by Pam Park

Happy holidays from Wacom

A bit of applause for the artists behind our holiday card!

Nathan Chojnacki, Animator

Motion graphics artist, Nathan Chojnacki stepped out of his comfort zone and rose to the challenge of bringing Santa and Mrs. Claus to life in this year's Wacom holiday card. The animation Nathan created is based on the characters in the book A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus, written by Jeannie Schick-Jacobowitz, Susie Schick-Pierce, and Muffin Drake and illustrated by Wendy Wallin Malinow.

"Wendy's style is very playful and whimsical, which is in stark contrast to the hard-edged, bold and intense sports-arena stuff I normally do as a motion graphics artist," said Nathan, "Because Wendy's illustrations have a natural hand-drawn quality to them, using the Cintiq 24HD touch and a Wacom tablet was really a no-brainer for me because it allowed me to modify her artwork to make it suitable for animating.

I tried to match the look and feel of her pen strokes using custom Photoshop brushes. Once I had a good idea of which brushes I thought looked most like Wendy's original, I started erasing things and filling in all the missing parts so each piece could move on its own in the final animation."

"This approach makes it easy to manipulate each body part independently, and with the use of the Puppet Tool in After Effects, I was able to make some of the movement look pretty natural without having to draw things out frame-by-frame. This is a very simplified approach to what you might call "rig-based" animation, which basically centers on "parenting" one object to the next.

So, for example, if the torso and shoulders move, the head should move along with it, but to a certain extent I can move the head on its own. I began parenting Mrs. Claus' eyes and earrings to her head and began building a hierarchy where everything works in relation to everything else. The more organized and detailed you are while preparing your artwork beforehand, the more you'll be able to do when it's time to animate things."

Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into some of the techniques he used to create the animation:


"Once I had all the pieces animated the way I liked them, I laid everything out in 3D space and flew a virtual camera through the scene, lighting things, adding shadows, rearranging pieces and giving everything a uniform look."

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @nchojnacki

"Obviously it's possible to take this farther, and build more complex rigs, add more characters, get some more things happening in the environment. Really anything that you can think of at this point, it's just a matter of taking the time to draw it, animate it, and drop it into scene.

Wendy Wallin Malinow - illustrator

Portland, Oregon artist Wendy Wallin Malinow's illustrations for the popular children's book A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus are the inspiration behind this year's Wacom holiday card. Born into a family of artists, Wendy was exposed to art from an early age. As a child, she wasn't allowed to use coloring books, but instead was given ink and sketchbooks (but no pencils or erasers!)

We asked Wendy about her process for creating the illustrations in the book. "I wanted Mrs. and Mr. Claus to look familiar, but with a bit of my own twist. Santa and Mrs. Claus are definitely iconic. The audience will only tolerate so much deviation from the standard, nostalgic images. It was a challenge to make them unique, but still recognizable. It was fun to develop characters who were both pleasing and original."

"I love the concept for Mrs. Claus as the "unsung" hero who works so hard and frantically to make things run smoothly for Santa. I thought the beehive hairdo was great, in that lots of things could "hide out" in it and it could look out of control (tilted, messy, spiraled, etc.) I added holly leaves and berries, stars, snowflakes, and ornaments, and also used "blue" highlights and lines, kind of references the 'old lady blue hair' thing.

"The manuscript gave me lots of visuals to work with. That was great! It's always interesting to illustrate books when the authors also naturally have some visuals in their minds that can differ from the illustrator's. I think that our process worked really well together, sharing ideas and such."

Other projects that Wendy has in the works include a daily art blog on Tumblr showcasing artwork, illustrations, paintings, sculpture, paper cutting and more -- all on the subject of bones. She will also exhibit next October at the Racine Art Museum where she will put together some of the objects that she's produced this year.

Check out Wendy's website:

Follow Wendy on Tumblr:

Buy the book, A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus: