Anatomy of a Christmas Card

Titmouse, final painting

Making my Christmas cards is a yearly tradition. Every year my New Year’s resolution is to get them done early. Hasn’t happened yet.

As this year was no exception, thought I’d give you a little rundown on the process.

The idea: Two years ago my inspiration came from tragedy. Last year, I was fascinated with watercolor and stencil. I had nothing for this year until about a month ago while watching the birds at the feeders. My paintings of birds have always done well in my People’s Choice Awards each year. Birdwatching is one of my hobbies…..OK……..I’m onto something here. Backyard birds in snow scenes. Bing, bing, bing. And with the added benefit it is a good subject for quite a few years. Time elapsed: months.

The reference: Hit the laptop for my photo folders. Nothing that I like. How ’bout those olds discs with the reference photos? No luck. On to my last resort, the wonderful website, Paint my Photo. Thank you Rodney Campbell for your great photo. Time elapsed: Two hours.

The sketch: Initial sketch, maybe 20 minutes. Add some color, hardly any time at all. Not liking that pinecone. But I wanted a pinecone in my painting. Compromise, maybe I can add one next year. (But will I remember…..maybe I won’t like pinecones next year.)

Titmouse sketch

The painting: transferred the sketch….start painting. Not liking where it’s going. Can I fix it by making it darker? Have you looked at a color wheel lately? Where are you going with that color scheme? (Have I been spending too much time painting detailed commissions? ) Time elapsed, including self doubt……hard to say.


Decision to start over: Time elapsed: see above.

Second painting. Transfer sketch, say my prayer (did I forget this step in the initial painting?), and let the paint and brush do their thing. Time elapsed: Maybe 30 minutes.

Noodle stage: the time the painting sits in a prominent place for review. Time elapsed: two days.

Finishing work: photographing…need sunny day. It’s winter in NJ. Time elapsed: two days. Cut mat (while mat cutter is set up, you might as well mat others that are in the cue.), cut backer board. Time elapsed if lucky and math is correct: 1/2 hour. Print provenance. Time elapsed, if printer cooperates and doesn’t need the ink changed: 2 minutes. Mount painting on backer board with mat, insert into acetate sleeve without ripping the sleeve. Time elapsed on a good day: 2 minutes. Record painting in painting catalogue. Time elapsed: 2 minutes if connection and laptop cooperate.

Reproducing the cards: It’s either pricey to do from an online service, or frustrating to do from your printer. Time elapsed. Haven’t finished yet, will let you know.

As I tell my students: They are not all masterpieces. They are not all frame worthy. We can only hope we like a few, and some work appeals to someone’s sense of wonder. This painting, eventually, hit the mark on both and will soon be headed to it’s forever wall.


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