ART!: A Christmas Tradition

Nearly every year since 1994 I’ve scribbled out a Christmas card that attempts to convey my situation and mindset at the time.  Planning begins in the early fall, and I typically go through several complete iterations, along with hours of panic, hopelessness and renewed focus. Since 2006, Mary has served as partner and editor, and she wields absolute veto power. Here are a few; I’ll share others as we go.

2011: The year Pop passed


This was going to be a difficult Christmas. I’d considered a tribute, but I feared it would have felt insincere and not appropriate to the medium.

Reflecting on a lifetime of Christmases, I recalled this true story from 30-some years before. While Pop is included, it’s Mom who’s the featured player. For the first time, as I write this, I am starting to realize why that was.

This was a favorite of my brother Tim; he loved the story and the way I’d told it. Soon after he passed in January 2015, I actually did do a tribute for him and Pop together. I’ll share that later.

2016: This was right after the election


So many obvious concepts coursed through my brain, each one too over the top. When I considered what Trump really meant to me and my family, I accepted (and hoped) that not much was likely to change, at least in our daily lives.

This is a pretty typical night at our house. It’s not so monochromatic, of course. The blue tint was intended to admit to the funk of the times. I tried to temper this with the pinkish, sallow gray. We did at least four different print runs before we settled on these colors.

“Joy. Us.” had been a theme I’d pitched during the year for something. I thought its spirit was spot on for this, in a sort of depressing, sarcastic way. (That’s not how I pitched it to the client, of course.)

1999. My last Christmas in New York City


A tight, emotional story told in a single frame, if I do say so myself.

I loved snow in New York, especially at night. If a storm was on course to hit, I’d often get out of bed at two or three in the morning to head off into the elements. My time there was also quite solitary. So this scene captures a lot of my City experience.

In drafts of this, I had added a taxi racing into the intersection from the left, certain to erase the evidence of the angel. Even I thought that was too cynical.

I didn’t know that this would be my last Christmas in New York, but my walking away (towards the light) was prescient.

2009. This will always be a favorite

The concept came late in the development period; it was the height of the recession and inspiration was strained. When it finally came to me it was such the obvious direction. What if all of my imagined friends from Christmas fiction were connected with me on this new thing called Facebook? Once that fell into place, the build-out of trivia and voice was so much fun. We were able to fit the dogs in, as well as a nod to the 2008 card, inspired by the gloomy news of the day.

I still revisit this one and I don’t think I’ll ever top it.

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