COMPUTER WHIMSEYS
Graphic Design, Whimsical cards and prints
Designed By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos
All designs Copywrited

Composites made on the computer combining photos and surreal or realistic backgrounds that I create--many times with a good story behind it.
They can be reproduced in any size. For gifts, promotional purpose, invitations, holiday cards, etc. Photographs used are also shot by Jamie. Most of these examples were created for her martial arts company, but custom "computer whimseys" can be created for any personal or business use.
Below are many of the stories behind the pictures, and the way inspiration for the ideas evolved.

Computer Whimsey custom designs start at $1500.00.
This includes concept, photo session and styling, scanning and separating photos, putting in backgrounds, and producing poster.

"SIGHTSEEING" By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos

THE STORY: One of our Karate students (pictured) was going to school in Russia. When she finished school there, she was planning to fly to Paris from Russia to get "officially" engaged to her then "unofficial" fiance. This was the custom gift I created for the occasion.
I photographed our student doing a jump kick, then combined photographs of Russia and Paris to blend as if they were one location, and placed her in the new background, suggesting that this may be an efficient mode of travel.

 

"NIGHT WARRIORS" By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos

THE STORY: One of our boxing students, an attorney (left), and his instructor, pro-kickboxing champion (and my husband) Master Zacharatos (right), wanted me to create an imposing picture that would be the first thing opposing councel would see upon entering his office.

I photographed the fighters at the attorney's office (that however disappointing to the attorney, lacks a real boxing ring). I then placed them in this background that I enhanced with special effects. The attorney who also refers to himself as a "street kid from Jersey" was very happy with the result.

"NICOLETTE'S MAGICAL KINGDOM"
By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos (Nicolette's mom)

THE STORY: Each year I want to create a special invatation for my daughter's birthday. As soon as I saw this tapestry, I was inspired. I enlarged the horse of the original tapestry to make it more promenant, and photographed my daughter on her rocking horse to be in the correct position, and dressed her in a cape I made. I then placed her image in the tapestry.
Of course I then had no choice but to live up to the invitation, and create an actual magical kingdom for our guests with real horses--don't ask!

"NICOLETTE'S MAGICAL GARDEN"
Photo composite created by Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos

THE STORY: I get inspired by a photos, or in this case, a greeting card. I told my daughter to hold her Magic wand with her arms extended
(so her hands would be in the correct position), and then to kick her leg back. Because her skin tone is darker than the bunny in the orgininal card, I put the white and yellow flowers behind her arms and legs, and a yellow one for her to step on, for more contrast. I also made the central image (the Bunny, then Nicolette) larger, to become more promenant.

When looking for images and inspiration, I know than I have found what I'm looking for when I can visulize ahead of time what I'm going to do with the original image (a photo, card, tapestry, etc) before I even get started. Then I just get to work with "photoshop" to make my visualization come to life!

PIRATE CAPTIAN NICOLETTE!
By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos

THE STORY: Like most kids being exposed to all the pirate movies and merchandising around these days, our daughter also got very interested in Pirates. Yet unlike most girls who want to be pirate princesses, she wanted to be pirate captian. Luckily, children's books have also kept up with the times, and I bought her a book that told the story of the rough tough little girl priates with their own ship, who "allowed" the boy to join them on their adventure. Well, that was it, now she had to have her own ship too! Luckily, her mom (that's me), can pretty much give her anything she wants thanks to my trusty Mac computer and photoshop program! It helps to have such a wonderful model as my daughter, and as she gets older, it's so much easier to have her pose correctly knowing how I'll be placing her in the photo. I then had to find real pirates for her party to do a sword fight and treasure hunt! That's another story!

In this case I knew I wanted to place her on a ship, and I went about finding a stock image online, that's the first time I had ever done that. I knew the right photo when I saw it, tweeked it a bit to suit my purposes, and dressed my daughter up in costume, and posed her so she'd be holding the ropes on the ship in the photo!

"BOXING BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT" (yeah you heard right!) By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos
(I took out the personal information on this announcement about our daughter's birth for this website)

THE STORY: Even the birth announcement for our daughter that I wrote and designed reflected that we teach Karate, Boxing & Kickboxing (I was teaching into my 9th month!) The announcement reads: "in this corner, weighing in at 7lbs and 1oz, the next" infant weight" champion of the world. . .

I bought a ready made card with the flowers to use as the base for the border, then scanned it in. I added the boxing gloves and moved and added some of the flowers around to suit my design. I then put in a boxing ring with our name on it as well as the text. I continued the design of the flowers and boxing ring onto the envelope as well.

I liked the contrast of the sweet flowers with an agressive boxing ring, along with the contrast of the boxing text that mimics the announcer of a prize fight, yet we're describing the birth of a sweet innocent baby.
No one we sent it to had ever received a birth announcement like that, and it was great to wait for the wild reactions after we mailed them! It adds alot when you can add personal touches to otherwise standard annoucement cards. It really stands out from the crowd.

"QUICKDRAW"
By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos


THE STORY: OOne of our kickboxing students competed in amateur fights. This talented fighter earned the nick name "quickdraw" for reasons other than you may think. Aside from the obvious of being quick on the draw, the outcome of most of his fights resulted in draws, not wins or losses. I wanted to create something for him to remember his days as a fighter.

"DAD'S 80th"
By Jamie BenAziz-Zacharatos

THE STORY: My dad had an aeronautical engineering company, and we needed a special card for the menu for his birthday dinner party. I gave him his own jet--on this card.


HOLIDAY CARDS FOR
"ZACHARATOS KARATE & KICKBOXING AND SOCCER"

By now all of our clients expect me to make a spectacular holiday each year.
I have fun photographing us and our students, and placing us all in suprising locations as you can see by the above and below cards--
The photo composite directly above, is a background photo in Ireland, the photo above that in our "home gym" is in Russia--we sure save on travel expenses!
(I need a new photo of me kicking, I think I've used it for enough years!)

HOLIDAY CARD 2006
FOR ZACHARATOS KARATE & KICKBOXING AND SOCCER


As I was last year, I was inspired again by a photo from a Calendar to use as my background for our holiday card. In this case, in the card above, I used for my background, a painting by Salvador Dali, 1954, titled, "the maximum speed of rafael's madonna"
Most years, I have no idea what I'm going to do for our card until I see the right photo, and I'll know it when I see it! So, I wander the calendar section of our local bookstore, and sift through the many photos until I get an idea! Then I scan in the photo, and then take photos of us, and then work my magic in photoshop.

Calendars are inexpensive and can be a great source of photos to inspire many projects.

HOLIDAY CARD 2007
"Zacharatos Karate, Kickboxing and Soccer"

This year I knew I wanted a French theme, since our daughter and I are studying French, and it is my husband's first language
.
At first I got photos of the Eiffel Tower and placed us all on it, but it looked kind of cheesy. So then I went back to my trusty calenders. At the book store, I saw a black and white calendar of Paris, and as soon as I saw this picture, I knew it was the one.
My first thought was to place each of us on the pedistals replacing the statues that are actually on the pedistals. That didn't work because my husband and I would be too small in the distance, so I only put our daughter on the first one, while extending the size of the pedistal to make room.
I also took alot of the color saturation out of the photos of all three of us, yet not making us completely black and white, because when we were in full color on the black and white background, it was just too distracting.
I think the end result was a classy cool looking card, and more subtle with the Eiffel Tower just peeking out in the background.

HOLIDAY CARD 2008
"Zacharatos karate, Kickboxing, and Soccer"

I had no ideas about what to do with this year's card until I got my daughter her Ninja Halloween costume that she selected out of a catalog. So I thought, oh, how cute, I'll have her pose with a sword, then I thought, hey why not have all of us with swords, that would be different. Then this turned out to be one of my favorite cards!

So after posing my husband and daughter and taking their photos, I needed a different pose for me, so I downloaded some sword poses for inspiration, and thought the over the head one would suit me just fine. I took down one of my display swords off my wall, but I didn't realize how super heavy it was. So after standing in that cool over the head pose until my husband finally took a photo I was happy with, I was left with a great photo, as well as a stiff neck, arm, and back, for two days! Didn't someone once say you have to suffer for your art?

I then found an old dragon art calendar, and selected a picture by Ciruelo, titled "the death of the serpent dragon", as my background. I had to take out his dragon slayer to make room for us, and stretch the background to fit us all in, but I was very pleased with the end result.
At least I have another year before I have to search for inspiration once again.

Holiday party invitation for "Zacharatos Karate & Kickboxing and Soccer"

Because there were a limited amount of invitations, each one was printed on the computer and then hand glued to a copper metallic card stock. All Graphics were created using Photoshop

HOLIDAY CARD 2009
Zacharatos Karate Kickboxing and Soccer

I didn't know how I was going to top last years card, and had no ideas. So, I did what I always do when I'm stuck, I go to the Calendar section of Barnes and Noble Book Store.
I bought several different kinds of calendars, and was hoping something would inspire me in the Masters of Illusion Calendars by Rob Gonsalves, and I thought this one ("Chess Masters") would work. But, it had 2 characters drawn, and I needed 4.
So I took two more images of women sitting from another one of his drawings in the calendar. I then posed my daughter accordingly, to photograph her to fit in all the drawings, (there are 3 of her in this card), and then the design just sort of took off on it's own.
I'm very happy wtih the end result, the Zacharatos Clan playing chess . . . with themselves!!
We're the chess pieces and the chess players. I placed our faces on the characters, and then took full photos of us kicking, and placed them on the chess pieces.
One of my favorite parts of this card, is our daughter in the center, moving the chess piece of her dad! Well, until next year!

HOLIDAY CARD 2010
Zacharatos Karate Kickboxing and Soccer

This year, I was determined to place us in a comic book, just do something totally different. I looked for months, but just couldn't find the right comic book picture (maybe next year). So I went back to Ron Galsalves paintings, and I went on his website, and looked at all the paintings, as soon as I saw this one, I knew I had my idea, and I was done. I don't know what I'm going to do until I see it, then I get inspired, something just clicks.

In order to make room for all of us on the platform, I copied it and widened it, I also placed our heads all above, pulling our own strings--we're in control of our own actions, I thought the message was cool.
I took photos of my husband and daughter, and told them to look up and look down, etc. I took a new karate photo of our daughter when she recently got her junior blackbelt, but used former karate photos of ourselves, they were already separated and ready to go, soon I'll have to take some new ones. I was able to find head photos of me that worked, it's always easier than trying to get my husband to take photos of me! ha ha.

Below is original background painting by Ron Gonsalves ("Pulling strings"), before my many modificatons! It's fun to compare the two paintings and see how the changes were made. For example, I had to stretch the platform to make room for us to stand on it, you can look closely at the structures, and see how seamlessly the changes look even after the many alterations. That takes many hours, and much patience!

HOLDIAY 2011
Zacharatos Karate Kickboxing and Soccer

Once again, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do this year.
So I first go to my Rob Gonsalves calendar pics for inspiration.
When I saw a winter scene called Nocturnal Skatings, I thought we could all go snow boarding
down the painting! So then I check out some snow boarding pics, and when I saw a photo with three snowboarders, and snow shooting out around their boards, I knew that was it, and everything just fell into place, and I decided to go with that background instead.

So my first idea actually led me in a slightly different direction, inspiration evloves in funny ways sometimes.
I call it my light bulb moment, when I get that spark of an idea, and I switch from having no idea at all, to knowing exactly what I'm going to do in an instant.
I just can't rush the idea part of the process, to me that's the hardest and most unpredictible part, it happens when it happens. Looking at pictures helps a lot, once the idea comes, it's just a matter of executing the idea.
Sometimes I have an idea first of what I want to do, and then I go about find photos to fit my idea, but usually it's the other way around, the photos give me an idea.

To complete my design, I then made three "Zachratos" snow boards to face horizonally to accomodate our martial arts poses. I decided to give us all swords later even though we posed with escrima sticks because they are much lighter to hold in these positions.
And this year, our 9 year old daughter took the photos of me! and as usual, I take the photos of our daughter and my husband.
Usually my husband takes the photos of me, but he is a bit photo challenged! ha ha, So from now on Nico is hired as my official photographer.

Below is the original background photo that gave me my idea.


This was one of my favorite cards from 2008, when our daughter was a redbelt,
I wanted to update her photo for a poster, so I combined the 2008 card with the 2011 card, that had the perfect updated image of her as a second degree blackbelt!
I didn't change a thing on her photo except to flip it horizontally, it's amazing her foot position works perfectly on the dragon, as if it were made for this picture!

HOLIDAY CARD 2012
ZACHARATOS KARATE KICKBOXING AND SOCCER

This year I went back to my Rob Gonsalves backgrounds. But instead of putting just our heads on the bodies of his characters, I decided to do something different, and have us all pose in similar positions, and then insert us into the background!
I was so happy with the way this one turned out!

I had to change the background a bit, such as extending the house, to give us all places to stand on to do our karate kicks. Photoshop out the characters we were replacing, move some of the background missing pieces in the sky to make room for us etc. I had to make it rectagle shape for mailing rather than square, without cutting off too much to ruin the optical illusion.

I actually made a puzzle piece out of cardboard for us to hold when I took the photos so that I wouldn't have to photoshop them in later. I also put some of the puzzle pieces in the box.

I took the photo of my husband on our staircase at home, so he'd be in the correct position going down the stairs in the background. I did the same thing with my daughter, you can see her way in the distance going up the stairs of the house.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do this year, but our karate students loved my 2009 and 2010 Gonsalves cards, where they keep looking at it and discover new things each time, so I really wanted to go back to that this year, but couldn't decide on a background for months. But once I chose this one, it all started to come together.

I wanted to come up with a play on words line, so first I came up with, "the Zacharatos Clan putting themselves together!, but it just didn't feel right, then I tried putting their pieces together, but that also sounded wierd, so I took a completely different point of view of commenting on the obvious puzzle pieces, and said, Doing a little landscaping around the house . . . the Zacharatos way! I was happy with that.

This one really reminds me of Escher style drawings. I love how the puzzle is flat on the floor, but you see my daughter sitting 3 dimensional on the floor handing me a piece of the puzzle. It causes the viewer of the card to visually switch between dimensions!

See the original backround drawing called, "Unfinished puzzle" below, it's fun to see the before and after!

 

HOLIDAY CARD 2013
ZACHARATOS KARATE KICKBOXING AND SOCCER

This year I was determined to get an early start on my holiday cards, and finish before summer. Last year it took so long to come up with an idea, I didn't finish until closer to the holidays. So early on I started looking, you guessed it, I found my background in Rob Gonsalves calendars once again!

This was the second year where instead of just putting our heads on the bodies that were painted in the drawing, I had a lot of fun posing us to fit.
When I saw the rock wall, I was inspired. I couldn't resist, and had our daughter climb on her rock wall in our outdoor playground, and told her to look up.
I had all of us walking up and down our stairs at home carrying buckets (I added the sand later digitally).

To get all the right angles, I stood high up on the second floor of our house, and had my husband walking in our foyer on the first floor holding the buckets, and I took the photo from up there looking down on him. I had an idea where I would place us all, so I had us all put our arms out holding the railing. If it didn't match up exactly in the drawing once I was working on it on the computer, I just repositioned our arms a bit in photoshop so it would all work out.

Originally I had our daughter sitting up by the sand castle looking at it in profile, just like in the original drawing, but I wanted to have one photo of her from the front. so I changed that. I also added her walking up the wood stairs, even though in the orginal drawing, there wasn't anyone on the stairs.

Of course I had to put us all in doing our karate kicks, I added more sections of the sand castle for us to all stand on. Af first I thought it would be cool to make us all sand color to look more like the castle, but it just wasn't looking right, and it is for business promotion as well, so I wanted the kicks to look good. So I put an outer glow behind all 3 of us on the castle for pop, and to look different than the other photos of us. I also made us smaller on the sandcastle.

With so many of us in the card just in different positions, I guess you can say it's us at different times of the day, or we have a lot of twins!
But I was pretty happy with it. Last year, I loved the play in dimensions with the card of two and three dimensions, I would have loved to find that again this year, but each year is different, and I always love the reactions I get each year from our karate students, family and friends, who expect me to come up with something each year!

This year I produced more than I ever did, and after printing 300 cards, and then hand calligraphing all the envelopes, and writing something in each card, I may take a break next year and just e-mail it to everyone!
(that's what I always say)

Below is the original background of the card by Rob Gonsalves, so you can see the changes I made. I also stretched the drawing to be horizontal and not vertical. Even though I've done vertical cards before, I thought it would work better with all my changes to be horizontal.

HOLIDAY 2014-15

Not my usual karate card that I've been doing for over 20 years and takes me about 6 months to make. I took a break, and went in a completely different direction. I made a more family themed card, since we had so many special occasions in 2014, especially my parents 65th anniversary 3 day event.Who knows if or what I'll do next year, hard to top a 65th anniversary!
But I got such a positive reaction, maybe in part because our karate students are not used to seeing us all dressed up! (I also send cards to family and friends who have seen us wearing other things than just karate uniforms) I usually send over 300 cards, but it's so much work, I cut back and only sent 220!

After I knew which photos I wanted to include, the main thing I did was a lot of photoshopping! Hey it's me, I'm not called the "Queen of Photoshop" for nothing! (OK, I'm the only one that calls me that)

Details of the photoshopping:
In this group family photo, my parents heads were completely looking to the side, but it was the only photo of them with the champagne glasses, so I found photos from the same party where they were looking straight ahead and smiling, and gave them head transplants!

The only full shot of my daughter and I together that showed my fabulous Sophia Webster shoes, was actually taken at our house before the party at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, so I took my daughter and I out of the photo at home, took my husband out of another group photo from the party, and combined us all together! Et Voila!

The underwater photo of my daughter Nico, I took with her IPhone waterproof lifeproof case! I never would have believed that it would work, until she just jumped in the pool with her phone! This was my favorite of the series of underwater photos I took, but in this photo her right leg was partly cut off, so I took her leg from another one of the underwater photos from that series, and put it on her leg, and extended the water so she was swimming more in the middle of the pool.

The photo of her surfing was not photoshopped, but the one where she's standing with her board, she was actually standing with 3 other surfer girls too. I photoshopped them out, but one girl standing next to Nico was covering part of Nico's arm. So I copy and pasted part of another girl's arm in her wetsuit, and was able to use that part to fill in the missing part at the elbow. The original photo also had no beach showing on the left side, so I copy and pasted the right side, flipped it horizontally as well, used the clone stamp to smooth out any seams.

Now you know all my secrets, well, just some of them!
Happy Holidays!

 

HOLIDAY 2015-16

This year I again went in a totally different direction, and made a painting. I was inspired by a photo I took of our daughter Nico surfing, and thought that was a typical Southern California winter!
I was further inspired by the Andy Warhol effect! I used a varitey of filters in photoshop, I can't give away all my secrets and tell you exactly which ones!

I copied and pasted the photo four times, and used more than one filter on some of the photos, I also isolated parts of the photos to separate out some of the colors so that each photo would have more than one hue to it.
I then put a gradient in the background and added snowflakes and our logo and text.
I kept the entire card in the blue hues to make it more wintery, I had also tried it in purple tones, but went with the teal and aqua colors with black for more drama.

Happy Holidays

 

HOLIDAY 2016-17

This year, I did a more traditional family style card, but still with a creative touch added. I used the ocean as my background since we love the beach so much, and let it peek through the photos, but in order to have some sort of organization, I put a black border around each photo.

One photoshop secret trick, in the photo of my parents sitting at the table at Spagos, my dad was sitting a bit further from my mom at the table, and there was a big water bottle in front of him. I moved my dad closer to my mom so the photo would be smaller to fit on the card. When I got rid of the water bottle, I had to recreate sections of my dads shirt, and the dish in front ot him!
In photoshop, I mostly used the clone tool to recreate the shirt and dishes, and the lasso tool to copy and paste my dad in order to move him.

The days of my elaborate cards that took over 6 months to make from concept to production may be over for now, since I'd rather spend the time creating more fine art, working, and being with my amazing family! But I'll never stop using my photoshop tricks!

 

HOLIDAY 2017-18

I wasn't going to make and print cards again this year, but then I found the photo of our daughter from many years ago sitting in the drivers seat of my car pretending to drive, causing me to have another "light bulb" moment, thinking wouldn't it be funny to have the photo of her driving now that she got her drivers permit, along with the photo when she was younger driving, saying, "she wanted to start sooner". And just because of that, I had to make another card!
I did have to flip the photo in photoshop of younger Nico to match the direction of the current photo of Nico.

And of course I had to mention, it was the year of Wonder Woman! (I'm such a sci fi geek! still watch all the Marvel comic movies TV shows, DC comic movies, it all started with the original Star Trek when I was just 9 yrs old!

This card has the same ocean background as last year, same birthday balloons with a different year, but different photos and always with a sense of humor! I just have to be funny, I can't take it seriously.

I also added myself with Nico playing tennis and blended the tennis courts from the two photos together, and was proud to be able to caption the photo, "some muscle madness on the tennis courts" especially at my age (58) with my teenage daughter next to me in the photo!

It was tough to calligraphy the addresses and write over 200 cards, not to mention the expense, so "if" I happen to get inspired to do another card next year, maybe I'll just e-mail them, and print one for me and my parents! (who celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in 2017!)

 

HOLIDAY 2018-19

This year I almost didn't make a card, in November 2018 we had terrible fires in southern California, the worst in 100 years! (we lost our first martial arts studio to fire) We had to evacuate, but Calabasas was pretty lucky overall considering. We were so grateful to have our home, and heart broken for those who weren't so lucky.
Thanks to the heroic firefighters who worked tirelessly!

I put this together in a day. But I'm no longer mailing 200-300 cards, I'll be e-mailing /texting the majority of the cards this year, I'll print a few for family and close friends, I just can't do those large quatities right now anymore, it takes me weeks to address and write in all the cards, but making the card in photoshop like this, I'll probably always do that.

The background is actually the club lighting I did at our house for our daughter's sweet 16. Since the last 2 years I had an ocean background for our holiday card, I thought I'd change it up a bit.

I had to do just a little Photoshopping. In the family photo on the right, I had to add Zach (Master Z) to the photo originally just of me and our daughter Nico, but the photo I wanted to use of Zach, his feet were cut off of in the original photo. So I found a different photo of him where I got one shoe, then I flipped it to make the shoe on his other foot.
Then in the great photo I used with Nico playing the Ukulele, my neice was also in the photo, so removing her from the blue chaise was simple enough, but then I realized her legs were still showing on the seat of the chaise! There were already some towels on the chaise, so I googled some towel images, and placed them over her legs, I made the towels slightly transparent, so it wouldn't look so pasted on. You would never know that all that photoshopping was done in the photo!

Photoshopping doesn't always have to mean special effects, but can also be done to make corrections. I do it so often, that it gives me more options becuase I know what I can do to make the photo work for me.
That's about all the photoshop magic I needed for this card. I love the family photos with my parents!

 

HOLIDAY 2019-2020
This was a year of milestones for our family. Even though I had number balloons at all the celebrations, they're not always in the perfect spot in a photo. To bring out the numbers, I got foil balloons off the internet and put them in the photos, it really makes it pop more than if I just would have used text!

 

NOW I"M SHOWING OFF MY MAD PHOTOSHOP SKILLS SOME MORE!
Our daughter Nico is on the Tennis team in high school (keeps me on my toes as I play tennis too!), and I got this great shot of her, but the chain link fence was in the way!
Hmm. . .What to do, what to do . . . .
So I painstakingly used the clone tool in photoshop to get rid of the fence!
(I'm not the Queen of photoshop for nothing!)
I saw that her face was not covered by the fence, so I could see it would be possible to do and not look fake or overdone. I fixed her hair bun that fell out while I was at it too, and I used this image on our 2016 holiday card shown above.