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A Christmas Card for the Season


People ask about my work process all the time. Here is a practical example of how I tackle a project.

Creating a card for the Christmas season is something I enjoy. This year I had specific goals: The card had to 1) stand on its own, 2) fit on a standard sheet of card stock. 3) Include references to love, acceptance, hope, the future, and World Peace. (One must include World Peace.)

It began with a humble piece of paper and a purple Pilot pen. I chose the characters necessary to portray my themes: the Holy family, shepherds, traveling wise men, rainbow, light in darkness, palm branches and a donkey, a trumpeting angel. I suppose I could have crammed in more, but with these, I was satisfied.

I knew I wanted the action on different panels and viewable, at least in part, at the same time. That meant I had to Dexter the top of the card at an angle. The Star of Bethlehem had to be a constant presence on both sides. That would require at least two folds. I had been thinking about this card for weeks so I had a pretty good idea where things needed to go. I carried the sketch around with me for several days and would take it out and scratch on it when I would think of something and then like a school kid I'd unceremoniously cram it back into my pocket.

A self-standing, folded card
Measuring 3.75 inches x 8.5 inches, this baby fits in a regular envelope.

Satisfied with my doodles, I worked in the figures as silhouettes. That allowed me to evaluate placement and negative spaces without wasting time on drawing details at the development stage—a luxury I never get at year-closing anyway. At that point I could see what needed to be removed: a kneeling shepherd boy was crowding Mary, an ornate doorway had nothing to do with a manger scene OR the holy family's refugee residence in Egypt, and the extraneous sheep had to go.

Black and white shapes are easy to evaluate.

Then the actual illustration began with a mechanical pencil. I prefer a #2 pencil but my constant pencil sharpening drives Jim bananas. Color was added with graphic marker in one fell swoop, not in layers like I prefer (Again, time was not on my side). The art was scanned and printed from my $99 Canon. I folded and trimmed it. Unfortunately, the color came out as "Oh, Happy Day!" which certainly did not match my mood (2016 was the Stinker of Years). I decided to go darker—much darker—and finally I was satisfied.

If only I felt as happy as this card looks.

There we go. That feels more grounded.
Ironically, the back is my favorite side.



I could very well have stopped at the silhouette stage for a dramatic result, and I may develop a commercial card along those lines, but for this year, I wanted it to look hand drawn instead of the slick stuff I do for work. Cards were printed locally by Graphic Resource and were mailed to family and close friends.

Now, on to the next project.

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