Christmas cards, why did we all stop sending them? Are we too busy? Do we not plan ahead? Is it too expensive? Do we just feel like we don’t know what to say? Whatever the reason the sending of Christmas cards is dying out but I am and have been determined to bring back the joy of “snail mail”.
Over the last 9 years I have occasionally sent out Christmas cards. Most of the time, when I don’t, it’s because I forget until it’s too late. When I have my ideas didn’t come together the way I wanted or I wasn’t super stoked about what I was sending. However every time I did I would design the front of the card and have them printed at Zazzle.com along with stamps that have a custom image.
Then the pressure comes, do I write on the inside? Do I have to write a message to each person? Does every message have to be different? Let me ask you, is it such an impossible task to write a quick hello to those you care about? One thing I discovered this year was it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. I knew there were a few I wanted to write a message to. As I got going through the 43 cards I was sending out I realized I has something to say to everyone. I quickly jotted it down and my husband then signed them as well. If they were friends or family of my husbands that I had not met yet he then wrote the message and I signed them. The system worked really well and in our haste we managed to knock out a personal message to each of the 43 people we sent cards to and it took maybe and hour or two.
So this year when it came to the actual design of the Christmas card I started thinking about what I wanted to do. For anyone who was a fan of the show, this was the year of Netflix’s Stranger Things. There’s a scene in the movie where a few of the characters are sitting on this old beat up couch in a house with the alphabet painted on the wall above them in dripping black paint and Christmas lights strung ablaze the letters.
This got me thinking how funny it would be to do a Christmas card with the not so festive scene and have the recipient have to decode our message based on the colored light above each letter. Sadly even the simplest of messages was too complicated so the “hidden message” got scrapped. Instead we opted for a clear and simple message that would just look like the black drippy paint.
Once I got stuck on the idea of a Stranger Things Christmas card I started looking for images for inspiration. This lead me to tons of “fan art.” One particular artist by the name of Lan in China did a piece the stood out and made my creativity run overtime. One of the many aspects I loved about this piece was that it also included the “upside down” and the demogorgon! Anyone who has scene the show knows that this monster is not ever well seen in the show so to get a clean still image of it was great and that REALLY got my imagination going.
Armed with these two images I set out on the idea of my husband and I sitting on the couch with our two dogs and all of us dressed like characters from the show. First up was the star of the show who was a little girl that wore this silly pink dress and blue coat through a goo chunk of it. Since we had no girls in our family I subjected my silly little dog to being put in a dress. Once I had him done I was on a role with the whole idea.
Working with the four kids that are the stars of the show I made each of us one of the kids. Next up was our wire fox. I couldn’t resist giving him the bandana headband. One might think I had the foresight of thinking about each character in the movie and whisk one represented each of us best but it just kinda happened and was quite subconscious.
Then working on my husband and I I knew that I had to be the one in the baseball cap since anyone who knows me know I wear them all the time. One of the hardest things for me to draw, other than hands, it hats. Getting the perspective right is tricky. To do all four of us with enough of a liking to us actually is something I could only do easily and quickly because of Procreate on my iPad using my Apple Pencil.
When I set out on doing custom art work this year for peoples birthdays I developed a technique that is maybe my favorite way to work. I start with finding tons of source material. I then put the image I am going to work with underneath a transparent layer, reduce the opacity to a very low value of like 20% and then essentially trace the image. However, I take it sone step further and I start with rough sketching my idea and then manipulating the image to fit my sketch. This way it’s still my interoperation and it’s a caricature rather than an realistic image and it allows me to put anyone in whatever setting I am going for. This makes putting people in their favorite shows or movies a fun artistic challenge.
Another of the many challenges was how to position us “sitting” on the couch. For this again it was scouring google images for images of a man sitting on a couch. I found some great reference photos and stitched them together to get the positioning correct and then used my technique to work the proportions to the scene I was doing.
When it came to the background I knew I needed some old distressed floral wallpaper. Then I remembered a drawing texture I had created years ago for another caricature. It was a floral print for a women’s thermal undershirt. This made for the perfect wallpaper!
As the card itself came together I then started thinking about the rest of it. I wanted to make sure anyone who wasn’t quite sure what I was doing would maybe understand if I used the title font and layout from the show. Since everyone used copy written fonts this took some doing and with some of the amazing tools in Adobe’s Photoshop I was able to create a pretty close match. I then chose a name for the piece calling it “Aronofsky’s Stranger Christmas”. Coming up with the right font and the weigh effects might have been the most time consuming aspect and most difficult. We also then came up with the idea to stuff the cards in with the back showing so that when the recipient opened the envelope they would see this first and then flip it over to see the front of the card.
With the card design done it was time to think about the envelope and stamp. For the stamp there was only one answer… a poinsettia. But not any poinsettia a demogorgon poinsettia. Something that was fun and playful like Audrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors but that was inspired by the demogorgon in the show. Drawing a scary poinsettia might have been one of the funnest things I have done in a while.
The final piece to this project was custom printing every envelope. Each persons name was laid out to have an accent on the first letter and an address that was manipulated to fit a custom space. I picked a font that would showcase what they were about to open would be different, unique, and creative.
So from the front to the back of the card, the stamp, and the envelope I was able to make this a memorable holiday card that was fun a different. We both loved it so much that we have decided that we are starting a new tradition and each years card will have some pop-culture theme of the year that it’s given. So for those on our Christmas card list look forward to the craziest cards you have ever seen!