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.

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!

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 …