Happy! - Grant Morrison

Nick is an ex-cop, assassin, alcoholic, jerk. Into his world of non-stop swearing, comes the imaginary friend, a blue talking horse, named Happy, that seeks Nick's help in rescuing a little girl from a killer Santa. The work tried too hard to be raw and too hard to be cute and too hard to be a cop drama and too hard to be a redemption tale, and for all that too hard work it just isn't very interesting.

Matchless: A Christmas Story - Gregory Maguire

The destroyer of children's stories (just kidding, sort of) develops a little known--due to its sheer depressive quality--Hans Christian Andersen story "The Little Match Girl" into, if not fuller, then slightly less horrific tale of poverty and sacrifice, or as the GOP would call it: Socialist propaganda. Not badly done, if too sad for me to actually like. 

How Did You Make That Christmas Card?

Click on images to enlarge.

STEP 1: THE IDEA

The first step is probably the hardest. How do you come up with an idea that will be fun and fit on a card? There are thousands of Christmas cards out there already. After some random doodling, I got this idea.

STEP 2: THE SKETCH

Next came some sketches. There is a lot going on in this comic, so it was a challenge to figure out how to position the elements to make it clear. For example, I had to decide where to put the Customer Service attendant (or whether he was really needed for the image to make sense). You can see in this early sketch that things were initially turned around.

Once I had the basic layout figured out, I still needed to figure out how to draw some of the elements. What does a French hen look like anyway? Luckily, the Internet was nearby. I did a bunch of sketches of birds (there's a lot of birds!), and dancers, and milkers, and leapers just to get a sense of how to vary up the figures and create an interesting composition.

Next, I drew a rough sketch of the whole scene on 8.5" x 11" paper. Here's where I (mostly) worked out where everything would go in relation to one another.

I took this sketch and blew it up to 17" x 22" ---the size of my actual paper. Now I had a working model.

STEP 3: THE DRAWING

Using my mockup as a reference, I redrew the image on the actual paper. I go through all this initial work, because the more I can figure out beforehand, the fewer mistakes I make (usually), and the less erasing I have to do later (which is a pain and it's hard on the paper). I use Bristol paper; it's a heavier weight paper that is good for both pencil and ink.

STEP 4: INKING

With the pencils done, I next went over all of the pencils with ink. Some people think this means “tracing,” but it’s not. Inking adds a whole different character to the image. I used a brush to vary the line weights (for example, I put a thick line around the woman to make her stand out better). I used a pen on some of the smaller elements, like the people in the far background.

Inking helps make the image look more polished; and it makes it easier to reproduce. Unfortunately, it can also remove some of the "spontaneity" of the image.

Inked Version

Once all the ink was dry, I erased any left over pencil lines.

STEP 5: SCANNING

Next, I scanned the picture into my computer. This process turns the image into a digital computer file. The paper was so large I had to make four separate scans and then stitch them together.

STEP 6: USING PHOTOSHOP and ILLUSTRATOR

I took the scanned image and opened it in a software program called Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These programs allow me to manipulate the image and make it ready for printing. With Photoshop I added the gray tones. With Illustrator I created the word balloons, the title, and the holly border. I also created the back of the card.

STEP 7: PRINTING

Then it was off to the copy store to print the card. I had them print 2 images on a page of card stock and then cut the page in half.

STEP 8: MAILING

Then JoAnn and I addressed, stamped, added something witty like “Merry Christmas,” and dropped the cards in the mail. See how easy it is! Anyone can do it!

If you didn’t get a card this year it probably means we don’t love you we don’t have your address. Send it to us!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Wise Men (Christmas 2010)

It's probably too late to get a Christmas card like this one from 2010 before the big day; but you can still send us your address, and maybe Santa will be good to you. Email it to us at armzrace@armzrace.com

North Pole (Christmas 2009)

Last call! If you want to receive a nutty Christmas card like this one from 2009, make sure that we have your address. Email us at armzrace@armzrace.com

Now Leaving X-Mas, Next Stop: Kwanzaa and Boxing Day!

Wasn't Jesus born in March? Wasn't this once a pagan holiday? Wasn't Christmas once banned in America? Wasn't it once possible to say "Happy Holidays" without Fox saying that I'm at "war" with Christmas (meaning that I should never want people to have a happy New Year)? Anyway, my X-Mas started with a homeless man getting pissed at me for giving him a pair of gloves instead of cash. He had no gloves! I thought he might like them. Sorry. From there I visited my parents on Long Island, which meant I didn't have BBC on their cable and missed the new Doctor Who (is it just me or was the last Doctor constantly being portrayed as Jesus?). However, I did wake up today to see Santa Claus riding a horse-drawn carriage down the street, and that was pretty wild. See, Virginia, I told you so.

How Did You Make That Christmas Card?

Click to enlarge.

STEP 1: THE IDEA

The first step was probably the hardest. How do you come up with an idea that will be fun and fit on a card? I had several ideas this year, but figuring out which one to use was difficult.

STEP 2: THE SKETCH

Next came some sketches. I had several potential ideas, so I drew up some quick sketches and then asked around to see which one worked best. Here's the original sketch of the winner. You can see that the final image didn't differ all that much from the initial idea.

STEP 3: THE DRAWING

Next came the actual drawing. I drew the image (very roughly) in pencil on tracing paper in order to work out the proper placement of figures, as well as to make the image proportional to the card that I would be using.

Once the basic shape was in place, I needed to figure out how the characters would look. I wanted them to look a little confused.

It was at this point that I decided that the camels needed to be more involved in the scene. After all, they have to schlep these guys around!

Now it was time to commit the image to paper. I drew out the scene using a very hard lead pencil on a heavy paper (Bristol).

STEP 4: INKING

With the pencils done, I next went over all of the pencils with ink. Some people think this means “tracing,” but it’s not. Inking adds a whole different character to the image. I used a brush to vary the line weights (for example, I put a thick line around the wise man in front in order to make him appear closer). I used a pen on the angels, because they were pretty tiny. Inking helps make the image look more polished; and it makes it easier to reproduce. Unfortunately, it can also remove some of the "spontaneity" of the image.

Once all the ink was dry, I erased any left over pencil lines.

STEP 5: SCANNING

Next, I scanned the picture into my computer. This process turns the image into a digital computer file.

STEP 6: USING PHOTOSHOP and ILLUSTRATOR

I took the scanned image and opened it in a software program called Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These programs allow me to manipulate the image and make it ready for printing. With Photoshop I added the gray tones. With Illustrator I created the word balloons and the holly border. I also created the back of the card.

At this point, I checked in with Jo. She said, "make the star bigger!" What can I say: the woman knows funny. Bigger it was! Of course, that messed up all my margins, and I had to rework a bunch of things in order to get the image to fit on the card, but all in the holiday spirit...right?

STEP 7: PRINTING

Then it was off to the copy store to print the card. I had them print 2 images on a page of card stock and then cut the page in half.

STEP 8: MAILING

Then JoAnn and I addressed, stamped, added something witty like “Merry Christmas,” and dropped the cards in the mail. See how easy it is! Anyone can do it!

If you didn’t get a card this year it probably means we don’t love you we don’t have your address. Send it to us!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Revisiting: Merry Year End

Have you gotten a Christmas card from us yet? If not, we probably don't have your address. Send it to armzrace@armzrace.com Otherwise you'll miss out on a fabulous gift, like this one from 2007:

Revisiting: North Pole

If you would like to receive this year's Christmas Card in the mail, make sure we have your physical address. Email it to armzrace@armzrace.com You'll receive a fabulous gift, like this little gem from Christmas 2009:

Click to enlarge.

Check out The Drawing Board to see how it was made.

How Did You Make That Christmas Card?

Click to enlarge.

STEP 1: THE IDEA

The first step was probably the hardest. How do you come up with an idea that will be fun and fit on a card? This one finally popped into my head.

STEP 2: THE SKETCH

Next came some sketches. I doodled around in a sketchbook, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Step 2 was really just an extension of Step 1.

Once I had an idea of what I wanted, I sketched the image out “full size” to get a sense of how things would fit together for a card shape. When composing a card, it's a good idea to remember the rule of thirds.

STEP 3: THE DRAWING

Next came the actual drawing. I drew out the image in pencil, working out where things should be placed, but not really worrying about making mistakes (I would clean these up later).

I originally drew a more “realistic” image, but it just wasn’t working for me. The composition was off, and it felt way too stiff. On my second try, I went for a looser, more cartoony feel.

Pencil drawing

Next, I took a sheet of Bristol (a heavy paper), and using a light box, I lightly traced the image in pencil, leaving behind the mistakes.

Light box

Traced image

STEP 4: INKING

Next I went over all of the pencils with ink. Some people think this means “tracing,” but it’s not. Inking adds a whole different character to the image. I used a brush to vary the line weights (compare the top of Santa’s tummy to his back) and to add some depth to the image. Inking helps make the image look more polished; and it makes it easier to reproduce. Unfortunately, it also sometimes removes some of the "spontaneity" of the image.

Ink & brushes

Once all the ink was dry, I erased any left over pencil lines.

Inked image

For the sake of comparison, here's what the first attempt looked like (sometimes you have to be willing to scrap it all and start over):

Original look

STEP 5: SCANNING

Next I scanned the picture into my computer. This process turns the image into a digital computer file.

STEP 6: USING PHOTOSHOP and ILLUSTRATOR

Next, I took the scanned image and opened it in a software program called Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These programs allow me to manipulate the image and make it ready for printing. With Photoshop I added the gray tone. With Illustrator I created the word balloons and the holly border. I also created the back of the card.

STEP 7: PRINTING

Then it was off to the copy store to print the card. I had them print 2 images on a page of card stock and then cut the page in half.

STEP 8: MAILING

Then JoAnn and I just addressed, stamped, added something witty like “Merry Christmas,” and dropped the cards in the mail. See how easy it is! Anyone can do it!

If you didn’t get a card this year it probably means we don’t love you we don’t have your address. Send it to us!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Visions of Christmas Cards Past:

2008: The Gift

2007: Merry Year End

2006: Goose

2005: Coming Down

2004: Naughty & Nice

2003: Peace on Earth

2001: Naughty

2000: Flakes

1999: WANTED

1998: Dreaming of  a White (Hot) Christmas