They were fine, and served as decent Christmas cards, but I felt then and now that something was lacking. There was something about actually drawing the card that brought me closer to the holiday somehow… and I'd lost that. I'm not completely sure why -- quite possibly it was in part due to laziness -- but in any case, this year I wanted things to be different. This year I wanted to go back to drawing our card.
And not only that, I wanted to try to recapture some of the -- well, let me be blunt and call it what it was -- wackiness of some of those cards from past years. I recall things like "The Christmas Snail", a drawing which depicted a slightly anthropomorphic Christmas tree riding a huge snail on a beach.
So after I told Jeannine of my intentions, and she enthusiastically approved, I started thinking… and within a few hours an idea came to me in the form of an image of an octopus standing on its head on the ocean floor, its tentacles twisted into a rough approximation of the triangular shape of a Christmas tree, and holding in those tentacles, at the very top of the "tree", a starfish.
I got to work and within a short time had sketched out the idea.
Over the course of the next few days, I inked it with a variety of black brush markers.
Around this time, I asked Jeannine if she would be willing to write a poem to go along with the art, and to my delight, she agreed. So while she was musing about that and trying out different rhymes, I had to decide how to color the piece. I'd thought about doing the colors in Photoshop, but decided I wanted to keep more of a hand-drawn look (though I knew I would probably tweak the art in Photoshop). So I got out my new box of Pitt brush markers -- I think there are sixty-four different colors in it -- and got to work. This was the result.
I liked it okay, and Jeannine thought it was fine, but for some reason, I wasn't totally happy with it. I decided to try a second version, this time using watercolors over the black and white line art. (I think I was inspired in this not only by that Jerry Pinkney show I talked about a few blog posts back, but also by seeing some of the beautiful watercolor art Jim Lawson has been doing recently.)
I don't have a lot of skills in this medium, but I figured I should just jump in and try it. And it went more easily than I expected, and I liked the results.
Now I had to put a background into the image, and rather than try to carefully mask out the image and attempt to do a watercolor background, I decided to cheat a little bit and use my computer to create something that I could play around with until I got the look I was going for… and after a few tries, I was satisfied with this one.
By this time, Jeannine had finished her poem. I made a few suggestions, of which I think she may have used one, and she tweaked it a bit further. This is the version that ended up inside the card. (You may have to click on it to get a bigger, more readable version.)
(Here's the poem in plain text in case the above is too difficult to read -- it isn't the clearest font, though I like the shapes of the letters.)
"Some say reindeer can't fly to rooftops
and holidays don't happen in the seas.
They say the sky is up, the ocean down,
and octopi can't be Christmas trees.
But there's more than one side to a story
and more than one side to a tree. An octopus
can twinkle. And special stars can swim.
We wish you many merry days with fishy lyricism!"
And because I was a little concerned that my original idea (that of an octopus pretending to be a Christmas tree) might not come across as clearly as I wanted, and also because I wanted to make sure that Jeannine got her due credit for the poem, I put the following on the back of the card.