Art: 2020 hand-made holiday cards

Making my own holiday cards is fun. Besides, I am keen on the notion of taking time to make something for someone I care about. I’ve hand-made my holiday cards every year for 5 or 6 years now. The time I spend making something for someone is time I spend thinking about them. The only thing missing is… well, them. But in most cases the people I make them for are far away. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and various states of lockdown or/and curfew, everyone was far away.

2020 was a rough year for so many people and I felt I could maybe share some love, that I tweeted that I was offering 20 hand-made cards to whoever wanted one. I had found a lovely pad of 20 thick smooth watercolor paper of roughly A5 size which once folded would make nice cards.


To my surprise, nobody responded.

I was puzzled. Perhaps the time wasn’t right? But Twitter shows the number of impressions (times in somebody’s timeline) and engagement (any interaction with the tweet) and after 4 days that tweet had been seen by over 200 persons, and interacted with by 20. Twenty. Exactly the number of sheets I could make cards with 😀


But then a friend of mine sent me a text message to “sign up”. Woohoo! Game on! That friend was surprised to be the first. That reinforced the idea that perhaps my first message wasn’t sent at the right time. Or perhaps people didn’t care. In any case, I added a tweet in response.

4 friends raised their hands. That’s it. 5 actually, as another friend raised hand three weeks later.

Oh well, I built a list of other people I wanted to send a card to, made and sent the cards to everyone! Most of them have made it already.

6 series of 3 hand-made folded cards on a wooden table.

Here are 18 of them. I chose simple designs and a few colours: blue, sienna, grey, green that I mixed to obtain varying shades. I used gouache paint, a black pen, a white Posca pen, and a metallic gold pen. Inside I traced in pencil a couple lines in case people wanted to cut out the painting and use it as a bookmark. I wrote a personal holiday greeting in each of them.

Art: “Soldier & Lady making a snowman” (Step by step)

I will be mailing my parents their Christmas presents this year. And since my mum was so happy last year with my drawing of the Mackintosh’s Quality Street characters Soldier and Lady, I painted her a Christmas card with them making a snowman.

Finished version of the “Soldier & Lady making a snowman” postcard painted with gouache
Finished version of the “Soldier & Lady making a snowman” postcard painted with gouache

This is one of their design from the 1960s, I think. From the side of a tin box.

Step by step

Rough pencil sketch on grey toned paper of a woman in long dress and man in uniform making a snowman

Pencil sketch. The background being grey, I chose a toned paper so that I would only have to add colours and white on top of it. It’s from a Toned Blue Mixed Media vellum surface pad from Strathmore. The blue looks more like a grey. It’s 4 in. X 6 in. (10.2 x 15.2 cm), 184 lb. (300 g/m2)

Paper pad, paint tubes, palette and brush. I've started to paint the dress and uniform, and the snow

I have only a few tubes of gouache paint and watercolour to mix colours. I knew the painting colours would not be faithful to the original, in particular the Lady’s dress which is supposed to be pink and fuchsia. For the Soldier’s red jacket, I mixed burnt sienna gouache with titanium white opaque watercolor and ended it with a pinkish orange, to which I added Indian red watercolour and was satisfied. For the dress, I added white and a little bit of Prussian blue to my orange/red mix. The resulting colour was plum, and this was fine. I added more of the red mix and used that for the darker parts of the dress. Then I used titanium white watercolour to paint the snow, leaving untouched the areas of the footprints and shadows.

Both characters and the snowman are painted, the tree and fence as well.

I needed a few shades of grey for shadows on the snowman, under the dress, and on the soldier’s leg behind the snowman. For the faces I applied white and brown. Then I used some ivory black to decorate the dress’ fur, paint the hat, boots, Soldier’s hair, the snowman’s stick and eyes, and the shadows of the tree. The Lady’s scarf was supposed to be blue and dark green, but with a dark plum dress I thought leaf green was going to be better.

Snow added and gold details on the soldier's uniform.

Snowflakes! I used a white Posca pen to add dots that I immediately tapped with my finger to spread the ink unevenly. Then I added yellow ochre to my green to obtain something that passes for gold so I could finish the Soldier’s hat, the top of his boots, the decorations on his shoulders and the handle of his sword.

I redid their faces

I wasn’t happy with their faces so I attempted to make them better. In retrospect, the faces were fine as they were!

More work on their faces. I added my name and date at the bottom.

I fiddled some more with their faces and as soon as I had managed to make them look a bit less weird, I stopped. I made them look happier in the process, so it’s all good. I added a touch of white for the teeth, which aren’t visible in the original, but since their faces were so dark, I thought it would be a good alteration.

Painting inserted in two slits I cut in a white folded watercolour paper

I didn’t want to write on the painting in case my mum wants to frame it. So I folded a white sheet from my cheap watercolour paper block, cut a couple slits and inserted the painting. I will write inside and will mail everything tomorrow!

Art: Drawvember2020

Last year I did six series of 5 drawings on a given theme or technique and I really liked it, but this year I compiled a list of prompts, and chose any medium or technique I liked:

  • Dragon
  • Robot
  • Fur
  • Cherub
  • Carnival
  • Prey
  • Pyramid
  • Crane
  • Diving
  • Pounce
  • Buccaneer
  • Altitude
  • Shipwreck
  • Zebra
  • Drums
  • Cougar
  • Boat
  • Planet
  • Sullen
  • Jellyfish
  • Monkey
  • Angel
  • Vanquish
  • Depth
  • Villain
  • Lipstick
  • Cliff
  • Pure
  • Elf
  • Tower

All my drawings in one place


I loved it! I discovered in the process that I don’t really like coloured pencils, but that I absolutely love gouache painting!

I think I have improved over the years. Notably, for “sullen” I redid a drawing of “Woman Sitting on Edge of Veranda” by Utamaro Kitagawa. Four years apart, and this time the lines were crisper and there was simply more details.