Many will know that as an artist working in paper I’ve always taken Christmas cards very seriously. I like to send handmade cards to anybody who booked me for an event over the previous 12 months. This year’s card features Ebenezer Scrooge.
Over the years I’ve developed a number of quite serious collectors. Together with family and friends this means that my list has to be quite carefully managed. This year’s edition ran to 450 cards!
This year’s card marks a return to an older theme. This is my second of portrait of Ebenezer Scrooge (the last being in 2016) but only the first time I’ve repeated a theme. It’s hard to say why I like Scrooge so much. Perhaps for me, making these cards – at what is also my busiest time of year for events – has become my way of sharing a bit of Christmas cheer as widely as I possibly can.
My inspiration for the pose came from a number of silhouettes I’ve cut over Zoom during the last few years. For some reason people seem to love posing with a book over Zoom almost as much as they love posing with a glass of wine at a dinner!
Charles Dickens was (of course) fascinated by books. He was a founder member of the London Library, set up in 1841. This caused me to wonder if Scrooge was also fond of reading (apart from accounting reports) and if so whether he would have considered it more prudent to borrow books from a library rather than purchase them.
Of course, I can’t answer these questions. Dickens makes no mention about whether Scrooge ever read a book in his life! Despite this, I decided to show Scrooge reading at the window by the light of a fading winter sun, reasoning that he probably didn’t want to light a candle until the last possible minute.
Development of this year’s Christmas card theme
However simple the concept, it always takes a while to get it right. At first I wasn’t sure whether to cut in black or white paper, so tried both. I settled on white because I but my last portrait of Scrooge in Black and also because it builds on last year’s theme.
Scrooge’s portrait is cut from 100 gsm white paper and mounted on 45 gsm white layout paper. This counter intuitive presentation, white on white, looks odd at first sight but makes sense as soon as you put a light behind it. The card is designed to be illuminated with a tea light or short candle (taking card not to set light to the card) but also works well stood on a windowsill with daylight behind.
I wanted to avoid the traditional “hooked nose” stereotype of Scrooge. So I instead tried to portray him as a typical English business man. My Scrooge is relatively young, perhaps as he might have appeared before the sad loss of his friend and business partner Marley.
Cutting 450 Scrooges
To cut them I print a faint outline on paper, fold it in half and cut two Scrooges at once. This means I only need to cut him 225 times! After a bit of practice I can get the time down to under two minutes each, making less then a minute per Scrooge! In all, cutting 450 Scrooges takes about 7 hours work, which I split into an hour or two each day over a week or so.
My cat, Pebble, finds the process fascinating. She loves to chase bits of paper around the floor and later bed down in my recycling basket!
I’ve asked recipients of this year’s card to share images of their card using #bookwormScrooge. I’ve started the process by starting a couple of images under the same tag.