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This Year’s Christmas Cover: And The Winner Is…

December 24, 2014

A very Merry Christmas to all my friends, fans, and followers! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very happy holiday season. Thank you for supporting my blog.
I’m a lucky guy to know so many wonderful people.

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As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite jobs every year is a Christmas cover for the Inland Register, the monthly publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington. It’s a great match for me: I’m a Catholic, I love Christmas, and it’s one of those happy occasions where my vocation allows me to proclaim my faith.

I must confess, however, that the assignment would not be nearly as much fun if Eric Meisfjord weren’t the editor of the Inland Register.

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I’ve known Eric for many years now, and it’s a little scary: it’s almost like we’re twins separated at birth. We both love pop culture and trivia: the more obscure, the better. We also love puns, jokes, and witty repartee. Our senses of humor are almost identical– and that’s more than a little scary.

What this means is, I have some extra leeway when it comes to cover ideas and rough sketches. I’m always careful to include some fairly conservative ideas, but I’ll also include some that are a little zany. And there’s usually one that’s way out there.

I submitted the following six ideas this year. I’ll describe them briefly. See if you can guess which one Eric chose.

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The Star of Bethlehem? It was really a hot-air balloon guided by an angel, who reported to Heaven on the progress of the Three Wise Men.

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rough sketch of Christmas cover angel in Star of Bethlehem hot air balloon over globe Bethlehem manger below Wise Men approaching on camels pyramids in background

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A city street scene, with a church on the corner of a busy intersection. A lone Christmas shopper has stopped to say a prayer at the creche at the top of the church steps.

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rough sketch of Christmas cover city street scene with church shoppers guy kneeling at creche top of church steps saying a prayer

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A packed church, filled with parishioners singing the opening hymn. A woman in the front pew is sporting a hat crowned with a manger scene, complete with Wise Men and camels. I probably should have included some palm trees on the right side to balance things out.

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rough sketch of Christmas cover people singing hymn in church woman in front pew wearing large hat with manger scene creche wise men camels on brim

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Catholicism spans the globe, and here we have people of every nation, race, culture, ethnicity, etc., forming a human Christmas tree, with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as the
base. The presents under the tree spell out the Good News.

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rough sketch of Christmas cover people of world in shape of Christmas tree Mary Joseph Jesus as base presents spelling out Good news of great joy for all the people

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A luminaria is a paper lantern– usually a white paper bag anchored with sand, with
a lighted candle inside. One often sees them lining church walkways for the nighttime Christmas Vigil Mass.

Here we see a guy sitting at a church luminaria control board, watching the monitors. A crisis has arisen: the board shows that two of the luminaria have gone out. Time to call luminaria security.

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rough sketch of Christmas cover guy eating donuts in front of church luminaria control board which shows two of the candles lining the steps and sidewalks have gone out

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And finally, here’s this year’s way-out entry: a giant hand has picked up an entire shopping mall, and is emptying it like a salt shaker. Shoppers, packages, and shopping carts are falling into a church, whose roof is conveniently propped open. Shop ’til you drop, indeed…

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rough sketch of Christmas cover giant hand in sky emptying out people from mall building like a salt shaker, pouring them into a city church with roof propped open creche in front tall buildings in background

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Those were the six cover concepts. Can you guess which one was selected? Place your bet, then scroll down for the winner.

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#2 got the nod. I think it was a good choice. City street scenes make appealing covers. This one shows a lot of familiar Christmas images: trees, wreaths, shoppers, falling snow, etc. It also shows a church and a creche. It juxtaposes both sides of Christmas, the commercial and religious.

It doesn’t say the commercial side is bad: the man kneeling by the creche has clearly been doing some shopping. But it does suggest that for the Christian, the primary focus should be on Christ’s birth, and God’s intervention in human history.

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City street scene church on corner people Christmas shopping snow falling store windows decorations man kneeling by creche saying prayer by Mary Joseph Baby Jesus

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Here’s a detail image. I like the kid walking through the puddle.

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detail image of Christmas cover city street scene church on corner people shopping snow falling store windows decorations man kneeling by creche saying prayer by Mary Joseph Baby Jesus

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It’s funny: I’ll sometimes omit certain details when I ink my pencil drawing. It’s a subconscious thing. I don’t catch the omissions until I’m done.

If you look at the #2 rough sketch, you’ll see I have some traffic signs and a pedestrian crossing signal box. I put them in my final pencil drawing, but “forgot” to ink them.

I’ve learned not to correct these “mistakes.” My subconscious is smarter than I am. It’s telling me I’m trying to cram too much into the illustration. That less is more.

Here’s another detail image.

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detail image of Christmas cover city street scene church on corner people shopping snow falling store windows decorations man kneeling by creche saying prayer by Mary Joseph Baby Jesus

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Did you guess Eric’s pick? Which one did you like best yourself?

Ever had an experience where things worked out better because you “forgot” to do something?

Are you a luminaria fan? Ever been dumped out of a mall or other public building???

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

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Do You Hear Somebody Singing Alleluia, Or Is It Just Me??

Street Musician Plays Christmas Music, Soothes The Savage Sleigh-Beast

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2014 11:23 AM

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mark.

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 7:45 PM

      Thank you, sir! You are always a source of good cheer, and I appreciate it. A belated Merry Christmas to you, and I wish you all the best for 2015. Maybe you’ll finally catch that wave in your gravatar!! : )

      Like

  2. Lily permalink
    December 24, 2014 12:25 PM

    My favourite was 1 and 2! The Star being a hot-air balloon was an amusing thought – but good to know that the Three Wise Men were watched over 🙂

    I like the detail in 2. The little kid walking into the puddle – that’s probably something I’d do, er, maybe…

    It’s interesting when our mind ‘forgets’ something like inking a certain detail, but perhaps it’s only because it knows what’s most important so stays focused on those instead! 🙂

    It’s been a great year hanging out with you in the blogosphere! Merry Christmas, Mark, and I hope you have a wonderful new year! 🙂

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 8:28 PM

      Ha! I, too, was partial to #1, Lily– probably ’cause I’m so fulla hot air myself… : (

      I like your theory about my mind: it knows what’s important, hence stays focused on the essentials. That sounds so much better than: It’s always forgetting to ink stuff, probably forgets to change its underwear, too… : (

      Lily, you’re always a delight, and you make ye olde blogosphere a better place. It’s a pleasure hanging out with you, let’s do it again in 2015– Happy New Year!! : )

      Like

  3. December 24, 2014 1:30 PM

    Beautiful cover and how appropriate! Now….move over so I can set my bags down and kneel with you! Lol!
    Have a blessed Christmas, Mark!
    Christine

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 8:34 PM

      Ha! What a lovely comment– thank you, Christine! Yes, by all means, kneel down, I’ll move over. In fact, I’ll let you use my new kneeling pad. I just bought it, let’s see now, what bag is it in??

      I did have a very blessed Christmas, thanks, hope you did, too. I wish you a new year filled with beautiful sketches (OK, with your talent, that’s a given), and every happiness! : )

      Like

  4. December 24, 2014 2:03 PM

    Merry Christmas Mark!
    My gift to you is a video that can be found on http://doncharisma.org. Check it out. It will make you laugh.
    Leslie

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 8:43 PM

      Thanks, Leslie. I couldn’t find the video, but I laughed anyway. I took your word for it… : )

      A belated Merry Christmas to you, and I wish you much success and happiness in the coming year!! : )

      Like

      • December 30, 2014 11:09 PM

        We wish you the same. You can find the video on my web site now. Happy New Year.
        Leslie

        Like

        • January 1, 2015 9:56 PM

          Whoa! Don’t diss yo’ moma– that’s advice I shall take to heart, especially since my mom usually packs a .44… : )

          Thanks, Leslie– keep rockin’, and Happy New Year!! : )

          Like

  5. December 24, 2014 5:13 PM

    Great I’m not the editor cos I love all the covers! 🙂 Awesome job my friend and do have a blast tomorrow! Merry Christmas!!
    Much love. 🙂

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 8:50 PM

      Say what?? You love ’em all?? Hang on now… I’m checking with our judges… yes… yes, they’re nodding their heads, they will accept that answer… : )

      Ha! Thank you, Seyi! I appreciate your comment, your kindness, and your enthusiasm!! I had a lovely Christmas, thanks, and I hope you did, too. Thanks for all your support, and I wish you every happiness in 2015! : )

      Like

  6. December 25, 2014 5:58 PM

    I bet for number 2, 4, and 6! LOL.
    Love it in colour.

    Happy Christmas, Mark! Wishing you a very peaceful and joy Christmas. Don’t eat too much turkey! LOL

    Like

    • December 30, 2014 8:59 PM

      2, 4, and 6?? I think that’s called hedging your bets, Inge! Well, you’re a winner, and I appreciate your casting a wide net… : )

      I did have a very happy Christmas, thanks, and I hope you did, too. I took your advice, and didn’t eat too much turkey. Probably because the family chef served ham instead. Luckily, Santa left a big bottle of Tums in my stocking. Lord knows I needed it… : )

      Thanks for your loyal and cheery support, and I wish you and your trusty camera a new year filled with happiness and great photo opps!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  7. December 26, 2014 12:26 AM

    It was a tossup almost, between #2 (Eric’s pick) and #6. I was valiantly trying to find an illustration that matched my memories of Spokane. Are either of those based on Spokane landmarks? I was wondering if #2 was based on the Riverfront Shopping Center, and if #6 was based on a gorgeous Gothic-style church that has an intricate rosetta design in the steeple. (Window or base relief, I think, not stained glass.) Then again, “mall dump” reminds me more of the Northtown mall, which I believe is in what is now the city of Spokane Valley. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there regularly, so I could be mistaken.

    Like

    • December 31, 2014 3:06 PM

      Hi, Jak!! A belated Merry Christmas to you!

      Arrgghh! I feel I’ve let you down, sir. None of this year’s sketches were based on actual Spokane locations. I did reference a world map in constructing Sketch #1, and I have some photo references that I use for drawing churches. None of the latter are located in Spokane, but there could very well be similarities. Let’s see– I did do a Christmas cover back in 2010 that featured Spokane’s Paulson Building. You can see it in this blog post.

      Thanks as always for your kind support, Jak, and I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!! : )

      Like

      • December 31, 2014 5:23 PM

        Yep, I did see that one… didn’t think my grandparents would recognize the Paulson building as well; I couldn’t recall it myself.

        They very much enjoyed the card of the Riverfront Park Christmas scene, however.

        Like

        • January 1, 2015 10:32 PM

          Poor old Paulson Building!– it’s pretty hard to compete with a World’s Fair Pavilion… : )

          Very glad your grandparents liked the card, Jak, and thanks again for your kind support. Wishing you the best in 2015!! : )

          Like

        • January 2, 2015 4:07 PM

          Cheers, Mark. I’ll be sure to continue to share with you (and any of yours that might be interested) what art projects our family is working on. We really appreciate the step-by-step breakdowns of how you work on things- especially with graphics editors.

          Like

        • January 6, 2015 7:59 PM

          Sounds good, Jak. I’m very grateful for your kind words and support! : )

          Like

        • January 9, 2015 9:27 PM

          Of course, Mark. Fellow artists receive so much by supporting each other.

          Like

  8. angulam permalink
    December 27, 2014 11:16 AM

    The pictures are wonderful…..great post…

    Like

    • December 31, 2014 3:07 PM

      Many thanks for that lovely comment, I really appreciate your stopping by. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you all the best in the coming year! : )

      Like

  9. soul . to . earth permalink
    December 28, 2014 1:40 PM

    My guess was sketch #4 with the Christmas tree-people……lovely spirit.

    Ahem! I read this post to Susan Boyle singing (on me iPod), “How great Thou Art“…….so true of you and your art! 😀 Merry everything to you, mon ami and heartfelt thanks for the good cheer you spread through the year!

    Like

    • December 31, 2014 3:28 PM

      The tree-people!! They played an important part in the Lord Of The Rings, as I recall. They went out on a limb for the good guys, and I found it easy to root for them. But I think I’m off on a tangent, as the line said to the circle… : )

      Did you spot the South Indian in Sketch #4? She’s striking a rebellious pose, and has a radiant but decidedly subversive smile on her face. I can say no more… : )

      My dear Radhika! As always you make me blush with pleasure, and laugh with delight. Susan Boyle… I don’t think she’s actually visited my blog and seen my work– somebody musta tipped her off… : )

      I do hope you’re enjoying the holidays. I’ve arranged to extend them for a couple more weeks– just for you. Thanks for the wonderful comment, and for being a bright and shining nebula in ye olde firmament!! : )

      Like

      • soul . to . earth permalink
        January 5, 2015 10:15 AM

        😀 Ah! I can’t wait to see what zany jokes and comments you come up with in 2015…….in addition to your fantastic sketches and posts. Strut those proud peacock feathers, I say!!

        Loved the tangent joke, btw. It inspired me to make up this one for you::
        A proud rhombus was overheard saying, “How dare you call me square?!” 😉

        Like

        • January 6, 2015 8:47 PM

          Zany jokes and comments? Fantastic sketches and posts?? How can I possibly live up to such advance billing?? Alas! My fits of past genius have created unrealistic expectations. I fear I’ve set the bar too high, as the pub owner said to the thirsty and very frustrated midget… : )

          A rhombus!!– ha! One of my favorite geometrical shapes, and, yes, much too cool to hang with squares. Always loved that Beach Boys song, too. It was about The Eternal Triangle, as I recall– so why’d they call it Help Me, Rhombus?? Puzzling, my dear Radhika…

          Oh, well. As the circle once said: I Get A-Round… : )

          Liked by 1 person

      • soul . to . earth permalink
        January 5, 2015 11:12 AM

        Almost forgot how this South Indian played the role of Joseph for a tableau vivant competition in high school [aptly named Mount Mary Convent High School]. I wuz stiff as a board, frozen cheek muscles, sore neck et al thanks to a fixed, serene smile gazing sideways (for what felt like eternity) at a doll-baby. 🙂

        Like

        • January 7, 2015 8:53 PM

          Tableau vivant… huh. I always thought that meant the “happy” section of a restaurant. Kinda like Smoking or Non-Smoking. If you were in a good mood, you requested “Tableau vivant, silver plate.” If you were lethargic or depressed, you mumbled “Tableau engourdi.” Well, you learn something everyday, especially when a certain Soul descends to Earth to leave a comment… : )

          Mount Mary Convent High School looks gorgeous! Estab. 1910. Gosh– you went there for a long time. No wonder you’re so smart. I’ll bet the nuns liked your Southern accent, too… : )

          Hmm. I think the nuns were on to something, giving you the role of Joseph. He’s usually passed off as a stoic. The good sisters clearly disagreed. They saw him as a complex character, and figured he had to have a sense of humor– otherwise, how would the poor put-upon guy have survived?? I’ll bet you wore one of those carpenter tool belts. Nice touch. Hope your sore neck’s better, BTW… : )

          Liked by 1 person

  10. December 28, 2014 9:07 PM

    I did like #2 – the man kneeling by the creche. It’s a touching scene that reflects the pull of both the commercial and the religious influences of Christmas. Your eagle editing eye serves you well. Less is more. 😉

    But I also liked #6 – the mall dump into the church. That’s the perverse side of my humor.

    Like

    • December 31, 2014 4:00 PM

      Ha! Thank you for that lovely and delightful comment, Judy. It highlights something you and I have in common (besides good looks, a sparkling personality, and being a force for good in the universe, I mean): namely, we’re a mix or reverence and irreverence– a large part of our charm, I daresay… : )

      Less is more, except in the case of Judy Berman blog posts, where more is good. You can take my word for it… : )

      Liked by 1 person

  11. December 29, 2014 2:04 PM

    You know my vote was for the hot air balloon (a close second the ‘salt shaker’) – but, I had a sneaking suspicion the creche scene would rule the day – all quite wonderful and very Christmas-esque!
    AnnMarie 🙂

    Like

    • December 31, 2014 4:08 PM

      Ha! My dear AnnMarie! Your comment made me laugh. I had the same sneaking suspicion when I submitted the roughs. I should add, however, that Mr. Meisfjord has surprised me more than once, which always makes the submission a lot of fun.

      Glad you got a kick out of the hot air balloon and the salt shaker, and thanks so much for your very cheery comment!

      Like

  12. December 13, 2016 12:14 PM

    My personal favorite was the luminata control board! Kudos to your imagination, subconscious, muse, SIX ideas for one cover! You must use Miracle Gro to fertilize your brain.

    Like

    • January 2, 2017 2:51 PM

      Miracle Gro?? I need Miracle Boot to give me a kick inna pants, is what I need!! I’m so sorry for this dreadfully late reply. Had a big assignment in December, then came Christmas, and blah, blah, blah, the usual sorry excuse-making.

      Thanks so much for your very kind words, I’m very glad you enjoyed the post. The Luminaria Control Board– ha! I’d almost forgotten that– definitely a favorite of mine, too. Didn’t see any luminaria this year, more’s the pity, but I’ve seen some great displays, including a very long one in a snowstorm as a group of us approached a church on foot for midnight mass. Now that was a sight I’ll never forget!

      Hope you had a lovely Christmas, and I wish you a belated but very happy new year– thanks again!! : )

      Like

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