Christmas with the Snownagls

One of multiple festive traditions in Castle Von Naggle is that Wifey and I alternate Christmas-card-making duties from year to year (here’s Katherine’s design from last year). Originally I used photographs, but after us 2 became we 3, I ended up switching to drawing rather than photos, possibly because in those early months I wasn’t taking photos of anything other than a moon-faced mini-me.

The first was for Christmas 2012, when the Boy was still officially 0 yrs old and we were utterly knackered. I thought it’d be good to have an image of early parenthood reflecting both knackeredness and well-we-can-still-smile-ness. Pretty roughly done, a rough sketch in blue pencil then black chinagraph on top.

Two years later, the Boy was an altogether more mobile proposition. Although he didn’t go up any christmas trees, it didn’t seem an unlikely proposition. I regret making the snowparents look as concerned as they do, but I like the snowsprog’s cheery wave. Again, drawn on (textured) paper in pencil and graphite.

When it came to this year, I wanted to work directly onto the computer – and, given the Boy’s ongoing obsession with trains, it needed to involve a train in some way. I mentioned this to the Boy and he was very enthusiastic… as long as it was a class 156 Scotrail train, his most favourite of all trains (no, we don’t know why either). Okey doke, thought I, and I started scribbling together something along the lines of a snowtrain using Affinity Photo, eventually coming up with this rough scribble:

But while I liked the design, I got increasingly wound up about the train. Thanks to the Boy’s fascination with them we know class 156 trains better than our own faces, but would family and friends who’ve yet to discover the pleasures of this video recognise the above as a train carriage? I wasn’t convinced, and started scribbling another design with a more recognisable train. Who could resist an Intercity 125, who? Not least because we see the East Coast service barrelling past our house multiples times a day…

Better. But the focus was too much on the train – the snow family seemed like an afterthought, rather than part of the story. It was too easy to imagine recipients looking at it and thinking “eh? Have they become train drivers or something?”

So I went for a third, last attempt (swearing that if it didn’t work out I’d leg it to the closest chatiry shop and buy their cards instead) going for an altogether more traditional train design – the Flying Scotsman! All the more timely since it’s return to the tracks this year, even if it didn’t head quite as far north as us. Steam trains aren’t as beloved by the Boy as a class 156 (what is?), but we did visit the National Railway Museum earlier this year so he was okay with using an iconic steam engine rather than a blocky diesel. It made for a lovely silhouette too. Otherwise it’s not far off that initial design, but much more effective to my eyes, and the finished product turned out quite nicely (making use of a textured brush to soften the image) – I particularly like the snowboy’s expression.

Having become increasingly fond of them, I’m looking forward to seeing what this snowfamily do in the coming years. As for the Flying Scotsman, this programme on BBC4 next week ought to light our firebox: