Image: Noel Cruz
Image: Noel Cruz
Filipino portrait artist Noel Cruz had been doodling for years before his career took a somewhat unusual turn in 2001 when he began dabbling in dolls. Since then, Cruz has shown an incredible talent for putting personality into plastic. His M.O. is to take mass-produced dolls and transform them into the very image of superstars old and new. What’s more, these days his mini masterpieces sell for thousands of dollars – and it all started with Miss Universe.
“That whole thing [Miss Universe] inspired a whole series of imaginations in my head,” Cruz told myfarrah.com in 2012. The variety of stunning faces on display made Cruz want to become a portraitist.
That said, Cruz and his family didn’t own a TV in 1974 when the Miss Universe competition came to the Philippines, so the young artist watched the show through a neighbor’s window.
Today, Cruz auctions many of his creations on eBay, where they have previously sold for over $5,000. Inspired by the singer’s 1970s’ style, this Cher doll fetched nearly $1,000 in June 2015.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games
Meanwhile, one The Hunger Games fan paid a hefty $2,500 for this meticulously repainted Katniss Everdeen doll, complete with the heroine’s signature mockingjay pin and braid.
But not all of Cruz’s dolls are inspired by stars of the stage and screen. Even the British Royal Family have been downsized. Previous work includes this pocket Princess Diana and a Barbie-sized Duchess of Cambridge.
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory
In order for the artist to capture every nuance of the celebrity subject, each doll takes at least seven days to complete. Cruz admitted to Celebuzz that it is “crazy, meticulous work” – which has previously even involved painting dolls’ nails and augmenting their breasts.
Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe in Charlie’s Angels
The whole process begins with the hair, though. To create a Farrah Fawcett replica, for instance, Cruz had to snip her locks into layers and then use tiny rollers to boil perm the tresses into the star’s iconic ’70s do.
Elle Fanning as Aurora in Maleficent
Next, it’s off with the war paint. A cotton bud is dipped in acetone to remove the original paintwork, blanking out the doll’s factory face so that a new, realistic design can begin to take shape.
Many of Cruz’s effigies are projects that excite him personally – such as this 1980s-style Whitney Houston created following the singer’s death in 2012. The retro replica sold at private auction for $860.
Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in Maleficent
Maleficent, too, now looks just like her big-screen version, thanks to Cruz’s delicate detailing of the character’s lips, nose and eyes. This Angelina Jolie mini-me sold at auction for $2,550.
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
Interestingly, this pint-sized pirate was one of the most challenging works for Cruz. The artist spent much of his time painstakingly redrawing all of Captain Jack Sparrow’s tattoos and perfecting the character’s matted cornrows.
Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in Twilight
Cruz also accepts commissions for those with a burning desire to own their favorite celebrities. If the artist agrees to the request, all he needs is the money and one of the commissioner’s drab dollies.
For anyone interested in making a purchase, however, it’s probably best to check the bank before submitting a request, as commissions start at $1,250 for a full hair and makeup revamp – and that’s not including wardrobe.
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Still, there are limits on what you can get. Family portraits and repainted pets are no-gos for the artist – who is now inundated with potential commissions. He chooses instead to focus on celebrities who have moved him at some point in his life.
Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations
This is, as you’ve probably gathered, art on a 12-inch scale. And Cruz admitted to KTLA 5 that he must think small to create his pieces, saying, “The movements of my hands are so very minimal. Sometimes they’re not even brush strokes – just dot, dot.”
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Yet the laborious process the artist follows of course allows him to breathe new life into his dolls. For example, Cruz referenced photographs of Daniel Radcliffe for this piece, reproducing the star’s fictional alter ego right down to the hairs on his chin.
Christopher Reeve as Superman in Superman
As suggested, Cruz wanted to be an artist way back when; however, under pressure from his family, he actually studied accountancy at college. He soon dropped out, though, and renewed his passion in portrait art.
At the turn of the century, Cruz began to pay attention to the dolls his wife Emma was collecting. What he saw was a lifelike canvas for his art, and he’s since re-painted in excess of 500 figurines.
Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in Twilight
Today, when the paint dries, Cruz sends his little lookalikes out into the big bad world. And as he told KTLA 5, “I’m sad, but the payoff I get is the satisfaction of knowing I’m able to share my art with others.”
Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort in Harry Potter
There’s also good news to be heard in that the artist has a number of additional projects in the pipeline for 2015. Look out for his tiny takes on the big names from Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, for example, as well as a minuscule First Lady. We can’t wait.