Season’s Greetings

I realize that January 6 is a strange time to be giving the ol’ Christmas hello, but that about sums up my annual efforts to produce a Christmas card. Holly gave up long ago, but I remain plagued by guilt if I neglect the annual tradition of throwing some money at the Post Office. A touch jaded, you might think? Perhaps. But this year I actually mailed out a few greetings just before Christmas, and a bunch after, and then there’s a whack for whom I have no address, so they’ll get theirs in July.

The story of this year’s card goes back about two years, when Holly produced this sketch to illustrate an idea she had for the card, one that I would cut from linoleum or wood (these are thumbnails, but the way, so you can click on them for a larger image. I’ve just figured out how to make them, part of an on-going roller coaster ride on the WordPress learning curve):


Note the dog and the cat. They were a non-negotiable part of any Christmas card. She followed up this sketch with another:


In design, this is closer to the final outcome, and this is the model I used when I began to think about the card seriously, around December 15. (No joke!) I did a very rough sketch just to block out the geography…


So you can see where we’re going with this now. The picture would be framed in the gothic window motif , with the gothic window in the background, Holly and I back to back in the foreground working away, flanked by the non-negotiable pets on either side as totems or heraldic ‘beasts’. Christmas was getting very close indeed when I finally got down to producing a working sketch, as shown:


A few changes of plan, but still recognizable from the original concept. You may note that the figures are rather buff and trim. Put it down to artistic license, or wishful thinking. In the final product, the effect is even more exaggerated. It’s sort of like one of those funhouse mirrors that make you look thin.

The next job was to scan the art into Adobe Illustrator and clean it up and simplify it:


Next I printed out a copy and rework it with pencil, then using the illustration tools in the software incorporate the changes, which I can’t show you because I’ve lost the art work in the recent spring cleaning around the press. But it involved mostly adding details to Holly’s dress and little wood cut features, some of which worked out all right in the final version. Once happy with this, I printed it out and transfered the image with acetone to a linoleum block, then carved out the image:


It took about three hours to cut, then I took a proof using a brayer, took out some noise and cleaned it up a bit, then printed it. This was the final outcome:


I did “Peace and goodwill to all” on the inside, and some identifying type on the back, both of which meant separate press runs. In the end, I finished a few days before Christmas. While I’m satisfied overall with the result, I think it highlights a lack of experience in drawing, which makes it harder still for me to cut good blocks. I have the option to work with drawings produced by other artists — I certainly know enough of them! — but haven’t worked up the nerve to ask. I guess it just lacks a “style” whether medieval or modern, and therefore looks amateur. Some people had trouble figuring out it was anything at all, which is a danger with high contrast art. Just think of that Batman logo: is it a bat, or the inside of an opera singer’s mouth?

Explore posts in the same categories: Block Printing, Letterpress printing, Lino Cuts

3 Comments on “Season’s Greetings”

  1. Hi Larry

    I’ve had the same problem with the idea of doing a Christmas card now for the last couple of years. It always seems like such a good idea – doing a card by letterpress on handmade paper – but the idea only seems to hit me about mid-December, when it’s way too late for me to do anything about it. Maybe next year….

    The trick would be for me to work up some Christmas spirit about July-ish…

    Congrats on starting the blog, by the way. I’m very happy that many of my book/lit/letterpress friends are doing blogs – I just don’t know how everybody comes up with interesting things to say or show regularly.



  2. Wonderful post and blog Larry. I too have had aspirations of doing Xmas cards as well, but usually don’t muster the charge until far too late. Plus, my linocutting skills are so rusty, the cards would certainly be decked in red…

    To answer your question Grant, we mainly just talk about each others blogs…..just kidding. So when are you going to start a blog? I’ll need something to post about by next Wed.

  3. […] of posts to start off the blog and new year, in particular the post on the printing of their Season’s Greetings card from initial concept to final printed block.  An excellent well visualized post…and many […]

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