Thursday, December 27, 2012

"How did you come up with that idea?" ...and winter roost boxes for the birds...

I had nine people ask me how I came up with the idea for my Christmas card "Chiggy decks the halls" this year, so I thought I'd show the process. Sometimes an idea pops right in my head, and I know exactly what I want to paint, but this year I wasn't so lucky. I was panicking because I only had a few days to create my card, and I had tons of ideas in my head but couldn't get anything to solidify. When that happens, I step back, get out the pencil and just sketch. Creating lots of tiny sketches that take only seconds to draw warms you up and lets ideas flow out. I did have a little direction in mind when I started: "Chiggy" was a favorite bird of my Aunt Pat, so to keep her in my heart this Christmas, I let lots of little chickadees appear on the page...

...when your brain is frozen, start drawing tiny sketches that take only a second or two to complete. It helps warm you up and lets your ideas flow.
...tiny sketches of chickadees done quickly helped me zero in on an idea for my Christmas card. I knew as soon as I drew the chickadee on the birdhouse in the bottom-right corner I had my design.  
Even though I knew my card design would be based on a birdhouse with a chickadee and a wreath, I didn't know exactly what it would look like, so I got out a few pieces of scrap paper to start developing the idea. First came Chiggy with an ornament...

Scrap paper is a great way to develop ideas. You don't care what happens to the image if it is on a piece of paper headed for the recycle bin!
Scrap paper is great for developing ideas. You don't care what your sketch looks like when it's on a piece of paper headed for the recycle bin, so you're free to experiment. The ornament in this sketch just didn't feel right, so I put it aside and pulled out another scrap of paper...

Pencil sketch for idea #2. It didn't work. It just didn't look like something Chiggy would do!
...this design was a little better. Still, the ribbon didn't work. I liked the bird on the left side holding a sprig of holly...but...

Pencil sketch for idea #3. It didn't work either.
...I went back to the ribbon idea. Maybe if he was pulling the ribbon around the wreath...but it still wasn't right.

Pencil sketch for idea #4. I like it. Nice and simple and even "likely."
...finally went back to the sprig of holly. It was more natural and seemed like something a Chiggy might do. But the idea of Peace on Earth was still in my head....maybe a ribbon on top like a banner....but nahhh. Just didn't work. It was best to keep the image simple and focus on the holly and pine rope. That image told a story and said it all.

The first stage of this year's Christmas card, "Chiggy Decks the Halls." Original watercolor painting by Kelly Riccetti.
...the first round of watercolor. Normally I don't scan the stages of my paintings, but when I'm not sure where to go next, or I'm worried I might ruin it, I often scan as I go.

The second stage of this year's Christmas card, "Chiggy Decks the Halls." Original watercolor and gouache mixed-media painting by Kelly Riccetti.
...a second layer of watercolor to soften up the roof, add a bit of detail to the wood, and add the dark night sky; followed by gouache highlights on the white feathers and the green leaves, plus a rough layer of dark orange colored pencil on the rusty roof for a bit of texture. 

The final version of "Chiggy Decks the Halls," an original watercolor and gouache mixed-media painting by Kelly Riccetti.
...then the snow...first a watered-down splatter of white gouache to add depth, next snowflakes painted in a thicker mix of gouache to create the mid-field view, and finally dots of snow in a much thicker and brighter mix of gouache to bring them to the foreground...and that's the final painting. 
So if you're trying to design a card and the creative part of your brain is frozen, don't panic. Start drawing images that take only a few seconds to complete. Don't think about them, just let them flow from your pencil. Drawing quick little images warms you up and melts the frozen part of your creative brain.

p.s.
Does anyone recognize the birdhouse I used in the card? If you've ever been to a Southern Living party, you might have seen it in the catalog. I bought it years ago at a Southern Living party, and it sits out on my deck. Often when I draw a birdhouse, it's what pops in my mind. I love it's vintage style and the way the roof has rusted...

...the model birdhouse for this year's Christmas card. I bought it at a Southern Living party years ago.
Our Southern Living birdhouse...well weathered and beautiful.
p.p.s.
I hate to admit it, but even though I finished the painting on time, my card didn't go out on time (my cards still haven't gone out). I was swamped at work, and I got sick. Boo! My cards are going out as Happy New Year cards this year. Maybe I'll tape a 2013 banner on the roof...

one more thing....in winter, cavity nesting birds (like our little chickadee) use roost boxes to help them conserve heat and make it through the long, cold winter nights. Click here for a post explaining the importance of roost boxes and how to make them.

18 comments:

Rick Forrestal said...

So cool how you share the process.

I have a friend -- maybe like you -- who can't think it all through without sketching ideas with a pencil. You've got a better wrist than he does. (Ha.)

Betsy Adams said...

Love your card ---and especially the process that you went through to get there. You are just too darn creative....

Love you --and Happy New Year.
Betsy

Kat Griffin said...

Hey There Kelly
I love the card design ....You have great advice . I see what you are saying and it is true for me too. just start fooling around on a blank paper and let it flow. I have a question I want to ask you about , and I was thinking maybe you already did a post about this . Have you any info on Bird/ wildlife blinds ? My son is planning one for his eagle project.Is there a type birders prefer?

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Beautiful card desing.. Congrat and happy holidays..

julierowanzoch said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your process! Trying to teach myself wc, and it's a LOT harder than I had imagined!

Laure Ferlita said...

A beautiful card and so enchanting to see the process!

Happy New Year!!!

Carol Mattingly said...

Love this post and the info on roost boxes. Might have to put one in my other tree away from my feeders. Love that bird box you have from SL. Happy New Year Kelly. Carol

Jo Ann said...

Thanks for sharing your creative process and info about winter roost boxes. I was just noticing today all the holes in trees in our woods and wondering how many are used on cold nights.

Island Rambles Blog said...

Well I loved the whole plan of how you made the card and then to see it at the ending, wonderful! cheers.

Montanagirl said...

LOVE seeing the processes you used to develop your card! Thank you for sharing with us.

Midmarsh John said...

That was a really interesting post Kelly. Great to see the thought processes in designing your card.

The video was interesting. I have never seen a bird box design with internal perches before. Looks a neat idea for a winter roost.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Beautiful card, and it was very interesting to see the process you went through to make it. It was also interesting to read about the roost boxes. I don't know how common they are in Florida--but we do get some very cold nights, even a freeze or two, so probably our birds need these too.

Jennifer Reck said...

I love seeing the process! It is only the fifth day of Christmas...You have seven more to get them in the male. Your recipients will be quite lucky!
Jenny

Midmarsh John said...

Very best wishes for 2013 to you and your family Kelly.

KaHolly said...

Happy New Year!! I love your card. Hope you're feeling better!

Elizabeth Smith said...

Beautiful card, and I enjoy seeing the visual process and reading your explanations. I can see why your Southern Living birdhouse inspired you - it's a treat in color, shape, and texture. Hope you are feeling better and better!

Kelly said...

...thanks everyone! I really enjoyed designing this card. It's such a sweet Chiggy on a cold night during the Christmas season.

...I'm over the cold, and my cards went out yesterday! Thank you!

Tammie Lee said...

i loved seeing your sketches! i always love a glimpse into sketch books. loved seeing this piece come to life too. thanks for sharing that. i am just beginning to learn watercolors, so this was fun to see!

hope you are feeling better now!