls with little banners saying “Votes for Women”. The itty bitty dolls floated down on tiny yellow parachutes. Well, I couldn't let an artistic opportunity like that pass me up!

I pulled out the watercolour, and began sketching Kewpie dolls.


I did a bit of altering of the original watercolour to fit the facts on the ground, so to speak. Since the Kewpie doll event was actually in November and was described as quite cold, I gave the girl looking up a heavy white suit coat to go along with her elbow length gloves. Using acrylic paints, I changed the background scenery to a more autumn dull green. Then I got down to painting Kewpie dolls. I made up a parachute, and painted them “raining down” on the crowd.

A quick bit about Kewpie dolls......they were popular line of figurines based on illustrator Rose O'Neill's cherub-faced comic strip character. She became one of the highest paid female illustrators in the country from the use of the Kewpie image in advertising as well as sale of the dolls. They became a household name.....and in addition to appearing on a throng of household items, were used by Rose O'Neill to promote the women's suffrage movement.
Needless to say, I was quite gratified to learn that in that even in that era (1910), a (female) illustrator not only thrived.....but flourished with her art!

I got to tell a bit about a past era's effort to win the vote for women.....and got a great story ending for my original watercolour painting.