American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Accessories Reviews: Saige's Painting Set (2013)

Part 1: Saige's Sweater Outfit. Part 2: Saige's Painting Set.
And now time for Part Two in my "Better Know a AGGiB Member--" wait, that's not it. That's later. Time for the second half of my review of Saige's items before the year ends: Saige's Painting Set.

To rehash the opening details--Saige is boring and white in a state where there's a high Latina/Native population so bad move AG, however I think her things are pretty nifty. Thus I have often been known to buy the GotY stuff and ditch the central girl. Reviewing this now so that people who want it can see it before the year ends and you're stuck paying eBay prices. Are we all caught up? Goodie goodie gumdrops.

Paint Set, with all the components. Tubes in the back.
Saige's Painting Set consists of a plastic wood modeled easel, water/brush cup, five non-functional paint tubes, four brushes, an artist's palette with faux plaint blobs, five completed paintings, five completed sketches, an art portfolio, and a drawing pad. I paid the full cost of $48 at the start of the year. eBay's already throwing $70 prices, which as we all know is madness. Don't do it, people, if you can get it now.

There will be images of Abbi playing with and handling a lot of the items in the set, because she's the artist around here--another reason we don't need Saige in the AGGiB. Also, as a person who actually arts the things, there will actually be comparisons to my own full sized art supplies.

Part 1, Saige's Sweater Outfit, is here. Read it as you'd like; I've linked to this one here in that one. Also, some of these shots come from when I got the set way back in January, though you might not be able to tell which.
Easel down, easel down the road...

Easel: The easel is a plastic and wood tripod A-frame art easel, with "wood" and an attached white plastic stand to help it stand. First of all, my major complaint comes up right at the start before even discussing the minor details. It's actually too short for a doll to use properly in scale as a standing floor easel. It's fifteen inches tall standing--or about three and a half feet tall if going off a 1:3 scale the AG dolls are approximating.1 I don't yet own a standing floor easel, but a standard height is about 64 inches--or about five foot four inches, which would mean the easel would be properly scaled at about 21 inches. A few more inches would have made it the right height. So this seems more like a sitting easel. But enough complaints about the easel being too short. 

Giving you lip.
The easel front has a lip to hold canvases and sketches, like a real easel. Just enough of a shelf to hold a canvas.

Little dent for the cup; cup comes later in the review.
There's a notch on the left of the easel for holding the water cup as you'll see later in the review.You can also see the faux wood grain on the wood in this close up.

Triangle shelf up.
A triangular shelf is attached to the front two legs permanently.

Shelf storage.
When let down, the shelf has a small hook lip that hooks against the back leg so that the easel can stand and provides shelf space for smaller items. It's got a small indent so things don't roll off. I actually like the shelf--though again, it's so low that a character would have to squat down to reach the items set down on it.

Now with painting.
The shelf will properly hold any one of the paintings that comes with the set...

And now with sketching.
Or the sketches, though they look way out of scale.

With reality.
As I said, I don't have a floor easel--but I do have a tabletop easel, which I either use tableside or on the floor, sitting in front of it. I've also used it in AG pictures before since it's 21 inches tall. I can even slide the bottom part up for pictures so it looks in scale to my gang.  The small one shows that it's more than a little accurate, barring being significantly short as compared to the doll who would be using it. In fact...

Real canvas!
The doll canvas will properly hold a small, authentic canvas. This is on of my 9" by 12" pre-primed flat canvas boards, which can stay on there without the easel tipping over. I even put one of my 12 by 16 inches and it stayed upright--though it looked way too big for scale. With the bigger canvas it looks a lot less out of scale; it's possible to see the easel as taller than it is and a lot less low.

The easel gets a B-. It's steady standing and sensible, and I do adore the shelf. I just wish AG had sprung to make it a few inches taller. so it didn't look like a doll had to crouch down to use it.

And then there was a cup.
Cup:  The cup is a small red plastic molded cup with a knob to one side.

Look into its depths.
It's deep enough to hold the brushes, though in practice it would actually hold brush water/cleaner. Since this set implies acrylics instead of oils, only water is needed instead of turpentine. 

Pop it in!
The little notch on the side of the easel? Is for the cup to notch in, and it fits just right. Set those brushes or water in there and paint away. B. I mean, it's a water/brush cup. As long as it does its job it doesn't get yelled at.

Paint tubes. I am not pleased.
Paint Tubes: The set includes five acrylic paint tubes--fake, though Pleasant Company did release a set for Samantha years ago that included six (and later five tubes) of authentic watercolor paints. The tubes are white molded plastics.

The paints are in white tubes with caps that are red, white, blue, yellow, and black.

A tube alone in yellow.
Each tube of paint is slight rolled up to show paint usage and squished up like they have been actually used.  Apparently Saige uses a lot of white and very little black, which makes sense--too much black will overpower another color.

Each tube is labeled with flat colors. And this annoys me. While I know that this is a child's paint set, it couldn't have hurt to used realistic paint names.

Actual paints with actual names.
Most acrylic paints or high quality paints don't go by generic flat names--you have ultramarine and cobalt blue, or lamp black, or titanium white. It would have added a lot more authenticity to the set, as Saige is a fairly skilled painter. So would have putting green paint in the set. Green is a very hard color to mix properly, and it's much easier to buy the right shade some times. These are some of the paints I use for my painting, and while not super high quality they work very well for picture and pony painting.

The paints get a C. I'm picky about my faux paints. Something as small as realistic paint names would have gotten a higher grade. But nope--flat names and no green. Boo.

Brushy brushy brushy.
Brushes: There are four doll sized art brushes included--two rounds and two filbert brushes, each with different colored plastic handles. The blue and red are rounds; the purple and green are filberts, though I thought the green one was a flat when I first got the set.

Tip of the brush, gov'n'r.
The brushes are well crafted with nice metal clamps and soft bristles that spread well--I get the feeling they would lay paint down well when used. Not that I'm going to. If I want to paint doll paintings I'll use my full sized supplies that come about that small so that full handles and all.

No, I don't know why they're called filbert and I don't care.
The smaller brush as compared to my own filbert brush is uncanny, though my brushes have wooden handles. 

 Same with the rounds. 

I've been known to hold a brush like this.
While she can't hold the brush with thumb and forefinger--is there any doll that has a hand set up for that?--Abbi can tuck it in which is how I've tucked brushes while thinking.

The brushes get an A+. It feels like they got a shrink-ray on real brushes and put them in the set and--again, if I was inclined to use em--feel like they would actually paint well.

Palette in use.
Palette2:  The painter's pallet is plastic faux wood with molded on paint blobs. Each matches the tubes that came with the set. Except ochre, which doesn't have a tube. Yeah, I don't know either. Apparently we're just throwing any old color on the palette and ignoring the actual tubes, whatever. I do like that the paints have smears like they've been used, though with very little mixing. Ah well.

The back of the palette shows the wood grain mock up. Strangely enough, the palette looks better from the back, mostly because the paints aren't visible at all.

In Abbi's hand, cause that's how you paints.
Abbi can hold the palette, though right now she's not in the thumb twisting way I tend to hold my art palette; she holds it between her fingers. I can also twist it to kind of hook on her thumb, but I didn't at this point.

Now with real palette!
My real palette with the doll's one on top of it; mine is clear acrylic, and shows the wear and tear of use. I happily mix paints with a knife on it.

It gets a B-. It's cute enough, but I still have no idea why AG busted out ochre out of nowhere. I'll be tracing around it and trying to make a second one, that doesn't have off kilter colors to me--likely out of balsa wood. Or thick plastic.

Drawing at a premium!
Sketch Pad: The sketch pad is a purple covered tape bound sketch pad made of premium drawing paper. The cover has a flower and notes that there are 20 sheets inside, and the side is black tape bound. It doesn't have a brand on it, but it looks an awful lot like my sketch pads--I tend to buy mine on sale, when I'm not buying sketchbooks.3

Papers inside.
The paper inside is actually good quality sketch paper, and there are exactly twenty sheets. They look like they could easily come out, though I'm deliberately trying not to do that. The back is cardboard, thick enough to support the pages like actual sketch pads.

Look at these perfect little pages.
I don't ever plan to take the pages out--if I want authentic sketch paper for Abbi I'll make some myself, or buy another small sketch pad. This is too twee to scribble all over mindlessly. I might do some tiny sketches later on to more authenticate it as . There's no image of my own sketch pad just yet; later in the review, though. And no, you can't see my arts unless they're on my DeviantArt. So there.

A+ sketch pad. It's very authentic--more authentic than the paints. I do suspect though that children will use it up. But if they have fun using it, then huzzah for them after all.

Sketching the Southwest everywhere.
Sketches: Since Saige is a southwestern style artist--and in theory, this is for her--the set has five "pencil" sketches of southwestern style art on stiffer artist quality paper. The sketches are actually printed on so they can't be erased off, but are printed on smooth Bristol paper. I compared it to my own Bristol paper I have for original art trading cards, and they feel about the same.

Laying flat.
The sketches are a house--perhaps hers--some running horses, a standing horse, boots and a hat, and a southwestern style landscape. Saige leans towards realism instead of a more abstract or toon style art.

Happy little ponies, happy little bush, happy little art.
The sketches are fairly good--you can tell in each what "Saige" was drawing. And considering the character who has been working on them is supposed to be about ten years old this is really skilled for her age.

Cross hatch, draw the latch. No, wait, draw the pony.
There's even fairly proper shading and cross hatching for that three dimensional look. I suspect AG had someone in the company actually sketch out sketches and then shrink them down for the printing. While they do lock the set into being Saige's unless your moddie has a lean towards the southwest, they're very skilled art pieces. A+.

Portfolio, for the storage of the arts.
Portfolio: The portfolio, for the holding of sketches and other arts, is a two piece open red book. When the set is initially purchased the sketches come inside. The book is held shut with a black elastic band.

Like an open book.
When the portfolio is opened, it becomes an unbound cover; I've bound books by hand myself, and this is bound quite well. The front cover informs you it's the portfolio and has some decorative stylized flowers and a black border and flourish. The back has the black band for holding the cover shut. It's got a lovely red glossy color, and the black band matches the front's closed it looks rather nice.

Back cover of the band--like Me First and the Gimme Gimmies.
The back has the same red covering, with no decoration, and two slits that the black elastic band is run through. It's actually rather loose. I suspect that this might get stretched out over the years from being pulled on, though if you are a crafty person you should easily be able to buy some replacement elastic and replace it should it do so. I'm probably going to tighten mine up myself. That or cut out some more cardstock papers for putting inside for Abbi's portfolio.

These innards are very, very sketchy.
The cardboard sketches just fit inside; they're cut to the size of the portfolio.

The band won't hold the papers by themselves really well, though it could with more papers. I don't have anything properly to connect this to; I prefer black presentation albums4 as they're more book like. But as an art portfolio for a doll's accessory set goes, this gets a B-. Now go forth and store things in it.

Painting all the things.
 Paintings: Much like the sketches scream Saige's style, so do the five included paintings. We've got a desert flower, Picasso the horse, a saddle, hot air balloons, and more New Mexico landscape. Again, just printed; no one sat around painting every set, though they probably had someone professionally paint up the full ones and then used those as the master prints. They're printed onto canvas back, which gives them the texture of paintings.

This is a Picasso. As in the name of the horse.
We'll be focusing on the horse art piece. It shows "brush" strokes and color blending, and--like the sketches--shows that Saige knows what she's doing art wise. And yes, a ten year old with training could paint this well.

Sign your art.
The Picasso piece is "signed" with Saige's initials and year of the piece. The others are not, however. I double checked.
The back of art can be ugly.

The canvases are "backed" to cardboard with black paper backing to hide the edges. No one looks at the back of art, that's not where the pretty is.

On the easel.
Each painting can sit on the easel like the sketches can, though they are quite small. I'm giving the paintings a B+. I know realistically they couldn't have made mini paintings done by hand and for screen printed paintings they look rather nice and would be nice for a display piece. I'm just not a fan of southwestern styled art--call me weird.


Before final closing paragraphs, let's see the set as used by Abbi. After all, while the set is marketed for Saige, here it's just moddie stuff.

Happy Little Trees.
Right after I got the set, I put Abbi with my technique painting--I've been trying Bob Ross style art in acrylics because I can't stand working in oils. So it looked like she was working on my abstract painting. Except there's no green, whatever.

Blank canvas.
And the easel with a blank canvas and Abbi ready to start her next masterpiece.

Reality ensues!
And now a glimpse of just a small portion of my art stuff--one sketchpad, the tabletop easel, five of my many acrylic paints, four of my brushes, my blue water bucket--it also has a paint pallet and internal buckets for water rinsing as well as slots to hold my brushes--a blank canvas board, and my clear palette. By no means is this even 10% of my art supplies5. This is just comparing some of what I do have to what Saige's set comes with.


Overall Feel: I love the little details that make the set feel real. The brushes are the jewel of the set, oddly enough--they look and feel real and could probably really be used. (But clean them every time. No one wants icky brushes.) The sketch pad is also very perfect and realistic, and may find use in children's hands. The easel, though, is a little short--ha!--on authenticity, and the paint and palette could have been more realistic to the set. Something as small as calling it "crimson red" or "cadmium yellow" on the tubes. I think a little artist's drawing board would have also been a good addition, and will probably end up getting one in a small size for Abbi; also a few blank canvases and papers so that the set doesn't feel like it's all finished already. I'll probably make a couple of these for Abbi to have with her set; it's nothing to slice up some Bristol paper and buy a couple packs of canvas board. Even without adding things, it's a good set.

Cost Value: $48 bucks for a set with this many components is worth it from AG. Even if the paintings and sketches aren't any use to your dolls, the rest of it can easily transition to any doll artist's use. When it gets retired and spikes up to high prices, I'm not so sure it'll be worth the 70 or more dollars it'll probably go for if you're getting it for generic use and not for Saige herself. A lot of the components can be purchased via art and big box stores for that much in total and be authentically useful besides. (Acrylic paint tubes can be bought for as low as $20 dollars for a set of six or ten colors, my tabletop easel cost $15, and canvas board can be 10 bucks a pack for example.) 

Datedness: Art supplies don't get dated. They just get used up. In theory, says the woman with five sketch books under her feet at any given time and a toolbox just for her 50+ brushes of varying size and shape. There's no reason this can't be used some years back in time, except the plastic components might shake up the realism back beyond the 70s. And it should happily carry forward in time.

Set Usefulness:
Indeed! The brushes and papers can be used, the portfolio can store papers well, the easel will hold real canvases and art supplies in a small scale, and the water cup can be water filled and used. Even the canvases and sketches can be good in a display piece. The paints and palette are sort of less useful and more pretend, but if you're really feeling it a palette and paints could be made or found in doll sizes.

Appropriateness to Character: High. I don't like Saige myself, but there's no denying that this fits for her characterization of being an artist--and the art pieces included are signature to her. If you actually decide to get Saige, I'd recommend getting this set for her; it rounds her character more than any other piece and won't take up as much space as that ridiculous air balloon.

Final Grade:
B+. The easel isn't tall enough in my eyes and a few more blank components would have bumped this to an A. But the set works great for the character intended and can, with storage of the done art, be for any modern.

Go forth, my lovelies, and ART.

1 A 18" doll scaled on 1:3 ratio would be about four and a half feet tall, which is a little short for ten year old girl but decent.
2 I keep typing "Pallet." That's Pokémon for you.
3 I have a large amount of sketch pads and papers. The sad and yet happy life of an artist.
4 They're sold under the name Itoya or Alvin. I get them from my local art stores, though Michael's often has them in stock as well.
5 To give a hint of my art stock: I have over twenty black bound sketchbooks of varying brands.

1 comment:

  1. I was especially looking forward to this review from you, since you're an artist yourself, and actually use these materials. I already have the painting set, but it's nice to know I didn't waste my money. Thanks!


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