Season's Greetings!

HoeMaid Cards

Several times like some of you, I've given into the do-it-yourself bug to create home made cards for the holidays. Below are three of the better attempts I've yet made, which were drawn when S-OB first came out, when W-TS did (these were both Fall releases, and by the time albums appeared in stores it was already the holiday shopping season), and while I was working on "Tales of Heaven and Hell." So the years would be: 1968, 1969, and 1995. The drawing up above is what appeared in small size at the bottom of the last of these, a takeoff on Hallmark and Gibson...

Card One is drawn in ink on art paper (a red tint appropriate for the season has been added). The image was offset printed by good old ERS, a local print firm I'd used for programs of concerts we'd mount during my graduate school at Columbia University. This was a quickly improvised image, quite a lot of fun to draw, but not polished or edited in any significant way (pre-computer days, and ink is not too malleable...). It depicts the Moog synth as it then looked, with a smaller version of my home-built Ampex 8-track, the 2-track beside it, and a lot of graphic devices to show the splendors of sound and music this new studio was capable of making. The idea came from the phrase, "Joyful Noise", of course, which I'd seen used in the words of traditional Xmas music. So why not use a small visual pun?
joy noise
(click for larger view)

Card Two is also drawn in ink on art paper. And again it was offset printed at ERS, but we found a nice green paper stock, instead of the white letter paper we'd gone with the previous year. You can probably sense that the images and layout were worked out ahead of time, a cover and inside message, as it's more polished than the first one. The synth and tape machine are also rather stylized, as I knew that the image would be reduced to 50% size, where small fussy details would get lost (the above one was drawn at actual size).
It was a surprise to see these cards again, after many years. Not too bad, and certainly we could have used one for more than a single year as we did. The "Peace" card is not too homemade looking, being trimmed of unimportant details that I tend to put into my initial art attempts and music (am no minimalist). Let's praise the ever-noble blue pencil -- where would I be without an eraser? (Today it's more often a Delete key... ;^) The ink here was as awful to edit as before. This time I just used some whiteout, and scissors and rubber cement to assemble and refine the elements. A nice thing about offset printing is that usually these manipulations become invisible on the final printing. (In a few more years everything will be done via computer, and few of you will have any idea what I'm talking about here!)
peace a
peace b
(click for larger views)

Card Three is a lot more recent that the above two. I assembled it from scanned photographs and pencil drawings, then refined and assembled it using PhotoShop on my Mac. The idea for the card, the word "Eat" being constructed out of a group shot from above of the four fuzzy critters is something I'd thought up about 10 years earlier. Like a young child's primer. But back then with no computer to build the refined letter out of individual elements, it would have been an impossible challenge to do live in front of the camera. I tried a few times and gave up.
It was only after learning to use PhotoShop that it occurred to me that here might be a way to put this idea into motion a LOT more carefully and easily than I first expected. I made a few pencil sketches, and then took out my old Topcon Super-D 35 mm camera and three floodlights. It was late October when I first tried to pose the three cats and doggie while they were eating away happily (they usually ate together this way, although never in exact E-figuration). I climbed up on a tall stool and looked down on each of them, taking two 36 exposure rolls in all of the four of them one at a time. After printing, I discovered some poses were not quite right, and made a second pass, another roll. These came out perfect for the purposes.
Three frames were made sans critters, of the empty floor nicely lighted with the floods. Also I took shots of the individual bowls, with and without food inside, for supplementary raw materials. These all went together in stages, as each image had to be rotated and scaled to match the others, and a lot of retouching and subtle Wacom tablet work ensued. The actual shadows had to be manipulated in many places, or new ones painted in, and there was a lot of trial and error to get a natural look. That's Heather on the left, and top down are: Nago, Pica, and Subi. The candle was a scanned drawing, colored and enhanced in PS.
eat card
eat in
(click for larger views)

The inside of the card seemed an amusing way to "cap" the cover's joke in like fashion. I got the idea before taking the raw photos, and planned accordingly. This page was assembled in B&W, but the critter shots are variations on the same four components used on the cover, for consistency's sake. Also, after all the hard work to trace and isolate them originally, it was more reasonable to try to get extra mileage, as only the rotation, positions and shadows would need to be changed.
Sadly, this turned out to be the final year that I could have pulled this off with a clean conscience. Heather had died before the next Xmas, and Pica shortly afterwards. Then I lost Nago in mid-'98. As I post this page, only old, curmudgeonly Subi is still here, an endearing slow moving friend I love very much. Perhaps now that I can do a much better printing job with the Epson I'll recycle these images again eventually. Or I may try the idea again with the newer brood (but a smaller doggie will make it harder). When I first sent the cards out I had to make the cover reproductions as wallet-size snapshots of the computer monitor, which was none too thrilling -- feh! Amazing watching the tools develop, while prices fall, over the years in both music/audio and image making, isn't it?!
That's the story for the moment. Hope you got a smile or two from your browse!

--Wendy Carlos

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Wendy Carlos Xmas cards