To be really honest, when I was done with the design of my Christmas cards, I was feeling a little bit down and all the negative/over-thinking stuff hits hard on me again. I think one of the main reasons was because of peer pressure that was around me and it clearly led to me thinking I am still not good enough no matter how much I've tried *sigh* Seriously, I might think I am bound with this problem for life and I just don't know how to get over it. I know how 'commercial' looking can my artworks be and obviously my precious little penguins won't win the hearts of Catholics because, to the eyes of the Catholics, Pope Francis is numero uno haha. But it's okay, as long as I have fulfilled my main 'objective', which is to spread joy and holiday cheer to my friends, then I am all good. Always remember to do it all for the glory of God. 🙏 Well, that's easier to say than done but...I'll try.
Anyway, this is already my 4th year doing this 'Christmas project' and although I've blogged about this Christmas project and posted photos of my WIP before, I never really got into the details on it. So I thought I'd do it this year and bring you the behind the scene or the making of this year's Christmas card. Fyi, I don't claim that I am the best in what I do and I know that some of my students could do better anyway haha...but again, as a self reminder: Do it for the glory of God 😁😁😁 I think there are still people who get the misconceptions of designer/artist and they would probably think that all we do is just draw and design...what's so hard about it right? Well, for a person who have studied in this field, we do put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into producing a good artwork plus, the time and effort that we dedicate into out work is very valuable to us. This is why we can't always give 'special discount' or 'friend's price' especially to our own friends whenever they needed help in doing design stuff. I mean, unless you don't mind a shitty design then I guess it is okay? For my case, it's an exception because it's Christmas season and it is also a time for giving so here I am doing an one woman army job, from painting to printing and all the way to sending out the Christmas cards. So here goes~
1. Sketch out your ideas
Always start with sketches to generate your ideas. Even though we are living in the era of modern technology where Google and Pinterest are always available for us to look for ideas, I still love doing the old-skool way, which is to sketch. This method has been instilled to me way back in my college days and have been continuing to do this even when I am studying my MA. Sketch as many ideas that you have, although in the example b example below doesn't seem to have much lol. Mind you, these sketches were done while my students were doing their assignment in the computer lab and I had extra time to spare :) The ones with the Christmas carol lyrics was also part of the plan but alas it didn't made the cut 'cos it might take a longer time to finish it since I am still in the learning process of watercolour lettering so...I'll save it for next year.
2. Execute your idea
The next step is of course to do the execution once you've confirmed with your idea. Actually, this year's Christmas card is similar to the owl and cat illustrations that I've done previously...but the reason being was because I wanted to make it into a series so I can sell it as a set next time. This second step is actually my favourite part because I get to paint! Sometimes I get worries that I might screw up my painting and had to redo everything all over again, but these things is inevitable during the process so the key is to try and be careful while you paint especially if you're left-handed! So, being a certified night owl, I normally would start painting at night till...late. The earliest would probably be around 10pm and the latest is at midnight. I know it is not a great lifestyle to practice at my age, but I dunno...it's like I am very immune to start my work late at night because I felt it is easier for me to focus. Maybe it's also because it is more quiet during this hour, hence I can put my heart and soul into my work (okay, this is not exactly true haha 😂 ) What's the ideal time for me to stop and go to bed? Well, it really depends...but I try not to go overboard so it's usually around 2-3am. The next day will be hell at work due to the lack of sleep again but like I've said, I'm so immune to this so it is already a norm to me.
|The raw and unedited outcome, before it is transferred to Photoshop|
3. Continue your execution
Since I wanted to implement my own hand lettering on the Christmas card, I had to experiment and write the Christmas greetings for a quite number of times so that I can finally get the lettering that I am satisfied with. This part of execution can take a longer time but then, it really depends on the writing itself. There are times I can achieve the kind of lettering that I wanted in just one try and there are also times when I needed to practice over and over again just to finally be satisfied with the outcome. (Note: Watercolour brush lettering is still a challenge for me so I much prefer to write with fude pen)
4. Digital touch up
After painting, it is time to scan my artworks and transfer it to Photoshop to work some magic hehe. Basically, what I normally do is to adjust the brightness/contrast, minor colour correction and also to clean up the surrounding of the artwork but mainly all the edges. I mean, I gotta make it look presentable right? Anyway, this process can also take time and can be a little tedious because of all the little details that you have to look out for as well. Once I am done, I transfer my file to Illustrator and arrange my layout then it is ready for print!
5. Do extra stuff (only if you want to)
This is not really necessary but you can do it only if you want to and when time is totally by your side haha. I thought it'll be nice to add in few extra stuff in my card as well so I decided to paint some more Christmas elements to be made as stickers. Yes, I painstakingly cut all of the stickers one by one and I think I've cut about 50+ pieces of those? But it's alright cos I was watching re-runs of Friends on youtube and totally entertained myself in my room lol. Friends can never go old, like seriously! I can watch it over and over again, yet it still laugh at their jokes, especially when Ross does stupid things lol.
6. Finished Art
Whatever I've learned about Finished Art in college, I definitely will still have to apply it even when I've already left college for a couple of years now. The final outcome should look presentable, neat, clean and tidy. I've stressed about this to my students every single semester but of course, not all of them can fulfil this *tsk tsk* Well, not to say that my finishing skill is 100% accurate but I do practice and try to make my artwork as perfect as possible. Oh, choosing the right type of paper is important as well and I am really glad that this has also been taught during my college days. Paper has a lot of different weight, colour and texture. Choosing the right one for your artwork can definitely enhance the outcome of your work. This is also why printing and cost a bomb, depending on the type of paper and weight that you choose. For my cards, I am using Maple White in 300gsm and boy, the printing costed and arm and a leg haha. But on the other hand, I am also grateful that there are several good print shops right behind my workplace so it gave me the convenience to go and print my stuff anytime...well, except when it is close to the final week of the semester because the wait will be longer as students are rushing over to print their finals.
7. Writing message and address
Okay, this part also gave me so much pressure because I am not good with words and to compose a good Christmas message is like super HARD for me so I always end up googling the messages and mix and match with my own words. I know right? It doesn't seem that sincere. So, it is indeed a challenge for me to compose my own message but...I think I did good so far, at least I think so 😂 Since getting into lettering, I can also be anal on how I write things so I also wanted all the addresses to be written nicely and most importantly, I myself is satisfied with it. It's been quite fun to write all the addresses since it also can be a good lettering practice for me...hopefully I will be able to write addresses in pointed pen next year?
8. Flat lay photos (again...only if you want to)
I am not a professional photographer but I do want to have flat lay photos of my cards with all the Christmas props since I also wanted to post it into my social media accounts so using my very amateur skills, these were the result using just my trusty iPhone 5 and natural light. Not really sure if I liked it or not but oh well, it has already been posted on my Instagram and there's no turning back lol.
9. Send your mails out
Being an ardent postcard lover, I always have lots of back up stamps and it is VERY useful for times like this haha because I don't need to take the trouble to go to the post office to queue and buy stamps. Thankfully, I made a trip to Pos Malaysia HQ in October and stocked up quite a number of stamps. Now you know where does my money fly to haha. Well, after everything is done, it is time to mail my cards!
So yeah...that is the behind the scene of my 2016 Christmas cards and hopefully, it can be informative to whoever is reading this and also get to know a little bit more detail on how I actually create my work. It really does take time and effort, love and patience to complete this task so I am always very very glad when people appreciates my work and understand how much effort I put into it even though it might still not look like much haha. Every artist/designer definitely have their own ways in creating their own masterpiece and we always strive to do the best so, I hope that you can also do your role to acknowledge and give the credits that these artists/designers deserve in the future or maybe when you require help from them.
This month of Advent has been an exhilarating experience for me, to learn the patience and calmness of things, to be able to put faith and hope in myself and others, and not forgetting to spread joy whenever I can. I am glad that by looking through this process in making my Christmas cards, I was able to learn all these. My card might not be as meaningful to the devout Catholics, but I do hope that I have done my role as one.