This year I’ve received a number of requests for custom orders and commissions, which is always such an honour. One of these was to paint a wreath for an advent calendar card set.
The brief was an Australian Christmas wreath in watercolour to be used as the artwork for the front of the advent cards.
I’ve been keen to paint more eucalyptus leaves and incorporate them into a wreath for some greeting cards, including some Aussie Christmas cards (snowy northern hemisphere scenes don’t make much sense for a scorching hot Christmas in Australia!) so I was more than happy to give it a go.
My previous attempts at gum leaves have always been the longer type of leaf in green, but I really like the look of the round eucalypt leaves in those beautiful blue-grey shades, so was keen to include some of those in this wreath.
It made sense to feature red(ish) flowers for a Christmas wreath so I made the gum blossoms a very dark pink-tinged red (alizarin crimson) and added a couple of bottlebrush in a similar colour to keep with the Australian flora theme.
I wanted one more red-toned native flower and decided on the beautiful red waratah, state emblem of my childhood home New South Wales, and symbol of the incredible untouched wilderness of my adopted home state Tasmania.
I wanted to make a feature of the waratah, or telopea as it’s properly known, but without making the wreath too heavy on one-side. Originally the bottlebrush were smaller but we decided to make them bigger to balance it out. I notice now afterwards that the gum blossoms are way too big to be on any kind of realistic scale compared with the other flowers, but hey we weren’t aiming for a scientific illustration.
Here’s a shot of what my finished painting looked like.
A digital version of the wreath features on the front of each card with a number of the day counting down to Christmas, and on the back is a bible verse and short prayer related to the nativity story.
The lighter shades of some of the leaves proved quite tricky to scan and turned out very faint in the digital version of the image, so I’ll keep that in mind if I ever create a watercolour image for digital illustration again.
The other thing I would change if I could do it over, is to switch up the style of leaves around the wreath more so the round eucalypts aren’t all on one side, but interspersed with the longer style of leaf all around the wreath.
Overall though I’m happy enough with how it turned out and really enjoyed the chance to have a go at painting some gorgeous native flora. I’ll definitely be adding an Australian wreath style to future greeting card offerings in my etsy shop.
Here’s what the finished product looks like hanging up in my living room.
The card set came in a box with some red string and a packet of mini pegs to hang the cards up with.
It would look great strung up in a Christmas tree shape or just straight along a mantlepiece or wall.
More than 200 of these advent card sets were given out in the Blue Mountains area near Sydney earlier this month and they received requests from more people who wanted to buy a set or two.
Sadly, no more copies are available at this time but it was a fun project and one I was honoured to be asked to be part of.
Credits for the final product “Joy: An Advent Calendar”:
Suzi Dellis, Meraki Ministries, PO Box 312 Blaxland NSW 2774
Graphics: Michelle Buckley michelledellis.com.au
Do you use an advent calendar? What traditions does your family have for the countdown to Christmas?
Are there other Australian plants you’d like to see featured on hand-painted cards?
Let me know in the comments below!