2020 hand-made holiday cards

Making my own holiday cards is fun. Besides, I am very keen on the notion of taking time to make something for someone I care about. I’ve hand-made my holiday cards every year for 5 or 6 years now. The time I spend making something for someone is time I spend thinking about them. The only thing missing is… well, them. But in most cases the people I make them for are very far away or just far away. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and various states of lockdown or/and curfew, everyone was far away.

2020 was a rough year for so many people and I felt I could maybe share some love, that I tweeted that I was offering 20 hand-made cards to whoever wanted one. I had found a lovely pad of 20 thick smooth watercolor paper of roughly A5 size which once folded would make nice cards.

To my surprise, nobody responded.

I was disappointed. No, puzzled, rather. Perhaps the time wasn’t right? But Twitter shows the number of impressions (times in somebody’s timeline) and engagement (any interaction with the tweet) and after 4 days that tweet had been seen by over 200 persons, and interacted with by 20. Twenty. Exactly the number of sheets I could make cards with 😀

Puzzled Memoji

By that time, a friend of mine sent me a text as a way to raise hand. Woohoo! Game on! That friend was surprised to be the first. That somehow reinforced the idea that perhaps my first message wasn’t sent at the right time, or that people may have not bothered thinking that they might be too late, so I added a tweet in response.

4 friends raised their hands. That’s it. 5 actually, as another friend raised hand three weeks later.

“That’s what it is” Memoji

Oh well, I built a list of other people I wanted to send a card to, made and sent the cards to everyone! Most of them have made it already.

Here are 18 of them. I chose simple designs and a few colours: blue, sienna, grey, green that I mixed to obtain varying shades. I used gouache paint, a black pen, a white Posca pen, and a metallic gold pen. Inside I traced in pencil a couple lines in case people wanted to cut out the painting and use it as a bookmark. Of course I wrote a personal holiday greeting in each of them.

Step by step: Soldier & Lady making a snowman

I will be mailing my parents their Christmas presents this year. And since my mum had such a blast last year with my drawing of the Mackintosh’s Quality Street characters Soldier and Lady, I painted her a Christmas card with them in the snow making a snowman.

Finished version of the “Soldier & Lady making a snowman” postcard painted with gouache

This is one of their design from the 1960s, I think. From the side of a tin box.

Step by step

Pencil sketch. The background being grey, I chose a toned paper so that I would only have to add colours and white on top of it. It’s from a Toned Blue Mixed Media vellum surface pad from Strathmore. The blue tone really passes well for a grey, luckily, as it’s the only toned paper I have. 4 in. X 6 in. (10.2 x 15.2 cm), 184 lb. (300 g/m2)

I have only a few tubes of good gouache paint and a few tubes of watercolorlur too to draw from in order to mix the colours. I knew the painting colours would not be faithful to the original, in particular the Lady’s dress which was pink and fuchsia. I started with the red. I mixed burnt sienna gouache with titanium white opaque watercolor but ended it with a pinkish orange. I then added Indian red watercolour and was satisfied and painted the Soldier’s jacket, omitting the parts that were going to be a different colour. Then I painted the dress. I added white and a little bit of Prussian blue to the red mix. The resulting colour was plum, and this was fine. I added more of the red mix and some brown I had from a previous painting and used that for the darker parts of the dress. Then I used titanium white watercolour to paint the snow, leaving untouched the areas of the footprints and shadows.

I needed a few shades of grey for shadows on the snowman, under the dress, and on the soldier’s leg behind the snowman. for the faces I applied white and brown. Then I used some ivory black to decorate the dress’ fur, paint the hat, boots, Soldier’s hair, the snowman’s stick and eyes, and the shadow against the tree trunk. The Lady’s scarf was supposed to be blue and dark green, but with a dark plum dress I thought leaf green was going to be better.

Snowflakes! I used a white Posca pen to add dots that I immediately tapped with my finger to spread the ink unevenly. Then I added yellow ochre to my green and finished the Soldier’s hat, the top of his boots, the decorations on his shoulders and the handle of his sword.

I wasn’t happy with their faces so I attempted to make them better only to fail. In retrospect, the faces were fine as they were!

I fiddled some more with their faces and as soon as I had managed to make them look a bit less weird, I stopped. I made them look happier in the process, so it’s all good. I added a touch of white for the teeth, which aren’t visible in the original, but since their faces were so dark, I thought it would be a good alteration.

I didn’t want to write on the painting in case my mum wants to frame it. So I folded a white sheet from my cheap watercolour paper block, cut a couple slots and inserted the painted. I will write inside and will mail everything tomorrow!