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Making Of 'Why your Birthday Card is late'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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My initial intention is merely to do a quick pencil sketch for a belated birthday card to a friend. Since the target audience is a lady, what comes into my mind is something lighthearted, maybe in the style of cute Japanese cartoon characters like Relaxuma & their clean cut line drawing style. As i thought of giving some excuses for being late in the card, it came to me that maybe the card itself should be the explanation (factual or not). i had a brief brainstorm for the most ridiculous reason for a birthday card would be delayed & picked this one to draw. i ended up liking the idea so much that I decided to paint it.


The sketch employed a reverse triangular composition, which emphasized how the bears dominate over the postman, and would lead the eye from point to point without escape. In the final painting, this basic composition is enhanced with additional lines & forms flowing from both sides of the image into the distant. This would give more depth, which is clearly lacking in the sketch. i also switched to a wide screen format & tilted the whole composition to create more dynamism & dramatic effect.


Colour Scheme

Making effective color choices is a vast subject for study, of which i still have much to learn. For this painting, i kept the lighthearted subject matter in mind while choosing a tetrad scheme of 2 pairs of complementary colors, i.e. red & green plus violet & yellow. A tetrad uses 2 or more pairs of complementary colors on the color wheel. The main reason for the choice is simply because I feel that violet & pink would make good colors for cute teddy bears. As usual, i consulted my color wheel for a harmonious scheme for the 2 colors, which can at the same time, gives me more colors to use in creating a bright colorful scene.

Very quickly i laid in shades of solid colors to the whole scene. Notice a lot of elements in the final painting are not inside yet, some of the ideas came only during the course of painting. At this stage, i was still considering an anime cell shaded look, & thus kept the outlines intact.

Painting in Photoshop

Stage 1: First of all, to give more depth & complexity to the ruined city, i added in electrical post & wires from photos of my previous Tokyo trip. At this point, i also started to look for reference images of ruined buildings, scooters, clouds, etc, which can be easily found in the Total3D texture collections as well.

Stage 2: I blended the shadows with the light areas for the bears, & hand painted more details in the ruins. i tilted the postman & the scooter to suggest him swerving to stop. i also added in the trail of smoke to emphasize the scooter coming to a skidding stop. Later on in the final widescreen format composition, I had to tilt him even more in order to convey that idea better.

Stage 3: All this while, i have been considering using a blue sky instead. & i finally did it. Actually, i would have adhered to the color scheme with a green sky, if I have not had enough of it from an animated short film I did before.
The 2 clouds did not work for me either & I painted the new cloud for a better effect. Using dodge brush, i also painted the effects of the fire on the surrounding & the characters, which creates a 'ring of attention' around the center. Unfortunately, this idea was lost in the final. Lastly, it is strange that it only occurred to me at this stage that mails should be flying out of the opened box. Besides being the logical thing to happen, it is also in line with the subject matter. I took great care to position each flying mail to create the sense of movement.


Stage 4: When the painting came to the following stage, it had been almost a year since I started on it (i put it on hiatus quite a few times), i was already dying to get done with it. Yet i went on to make a major change to a 16:9 wide format. i felt that it is a necessary change for the cinematic feel I always like. Luckily i worked in layers, so the process to rearrange things is slightly less painful. i am basically extending both sides of the image and it involves much repainting & moving things around. While i was at it, i thought i may as well tilt the whole image & throw things a little off balance for more interest in the composition. I also revealed the legs of the bears to strengthen their poses. On hindsight, more should have been done on their legs stances, especially removing the piece of ruin blocking the violet bear's legs.


continued on next page >

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