Every year I try to design at least one Christmas card and over time they have varied a lot in style and subject. Last year I chose a robin sitting in a holly tree with ivy growing through it but with not a hint of snow, this year I had to have snow.
The Holly and the Ivy.
I didn’t want something to overtly Christmas, so I picked a winter wildlife scene, I chose
deer as the main subject and sketched out a few until I was happy with how they looked and then transferred them on to the watercolour paper.
As usual they were drawn using watercolour pencils and then I built the rest of the scene around them. I like to start at the top of the paper and work down, this means that I am not reaching across wet paint so there is no chance of smudging. So I started with the sky which is a mixture of Prussian Blue and French Ultramarine and scattered salt on to it to create starry or snow flurry effect. I find that the Prussian Blue reacts to the salt very well but I use the French Ultramarine to warm the colour a little.
I added a very light wash of the same mix to the land in the background to give the blue tint of distant snow then when that was dry a second light wash in areas to suggest dips in the snow.
Next on the rear deer, I used salt on the paint to give him a shaggy winter coat.
On the front two deer I used wax to resist the paint, to create the white markings on their backs.
Then I used some of the weak sky mix to mark the hoof prints in the snow and to show the snow collecting in the undergrowth.
The trees are almost silhouetted in the moonlight so the distant trees and bushes were painted in grey just leaving areas to represent the snow and the tree in the foreground was given a hint of green. I used the weak sky colour to make the shadow of the snow on the branches.
Then I added the holly in the foreground which helps to give the design depth and re-enforces the image as a Christmas card. Then I thought I would play with it.
I drew a snowflake and put it into Photoshop, I hid the background and turned the snowflake white, you should just about be able to see it beside the blue one above. Then I added the snowflakes in layers to the card design, distorting some of them as they were added , so that there were now snowflakes in the background and in the front. Doing it this way If I didn’t like it I still had the original painting but as it is a Christmas card I think the snowflakes stay.
Cards are available at the above link.