- November 10, 2016
For many years, the front door of Mary and Dick’s Berkeley home has graced the cover of our Holiday gift offering. When Scott suggested that I update the cover by creating a new illustration, the subject of gathering around the table for Christmas dinner came to mind.
Unlike most artists, I cannot draw or paint completely from memory. I need a photograph to refer to, to help maintain balance and perspective. And so, in mid-July, I dug out a few Christmas items—ornaments and stockings—and set our dining room table for Christmas dinner. I snapped a few photos from several angles and uploaded them to my computer. I quickly realized that our pewter-rimmed white plates on a white tablecloth with white napkins were a bit monochromatic at best, not to mention almost impossible to paint. I reset the table with our everyday placemats and placed our Italian pottery salad plates onto our dinner plates. Our table would not be complete without a few bottles of Hafner wine. Another few photos and I was ready to go. Well almost.
I didn’t have a Christmas tree or a wreath or greens on hand for the photograph, so I had to draw them into my watercolor rough.
Then another decision—caught in the photograph was Lucky, our cat, who loves to sleep on the back of our couch—do I keep him in the illustration or not? I decided that anyone who knows our home would expect Lucky to be sleeping there, so in the illustration he stayed.
Beginning a new watercolor is always daunting for me; I worry that it won’t turn out well. I began with what I thought would be the easiest part—the Christmas tree, but I soon realized that a beautifully decorated Christmas tree would distract from the illustration’s focus, the dinner table, so the ornaments were quickly replaced with tiny lights. (Phew, I wasn’t sure I wanted paint all of those decorations, anyway!)
As I worked on the watercolor, past the mantle to the stockings of Kate and Grace, the painting began to take life and I became excited as it evolved. Painting the table with all of the place settings was fun. It made me appreciate the craftsmanship of our hand-painted pottery. Then just as I was almost finished, I had one more obstacle to overcome—our Persian carpet. I was worried that if I attempted to recreate it and failed, I would then have to start the painting all over, so I took artist license and transformed our Persian rug into a luxurious black carpet.
Now with the Holidays fast approaching, I look at the watercolor and smile. Soon our table will be set and our family will gather around to enjoy a series of wonderful meals together. I wish you and yours all the best this Holiday Season.