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 …

Sneak Peak: Character Development for Fall/Thanksgiving Card

Yesterday I started work on developing the characters for this year’s Thanksgiving/Fall production.

The card will have quite a few characters, so this part of the design phase is especially important.  Some will be painted in watercolors, and separated into different body parts after scanning them into the computer.  This way I can keep the watercolor style but still animate the characters.  I have not yet decided whether the squirrel will be hand painted for each frame of animation, or whether I will  render it on the computer, since it will need a full range of motions when jumping.

The main character is the woodpecker, so I started when him first.  Once his character was in place I build the other characters up around him.  I will share more photos as I start painting the various elements of the card …

Launching All New Line of Notes

Spring brings hope, inspiration and the promise of new beginnings.  So of course I have been inspired to launch a new line of Notes and here are the first ones for spring.  Perfect for sending a quick and easy message anytime with our classic modern look and design, as always hand painted for that unique Ojolie touch.

Tulips, Hyacinths & Ranunculus handpainted flower ecard for Ojolie
Pansies, snowdrops and shamrocks bring  message of spring
Spring ecard for Ojolie

Working On New Birthday Card Designs

 Today I started work on a new series of notes, the first will be available soon for spring, Earth Day and birthdays.  I will be sharing a little bit here and there of what I am tinkering with in the studio …

painting new birthday card designs in the studio

And while I had the camera out I couldn’t resist including a photo of the lovely light that filtered in … sending a little light from me to you!

inspiring light 

Oh, and before I forget, as always let me know what you think and if you have any special requests

Carve Out a Place for Creativity

Ever feel like there just are not enough hours in a day?  I sure do.  No matter how much I want to make finding half an hour – not to mention a weekend – to paint, write to friends or even just do one of the million little projects I love to plan (sometimes even start, but hardly ever finish), somehow by the time I finally carve out that free half hour, I would rather just take a nap.  


So how to get out of the rut, if one can call it that?!  After all, I know it is not a lack of motivation.  Here are a few handy things I am going to try that just might work for you as well:

you don't need an art studio to get started painting or writing, just a little corner in the house with great natural light and a spot where you can immerse yourself for a few stolen moments or days :)
find your own sacred little space
photo credit www.philippastanton.com

  • set the bar lower – maybe instead of starting a big project, just commit to doodling for ten minutes and see where it takes you.  Find a set time each day and commit to a very short time that is yours to use as you want.  For some the morning is best, others prefer night time.  You can use this time to write a short letter, sketch an idea in your journal or even just play with colors without a set goal in time.  Or meditate.  
  • make it a pleasant ritual – light a candle or an essential oil diffuser, make a cup of tea or pour a glass of port, put on a great peace of music if that helps you – this is your special time, so live it up.  
  • if you have the space, create a little nook in your home where you can leave things until the next day.  Ideally a favorite spot with great light or a nice view, few distractions and that won’t be used for other things.  It doesn’t need to be a studio – even a little section of a table will do.  I have created a pinterest board with some ideas to get you inspired to create your own sacred little corner for creative immersion. Remember not to make this a project in itself! 🙂
  • this one may in fact be the most important of all; slow down, become aware of stress and practice presence in your daily life.  I often get stressed when I realize how much I have to do and how overwhelming it can seem to get it all done.  One of my favorite sites that has helped me in so many different areas is zenhabits.net.  

Yeah … the Painting is Finished

Last night I put the finishing touches on what is probably the most complicated, painstaking and detailed watercolor I have done for any of the cards to date. I am working on a card that is inspired by the amazing art nouveau stained glass windows by Louis C. Tiffany.


Transparent watercolors are perfect for capturing the vibrancy and luminosity of light filtering through a stained glass window.


The first stage, painting the frames of each individual glass pane in black ink took about a week of full time work. The ink is water soluble but waterproof once dry, so can be applied before the watercolors. Although this makes painting in watercolor a bit easier, it still took another week and a half of days, evenings and pretty much all my free time to complete the painting.


But now that it is complete I am rather thrilled with the result. I hope you will be to when you see the final card which will be set to Ave Maria, one of my favorite music pieces.

Free Watercolor Demo


In my previous post Striking a Balance I introduced some of my favorite watercolor books, including “Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor” by Soon Y. Warren as well as a free online demo from the book made available by the publisher. Here is another free online demo from the book that shows you how to use complimentary colors when painting objects from nature arranged against a background with a complimentary color.


Free Download: Soon Y. Warren on Using Complementary Colors

Striking a Balance

Click on the photo for an online demo from the book Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren

Most people think of watercolor as a medium best suited and usually used for quick, fluid compositions. But like any other medium, it can be used to create amazing detail, elaborated planned and executed paintings or quite simply paintings that spring alive. Finding this balance can be hard.

When I first started painting with watercolors as a child I mainly painted the Scandinavian landscapes where powerful skies, rolling hills and life by the sea lends itself very well to less fussy, quick paintings. Frankly so did my personality. Only with maturity did I learn some measure of patience. And techniques for improving my watercolors. Combining the fluid, almost zen like confidence of eastern brush painting with carefully painted, layered details is now my preferred style. One such example was the watercolors I painted for the card titled “Mandarin Ducks”, although when I paint for the ecards I tend to paint backgrounds separate from the objects of the painting so that they can be animated.

Click on the mandarin duck to see the card “Mandarin Ducks

There are a number of great watercolor books but I will just mention a few of the ones I have found most inspiring and helpful.


Light Up Your Watercolor Layer by Layer by Linda Moyer is more helpful for somewhat experienced watercolor artists who want to take their painting to the next level in my opinion, although it is apparently geared to even novice painters with coverage of some more basic things like color theory and studio setup. The techniques described will take some practice and lots of patience to master but are well worth it.

Watercolor Depth And Realism: 5 Simple Techniques For Adding Dimension To Your Paintings by Laurie Humble is another favorite of mine. I think the cover almost speaks for itself, but again best for intermediate watercolor artists.


Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren is another advanced book that merges some Eastern aesthetics with western watercolor techniques. The publisher has given access to a demo from the book, so you can get a taste. The layering of washes of primary colors shown in this demo illustrates one of the most important techniques I learned to take my paintings to a new level.

amznJQ.onReady(‘JQuery’, function() { (function($) { if (!window[‘ClientEventLogger’]) { ClientEventLogger = { endpoint: ‘/gp/prime/utility/mss-client-event-log.html’, setMessageID: function(messageID) { this.messageID = messageID; }, setMessageGUID: function(messageGUID) { this.messageGUID = messageGUID; }, logActionCode: function(actionCode) { $.ajax({ ‘type’: ‘POST’, ‘url’: this.endpoint, ‘async’: false, ‘cache’: false, ‘global’: false, ‘timeout’: 250, ‘data’: { ‘messageId’: this.messageID, ‘messageGUID’: this.messageGUID, ‘actionCode’: actionCode } }); } }; amznJQ.declareAvailable(‘ClientEventLogger’); $(document).ready(function() { $(“.primeEvent[rel]”).click(function() { var actionCode = $(this).attr(“rel”); ClientEventLogger.logActionCode(actionCode); }); }); } })(jQuery); }); amznJQ.available(‘ClientEventLogger’, function() { ClientEventLogger.setMessageID(‘no_message|dp_recognized_stripe_see_buying_choices|no_message|no_message|no_message’); ClientEventLogger.setMessageGUID(‘f71db6b2-e56f-42f3-830a-664b9048a904’); });