Way back in 1991, I started to design and illustrate my own Christmas cards and have been mailing them out to my family, relatives and friends ever since. It has given me pleasure over the years to design my own Holidays cards and has become something that I look forward to do with each passing year. There were several things that caused me to pick up a pencil to try something new:
My family and close relatives knew the artistic skills I had because they saw my drawings whenever I showed it to them: it helps that they lived just next door to my family. They were so impressed with my drawing skills and what I have done with my drawings that I gave several originals to my brothers as well as my aunts and uncles. My other relatives that lived outside of New Jersey had no idea that there was an artist in the family: me.
In my first job out of college as a mechanical paste up artist, a co-worker who I worked with saw my drawing and was impressed. When I said I was going to illustrate my Christmas card, he just laughed at me and said, "No one does this kind of artwork anymore. That drawing style is with the days of the dinosaurs and you’re a dinosaur that is still doing pencil drawings. You should be using computers to “draw” your designs." Well, I told him when Christmas came around; we’ll see who has the best Christmas card. He never did create his Holiday card because he didn’t have TIME to do one, so in a way, I proved him wrong. Did I mention I eventually became a graphic designer?
Growing up with the same name as my father, motivated me to make a “name” for myself in other ways. People always admired my father’s artistic craft in woodworking; I remember how he used to build corner shelves, cabinets and bookshelves. I didn’t have his talent in woodworking, but I did find that I inherited his creative gene and was a natural in drawing.
For 24 years I have sat at my drawing table, sketching out ideas and forming them from my imagination. There is something magical when I have a blank white illustration board in front of me as I hold many shades of pencils from 9B to 9H in my hand. I am always eager to make a mark on the paper to begin my new journey (By the way, I use Bainbridge Hot Press illustration board. Name dropping, sorry). There are several drawings that have become my favorite that I have done over the years that I treasure. The first time I made a holiday card, I designed and illustrated Santa Claus. I remember spending days looking for the right Santa Claus to draw and I made many several sketches until I was happy with the one I wanted. The card I designed showed Santa holding a nutcracker in his hand as he consults his long list of children names to find out which child asked for a nutcracker: I thought the idea was appealing and amusing. I remembered I was trying to create the card to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but I knew I would fail because Norman Rockwell had a particular style that is so unique and recognizable; I stopped trying to be him and just concentrated on my own style.
Once I had my drawing done, I had the cards printed up. I gave some cards to my parents to mail out to relatives that we don’t see often and I mailed some to my friends at the time. I was excited about what I did with my Holiday card project and was pleased with how the cards came out. I remembered thinking that once I mailed the cards out, it wouldn’t get much attention because the drawing was done in black and white and it was too traditional compared to other colorful and fun Christmas cards. I thought it would be the only time I would be drawing holiday cards.
Well, to my surprise, most of my friends called to tell me that they loved the card and they were going to treasure it. My parent said my other relatives told them they had NO IDEA that I was so talented. I was shocked when I heard everybody comment about my cards and how much they loved it and how it was the best card they’ve received that year. Almost everyone that had received a card would ask, “Are we going to get another one?”
During my 24 years of designing Christmas cards, I have also designed cards for Easter and Halloween as well as Fourth of July which I introduced two years ago since card companies don’t usually make cards to celebrate our independence. I also sometimes create Birthday and Valentine’s Day cards. My favorite holiday to illustrate is Halloween because I can let my imagination go. This year, I have designed my first Thanksgiving and Hanukkah cards.
I may create my holiday cards the old fashioned way by coming up with an illustration, drawing it by hand, then having them printed, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. Filling out the cards with people’s names on it with a personalized note, putting the cards in the envelopes and walking to the mailbox to send them through the post, I know I will brighten someone’s day when they get an authentic “Robert Colish Original Hand-Drawn Holiday Card”. There is a joy I get when someone says, “Hey, I like it!” It’s a lot of work but in the end, I get satisfaction from it all.
To all the people who have received my holiday cards in the past, I treasure the comments and compliments. It gives me great pleasure to be able to put a smile on people’s faces when they first open the envelope and take that first glance at an authentic Robert Colish Card.
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