Category: Christmas

Sketch Diary – Winter Offering

Inspiration: Every year I do a painting to spread the cheer of the winter holidays to my fans, friends, and family.  Keeping in that tradition, I created this piece entitled “Winter Offering” for 2015.

I wanted to capture the quiet warmth of candles, which are one of my favorite decorative elements of the season, and pay homage to some of the Celtic traditions that define the holidays with the presence of evergreen holly and pine.  I also wanted a celestial theme for the window to represent the dark, cold winter nights which the light guides us through.

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.



A selection from my references. 

Art Process

Step 1 – Thumbnail sketching with ink and white color pencil on toned paper to find the right idea. At first, I wanted to do a candy theme, but the candles struck me with their simplicity and elegance. The Krampus one was also a fun contender, but I decided to save him for another time.


Step 2 –  Reference gathering! I looked at many Tiffany glass windows, wreaths, and white candles for inspiration.  I keep a secret reference board for my yearly holiday images on Pinterest.

Step 3 – I did a rough sketch in Photoshop keeping loose and quick.  The sketch was then printed out and refined with pencil sketching on top of the lightly printed line work.


Step 4 – This refined sketch was then scanned in and the lines turned blue so they could be easily transferred.  I also used the same refined sketch to do a digital color test so I had an idea of my colors before I put paint on paper.


Step 5 – The refined sketch with blue line work was then printed and transferred with graphite dust applied to the back of the printout.


Step 6 – The transferred line work on the illustration board were inked with various colors of mechanical pens for visual contrast and interest.


Step 7 – The ink drawing was finished with watercolor paints.

You can also watch the 5 minute time lapse video of how I created this painting here!

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image, including the brands of materials I used, tips on creating a stained glass style in watercolor, etc., pledge to any $10 and up level on my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!

You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the other extras you would by purchasing via Patreon.

Christmas: Light and Dark

After reading Hayley’s amusing and enlightening post on the Krampus and his antics, I thought I might ramble for a bit about another lesser known winter tradition, the celebration of Saint Lucia (or Saint Lucy). Ever since I saw depictions of her burning crown of candles and haunting procession of light, I was intrigued. I spoke briefly about her in a previous entry talking about the symbolism in my depiction of holiday images. She is the patron saint of the blind, her very name meaning ‘light’.

In Sweden and other parts of Europe, Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. A young girl representing Saint Lucia wearing a crown of candles and white gown leads a procession of other young ladies, who each carry a single candle. They sing to the melody of the Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia”. Sometimes boys wearing crowns painted with stars (called “Star Boys”) are in the procession as well. They continue through the night singing carols and bringing light to the traditional longest night of the year.

Such a beautiful festival has a darker side, however, and like the morbid artist that I am, I’m delighted by the duality of imagery associated with Saint Lucia. I will relate here a much-abridged version of her tale, which you can read a longer, more detailed annotated version at Wikipedia.

Like many saints, she is also a martyr whose life was cut short in defense of her purity and faith. As a young woman, she pledged her virginity to God, but when a pagan suitor to whom she was betrothed came calling, Lucia dismissed his advances and gave away his handsome dowry to the poor. Angered, the suitor marked her as a Christian before a magistrate, after which she was sentenced to be defiled in a brothel. When the guards came to collect her, she was so imbued with the holy spirit that she was heavy and immovable. They tried to burn her and still she would not be moved. Her martyrdom came at last when the guards drove a sword through her throat and gouged out her eyes. She was said to miraculously be able to see even without her eyes, which is why she is depicted often holding a plate with her own disembodied eyes. Other versions of the tale say she gouged out her own eyes and sent them to her suitor as a sign of her devotion to the Lord, who granted her new eyes soon after.

It amazes me how such a morbid tale was somehow transmuted into a glorious festival celebrating the beauty of youth, abundance, and light against the winter’s dark. There’s something violently primal and yet ultimately beautiful in the imagery left by martyrs in our cultural memories and how they are later transformed into venerated figures bringing joy, light, and feasts. The arrow-battered body of Saint Sebastian, the snow-rimmed form of the dead Saint Eulalia, and countless others all weave a powerful spell that ingrain themselves in continuing traditions (and art!).

Now, would you like a plate of eyes with your Christmas feast?

I hope you all have a wonderful winter solstice. Do you know any lesser-told tales of winter traditions to share? I’d love to hear them!

Image Sources:
Advent Angel by Angela Sasser
Saint Lucy by Domenico Beccafumi

Etsy + Amazon Holiday Shipping & SALE!

Etsy Sale! FREE Shipping

I saw that many folks on Etsy were running sales and thought I'd jump on the bandwagon! From now until December 31st, get FREE standard shipping on all items within the US.

I've also marked down many of my items, including the new leather butterfly keychains, so grab em while they're cheap and available!

Free shipping also counts for custom butterflies and pendants. Note that I do not take custom orders on anything but pendants and butterflies.

My Etsy Shop :pointr: [link]
Sample Offerings:

Amazon Sale! 15% Off

As long as we're talking sales, I've just set my Amazon shop to 15% off ALL items! Remember that these items are bought directly from me, meaning all products are autographed by the artist with all proceeds going directly to the artist. It's a great way to show your support and give the gift of something extra special.

My Amazon Shop :pointr: [link]
Sample Offerings:

Christmas Shipping

If you'd like your items to arrive before Christmas, I recommend you shop early so I can have it out to you ASAP! I make no guarentees on the quickness of USPS, which is my main source of shipping for local and international shipping alike. Expidited shipping will be available on Etsy by special request & handled separately, but is still not guarenteed!

Shipping Times
Orders within the US –
Prints, Pendants, Keychains, Small Originals, & Matted Originals – USPS First class – 3-7 business days

International orders
USPS Air Mail – 7-10 business days

Don't forget the limited supply mini calendar+sketch sale is going on too!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.


Evolution of a Series – The Christmas Project

To point out a strange fact, I have always been a sort of ‘one shot’ scene artist. In the past, I was prone to drawing character portraits or specific scenes with no sequence, all art that could be digested at once with little baring on the other images I might draw of the same characters. Now, it seems, a natural evolution of my artistic development has been a tendency to start thinking in themes, or series.

From a business standpoint, series are more marketable with the appeal of being able to buy a ‘set’ or to identify with that part of a series that represents you (ie. people love a birthstone series because that means there’s something personal involved in the symbolism of a series that they can get for themselves or gift to a loved one). From an artist’s standpoint, I’m enjoying the challenge of presenting a set of art with consistent quality that utilizes strong symbols and the potential to develop art with evolving symbolism.

My earliest attempt at such an undertaking has been a project that started out with indistinct roots in 2006. I was short on cash for the holidays and aching at the thought that I would be unable to provide any of the gifts that my loved ones deserved. I did, however, have some metallic cardstock and color pencils to my name. And so, in a torrent of sleepless nights and sketching, the first of the ongoing Christmas Project began.

Christmas 2006 – Angel of Noel

I never have been one for the traditional images of Santa, reindeer, and nativities for Christmas. For me, these images feel so overused and have lost the impact that I think more primal symbols such as holly, poinsettia, and the deep rich greens and reds of winter festivals have. The first of this series came alive with the realization that poinsettia flowers come in a range of simple, but striking colors that make for an elegant backdrop for this angel, who I wanted to channel maternal beauty and nurturing with a non-denominational appeal. She wears the veil of a holy maiden and the holly garland of a celebrator, her eyes closed as she honors the quiet elegance of the flowers and candlelight. I was also inspired by the Mexican legend behind poinsettia which speaks of two children who did not have the money to honor baby Jesus at their church’s nativity. Being poor, they could only manage to pick weeds to decorate the manger. The other children chided them terribly, but the weeds burst into flames that turned into a beautiful red plant, creating the beautiful miracle of poinsettia, which are known as “the flame leaf” or “flower of the holy night”.

Christmas 2007 – Holiday Nouveau

The next in the series was my first concerted effort to pay homage to one of my favorite masters of illustration, Alphonse Mucha. My favored holly and poinsettia are present, but portrayed in the decorative style of the art nouveau movement, which gives everything the sleek decorative flare that only crisp lines and soft color can. Snow-laden evergreen branches have worked their way in as well, as I’ve always enjoyed the pristine tranquility of snow hinting at the green boughs underneath. So peaceful and reminiscent of my days in Colorado, where snow covered everything, a rare sight around these parts. Interestingly enough, I discovered the difference between my style of anatomy and Mucha’s shows itself in the fact that the shoulders of his ladies are less muscled and more sloping with rounded subtle chins. It seems I do so love my athletic swimmer’s build when working with the female figure!

Christmas 2008 – Advent Angel

Another angel took flight in 2008, where I found inspiration in the amalgamation of symbols from the lovely birdflowers and birthstone series by Brenda Lyons and Jessica Douglas, who both struck a chord with me in combining the flowers and birthstones for each month with an angelic figure. This is perhaps the most symbol-heavy of the Christmas series with its original purpose serving as the first of what was to be a birthstone angel series. The Blue Topaz and Turquoise stones of December took form in the angel’s dual-toned wings. In the window behind her, motifs combining the flowers of December, the Narcissus, holly, and poinsettia, spiral around the center with narcissus growing at her feet. She also wears the crown of Saint Lucia, a saint celebrated in Scandinavian nations (and others) by a feast day near the winter solstice where young girls dress with a candlelit crown and bring sweets in a procession. A running theme in this series hearkens back to the idea of Winter as a gray season where the pleasures of good company and a fire stave off the cold. I also can’t imagine a Christmas without the presence of white candles and lights, one of my favorite decorative motifs for its simple elegance. However, I’ve decided to scrap this approach as the background feels too open and empty. I am sensing massive stained glass panels in my future!

Christmas 2009 – December’s Window

I loved the window behind the angel in “Advent Angel” too much to let it slip into obscurity, so I decided to feature it prominently in this year’s card, which seems like a paring down of all the things which have come before. I wanted to channel the sense of stillness in winter with the light of celebration, good company, and reverence for the life that lay dormant in the snow. There are no figures but for the cardinal, who thrives even in the gray winters. The window stands as a guide and a portal for all those who might appreciate the meditative feeling of decoration that light and shape can bring us. Again, the motifs of narcissus, poinsettia, and holly figure prominently.

What’s Next?

In keeping with more subtle, non-traditional symbols, I hope to work in more of the feeling of warmth in company or perhaps even more traditional, not widely known versions of Saint Nick. Christmas is a surprisingly varied and symbol-rich holiday and I hope to keep this series going for as long as I am able! It will be a challenge to see if I can continue to make each one unique as the years go on.

If you like these images and want to use them for your own celebrations, greeting cards and post cards are available at my Zazzle shop. I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through the creative process and that you’ll join me for future looks into the creative thought behind other series in the works.

May your holiday seasons be filled with joy and light!