It was 1995, Christmas was coming, and I just felt I’d waited long enough: I had this big idea for a Christmas card for twenty-five years or more. I had thought about it, sketched it, and put it away unfinished many times. But for some reason that year I finally got out the paints and went to work.
I’ve been looking around for the sketchbook where I arrived at this version, because somewhere in the margins I noted the source material for the recumbent figure of Little Himself. My recollection is that it was from a book of drawings by William Blake, of John the Baptist bedeviling Baby Jesus, or vice versa. One of them, I forget which, was trying to sleep. There was my model. I was an unstoppable engine of paint, water, paper and inspiration.
When the painting was done, I took it up to Elmwood Copy & Printing, where I was certain that the nice fellow behind the counter would work patiently with me to tweak the color balance on the Xerox machine. I knew there would be some serious degradation involved, turning an original painting into a slightly cheesy color xerox, but that was fine. We printed out about twenty copies onto heavy paper for the list of folks on my mailing list.
Then I faced a week of craft project evenings, trimming and folding and cementing all the printed versions of the painting into the Big Concept.
Here’s a good photo of the painting, done with egg tempera onto watercolor paper.
Early versions of this had the Little Guy fairly bursting, arms akimbo, from a Peapod of Glory, which made little or no sense, and did not serve the Mondegreen.
I wrote out holiday greetings onto little cards that I slipped into the seed packets, put the packets into little manila envelopes, then mailed them.
In the end, no one guessed that it was me who made the cards. (See enigmatic B., above.) And to my surprise, I had to explain the cards a few more times than I liked. So, it was a good idea, not a great idea. But I got it done, and realized a dream and triumphed over procrastination. And for once I sent out Christmas cards. Now it’s been another quarter of a century since they last saw the bleak winter light. It’s time.