On the Creative Journey and Unexpected Detours

Running an artistic ecard business, like Ojolie, requires a lot of fresh ideas for new card designs. Even though it is a constant process of looking for inspiration, at the start of every year, I begin the planning process for what new cards are going to be released and when. This year a little accident gave me longer to ponder and plan in my head though: I sprained my right hand – the one I paint and work with – and for two weeks have not been able to even write my own name. Luckily, the hand is finally healing quite well and I feel blessed to even just be able to type this.

An accident like this is often a blessing in disguise, reminding us of all there is to be grateful, giving us renewed energy when we can return to work and our creative pursuits and most importantly giving us a mandatory break. That said, I am a terribly impatient person in these situations and just before it happened, I had completed my early spring cleaning of the studio, grounded four canvases in preparation for an upcoming exhibition I am working on. They now sit and smile at me. The dust has settled in the studio, but that will soon change.

In the meantime I thought I would share a little bit about the creative journey with you. Like most artists, I collect a myriad of materials from diverse channels to draw inspiration from.

“Tree of Life” by Frederikke Tu, 200x140cm, Sold, see more at www.frederikketu.com

Observations from my daily personal life, things that I’m fond of, personal hobbies, a memory, something a friend told me, the list goes on and on. I like to experience and watch nature to capture the essence of life and use this energy to spark ideas.

All these activities help generate ideas. As the concepts reveal themselves, I create document lists and pin boards on Pinterest as future referral sources. Then I ask myself, “From all of this, what is useable?” What are my customers looking for to suit their occasion? The concepts have to be relevant, useful and appeal to a wide audience. My process begins as divergent then moves towards convergence.

Once I decide on an idea, I start to visualize the card and animation. Sometimes that is influenced by a piece of music I would like to work with, where the melody ignites images in my mind. Other times, I see the final image and work backwards to the start filling in the gaps, or vice versa.

I consider the style, medium and pace to match the concept and take it from there. This process is useful both in my work on the ecards and in my other work as an artist. The discipline and process helps me get past any blockages, knowing that inspiration and creativity is just a question of getting to work, moving past the blocks and accepting that with time you will get into flow, and what may appear like magic to others, is just another day of work for the artist. Which I am waiting, impatiently, to return to soon as possible.

If you would like to see more of my recent work on canvas, you can see some of my acrylic and oil paintings at www.frederikketu.com

Sparkling New Year

Hand lettered words appear in gold foil

I have celebrated the New Year with family and friends in Asia a few times now. What has delighted me most, given the time differences, is that as I watch and enjoy as the celebrations, they continued around the world after starting in Asia. It is like experiencing one never ending party! The good vibes keep on generating and it has made me realize that this is the one global celebration, where we really are a big global family.

The motif I chose to inform the final card for 2015 features iconic landmarks of the world. There are 21 famous landmarks in this card.

If you feel up to challenging yourself, you can try to see how many can you name and locate. See the card now.

This ecard encompasses New Year celebrations from around the globe complete with a fan fair of fireworks, confetti and radiating light animations choreographed to the countdown, amidst a night sky.

The style is a modern, graphic design, featuring hand lettered words – “celebrate, sparkle, shine and cheers” – and details in gold foil.

The colour palate is classic; black, gold and white. Like effervescent golden bubbles of champagne, sipped upon at a stylish black tie event on New Years Eve.

I hope that where ever you are celebrating the dawning of 2016, it is filled with sparkle and shine.

Iridescent fireworks explode around classic icons

Paper Cutting or “Scherrenschnitte” Traditions

This is the first of a series of
blog posts on the tradition of paper cutting, a folkloric practice close to my
heart and my art!
Scherrenschnitte which literally means
scissor cuts in German, is the
traditional art of paper cutting. Using scissors or
a knife, a silhouette of the image or scene is cut from paper in a delicate and
intricate process requiring immense skill and meticulous attention to detail.
Although this craft has been
practiced in Northern Europe, its roots stem back to China around 750 A.D.

A gaekkebrev hand cut by Hans Christian Anderson

Paper cutting is not a dying art, and
instead it has undergone a renaissance and is growing in popularity. Its appeal
lies in using such a simple material such as paper, its versatility and serving
as a wonderful medium for storytelling.
In fact the renowned Hans Christian Andersen created some very famous free hand cut
designs that really celebrated his storytelling. Using a folding technique, the
author cut intricate designs with scissors as a form of therapy and relaxation.
The Danes are famous for their
paper cutting. Gaekkebrev translated to mean secret snowdrop letter is a
well-celebrated Danish tradition that is practiced around Easter time as the
snow is lifting. It’s a little game where you pick a snowdrop flower, attach
its delicate white buds to the paper cut design you have been snipping away at.

Example of a traditional gaekkebrev paper cutting

The idea is to write a poem or
verse, disguising your handwriting and give the paper cutting to someone. The
recipient’s job is to guess who it’s from.  If they guess correctly, then you have to give
them an Easter egg. You can sign your name in dots; one dot for each letter of
your name. This game can also be used on Valentine ’s Day for a bit of fun.
I have drawn inspiration from my
Danish roots to create a new Christmas ecard medium bringing paper cutting to
life in a digital format.
After hand drawing motifs, they are
scanned and brought to life by converting them to Vector illustrations and
digitalized.
This ecard was inspired by the
imaginary stories I would play out in my mind as a child. I created a heavenly
white village scene with paper cut flora and fauna animations fluttering and transforming
before your eyes.

Paper cut snowflake shavings falling  

In an nostalgic moment, I recalled
playing outside in the garden as a child as fresh snow fell, climbing under
branches and watching the snowflakes gently fall to the ground like pieces of
paper cuttings.  I would imagine make-believe worlds amidst a winter
wonderland, only to return to the warmth of my family home hours later with red
cheeks and numb fingers. I would spend hours transfixed on the delicate snow
gently falling outside. 

Due to global warming,
snowfall is becoming rarer before Christmas in my native country Denmark.
As I started working on this ecard, my friends and family back in
Denmark sent me photos of the very unusual first snow in November this year
which delighted and inspired me – making the process of the card’s
creation even more enjoyable.

Flora and fauna layered against a winter village backdrop

Set within a village scene transforming from day to night, the story begins with a fanciful paper snowflake being cut, dropping its paper shavings to a buoyant orchestral tune called A Whimsical Story by composer David G Steele. 

On closer look, we find deer, a fox, a rare and a variety of song birds, partridges and doves frolicking about a wondrous winter playground amidst vines and flowers inspired by traditional Polish paper cutting designs. 

The sequence ends with room to add your own Christmas message

This ecard is intended to be elevating and full of Christmas cheer. 

View the Christmas Paper Story e-card

Who’s been naughty AND nice?

This year I wanted to develop a theme inspired by our pets
as they are so much part of our families, as our human children are. For this
new Christmas ecard, the idea was to inject a bit of fun into the festive
season using three little mischievous kittens.
Digital kitten engaging with scanned images of water coloured objects forming a rich background
Anyone who has observed cats and
boxes (or even young children and boxes), will have seen how they are always
more interested in the box itself, rather than what is inside.  They like
to try to find any way possible to get inside a box, no matter how small or
impossible it may seem. There are tons of You Tube videos that play
testament to that.
This card is a series of vignettes
of three little playful kittens getting into the Christmas presents which kind
of represents the suspense that we all feel when we see the boxes under the
Christmas tree. They create a bit of mayhem as only cheeky furry creatures can,
before finding a perfect cozy spot in a box to snuggle and settle in for
Christmas.  I think this embodies the idea of getting warm and comfy for
the holiday season.
The formation of the card involves
different elements, using hand painted objects and animated digital characters.
 After developing the idea for this card,
the basic tale is story-boarded. 
Next, the elements making up the
scene, such as the wrapped presents, boxes and a Christmas tree, had to be sketched,
painted in water colours then scanned into the computer via Photoshop. The
result is a more illustrated feel and look to the overall card.
Hand painted water colour stuffed elephant toy prior to being scanned 
The cheeky kittens were rendered and animated using Adobe Flash, but key frames are usually hand sketched first like traditional animation, so you have more control over
plotting the movements of your characters. The sweet kittens stalk, pounce, climb
and jump amongst a flurry of gifts and boxes in a delightfully natural manner. We wanted to capture the naturally curious nature of these playful
cats. 
Check out the finished product:  www.ojolie.com/index.php?ec_id=208
Can you relate to this ecard?

I would love you to share your experiences here about how
your pets also enjoy Christmas. 
Please feel free to post any pics you have of
your furry creatures getting into the Christmas spirit and let’s enjoy the
inquisitive nature of our darling pets.

Illuminate the World with Peace

I developed two new cards as a response to all the turmoil
going on around the world. We wanted to remind people that despite all the
chaos, we can choose to focus on positivity and resonate this intention out to
all those around us.

Reflecting on the idea of light as a symbol of hope and enlightenment, I decided to combine both the modern concept of lights through illuminated light bulbs, but with a slightly retro touch for a hip graphic designed style.
Ojolie “Illuminate the World” animated e-card for the holidays 

The result is our newest e-card, “Illuminate the World”, set against a starry
evening sky, with light bulbs illuminated with the words: Peace, Hope and Joy, coming
to life to shine brightly with Christmas greetings. 

The world needs a big
injection of these three elements right now. 

The idea for our new Peace Ribbon e-card came from a trip to the store to buy some simple ribbon for presents.  The news from that day was still going through my mind – another day of senseless violence and unrest.  As I sat fiddling with the ribbon between my hands on the ride home I could see the word peace forming.  It was only when I arrived home, I realized I had the first sparks of a card in the making.

I chose  white doves for this e-card as they are
a classic symbol of peace and a candy cane white and red striped ribbon to inject some uplifting holiday spirit.  There is nothing solemn or mellow about this card. The animated doves dance and fly about to an
upbeat tempo whilst holding red ribbons in their beaks, to spell out the word
“Peace” against the backdrop of an earth globe.

Wishing you peace and joy – and that these e-cards bring smiles to the
faces and the hearts of your loved ones all around the world.   

A little bird told me … You are dying to know how it came to life!

Ever curious how a character in Ojolie ecards comes to life – from storyboard to digital canvas?

A very important step that might not seem immediately obvious is actually developing a palette for the card. This is not something I have always done, but with time I have found that this makes the process of developing a cohesive looking card much easier. Plus its actually quite relaxing and fun, not to mention a great way to remember how you mixed a certain favorite color.

 A bright watercolor palette for Autumn

The characters are developed via a set of quick sketches, which allows you to rework them until they are just right. For this card, somewhat unusual, the characters just seemed to flow pretty clearly onto the paper and Even though I only needed a few birds, I had to paint them in a variety of poses to be able to bring them to life as animations. This was the most difficult part and adding a design and details doesn’t make it any easier … but then the characters insisted this was how it had to be.

Character Sketches and illustrations of the little birds

For the little owl, layering was as always my friend, starting with the lighter colors and gradually building up the details and dark shades in the feathers. For all our feathered friends, having a clear palette and sticking to a mix of a few complimentary colors really makes it much easier to get a nice pleasant looking character, even when the coloring of the feathers is a figment of your imagination.

Fluffy little owl

After scanning the paintings and cleaning up the backgrounds on the computer, there are a few other little secrets to bringing them alive, but maybe I will share that another time.

Happy Autumn and Thanksgiving!

Painting with Fresh Roses

The most amazing smell of roses filled my little studio today, as I was ‘painting’ with roses.  Gently prying them apart or manipulating them into an arrangement for the newest card I am working on for Mother’s Day.

After weeks of working late into the night at my easel, painting on canvas, it was incredibly rewarding to work with this new medium.  

A slightly wilting rose is beautiful in a way that is hard to explain – there is an instant patina and texture, it reminds you how fleeting the delicate petals are, yet this is when we finally get to see the hidden beauty at the core.  I wanted to capture this in the arrangement of the petals and buds in the shape of a heart, not the cliche Valentine arrangement in usually brings to mind, but something slightly more ephemeral and imperfectly perfect.  If that makes sense 🙂

I must confess I cannot say that ‘no roses where hurt in the process of making this card’, but there were some lucky survivors that made it into a vase after the shoot.  I collected a nice big bag of petals now waiting in my fridge to be dried using a new method I am going to try in the microwave – later to be used in a painting, which I will post if/when it works out.

Going over the photos from the shoot this evening I was quite pleased with the results.  On to turning all of this into a story with animation …

Follow up Sneak Peak: Character Paintings

It may seem like a long time from sketch to paint, but in between I have been working on a million other things … okay, not a million, but quite a few.  It is the irony of my line of work that we have to think in snowflakes in the middle of summer, but planning is everything.  I think about Christmas all year long and by Christmas I will be planning spring and summer ecards

But I finally got around to painting the characters for the Thanksgiving card and I promised to share an update when I did, so you can see the whole process.

I first paint the leaves and start some slight shading of the squirrel

As you can see, for these I wanted to keep a simple watercolor style, nothing too detailed, to give the card illustration style a relaxed and casual feeling.  I therefore limited my usual layering of primary colors to a minimum and instead just worked with colors premixed on the palette.  Quite relaxing for a change and fast!

Working in some shading and details before the final color washes are applied helps make the character pop

And voila – the first character is done.  You will have to wait until the card is released the see the rest 🙂

Since then, they have been scanned, cleaned up (white background removed) and are now ready to be used in animation.

I also painted a LOT of fall leaves and nuts and the centerpiece, an imaginary tree, that sprouts the leaves of a variety of trees.  If it sounds a bit strange, you will see that it works quite well visually, making for a nice bouquet of a tree.

I love Fall – can you tell?

On to key frame sketches for our little squirrel …

Of Flowers and Georgia O’Keeffe

One of the dearest people in my life is my sister.

I painted this painting for her while I was in Denmark – in fact it came together very spontaneously and fluidly a summer afternoon on the grass in the garden.  When I showed up to her place with it I pretended I just wanted to store it there while traveling to Norway, which gave me an opportunity to see her reaction to the painting before giving it to her.  If she did not seem particularly moved I would have not given it to her, because I wanted her to really love it.  Well, her reaction was better than hoped and I could tell she really liked it even before she knew it was for her.  Needless to say my mission to make it an early birthday present for her was accomplished.

“Ode to O’Keeffe”, Acrylic on Canvass, 80x80cm

This painting was inspired by my love of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers, hence it is titled “Ode to O’Keeffe”, although in many ways it is nothing like the paintings O’Keeffe painted.  For one, most of her flowers really do bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain part of the female anatomy.

Detail of “Ode to O’Keeffe”

When painting with super strong colors, especially reds and pinks, on a larger canvass it is easy get worried mid process that the end result is going to be a too bold or (shock) even crass and tacky.  You have to push past that and allow it to play out, because somehow by the time you put the final details in place things start to finally make sense.  It is hard to explain, but this is where experience and having faith in the artistic vision help – and worst case if the end result is still horrible you chuck it up to experience and the need to experiment.  This is exactly what happened with this painting – while I was working on it I was getting a bit worried about the huge areas of pink and red, but by the time I was painting the little pollen pods, it was all starting to gel quite well.

Texture is really important to me when painting, whether it is watercolor, acrylics or any other medium.  For some pieces you want that absolute smooth finish and perfect gradients, but for this piece it was important to add interest into the big areas of bold color by using texture.  If you have ever observed the surface of flower petals really closely, you will notice many are almost covered with surface of fine hair or powder.  When the light hits at a certain angle it shines and glistens … it is really magical.

A Collection of Amazing Art Tutorials

Thanks to a lot of generous people there is a an amazing availability of art tutorials online.  These are a great way of getting your feet wet if you are new to art or a certain medium or simply looking to challenge yourself if you have some experience already.  Even as an experienced watercolor artist it is interesting to see how other artists work – everyone has a slightly personal way of doing things or has found a particular thing that works in addition to the fact that there are many ways to get good results.

Follow Frederikke Tu’s board An amazing Collection of Art Tutorials on Pinterest.

While you can learn a lot from these tutorials, I do think there is no substitute for learning from others.  This is where taking a class or getting together with a few fellow creative souls will help you learn from each other.   But that said, I have learned most of what I know from books, experimentation and online tutorials.  This way I got a ton out of the few classes I have taken, because I already came prepared with the basics.