2016 is around the corner!

The joy of creating 

Is it that time already? Time seems to be flying by and before you blink the New Year is upon us.
This usually means reflecting on the year that was and setting your intentions for the year ahead.

The pressure is on to devise your New Year resolutions; lose weight, exercise more, spend less, save more, work less, work more, give up smoking, coffee, sugar etc.

However I wanted to propose a different idea from the common traditional clich├ęs with this new ecard.  A resolution about committing to the idea of getting more out of life. By this I mean giving yourself permission to take the time to do whatever it is you enjoy. 
This is not always so easy in today's world, where we live in a landscape that forces us to stay busy, future-oriented and stressed. Sometimes we just need to build in more moments to breathe. Take in the present and become mindful of the simple pleasures that we are in contact with every day if we allow ourselves to become more conscious of them. 

When we created this business 10 years ago, our intention was generate an income and lifestyle that would allow us to spend more quality time together as a family, focus less on material things, and allow us the freedom to invent whilst enjoying the process along the way.
Hence, the creation of Ode to Life ecard.
View the card

More hugs, naps, road trips, fun and moments of joy, love and celebration. More laughter, dreaming, creating and sipping on hot cocoa. 
Taking the time to view more sunsets, smell the scents of fresh flowers, breathe in the zest of life! 

Life is for living.  
We are working so we can live, not living just to work.
Every moment is a gift!

2016 is the year for dancing!

This card is a compilation of the various animation styles of our favourite designs. Each vignette is intended to make you smile.

These are some of our resolutions for the coming year.
What are yours? What will bring more enjoyment into your life?

There is no better time than the present to set your intentions to invite more bliss into your world and enhance your well-being with the choices conscious you make. 

Come join with us in the commitment to make the most of your daily life by building in more momentary simple pleasures. 

Taking time out just for you

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

12 days of Christmas in a Paper Wonderland

Most people are familiar with the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". To most it's a delightful nonsensical rhyme set to music. As I recently discovered, it is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

12 Days of Christmas Paper Cut Motifs

To give you a brief background on the history, Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law - private or public. It was a crime to be a Catholic.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith and used as a memory aid.

Today, this famous song was chosen to partner with our very popular ecard of the same name; the 12 days of Christmas paper cut card.

As an artist it is only natural that I draw inspiration from my own Danish heritage in my work.  In Denmark it is common to cut and display paper cuttings in windows all year round, but especially during Christmas.   They are also used to hang on Christmas and garden trees across all seasons in the form of paper hearts or stars. 

Common Christmas designs include sleighs and reindeer, flora and fauna, nativity scenes, villages etc. Contemporary designs modern silhouettes, cityscapes and famous sayings. 

And what better idea than to bring this famously silly series of gifts from the carol to life than in 12 ornaments in a paper cutting window scene.

To begin, I created paper cut motifs following the lyrics of the song. Each motif starts its life as a hand-drawn sketch and then is scanned and rendered on to the computer as a vector illustration.  The digitalized images then come to life in frame-by-frame animations. Turtle doves flutter, ballerinas twirl, swans glide and pipers play their flutes in celebration of the festive season.
Rather than being a static two dimensional setting, I designed the ecard to have visual depth and dimension.  To achieve this I placed the paper cutting within a window and adding a snowy background, adding contextual depth and dimension, resulting in a dynamic moving picture.

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 ...