Here are our Christmas cards for this year.
When I asked my mother what theme I should use, she decided she wanted a more traditional, religious set of cards with rich jewel colours, so I obliged, first with the Magi:
And then with Mary and baby Jesus:
We got them printed at Moo.com, who always do a fabulous job (though it was very annoying that their 25% off Christmas Sale started just two days after I had decided that I just couldn't wait any longer before ordering, needing to have them delivered here in Australia with still enough time to emboss them, write in them, and send them off to their final destinations before Christmas. >.<) and they look lovely - lovelier than these photos show. Gold envelopes were too good to pass up for these designs, I think.
My mother likes our cards to be fiddly and full of layers and glitter and the like – to reconcile her to slightly more costly (but far less time-consuming for me) FLAT printed cards I promised to add some gold embossing to them. I've always glittered the cards we've had printed on photo paper as heat-guns bubble the paper.
I used Ranger Perfect Medium pens and heat-set gold embossing tinsel. The Perfect Medium pens work beautifully on Moo cards – I bought them to use on the Tulip Wedding Invitations but they soaked in to the high resolution paper I was using far too fast to be of any use, but here they were just perfect.
The colour of the embossing powder matches the envelopes surprisingly well:
I wanted to avoid the more tacky side of religious painting, the type you get in pamphlets and the Maxwell Bible Story collection, for example. That style has never appealed to me. I initially thought that I would do a fake paper-cut style, but eventually changed my mind and went for my coloured-linework-and-lasso-colouring style that I have used previously, this time with the addition of lots of textures (mainly from cg textures, especially their patterned tiles, but I made the sky myself).
I started with a very rough thumbnail sketch, posed some mannequins in Manga Studio and then used those as a rough base when drawing my draft linework in pencil, then took it into Photoshop for the final linework and colour.
As I like costume I made each magi distinct – Melchior (Persian) at the back, Balthazar (Arabian) in the middle and Caspar (Indian) in front. I took a fair bit of artistic license, especially as at that time India was under Persian rule, so there was no reason why Caspar should be Indian and *no* reason for that costume. As well as internet research I heavily referenced Jourmana Medlej's Guide to Human Types, and my copy of A Pictorial History of Costume. I was inspired by Kay Nielsen, too.
For the nativity scene I didn't want a sombre bleeding-heart design, and chose to have a more Levantine Mary instead of the standard blonde-haired European image. About halfway through, to fix my composition, I decided to add a lamb for extra symbolism, to solidify the 'stable' idea, and because our surname is Mutton.
Possibly Mary should not have such rich clothing, but who is to say the Magi didn't bring her a present as well?
Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Intuos 3.