Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a few quick Christmas thoughts

Elf is an excellent Christmas movie, and I bet I'll still be watching it ten years from now. That's right, it will be a Classic. Great Rankin/Bass touches. Speaking of, I watched a few Rankin/Bass things this year, and boy, some of them are trippy and strange in places.

Lots of little articles lately about the darkness of It's a Wonderful Life. Duh. I love that movie and I don't care who knows it.

A Christmas Story is great, but I'm conflicted about the 24 hour marathon.

Macy's does a great job with the whole Santaland thing. We took our son this past Saturday and were only on line for twenty minutes. The Saturday before Christmas. Very cool. Last year it was more than an hour.

I will improve [have improved [3/11/09] the quality of the holiday card pics, but am glad I put them up, even in the less than perfect photos that they are [were], because it's good to see them all in one place, and I've enjoyed going back and thinking a little about what went into each one.

Driving to Toledo for Christmas. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday card, 2008

Skater, 2-color linocut.

This year's model. With an assist from 2000. I guess I thought maybe it was time for something a little prettier than usual, elegant, not to say 'girly' but maybe a little less boyish than usual. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Holiday card, 2007

Untitled, 2-color linocut on metallic card stock.

I like this one, too, another one with snowfall. But cozier, with the inside point of view. And bittersweet again, because we had to put our cat Buzz to sleep that year. Very hard. And yes, that cat is definitely based on Buzz's cuddly, pear-shaped body.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday card, 2006

Drummer Boy, linocut.

My oldest brother said this was my first 'religious' card, since he interpreted it as related to the Little Drummer Boy song. Others thought it was one of those drum-playing toy monkeys, which I can also see. I don't really care either way, and in fact, made it so it could just be your generic kid who got a drum set under his tree. But I have to admit that 'Rum pum pum pum pum' was on my mind when I made it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday card, 2005

Untitled, 3-color linocut.

This is a real favorite of mine. The three colors work well, the simple image is nice, and so is the polka dot snowy sky, which I'd used before and would again. And the hat. My son had a hat like that, and that's where it all came from. And maybe also from those baby bjorns, where you carry your kid in a harness on your chest, so he's kind of right in your lower field of vision like this. So if the 2004 card was a nod to my father, 2005 was a nod to my son, who was old enough that year for his first trudge in the snow.

Holiday card, 2004

Table rod-hockey guy, linocut.

This one has gotten mixed reviews. I don't think folks always understood that it was a figure from a hockey game toy. But I still like it and stand by it. I have my reasons.

So, 2004 was a big year. I became a father. And about six weeks later, my own father died and we all were on a plane to Toledo for the funeral. My dad had seen pictures of his youngest grandson, but unfortunately, he never had the chance to meet him in person. I remember him telling me over the phone, maybe the last time we ever talked, "He looks like a character, Pack. I can tell he's a real character."

My dad was a good father and maybe even a better grandfather, as often is the case with fatherhood, maybe. And I still miss him, of course. For the card that year, I wanted to use an image from our childhood, a favorite toy that my brothers, my sister and I all played with. One Christmas, my brother received a tabletop rod-hockey game, and I remember it as a toy we all loved to play with. My brother carefully put the stickers on the little flat guys -- one team was the Bruins (his hockey team, and the team of his beloved Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito) and the other was the Blackhawks (where Phil's brother Tony played goalie). I guess partly too because we all had a soft spot, and still do, for Chicago teams, since Chicago was our mother's town.

So the hockey player relates to my dad. A Christmas gift from him that we all loved. I loved the way the puck dropped from a chute on the scorboard which arched over center ice. This card was just a private nod to Dad, from a guy who was just beginning to learn what being a dad means.

And the Peace and Joy part, I guess I just thought was a little bit funny.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday card, 2003

Untitled, linocut with watercolor.

Like the reindeer, I liked the off kilter composition, especially with Santa, as if you're just getting a glimpse of him, like Bigfoot or something. This is another that was kind of labor intensive, hand coloring each one with watercolor after printing the linocut. Two different reds, two different yellows, one blue. And had to be careful because the printing ink I use [Speedball] is water soluble, too. I remember my father liked this one; he said it felt like an old fashioned illustration to him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday card, 2002

Dasher, linocut.

I wanted to do something with a simple cut line and also liked the way the fragment of the image could represent the entire animal. I'd forgotten that I'd named this one after one of the eight reindeer. Why 'Dasher?' I dunno. Seemed like a Dasher, I guess.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday card, 2001

Sledboy, linocut.

I was kind of surprised to look back and see that this was the card from that year. But I'm glad to see it was. My oldest brother says this is still his favorite of all the holiday cards. I remember it took me a while to get the drawing and design right, and I tried a few different versions till I settled on the solution of white ink printed on a cool-toned blue card stock. This is the only card whose image bleeds all the way to the edges of the card.

We spent a lot of time sledding the hills of Highland Park in Toledo when I was kid, and those hours in the snow were definitely on my mind when I made this. I tried hard to get the weight and gesture of the kid just right as he trudges back up the hill, hauling his Flexible Flyer. When I was sledding, I would not go back inside until my feet were absolutely numb. It helped that we lived down half a block and across the street from the park. There were a couple big blizzards in '77 and '78, and one year there was an ice storm that turned the hill and field into a sheet of ice that could carry you all the way to McCarthy Ballpark.

For some reason, a cherished childhood memory for me is this big box of black galoshes we had, and wearing bread bags on our feet to help them slide in and keep them dry and warm. And a big thick candle we used to wax our runners. And lying on our backs with our feet up against the radiator [our house in the Old West End had stand up radiators; when we moved to the South Side of Toledo, the radiators were in the floor]. And hot chocolate in Santa Claus mugs. [Santa Claus mug...a future card design? Hmm....]

Anyway, lots of associations pile up this time of year, I guess. Highland now has a much bigger sledding hill, as my nieces and nephews will tell you.

Holiday card, 2000 [not to be confused with Deathrace 2000]

Snow, 2-color linocut on translucent card stock.

This was printed in two colors on two sides of translucent card stock, which gives it a little bit of depth. Looking back now, I wonder if that double-sidedness doesn't have something to do with my old friend and fellow painter Tim Litzmann's work, who works in acrylics on the reverse side of plexiglass. And who I need to get back in touch with. At any rate, I was also thinking about Japanese woodcuts because of an exhibition of Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo at the Brooklyn Museum [a show which has probably influenced my holiday cards ever since, as a matter of fact]. I still like this one a lot.

By the way, Deathrace 2000.

Some action

Nice to see Omar and co. working hard at the winter meetings. Especially when it improves the bullpen.

Welcome, Frankie and J.J.

It was time for Aaron to go. Fan faves Joe Smith and Endy are also gone, but that's the nature of the game, and we wish them well. [Have I ever mentioned that I was in the house for The Catch?]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday card, 1999

Tree, cut paper.

Yes, I hand-cut all the cards we sent out that year. But it sounds like more work than it was. I did it as we went, watching tv, and they were pretty easy cuts and folds, almost all straight lines. I had some other designs that I may use some year when I feel like playing with scissors again, but they were all a little more complicated, so we'll see. I did like the elegance of it and the whiteness.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday card, 1998

Snowman, linocut.

The second annual Christmas card was pretty straightforward and traditional, and I still like it a lot. It is self-contained, and kind of old-fashioned looking, and since it was one color, it was easy to print. I think I ran it off myself in one afternoon. It also feels very quiet and still to me, like a chilly night with a clear sky.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday card, 1997

Treeseller. Woodcut with watercolor.

In 1997, I made the first of what would become an annual tradition: a handmade holiday greeting card. Before this year's Christmas comes, I hope to post all that have come along since then. The first was cut from a cheap piece of pine, and printed on Rives BFK [the last time I would use either wood or BFK paper]. For our Christmas-celebrating friends and family, I handcolored the guy's Santa cap in red and wrote "Merry Christmas" in blue ink with a reed pen. For our other-denominational friends, I left the cap uncolored and wrote "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," I don't quite remember which. I think this proof may be the only copy of this one that I still have. I don't remember how many we printed, but in the years since, I've usually made editions in the 50-100 range, just to make sure we have plenty.

The Treeseller was an image I'd also played around with in drawings and paintings, because I've always liked the sight of trees lined up on NYC sidewalks in December. My father, who took his Christmas trees seriously, always felt there was some kind of Noellian evergreen conspiracy which sent all the best trees to this fair city. "They're all perfect!" he used to say. "You guys get all the best trees!" Produce, too, according to my mother, who once said she bought and sliced the perfect tomato right here in Brooklyn. Go figya.

I have a big painting based on the Treeseller image; I'll have to shoot and post it one of these Yules.

Quick portraits

Boy in Vest, felt tip marker, @16x12in.
The Sunday before Halloween, our building had a little Halloween party out front for both the building's growing kid population and for other kids on the block. I volunteered to draw some Halloween pictures fof kids to color -- vampires, werewolves, skeletons, witches and the like -- but when I sat down one of the older kids asked if I could draw him. Um, sure, I said, and luckily I had some halfway decent drawing chops that day and spent the next couple hours mostly drawing full-length portraits like the one above [sorry about the photo quality, maybe I can reshoot it another day]. It was totally unexpected, and a lot of fun, and the kids were all gracious and serious, and some even took the time to add some pretty serious color to theirs. I wish I'd snapped some more [the one above was left behind, so apparently every kid wasn't so flattered].
I did also end up doing some monster requests, the likes of Chucky and Michael Myers, and one kid asked for a rhino -- and not the Spider-Man badguy. When I used to do drawings for kids at a day camp while I was in college, I'd end up making a couple dozen rainbow unicorns and a few dozen more Rambos. So this was a nice little change of pace, and a challenge.

Monday, December 1, 2008