2015 Christmas Card in progress

Last year’s e-Christmas card (see above) was a big success, and so this year, with my usual last-minute haste, I’ve embarked on a design that uses the same characters in different guises. (They are my ‘actors’, and the Christmas cards the stages upon which they play. The lady and gentleman who graced the 2014 card were inspired by some eighteenth century gingerbread moulds. This years nods its cap to the great tradition of Regency toy theatre, sometime know as the ‘Juvenile Drama’. When I was a boy I was given a set of fragile, Regency lay sheets by the actor Bill Meilen. They were wonderful, though I fear I cut them up to make toy scenery that has long since vanished. But the splendour of those magical sheets lives on in my memory, and here I’m paying tribute to the sense of theatrical delight they opened up for me. I used this image from George Speaight’s History of the Toy Theatre as my compositional inspiration for this year’s card.

My sketches of the characters, show actors rather less wasp-waisted than those shown on Redington’s title-page of The Mistletoe Bough…

… and here they are in worked-up drawings at full scale. He’s gained a dog, and she a Fairy Queen’s wings and wand.

The scenery has changed too, from a castle, to a pair of rustic artisan’s cottages in a wood.

The base areas of colour are laid down., a combination of acrylic and gouache.

Then the rendering begins.


The characters I designed for last year’s Christmas card, emerged for a second time in my exhibition at Oriel Tegfryn, titled Telling Tales. For that they played the roles of Oberon and Titania, and by then I was really in the swing of inventing back stories for them:

  • ‘Of course these are not supposed to represent the real Fairy King and Queen, but are ‘theatrical portraits’ of a rather grand though over-the-hill thespian couple. They’ve been treading the boards for nearly half the nineteenth century with their own company of touring players, he an actor-manager of the old school, producing, directing and playing all the plum-roles in the Shakespeare repertoire. The glory days of ‘standing room only’ at Drury Lane are far behind them, and their increasingly threadbare productions have been reduced to playing the more ramshackle regional theatres.’
  • ‘She was a passing good ingenue in her day, but time has rendered her stouter than might be wished for the role of the Queen of the Fairies. She’s been busy behind the scenes rising to the challenge, with the aid of some clamping and stretching devices hidden under her wig. She’s also invested in a set of replacement teeth carved by a retired seaman from Whitstable. They’re a tad startling when she smiles, not least because of a slight mis-fit, and the vestiges of scrimshaw that he wasn’t quite able to polish out. In a good light you can see the upper parts of a large-breasted mermaid on her right incisor, and the tattooed bicep of a Jolly Jack Tar on her left. But she’s skilled with the fan, and deploys it with aplomb to ward off too-close scrutiny of her briny gnashers. Thus equipped, and with the aid of greasepaint, tinsel and and a peachy glow from the footlights, she gamely mounts a repurposed carousel ride – snapped up cheaply  at a fairground bankruptcy sale and spending its retirement years lending a touch of surreal magic to the ‘Dream’ – and sallies forth to enchant her lord and master, and hopefully the more short-sighted in the audience.’

18 thoughts on “2015 Christmas Card in progress

  1. Beautiful; if they weren’t alive enough already, the detail of the back story of these personages has ensured they gallop out of my computer with brio! And the dog reminds me of Molly.

  2. What beautiful drawings, and it’s great seeing them come to life in colour. I’m looking forward to seeing the final card, (I love Titania’s feet in the last image ….pronged and dainty!)xxL

  3. Honestly, the only thing I can say is ‘WOW’! The drawings themselves are fabulous….I especially like the lady turned fairy – those little feet and hands are so eloquent! What a gorgeous Christmas card……

    • Hello Shellie.

      People have always remarked on the daintiness of her hands and feet. Truth to tell she’s rather vain about them, always straining to display them to best effect. She remembers all the lessons learned at the barre in her early days… she rose through the ranks from chorus girl to ingenue… and knows that on stage, her dancer’s deportment lends an illusion of youthfulness.

  4. Gorgeous drawing, that black mark-making on the blue background is mouthwatering! This is going to be the smartest card anybody could wish to receive this year, especially as the characters come with such a lively backstory – steady Clive, these two are going to start to demand their own mini- series or full blown feature films like the gingerbread zombies if you’re not careful!

    • Clive and Phil

      This time I am envisioning Clive in a director/actor role!!

      Think of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Fanny & Alexander’, which opens with a boy and a toy theatre:

      Replace the boy with Clive, who is the puppeteer, absorbed in creating a scene on the stage of his own Regency toy theatre.

      The camera closes in on the stage of the theatre and suddenly we realise the 2D world is coming into glorious 3D life. We find ourselves immersed in the world of our grand, but over-the-hill, thespian couple and a bawdy Regency romp ensues.

      Alternatively, I can see Clive, as a ‘Dr Parnassus’ style character, touring the highways and byways of the kingdom, with his toy theatre – and its cast of colourful characters – on the back of his caravan:

    • They have become rather wayward, leaping out of the costume-closet to surprise me when I least expect it. Well, they are ‘actors’, and need only the flimsiest excuse to put on their finery and give us a show!

  5. I love the whole premise behind your two ‘actors’ and would love to see a Christmas short story featuring these two colourful characters. I am looking forward to seeing the finished card – it looks wonderful so far.

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