12 spectacular calendar illustrations by Paolo Domeniconi

I know, it’s waaaay too late to talk about a 2015 calendar. But I have to show this one! Made by very talented artist Paolo Domeniconi, each month’s illustration is a fantastic artwork with a slight scent of surrealism and a subtle flavour of fairy tales. I won’t mind looking at them months after months. At all.

Paolo’s illustrating technique entails various dry texture brushes. No surface has the same colours. This works in the same way surfaces in real life actually look like. Every bit area interacts with different light and shadow angles, and gains a different colour from the area next to it. Besides, Paolo does the shading thoroughly in complementary colours. That makes his artwork glow with an endearing hand-made sense.

As if that’s not enough, each illustration has so much more to tell than just styling. There are always characters and narratives in this calendar series. They’re having their own problems, playing their roles, going on an adventure, or simply enjoying their lives. With so much to offer, Paolo’s art gives the audience a warm feeling of richness and an exciting expectation when reading a new story.

Paolo Domeniconi currently lives and works in Spilamberto (Modena, Italy). After studying art, he worked several years at an advertising agency. Later, he was interested in the world of children’s communication and attended the specialization courses of Sarmede and Macerata. He went on collaborating with many publishers including Agaworld, Fatatrac, Oxford University Press, Pearson Italy, and many more.

You can see more beautiful artwork at Paolo’s website, Blogpost, Behance, Facebook, Deviant Art, webshop.

Here is the illustrations for 2015:













Not from the calendar series, but a very nice illustration-in-progress video made by Paolo:

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

12 spectacular calendar illustrations by Paolo Domeniconi

Meet talented animator Mathijs Luijten & his awesome reel

I first met Mathijs Luijten at the opening of an art exhibition at Kuvva Gallery. The guy is all about animation. The way his eyes shone when we discussed aspects of motion design was like a lighthouse’s beacon. That’s before I saw any of his work. After I did that, I showered him with a bunch of questions. I have to feature this talented guy. Here is Mathijs and his aspiration, showreel’s workflow, and advice on starting out as an animator.

Hi Mathijs! Please tell us something about yourself.

Hey! I am a 2D animator based in Amsterdam. I love to move vector shapes around, draw frame by frame animations and fiddle with guitars and synthesizers to make music. But most of all, I try to make a living out of moving ….. well ….. people! In my opinion, nothing is cooler than influencing people’s state of mind (or at least trying to do so).

Therefore I take Concept and Design very seriously. Because without those, animation is worthless. Concept and Design also create the boundaries in which to animate. For example, I would animate Picasso’s work very differently than a realistic painting or a caricature. I like it when the design is really “out there” like that; concept, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be, in my opinion.

I love to collaborate, because in my opinion the creative process is like a dance, like a jam. Fortunately I know some very kind and talented people who are able to put up with my shit haha and I’ve recently started freelancing in the hope that I’ll meet more of these inspiring people.

What first took you to the path of animation? And what are some of the most important things you learned while doing so?

I never imagined I’d become an animator, although I had made some animations in Flash when I was younger. I graduated at the age of 18 as an “Interaction Designer”. At my first internship, my boss kept asking me to make (case)video’s instead of interactive stuff, so I started animating more and more. I also interned at Postpanic and after that I started working at several advertising agencies where I learned a lot about story telling, deadlines, and last but not least, dealing with clients. At Woodwork I really started to find my way in animation, and now I am ready to explore the world as a freelancer!

Please elaborate on your favourite work and the making of it!

To showcase your work as an animator, it is usual to make a compilation of your best animation moments with some fresh music – a showreel. In less than 1:30, you have to show everything you got. So to get the viewers in the right vibe to watch my work, I’d like to create an intro – a great opportunity to try out new techniques in a free work, while also serving a purpose!

I’ve made two intro’s before (this & this). This year, I needed a lot of attempts before I got to my final intro. The first attempt was a bit too ambitious: A fully 3D animated intro, with a complex concept. I stopped halfway… but I did come up with a nice character!


The second was based on a song by Kero Kero Bonito named “Flamingo”. They explain that you’ll get pink of you eat to many shrimps haha.



Then I created the final animatic for my intro. The concept came down to something quite simple. I chose to animate a character representing me in a creative process: a child in a big body, playing around with imagination and uplifting humor.


I tried some colors and styles (I’m not a good designer, so this was my greatest challenge).


To get a good flow for the animation, I moved basic shapes around in After Effects. I animated a few sphere’s representing the belly, head, feet and hands (just like Rayman). Then I took that animation to Photoshop and connected the spheres to make solid shapes.


Then I animated a looooot of shape layers on 30 frames per second. With a high frame rate and some subtle lighting, I recreated sort of a 3D look:

Finishing up, I did some sound design. I recorded myself, squashed oranges, and cloth on cloth.

Any advice for folks starting out freelancing as an animator?

I recently started freelancing, so I wouldn’t dare give advice on that topic.

I look up to a lot of great animators (For example: Giant Ant, Buck) and I think this is very important. They make you want to ‘up your game’, so find that stuff that inspires you. On the other hand, it’s really important to find who you are as an animator/designer/etc. without looking at others. There’s a sweet spot in the middle between those two, so I advice to find that sweet spot!

Do you have any upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

I’m working on several projects, which hopefully will become very cool!

Thanks Mathijs!

Below are two other projects done by Mathijs. You can follow and see more on his Vimeo, Behance, Dribbble, Blogspot, Soundcloud.

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

Meet talented animator Mathijs Luijten & his awesome reel

“Bicycle Boy” – a mesmerizing watercolour series by Mateusz Urbanowicz

If Mateusz didn’t say anything, I would believe this gorgeous illustration series belong to some projects of Studio Ghibli. With his amazing skills, Mateusz turned the signature character design and charming background of the well-known studio into a little enchanting story world of his own.

“Bicycle Boy” started out as one watercolour illustration Mateusz did for fun out of the fascination with Ghibli’s movie “Whisper of the Heart”. It spread like wild fire on the Internet. Mateusz decided to add 9 more pieces to complete a story about the “bicycling-it-hard-boy” on his way to reach his goal. The series is so awesome that it scored Mateusz an interview in an official Ghibli’s book about the “Whisper of the Heart” movie.

Currently working as a digital creator (mainly doing animation background art) at Comix Wave Films animation studio in Tokyo, Mateusz demonstrates tremendous talent in rendering landscapes. The zest of his techniques stays as good, or even more subtle, in the “Bicycle Boy” series via the use of analogue medium. The distinctive mood of the typical Japanese city, the ever-changing shades of the sky, the subtle appearance of rain, wind, and sunlight, all is just too extraordinary to describe in words.

Take your time to enjoy all the beautiful details of “Bicycle Boy” below. PRINTS of the whole series are available at Mateusz’s Society6 store. You can also follow his Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, Youtube, Instagram.


“It took me a bit more time than I expected (little more than 6 hours) but It feels nice to paint.

This is based on some photos I took last year when I went to Sakuragaoka – the place near Tokyo, where the story of a Ghibli movie “Whisper of the Heart” took place.

I did a rough sketch, then did the lines with a smooth 6B pencil, scanned and roughly coloured the lines in Photoshop to test my idea, and then finally painted with Holbein watercolours.”

“Even though this time the setting is based on some photo I found in the depths of the Internet I still tried to do it Ghibli style a little bit.

Also I did the sketch first digitally with my Cintiq and then traced it with 4B pencil.”

“This time I didn’t have any reference for a place that I wanted to draw so I just made something up from various places I have been to (like Kamakura) and some cool photos I saw on the Internet.”

“As I’m used to thinking about things I want to draw in an animation kind of way – with the camera and characters moving – I wanted to try to show movement in this illustration series too.

I didn’t want to “blur” all the background so I decided to use the “moving car” perspective with only the things close to the camera blurred by the motion. The background and bicycle moving with the same speed remains sharp.”

“This one gave me a lot of trouble and took two days on and off to complete. I really like Japanese trains so I decided to put one in the series.”

“This one was seriously challenging – I had to paint it in several stages using all kinds of paint, including the poster colours used by Japanese animation studios for their backgrounds.”

“Our hero is waiting for his ride to be repaired. The rain subsides and stops.

I based the bicycle shop on an old one I found during my walks in Kagurazaka neighbourhood. Its an old looking, small building, covered with really interesting, dark tiles, with lots of old bicycles, books and other weird stuff for sale.”

“This time I was inspired by the “Whisper of the Heart” (I had little something to do with this movie last week) and also by the splendid sunset I saw during my weekend break at Enoshima.”

“This one is still inspired by the Seiseki Sakuragaoka neighbourhood which was used as the setting in the “Whisper of the Heart” movie. I also tried out a little bid different painting method for the clouds and trees.”

“This one was probably the most difficult to concept and to paint.

I wanted to keep it in the spirit of the series but also mark it as the last one, concluding the story in an nontrivial manner. Just meeting the girl was not enough – I had to figure out how to show why he was in such a hurry and how to make them equal.

Because of the lighting the painting was very difficult – I even had to use some tricks I used when I was painting proper backgrounds with poster colours. I’m quite satisfied because I managed to keep the Photoshop editing to minimum.”

Some extra technical stuff:

● I used the same sketchbooks as Miyazaki used for his concept sketches
● Lines are 6B pencil
● Colours: Schmincke and Winsor&Newton watercolours

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

“Bicycle Boy” – a mesmerizing watercolour series by Mateusz Urbanowicz

5 reasons why Room to Read can change the world with picture books

At least 300 million children out there don’t have the opportunity to learn to read and write, let alone further education. Bringing literacy to this group means changing their lives, and the future of the world. Back in 1999, John Wood founded the nonprofit organisation called Room to Read to help children in developing countries acquire literacy. Room to Read’s two cogent programmes to realise this vision include Girls’ Education Program and Literacy Program. The later entails School Libraries, Quality Reading Materials (formerly known as Book Publishing), School Infrastructure, and Reading and Writing Instruction.

I’ve collaborated as a writer in the Quality Reading Materials programme of Room to Read Vietnam since 2013. I can’t tell or write enough about the wonderful things this programme has done, not only to the local children but also to everyone who is involved. Earlier I had an in-depth conversation about this with Phong Le, country director of Room to Read Vietnam. Today I want to present the five reasons why Room to Read’s Quality Reading Materials programme works out so well, with excerpts from Phong Le’s part of the conversation.

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A creative writing workshop session for Vietnamese writers and illustrators.

1. The books are written by local writers and illustrated by local artists. They bring their knowledge of the native language and visual cues to the game.

“By the time we started the book publishing programme, we saw that the translated books available in the market weren’t suitable for our goal – assisting children in learning their native language. So we work with Vietnamese writers and illustrators through creative writing workshops and conferences to build capacity for writing and illustrating children’s books. The writers and illustrators also benefit from that, and it’s long-term. It would be a shame if we didn’t have our own team making stories for the children of our own country.”

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Students eagerly read a new book published by Room to Read Vietnam.

2. By providing books relevant to the local children’s reading level, Room to Read encourages their interest in reading. The more they read, the more they learn, the more their future changes (Dr. Seuss agreed).

“Our programme’s target is early readers. We have to make our books engaging and suitable for children at that age, in order for them to develop an interest in reading. As long as they like the books, their reading skills will improve.”

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Trang Hoang from Room to Read Vietnam read a book draft to a student.

3. Room to Read’s quality control is top-notch. They field test all their stories before printing to gauge the children’s reaction to the text as well as the illustration.

“We have a selection committee (with members from the local book publishing, reading and writing, and library programme) to select the best stories. After that, illustrators will make a rough draft of the books and we take those to do field test. We went to the schools, read the stories to the students and asked for their opinions. Do they like the story? Are there any words hard to read? Do they like the illustration? We also asked the teachers and even the parents of the students. Then we adjusted the books according to those feedback. After delivering the books to the schools, we would research whether the students often read the books.”

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Students read books during recess.

4. Room to Read surpasses local publishers at delivering beautiful, high-quality books to rural schools’ libraries.

“We clearly see that children are always happy to receive books, especially beautiful and interesting books like ours. We put lots of effort and time in them. The local publishers appreciate and support Room to Read’s ideas, for they can’t do the same. From a business perspective, high quality of papers and printing with illustration in every page (like what we do) means that the price of each book would be too expensive for most parents to afford.”

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A student reads a new book published by Room to Read Vietnam.

5. Cultural relevancy is important, but the most crucial thing is the quality of the story & the illustration.

“At the beginning, we prioritized stories telling about Vietnamese customs and culture. Because we wanted the books to be relevant to Vietnamese kids. We still support these themes, but the most important thing is that the stories have to be interesting. For Room to Read, children have to have interest in the stories. We can’t make a boring book about all there is to know about our traditions but no kid wants to read it.”

Curious about the books Room to Read Vietnam has published? Below are all the published titles in 2014. And 9 out of these 10 talented Vietnamese artists are the ones making all those beautiful illustrations for Vietnamese children, and of course, realising the mission of Room to Read: world change starts with educated children.


This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

5 reasons why Room to Read can change the world with picture books

“On The Run” – the splendid car collection by The Rusted Pixel

“This is a personal project of mine that I have been working on over the past 18 months dipping in and out when I find spare time or the patience to sit for 35 hours to UV map and texture paint two models!”

Paul McMahon, aka The Rusted Pixel, said so on his project page. My jaw dropped. Just look at this!

What I thought were painted papercraft turned out to be intensively painted 3D models with a slew of graphic softwares (C4D, BodyPaint, Corel Painter, VrayforC4D, After Effects, Illustrator and Photoshop). And I mean, they look absolutely gorgeous. Grill, headlights, hubcaps, door handles, every detail of the car designs is full of character. Here at Kuvva we’ve covered cool 3D models like these devices and this animation. But these cars, these utterly stunningly worn-out cars, are a different animal.

Paul’s list of inspiration goes pretty long (from Studio AKA’s “Lost and Found” written by Oliver Jeffers, “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, “Borderlands 2”, “Road Runner”, Wacky Races”, “Sunset Overdrive” to Laika Studio‘s work). But he has done something neither of those did: rendering 3D models built according to the exaggerated cartoon physics, and doing so perfectly. It’s not the smooth and shiny refining, it’s the aged, grungy beauty.

“I’ve just always liked rough, worn, aged and distressed stuff. I love autumn with deep, rich colours so I just try to get that through in my work. Something that was once colourful but now is a bit aged but still has a charm… and I love irregular shapes, light bounces in a much more pleasing and interesting way : )”

Kudos to Paul for putting together such great effort and perseverance in nearly 2 years to complete the project. Mind you, it’s just part 1, and Paul also has a plan for a Kickstarter project for a 3D printed series. Watch out for him! Here is his Behance, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, Dribbble.

Some of the films, games and TV references for “On The Run”:

“1. Ramblin’ Entertainment is referencing Amblin Entertainment who were the producers for Monster House Also above is a sticker for Nebercraker Motors – the “villain” in Monster House.
2. RVTV well that’s just TV for and RV. Simples.
3. The make and model of the car from the car and caravan is a Sierra Scientist. A reference to one of my favorite games Half-life.
4. The BORT licence plate from The Simpsons (of course).”

The process from sketching to modelling, UV mapping and the final models:

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

“On The Run” – the splendid car collection by The Rusted Pixel