Nutcracker Ballet handmade Christmas Card

I don't usually spend much time painting Christmas cards - for the obvious reason: it takes a lot of time to come up with a unique idea, sketch it out, decide on composition/value/colours, and then paint it.

But then I had an idea. One I had to act on.

My childhood memories of Christmas always involved the Nutcracker Ballet. I love painting ballet scenes; however, I usually paint them in the realism style. "What if", I said to myself, "I designed a simple 5x7 painting in a whimsical style..."

Out came the sketch book, and a Google image search for the ballet. I had the girl already dancing in my mind, but try as I might, I couldn't remember the details of the Nutcracker's jacket!

After transferring the sketch to my watercolor block, I realized that in order to keep the subjects looking fresh and clean, I needed a dark background. A Christmas tree would provide just the amount of contrast I had in mind. So I started with the tree, carefully painting around the subjects, alternating with intense Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine Turquoise. Then I added a light wash of manganese blue, brushing against the edge of the tree so the edges would bleed a little. While that wash was wet, I added Idanthrone Blue to the corners, to mimic stage lighting.

When that dried, the fun started. It didn't take long to complete the features on the subjects... but there was still something missing. I didn't trim the tree at first, because I was concerned about creating a background that was too "busy". But after assessing the painting at this stage, it was apparent to me that I needed to dress it up a bit.

Out came a tube of Daniel Smith "Iridescent Sunstone" watercolour for trimming the tree. This paint has a lovely sheen to it, making it perfect for adding a bit of bling. The last step was to lift out some circles on the tree to reveal the turquoise underneath, sign it, and remove the masking tape from the edges of the painting.

I took photos from the initial sketch to the finished painting, and was surprised to see that it only took me two hours from concept to completion. Not bad! When I transferred the sketch onto the block, I also made a reverse transfer so that I could easily paint it again while I'm in the mood.

I carefully designed this so that the paper can be folded to make a card, and then slip into a 5x7 frame. This way, the card is also the gift!

Buy Handmade Gifts this Christmas!


Alex said…
The card is just a darling! Cute and whimsical and very dear. I was wondering what you are up too - no updates for a while... It was certainly worth your while.

Manon said…
Love this Christy!! My daughter, Alex, danced in the Nutcracker for three years and then she had enough!! I had that music in my head for years.

I think your addition of the iridescent is perfect for this piece!! Great work!

I envy your watercolor skills. I was a very frustrated watercolorist..... I hated keeping those whites safe under frisket. I ultimately always messed things up.
Deborah said…
Christy, Your card is just magical! You have captured the essence of the ballet perfectly!

Nice work on sharing your steps too.

Oh man Christy, I can't tell you how much I love this one! It's perfect! I would love to buy a print of this as an ACEO!
Unknown said…
Hi Alex - yes, I tend to be a little MIA once November hits. Commissions, commissions, commissions... but I love it.

Manon ;-) I'll bet that was amazing for you, being able to watch your daughter in the Nutcracker. Jordan never could be persuaded to follow in his mom's dancing footsteps lol...
I find frisket hard to use on textured or rough paper, so in this case I used a tiny tiny brush to paint around the subjects instead. It takes a bit of planning, that's for sure! Of course, if you really mess things up - there's always Dr. P.H. Martin's bleedproof white!

Deborah, thank you for dropping by from Daniel Smith - it's so much easier to be creative when you can start with such amazing paint!

Pam, you're just making your way right around my blog archives today - thank you!!! I'll definitely have prints of this available soon.
Hi Christy, Yeah was browsing your sites today, check out my blog in a few hours! *winks*
Unknown said…
Pam - wow - thank you for the feature on your blog!
pinkglitterfae said…
Christy I love it! it is the perfect holiday card.
I miss seeing you on Etsy, sounds like you have been busy! which is a good thing for artists, lol :-)
TJ Lubrano said…
Hello hello! Your work is simply amazing!! How do you get so much detail and softness in your work? I mean, you can see it in every line you draw! I love it ^_^! Take care!
Unknown said…
ha ha - hi Pink! It's been absolutely AGES hasn't it?
I miss the Bounty thread too - need more daylight hours, that's for sure.

TJ, thank you :-) the detail is in part due to a Winsor & Newton 000 brush... tiny tiny tiny.... and the softness is achieved either by "wet in wet" painting (applying water first, before the paint) or by softening hard edges later with clean water.
TJ Lubrano said…
Thanks so much for the tip! I will definitely try it out! Take care!
Unknown said…
(I'm working on the second one though!)
Oh boy, can't wait to see it!
Unknown said…
thanks Pam - I've actually pre-sold the second one today. Might have to paint more!!!
lol That's no surprise! They are just gorgeous!

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