I think I left it a bit too late last year to release my hand painted Christmas cards, so I decided to get in early this year and re-listed Christmas stock in my etsy shop at the start of October. I know, I know, October does feel waaaaay too early to be thinking about Christmas, but the weeks have flown by so quickly since then that I’m glad I was organised because in response to this post I received a few orders for larger numbers of cards. Yay! Thank you fabulous people for your encouragement and support!
I love painting these simple wreaths. It’s kind of my happy place really. I just find it relaxing, and calming, and a great creative outlet. Unfortunately it does cramp up my back a bit spending a long time hunched over my dining table with paintbrush in hand (hello 40’s! Am I feeling old these days or what!) but it’s still one of my favourite things to do.
I found that I simplified the design of these basic wreaths a bit, compared to the cards I made last year. The different paper I used this time (‘proper’ 300gsm cotton watercolour paper) meant my brush moved differently across the page and water responded differently also. This meant that I altered my method slightly, with the end result that the leaves and berries are a bit larger now, and more consistent too I think. To me they look neater, but that may have just come with more practice.
I’m wondering about doing a step by step tutorial on how I paint these simple holly wreaths. Is that something you might be interested in?
I did make a short little timelapse video of painting the leaves, and shared it on my social media feeds. You can watch it on instagram here. I’d love to do more short process videos as I love watching them myself. In fact it was exactly this type of video by other artists that I loved watching on Instagram that inspired me to take up painting.
Mini wreath gift tags
So as well as the simple holly wreath cards, this year I also added mini wreath gift tags to my Christmas collection, painted in a similar style with watercolour but on a smaller scale.
The first couple of sets sold almost immediately, which was quite encouraging!
It was quite tricky painting the leaves on a smaller scale and I made quite a few clumsy attempts before managing to refine it to a point I was happy with. A new 00 size sable brush also helped as it was much better quality than my old acrylic one whose bristles has begun to get a bit untidy.
I thought the mini wreath design could be personalised by writing the recipient’s name in the centre and could be used as either gift tags or even as place setting name tags wrapped around a napkin or the stem of a glass at a Christmas dinner table.
For my own gifts to family I wrote “Happy Christmas” in the middle of the wreath in gold letters and the “To” and “From” details on the back. (Forgive the pencil lines yet to be erased – didn’t notice them when I took the picture!)
New designs commissioned
As mentioned above, I also received some custom orders for Christmas cards this year, which required me to come up with a few new designs.
After trying a modern watercolour relaxed ‘swoosh’ style Christmas tree that did not at all turn out to my liking, I tried this more straightforward design. It looked just a tad too bare and like it needed a bit more to finish it off so I added a star on top and a border in gold pen.
Basic hanging baubles
Then I tested some simple baubles. Just painted circles with gold pen used to draw the top of the bauble and string.
It took a bit of experimenting with colours to get the ‘gold’ shade shown here. Originally I just used a basic yellow but it made the overall effect a bit gaudy. Adding a more light brownish beige colour gave a richer tone and the effect of an almost golden shade, evening out the brightness of the contrasting red and green.
I wondered about adding some script to the baubles – perhaps Christmassy words like “joy”, “peace” etc but I wasn’t confident that my lettering is quite up to scratch yet. I might practice some for next year and see how they turn out.
I’d also like to experiment with some decorative designs on the baubles like scrolls or filigree type designs in gold or white pen. But for now I’ll work on improving the light and shading of each circle.
These basic circles in Christmas colours made another easy but effective design. Again, finished with gold pen.
This is a style I often use for birthday cards and thank you notes to send with my crochet orders, but usually in blues and purples. But of course for these I needed festive red and green!
Although green is my favourite colour I must say my favourite of these three colour combinations is the red and gold.
Normally with this design you want the two colours to run into each other a bit for that beautiful watery colour ‘bleed’ effect, but I found the combination of red and green a bit visually jarring, so I tried to make the colours fairly light to avoid them looking dirty when blending into each other. I was also a bit concerned that if the red was too dark it might look too much like a blood spatter! NOT the effect you really want for a cheery festive greeting!
Here’s a closer look at the red and gold with some yummy looking blends. (And a bit of a wobbly lettering, oops!)
Nativity scene at night
The design I really wanted to try though was a nativity scene, or more accurately a ‘zoomed out’ view of Bethlehem with the Christmas star above the famed humble stable.
The custom order was for at least one design that was ‘religious’ to reflect the true meaning of Christmas. And I’ve been keen to try this design for myself anyway.
I envisioned a small cityscape beneath a night sky lit up by the star, which would be positioned directly above the holy family in silhouette.
My original design included a palm tree silhouette on the skyline, but I found it too heavy handed in black and distracting from where I wanted the focus of the scene to be.
I was hoping for a darker blue for the sky, but even after several layers it remained much lighter and less richly coloured than I wanted. I’ll just have to pretend that the light night sky was on purpose because the shining star was really bright!
I’d also like to work on the background in the stable, to give it more of a glow rather than the flat coloured surface in these early attempts. I’ll have to practice my blending and experiment with adding some shading with coloured pencils to give it some depth.
But overall I’m happy enough and hopefully the customers were too, which is the main thing I guess!
I think I’ll work on this design to develop it a bit more. As well as a darker rich midnight blue sky, I’d like to play around with gold lettering of phrases like “Oh Holy Night”, “Star of Bethlehem” etc, and experiment with lino printing the whole skyline in silhouette. Should be fun to experiment and practice before next Christmas!
This nativity design gave me a chance to try working with masking fluid for the first time. It was an interesting process with numerous stages which I might show pictures of in another post, if you’re interested?
For now though, I’m keen to hear what you think of these simple Christmas card designs? Would you give these to friends and family next festive season? Should I add packs of these to my Christmas stock next year? Are there other designs you’d like to see? Let me know by commenting below. Thanks!