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As the first paintings Erica had ever done with this level of detail, she first made sketches based on photo references of the characters. While some are very similar to original show poses, she did make changes to better fit her design, such as making the four main characters all have serious faces while Uncle Iroh looks quite content with his tea.
After applying the main colors and shading, Erica used a black acrylic paint pen to outline each character so they looked more polished, like in the show itself. This is Toph, about half way through the outline process.
Here are the five finished paintings without their frames. Although the characters look fine on their own, Erica was excited to add in their elements for them to bend by making custom frames.
To make the frames, Erica used thin plywood and cut out the elements and frame in one piece using her Dremel.
Here's a test of Katara's water cut-out.
I then made a base for the front of the frames that allow the elements to stick out about an inch from the canvas surface. This gives the elements more dimension. I love the shadow created on Aang by the air he is bending in this picture.
I painted the elements first and then painted the rest of the frames black.
Finished Katara, waterbendeing.
Finished Toph, earthbending.
Finished Zuko, firebendeing.
Finished Aang, airbending.
Finished Iroh, practicing the newly developed art of teabendeing.
Final paintings, displayed in the cycle of Water-Earth-Fire-Air, with Tea in the center.
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Tea Bending

Five paintings created in 2011 as a surprise for Erica's friend Jan Heiman, who shares Erica's love of the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. One of Jan's favorite characters is Uncle Iroh, probably due to him sharing Jan's questionably-healthy love of tea. Erica created a symbol for "Tea Bending" and featured Iroh in the center of the Water-Earth-Fire-Air cycle, as Tea is a combination of all four. Erica's original inspiration was to create a painting where the frame was an integral part of the design. Paintings/frames designed, built, and painted by Erica using acrylic paint on canvas and wood. Characters and the symbols for Water, Earth, Fire, and Air are the property of Nickelodeon.

Erica McCay
Experience Designer Orlando, FL