Have yourself a merry little christmasToday’s song: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, 1957, by Hugh Martin. (The original was written in 1944, but Martin added the line that inspired the picture above in 1957.  Thanks, Wikipedia.)

This is such a great bittersweet song.  When I hear the line “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” it makes the think of a dad holding his son up high in their sparse apartment living room to put the star on the tree.

And, honestly, it was a good reason to try a piece from a different vantage point.

Two more songs to go.  Check back soon.

Here are two new pieces I just finished for a project.  I mixed up the watercolor and digital paints, and it was so much fun.

The Process:

First, with a pencil, I sketched everything on a regular sketch pad.

Then, I redrew everything in pen.

Then, with a pen again, I traced everything onto hot press watercolor paper.  I used my homemade light table, which I will post about another day.

I chose hot press paper because the colors look brighter, and the paper is smoother.  When I have tried to trace onto cold press paper, my pen jumps all over the place.

Then I painted with my watercolors.  There are a few places, like the small boat, the girl’s headgear, that I did wet-on-dry.  I usually prefer wet-on-dry.  But for the ocean water, I had to do wet-on-wet…because it’s the ocean.  It’s all wet.

The make the middle girl’s shirt have a little texture, I blotted it with a paper towel as it was drying.

Then I scanned everything in at 600 dpi.

Obviously, these scans needed some work.

So, the clone tool became my new best friend.

The leaving the island picture only required some small fixes.  The funnels on the ship bothered me. I liked the third one back the best, so I selected and copied it over the first and second funnels.  Then I made the sky a gradient behind the clouds.

The arriving in America scene took a little more work.  I used the clone tool to copy the first boat window and paste it over the other three windows, and then I moved all the windows down a few centimeters.  I cloned along the edges of everything to make it all a little neater.  Then I added a gradient to the sky and the boat windows.

I would have liked to do the skies in the pictures with watercolor, but the statue and the clouds were too hard to work around.  I tried to use my masking fluid, but it was getting all clumpy and just wasn’t working for me.

Then, in the original scan, the cables stretched at the front of the ship were bothering me, so I redrew them in straight lines with the pencil tool.  Then I had to clone stamp over the old ink lines, which was a lot easier than I expected it to be.

The clone stamp worked really well because it pickup up the colors that I wanted and also the texture of the paper.  I love clone stamp.


Several months ago, I started listening to archive episodes of the RadioLab podcast. If you don’t listen to RadioLab, you should listen to RadioLab. These guys take interviews from scientists and historians and do this public radio mashup kind of thing. Every time I listen I learn something new, have a story to share at the dinner table, and, usually, an idea to add to my drawing notebook.

This is the first image created from that page of the notebook:


It came from a short podcast that they did in 2008 where they actually played a bit of radio art from Australian artists named Sherre DeLys and John Jacobs.

In the RadioLab podcast, the host does not frame the piece in any way. When you listen without knowing what’s coming up, it’s like walking into a building you’ve never been to before with a lot of activity, like a hospital, maybe. At first, you are overwhelmed trying to figure out where you need to check in, who you can ask for help, why all the elevators don’t go to all the floors, trying to keep all your important papers and insurance cards close while also trying to remember the way back to your car.

But when I was little, I used to try to get lost in my neighborhood on purpose. I almost enjoy feeling a little disoriented, maybe. So, I like the way RadioLab presented it, at least as a first listen. As a downside, if you listen to this piece on RadioLab, you don’t get to hear the end of the story. 360documentaries replayed the piece earlier this month, and, thankfully, they give a bit more background information and a little update at the end. I’m adding 360documentaries to my list of podcasts. They can dig up some interesting stories as well.

“If” tells a beautiful story, and you should go listen to it. Probably right now.

RadioLab (if you want to feel disoriented, in a good way)

360documentaries (if you want the background story and closure)

And, as an added bonus, if you look at the 360documentary page, you can see the image above in action. The kind folks at 360documentaries used my image as the art for the radio segment. Yeah!

Do enjoy “If,” however you choose to listen. I’m sure it will inspire you, as well.