Archive for the ‘Odds & Ends’ Category

“What’s Gnu?” …. We Moved!!!

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

What'sGnu(cropped)030 copy

In the tradition of unconventional Klein Family Christmas cards this year’s offering may seem a bit more unusual than times past. The “Schrodinger’s Cat” card of 2016 and the pen & ink “Mouse Walking Across a Christmas Letter” of 1990 come to mind, and as with those previous incardnations this one was born out of necessity – quickly done due to a variety of stressful events (physical and emotional) that made working on a detailed time-sensitive original illustration mentally and physically challenging (in the case of the Mouse card, for example, Jesse was born in August 1989, so as a newbie Mom with a 1 year old baby, Creative Juices were in short supply in 1990). 

2019’s annual Christmas greeting falls into both the Physical and Mental Exhaustion categories in terms of time (or lack-there-of) to come up with an original illustration, but the use of this particular card not only still grants us the opportunity to tell Friends and Family we are thinking of Them/You during the holidays, but also serves a very practical means of sharing New (or Gnu) information.  Specifically, after 22 years in St. Augustine, Bob and i (and Jesse’s stuff that was still in the house) have moved. To Orlando! (because where else can one hear fireworks every night and use a volcano as a directional landmark).

While this might seem like an Out-of-the-Blue, impetuous decision, it was really in the back of our minds for awhile. It started when Bob began flying all over the world and i thought how nice it would be NOT to have a yard or house to worry about, and instead have a place we could just button up and leave for trips (obviously the animals would still need to be considered, but we’d figure that part out). Then the back-to-back hurricane assaults of Matthew and Irma kicked things into higher, more serious consideration, gear.

We absolutely adore St. Augustine. Our neighborhood is The Best. And our neighbors (and my Technical Support folks) are the people of Myth and Legend. Caring. Generous. They are our Family of the Heart (and have automatic Drop-In/Stay-Over privileges whenever they are in, or passing thru, Orlando).  But Bob and i were also just ready for a change. While i loved saying we lived on an island, truth be told we really hadn’t been to the beach in ages (even when Jess came home for a visit, we TALKED about going but often never quite made it there). Bob is off flying and i’m holed up in the Art Room drawing. Heck, we didn’t even got downtown much. It was simply time for a New Adventure.

So in August i floated the idea of selling the house, and after securing the approval of Jesse and the neighbors, Bob and i put the house on the market. Just as Hurricane Dorian made his protracted visit (REALLY!). Once Dorian left the area, the For Sale sign went up, and then much sooner than we expected, or i was ready for, we got an offer. And i immediately went into frantic Hunting For a New Place to Live/Packing/Worrying the Sale Wouldn’t Go Thru/Physically Moving/Panic Mode. A state that lasted from September until well past Closing (Nov 18).

The Move behind us (tho still a TON of boxes, mostly books, still to unpack) my thoughts turned to a Move Announcement, AND the family Christmas card. That’s when it dawned on me – why not do both!

And if you remember this illustration from the past – Yes, i’ll admit. I’m recycling.  I already had this “What’s Gnu?” card (originally done to highlight Invented Images/Laurie Klein Art events) but never used it, so i decided to give it a new life and dual purpose as the 2019 Klein Family Adventure ~ Change of Address/Christmas card.  Done in the style of a  J C Leyendecker Arrow Shirt ad i always thought the Gnu looked suitably festive in his red robe, and now i just imagine he is reading his paper Christmas morning.  But more importantly, i like that not only can we still share our annual holiday greeting with you, but we can also include you in this brand GNU Adventure and our brand GNU address as well. 

To Christmas, when anything is possible & dear Friends help make it happen.

Oh, and of course…  Happy Gnu Year!!!                                                                        LAK2019 

“Pango Noel” or “A Pangolin Perhaps?”

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018


Pango Noel (2018)

The Klein Family Christmas card, and the subsequent Behind the Art Back Story that always accompanies the illustration, has an actual “story” behind the story of the card. Or, to be more accurate, an original children’s picture book story behind this year’s card.  A story that actually began January 29, 2016, when i was invited to do an  interview on a local morning TV show and i met a guest that, literally, changed my life.  A Pangolin.  

Instantly i became obsessed with “the most endangered animal no one has ever heard of” and wanted to do something to bring it to broader attention.  And i almost had the opportunity in June of 2016 when i received a manuscript that had, as its main character a pig. The nature of the animal had little to do with the actual story so i wrote a proposal suggesting we change the Pig to a Pangolin. The story remained the same, i just thought a Pangolin would give it an added dimension. And i wanted to draw one!

Creative decisions went on hold while the publisher waited for the author to sign the contract, but the schedule remained the same and i got nervous that i’d suddenly 

get the Go Ahead with no time to do the work. And since things were a little slow (and i’m a bit OCD) i went ahead and did all the rough sketches for the story using my proposed Pangolin character. Then, just to be safe, i did the entire book again using the Pig. Unfortunately, the author made so many contract demands that by December the publisher decided to just cancel the project. But when one book closes another opens.  

January 2017 the brilliant and talented Lori Schildwachter (who had long become a PangoPal) and i decided to collaborate on our own Pangolin themed children’s book. Inspired by a description that suggested a Pangolin was “a cross between a dragon, an artichoke, a pine cone, a tiny dinosaur and an armadillo” A Pangolin Perhaps? was born. So sandwiched between other art & illustration projects (and a hurricane) i began doing the pencil roughs and by the end of the year our book was ready to leave the nest. 

Our first publisher submissions went out in January of 2018 but even while our little book was making its rounds Lori and i were revising the story, and the illustrations, for submission to the “2018 Key Colours International Award for Best Picture Book Concept” contest held in Belgium in July.  I had to redesign the pictures to fit the competition format but actually wound up liking them better and was excited to ship the original pencil sketches off to Europe at the end of June.

August 29 we heard that out of 243 submissions, a jury of professionals had selected 44 books to be exhibited at the Het Stadsmus Museum in Hasselt, Belgium.  Our little Pangolin was one of the 44 books chosen.  We did not win the Grand Prize but as far as we’re concerned – it truly was an amazing Honor just to be considered. Today our book continues to knock on publishing doors while Lori and i start work on our next Pangolin Project.  3 years, 6 notebooks and TONS of sketches, with more to come, a Pangolin has become a part of my life and i could think of no better way to share the obsession. Besides, nothing says Christmas like an animal that looks like a pine cone, can hang from a tree like an ornament, and curls up like a wreath!                   LAK  2018   

Pangolin Portrait (2018)

Freight Dog

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Freight Dog (Xmas 2017)


So, it’s the annual Klein Family Christmas card. I have to admit, after some 40-odd years, coming up with an idea has not always been easy. On more than one occasion i have looked longly at the the Christmas card table on display at Barnes & Noble and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to just buy some cards this year!” Another alternative idea i have entertained during my occasional Artist Block moments is to do a “Polar Bear In a Blizzard” card (ie: all white, with a black dot in the middle) but, inevitably, the Creative Muse kicks in (not to mention encouraging emails and Facebook messages from friends saying they “can’t wait to see this year’s card”) and personal artistic Pride takes over. Ultimately i wind up getting an idea.

Sometimes the theme is an iconic Christmas inspiration like variations of Kris Kringle, or interpretations of classic carols or Charles Dickens’ iconic story. Other times the Christmas illustration is influenced by the year’s current, or on-going, obsessions (sharks, Star Wars, Doctor Who). There’s been a few higher concept/aka:weird ideas (the History of Christmas, quantum physics). And then there are the Family-driven images that feature one of us, or chronicle events of the year (school, the furry kids, flying). This card falls into that latter Family Chronicle category. But it took the entire year to get here, and i only decided that this was indeed the direction to take just before Thanksgiving (hey, these things have to take time to gel).

Of course after all that preamble, i feel a little guilty that there isn’t more of a monumental explanatory “Behind the Inspiration” back-story to share. Basically, after a couple-year hiatus from slipping the surly airline bonds, Bob found a new/old flying interest. I say “new” because it’s a new job, but it’s “old” in that BK has returned to his original flying roots (or should that be wings) and gone back to where he started – hauling freight. Way-back-then it was a little Piper Aerostar criss-crossing the US; now it’s the giant MD-11 (Bob affectionally calls it The Beast) criss-crossing the oceans and continents – tooling around Africa, Europe and Asia (tho this month he was all over North America). 37 years since his cargo days BK is once again a “Freight Dog”.

So, naturally, that meant an actual canine needed to serve as pilot. The dilemma was – what kind of canine? I mean, a Corgi was the obvious choice personally, but from an artistic standpoint didn’t seem like the scruffy, junk yard, mutt one would expect with the title. Of course we here at Klein Family Headquarters like to defy expectation and there was simply no other pup who could fill the PIC seat except Tali! Added bonus – this is also something of a birthday card because she turned 10 years old this month (and she IS a Working Breed) so this card celebrates both Old Dogs and New Beginnings.
Besides, who the heck do you think helps Santa get all those packages delivered on time in one night!?!

After landing check list –
Parking check list –
Well, we pulled it off again, Captain.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.                                                                                           LAK 2017

Schrodinger’s Card

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

In Which the Christmas Greeting Is Simultaneously Merry, & Not, Until Observed By the Recipient   OR  (to put another way)

The Cat Was Dead, and Not, To Begin With…..


And Yes. This is what Bob calls one of my “weird” cards (i prefer “high concept”).

I am a Dog Person. There is no doubt whatever about that. I am also somewhat obsessed by Time and Space and Physics – when the Universe is faced with “choices” it decides between them at random, in accordance with the laws of probability (quantum theory) and that the choice is not made until somebody looks to see what is going on. The mention of this choice, coupled with the point I started with, must be distinctly understood, or no sense can come of the background story I am going to relate. (NOTE: preamble paraphrase inspired by Charles Dickens).

Again, i love dogs. I understand dogs. Over the course of umpteen years i have had the delightful pleasure of sharing different periods of my life with 4 corgis and a wonderful mixed-breed stray, but i have also included the occasional rabbit, hermit crab, fish and hamster to the menagerie (we even took care of a baby bird for a hot second until his mom came and reclaimed him). However, i have never ever wanted, considered or entertained the thought of having a cat. As i often explained to Jess when she was growing up and expressed interest in a kitten, we had the pets I didn’t mind taking care of, so cats simply never made the cut or factored into our lives.

Until 4 years ago that is, when Jess, now an adult with a job and apartment, decided to adopt an airport stray and then, 6 months later, promptly moved to Hawaii and dumped the beast in my lap (because Hawaii has strict rules about non-indigenous carnivores devouring their endangered Nene Geese. And no one else would take him). Even when she moved back to the main land she never quite got around to collecting him, so three years later he’s still here.

His name is Piper, by the way, but he has also been called: Cat, Booger, Crazy and Monster (not to mention other names inappropriate for a Christmas card story). I should note i knew nothing about cats before i inherited him and 3 years later i am still pretty much in the dark about what makes them tick. Or why people actually like them (particularly given the apparent truth of all the negative Cat Memes on Facebook). They all basically seem to like scratching people (Bob almost had to go to the ER), staring blankly, curling up in boxes, and – particularly annoying for me – inconveniently taking full-body naps on original artwork.
Needless to say, since living with Piper my favorite cat jokes involve Schrodinger in some way, which brings us to the Christmas card back story.

Basically – i simply couldn’t think of anything that excited me enough to draw (i blame 2016 as a whole for my ambivalence). And then Piper came to mind and i realized he had not yet been on a family Christmas card so i figured this was really the perfect year to feature him (he did almost kill Bob after all). I immediately pictured him sprawled on top of Christmas wrapping because he always lays on my illustrations when he slips past the barricade to my art room (so much so that i once put a piece of paper on the living room floor and wrote “Original Art: Do Not Lay On This” and the minute he saw it he curled up on it and went to sleep).

Of course then Schrodinger’s Cat came to mind (bringing the Quantum Physics Lesson above into the mix). Specifically: the thought experiment dreamed up by Erwin Schrodinger involving a CAT, locked in a box with radioactive material, giving it a 50-50 chance of survival. The cat is conceivably both Alive and Dead, the answer unknown, until the observer opens the box (and yes, this is a simplistic, Physics For Dummies interpretation, the true explanation is massively more complex – which is why we have Google).

For me, NOT being a Cat Person, it was just an easy abstract hop, philosophic skip and theoretic jump to this year’s Merry/Not Merry “Schrodinger’s Cat Card”. So with apologizes to Schrodinger (for garbling his theory and for the missing umlaut over the O) and Cat Lovers everywhere. Whatever your reality, may you find your Christmas Merry and your cat very much alive. Or, as Piper’s holiday greeting would be (upon opening the card, and i suspect what all cats think when confronted by human expectation),


LAK 2016

A New Post for a New Book – “They Just Know” Is Here

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

I can’t believe we are already over half way thru the year and i am only now writing my first post of 2015.  Then again, maybe not so surprising… i’ve been a pretty lax blogger over the years. Considering how much i love writing (and talking) about the whole drawing/illustrating process it’s odd that i’m so pokey about posting new thoughts and stories.  I guess part of the problem is – i always feel i should be doing something else more work-related.  But promoting a new book IS work related isn’t it? So, to that end, allow me to introduce “They Just Know – Animal Instincts” (written by Robin Yardi, Illustrated by – ME)!

Cover of "They Just Know"

As always there are all sorts of fun Behind-the-Art background stories to tell, and the author Robin Yardi asked me all kinds of questions about the illustrations for her blog, The Nonfiction Nook, which i will share, but that will have to come later (but by later i really mean sooner rather than literally a long time from now), this entry is just to introduce the book with a few news-y items and announce some up-coming Book Signings.

By way of a quick little introductory synopsis let me quote from the Kirkus Review (because it’s a really nice review!!!):

Drawing a line between human and animal behaviors, this debut from Yardi teaches children about instinctual behaviors.

Alternating double-page spreads first show anthropomorphized animals “learning” how to do something and then the reality: “spring peepers tadpoles don’t get lessons on leaping at school, and no one has to teach them their iconic song”. A turn of the page reveals: “Mother peepers lay a lot of lovely eggs and hop away. Little tad poles just know what to do, all on their own”.

Klein’s artwork is the real draw though. The anthropomorphized scenes will certainly elicit chuckles from both adult and child readers…

(Sigh) I just love that last part.

Anyway, as for the Book Signings (and the main reason i finally got back on the blog) the first one is going to be held this Friday, September 4, 2015, at Simple Gestures (4 White Street, St. Augustine, FL) from 5 to 9.  It is the First Friday Art Walk and always a lot of fun but this weekend is also the start of St. Augustine’s 450th Anniversary celebration, with all sorts of events and music and revelry going on downtown, and the Bridge of Lions is going to be closed, so this could either make for a very busy First Friday on “our” side of the bridge, or a real quiet one.  Either way – the invitation is extended for you to stop by and hang out with some delightfully crazy folks, look at a some amazing art (and crafts and jewelry and toys and books), not to mention enjoy some wonderful nibblees.  There are a couple shops and galleries all right therein the area so it will certainly be worth a visit.

But if you miss that signing, not to worry – i already have a few more lined up.  So mark your calendars:

* Saturday, October 3 – I will be at San Marco Books (1971 San Marco, Blvd. Jacksonville, FL) from 10 to 2 (or longer if you want to stay and schmooze).

* Saturday, October 24 – I’ll be at on the other side of the St. Augustine bridge at Anastasia Books (81-C King Street) from 11 to 1 (ditto on the schmoozing part).

* And then, the Friday right after Thanksgiving – November 27 – i will be at The Starving Artist (28 Cuna Street, St. Augustine, FL)  from 11 to 4.  Santa Claus is also expected to make an appearance so i JUST KNOW you’ll want to stop by then (children’s books and Santa – what could be better)!!

Of course if i pop up anywhere else i will be sure add the dates, but this is a good start.  And a nice reason to finally get back to the blog (now if i can only just keep up the momentum).

I’ll keep you posted.



A ew Northern Dittye of the Lady Green-Sleeves (Richard Jones. Ed. 1580)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

So, this card was done in 2004.  It was third in what became an inadvertent, unplanned,  series of cards that wound up combining Christmas songs with current pop culture interests (the First: 2002 – Good King Wenceslas* with thematic variation suggested by Jesse Klein – a Good King Wenceslas /Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi/Star Wars mash-up.   The Second: 2003 – Drink Up Me, Hearties. Yo Ho – a Jimmy Buffett-Ho Ho Ho And a Bottle of Rhum (Santa’s run off to the Caribbean)/Jack Sparrow(as Santa)/Pirates of the Caribbean fusion. And Third: 2004 – this card – A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Green-Sleeves (Richard Jones, Ed. 1580) – Greensleeves meets Lord of the Rings/with – as i wave my hand in front of you – with a hint of Jedi influence in the tunic).

What can i say – 2002, 20o3 and 2004 were obsession-heavy years for my daughter and i (my beloved Partner In Crime – which is another pop culture reference, but that comes later) and the annual Christmas card has long become a sort of illustrative representation of the Year In Review (whatever the year may happen to be).  Whatever the current passion, interest, hi-light or activity winds up becoming the subject of the card and then i just twist myself into a pretzel finding a way to make it Christmas-y.

Thus, Page and Monarch became Padawan and Master (Jedi) and fit Good King Wenceslas perfectly (there’s more about that in an earlier blog by the way).  Santa running off to the Caribbean in Buffett’s song gave me the ideal springboard for a Pirate Santa (who just so happened to wind up looking like Jack Sparrow. What can i say – it was Young Santa, in his earlier, wild days). And in 2004 Lord of the Rings topped our Mother-Daughter list of obsessions and a favorite Medieval Christmas ballad automatically conjured up images of knights which, then, segued easily into Tolkien’s Fellowship.

Of course things didn’t stop there (they never do). Then came the research – because there is truly nothing i enjoy more than looking up obscure facts to enhance an illustration, or enliven the subsequent background story.  Greensleeves, has long been a favorite Christmas carol (along with good ol’ Wenceslas) and i have actually used it once before as the subject of a card (that year it was a Medieval ermine troubadour and his Lady, cos nothing says “Merrie Chrystmas” like dancing weasels) so i already had a bit of working knowledge about the song’s origins. Such as legend has it that Henry VIII wrote it for Anne Boleyn (never substantiated, and probably not true, but let’s not have the facts get in the way of a good story).

I wound up finding all sorts of fascinating information about the song. There is an entry in the Stationer’s Register in 1580 licensing Richard Jones to print A new Northern Dittye of the Lady Green-Sleeves, so that was the source of the card’s title.  And the earliest lyrics that survive are in A Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584). The tune, i should note, first appears in 1652. More fun (at least for me) a reading of the lyrics shows that it is not a sweet, innocuous love song, but a plea from a 16th century gentleman to his bored mistress. And there are countless versions of the lyrics (including 14 Cavalier songs and John Gay’s lyrics to the tune for The Beggar’s Opera) before William Chatterson Dix wrote the Christmas carol, What Child Is This, to the tune shortly after the Civil war. What can is say – the bawdy history behind a, seemingly innocent, Christmas carol appeals to my devilish side.

Of course i had to squish all that information into the little note i included with the card (this was years before i just started writing page-long explanatory notes in eensy-weensy font size) so many people who got the card that year were a bit flummoxed by the subject and the contents.  I still have people refer to it as “that weird card” (and think it kind of set the standard for the weirder cards to follow.

So on that note, i give you the actual story i included with the card back in 2004 ~

It appears i’ve gone and created another carol-related Christmas card… Okay, technically “Greensleeves” is not a Christmas carol but rather an Elizabethan ballad about a bored mistress of dubious repute. The tune however is wonderfully medieval and there is just something about the music of wandering minstrels and troubadours that can’t help but conjure up images of Christmas ~ at least to me. So whether you prefer William Chatterton Dix’s carol, “What Child Is This”, or John Gay’s lyrics written for “The Beggar’s Opera”, or any of the countless other versions of the tune (including 14 Cavalier songs) may we humbly share this “Handful of Pleasant Delights (where the earliest lyrics of this song can be found, Circa 1584). “Delighting in your company”.  LAK Christmas 2004

Good King Wenceslas* (*with thematic variation suggested by Jesse Klein)

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

So, per tradition, there is something of a story behind this card (there’s always a story isn’t there?  I love a good back story), so allow me to share the explanation i wrote back in 2002, the year i drew, and shared, this Christmas card.

On one hand this is just a traditional rendering of one of my favorite Christmas carols (Good King Wenceslas, in case you missed the title) with the style and subject of the drawing inspired specifically by a wonderful ink illustration (of the same carol) done by A.J. Gaskin (1894). However, upon closer inspection you may notice something vaguely familiar (or Outer Rim-ish) about the Page and the Monarch… this is where the Jesse influence comes into play.

Or, to be more accurate, her obsession with all things Star Wars (mine too, i should add, but this particular card was Jesse’s idea). Only Jesse could read the lyrics to a 149 year-old carol and make a Padawan/(Jedi) Master connection! Of course this is the same girl who, upon seeing the Long Hall of Trinity College in Ireland remarked that it looked just like the Jedi Archive Library on Coruscant. What can i tell you… i noticed that too! (Always kind of fun when interests and obsessions collide.  Even better when you can share them with your daughter).

And so, as you hum the tune to John Mason Neale’s Boxing Day carol feel free to replace his opening lyric with,

Master Qui-Gon Jinn looked out, on the Eve of Bunta,”

NOTE: We’re still working on the rest of the lyrics.    LAK & JL  December 2002

Back to the Blog Again – Hopefully

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

This is a test of the Emergency Blog-cast System. This is only a test (tho, if it works, i’ll probably just keep it on here as the first post of 2014).

Apparently my last blog post was the Behind-the-Art/explanatory notes describing my 2013 Christmas card and then – nothing.  Dead silence.  Only the sound of crickets for the last nine months.  Hey – i’ve been busy!  Well, busy, and also struggling with the ever increasing changes that occur whenever you update your computer.

I wasn’t all that tech-savvy to begin with, so when i learn a way to do something i stick to it. No deviations! I am not the sort to indiscriminately push random buttons. And that system worked just fine for me for a number of years.  Then, sometime in 2013, we got a new computer that, naturally, resulted in changes to the way i’d previously done things so this Old Dog had to learn some New Tricks – and i’m sure you can image how well THAT turned out.  But even more maddening (for my Limited Attention Span Theater personality) now – in 2014 – all the new, fancy-schmancy, high-falutin  technology harangues you into up-grading every other day – which would be fine if all the old formats and systems and ways of doing things stayed the same.  But they don’t!  Every up-grade comes with it’s attendant, brand new, shiny COMPLETELY DIFFERENT way of doing something. Anything. Everything.  And i’m just not very good when it comes to change.   As it is, i already have a Computer Tech Wizard on speed dial, but he can’t sit here every day, by my side, talking me thru every stupid (and, to me, mostly unnecessary) revision – much as i might wish that were possible – so, as a consequence, quite often i find myself in some Cosmic Computer Limbo and just throw up my hands in defeat. Thinking,

This doesn’t have to be done right now does it? Naw!  Hey look, it’s time for cocktails“!!

Which finally brings me to the point of this exercise – the explanation for the biggest casualty in all this beyond-my-mental-depth-with-hyper-techno-newness…  “The Blog”.  I mean, let’s face it – if something has to give, the blog is easily the most expendable. At best, this little literary addition to my web site is just a bit of a self-indulgence, sharing the convoluted back-stories about my various and sundry art and illustrations.  All stuff i can just type up and print out and stick in a notebook to reread at my leisure (which is indeed what i do with it).

Still, when new art, or books, or pictures get posted (like last year’s Christmas card) i get the urge to write a little something about it, and a bunch of new Stuff is about to hit the site (not to mention all those older series categories my OCD tendencies are nagging me to finish) so i thought i should make a stab at getting back into the blog. Or at least see what i’m still able to do on my own computer-wise (before calling in a battalion of technology help) so here goes. A little, preliminary Preface, as it were, to get my feet wet. Or my fingers limber.  Or… hmmm, ran out of appropriate analogies.

Oh well. Enough procrastinating. Let’s just go ahead and push a button.

Tali Who!

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Or,   “TARDIS: Talieson And Robot Dog Inspired [Doctor Who Christmas] Special”.


Okay.  WHO didn’t see this coming? Given that the annual Klein Christmas card has come to feature significant events or current obsessions of the year, one would have had to be living in a cave (of Androzani) or locked in a Pandorica not to anticipate the 50 year Anniversary of Doctor Who serving as 2013’s theme.  I mean, with the exception of last year’s JAWS/Flying card the Doctor has been featured, or at least alluded to, in every Christmas card since 2008.

All that being said, however, a Doctor Who card was not a forgone conclusion – a lot happened this past year.  More aviation adventures, Hawaii, a new roof (among other house renovations), Jesse’s cat moving in – there was a wealth of subject matter to choose from.  Not to mention, i had already promised Tali (Talieson, our Welsh Corgi, for those new to Klein history) that i would do a card about her.  Let’s face it, the poor dog has had quite the year what with the cat foisted upon her, and the house renovation disrupting her life all Summer.  She handled every intrusion with grace and good will so the least i could do was put her in the card.  In fact, i originally pictured her surfing off Waikiki, or working as a Delta Flight Attendant (beating up the cat was also a possibility) so the whole Doctor Who thing really didn’t come to me until after the November 23 anniversary special.  Then – suddenly – it seemed inevitable.  The only trick was – how to make a Christmas card out of a 6 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi and a 50 year old British television show about a 900-plus year old Gallifreyan Time Lord.

Tali, sitting in the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) watching the 1st Doctor on an old TV set, came immediately to mind, followed by the obvious addition of the 4th Doctor’s robot dog, K-9.  The choice of black and white pencil was another given.  The last 4 Christmas cards have all been in color, and i am currently elbow-deep in color illustrations for a new book, so i was ready for a change.  Besides, i’ve really missed working in my true love – #2 pencil, and the medium seemed even more appropriate considering that when Doctor Who premiered in 1963 it was in black and white.

And now that the whole convoluted, behind-the-scenes, back story, thought process is out of the way let’s move on to the Explanatory Notes section describing the little pictorial elements that all have significance (at least to me).

*  Starting with the TV:  As noted above, on the screen is the 1st Doctor, played by William Hartnell (1963 – 1966).  I really didn’t know about the show back then, but all the timey-wimey madness started with him!  And – again – for those unfamiliar with the show, or who have recently had their memories erased by UNIT’s Black Archive mind-wipe technology, over the course of the series (and one made-for-TV movie) the Doctor has regenerated into a new/different version 11 times.  The photos on top of the television represent my 4 personal favorite Doctor incarnations.

* The photos – Left to Right:  First is Doctor #4, Tom Baker (1974 – 1981) the one known best for his iconic scarf.  He was my first Doctor, discovered in college when the show was aired on PBS.

Peeking behind him is Doctor #8, Paul McGann (1996 TV movie).  He’s tucked in the back because i really don’t know that much about him.  To be perfectly honest, i just like him because he looks like Oscar Wilde.

In the middle is Doctor #5, Peter Davison (1981 – 1984).  He was my second Doctor, following on the heels of Tom Baker.  I thought he was cute but i particularly liked him because i knew him as Tristan from All Creatures Great and Small.

And, finally, on the Right is Doctor #10, David Tennant (2005 – 2010).  My all time favorite Doctor because he is the one that re-energized my obsession with Time Lords (and was the gateway Doctor for my daughter).

*  Tali and K-9 are sitting inside the 10th Doctor’s TARDIS (his time machine).  It looks like a blue police box on the outside but the interior occasionally changes with each Doctor’s regeneration (tho despite any esthetic alteration, all versions are “bigger on the inside than on the outside”).

*  Hanging on the coat rack is the 4th Doctor’s hat and scarf, and underneath the television is one of the 10th Doctor’s shoes (because what dog, robotic or real, can resist chewing on an old sneaker).  Tali also holds the 10th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver (which she is using as a televison remote. Question – What DID we do before those were invented???).

*  The nibbles are also Doctor themed: Jelly Babies were the 4th Doctor’s snack of choice.  The tray of celery represents the 5th Doctor, because he wore a sprig of celery on his lapel.  And everything is washed down with Jackie Tyler’s tea (because a good cup of tea, super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannin, is just the thing for healing the synapses.  It’s a 10th Doctor thing).  I should note that there is no special Doctor Who link to popcorn, it just seemed like an appropriate snack to eat while watching a TV marathon, but the popcorn “bowl” is the top of a Dalek, which is a Doctor nemesis originally introduced in 1963 (popularly known for their catchphrase, “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!”).

As for the Christmas part of this Christmas card, it is the subject itself.  For the past few years, the TV series has done an annual Doctor Who Christmas Special, so in keeping with that tradition this card is its own Doctor/Holiday celebration (think of it as a mini, hand-held, mobile device – like an iPad or smart phone.  Only in paper).

So, whether you are being menaced by remote control Christmas trees, harangued by the best temp in Chiswick, leading the passengers of a doomed galactic cruise liner to safety, dodging Cybermen, or simply enjoying a classic sci fi holiday special ~  have a Brilliant Christmas.  And, to paraphrase the Daleks, “CEL-E-BRATE!”

Oh yeah…  and RUN!                                                                                                   LAK  2013

“Shark” The Herald Angels Sing

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

By now the annual Klein Christmas Card probably needs little introduction.  It is an illustration of the current obsessions and/or pivotal events of the past year and, per the subject matter in hand, it is probably pretty clear what the dominant themes of 2012 were:  JAWS and Flying.

(NOTE: Not that the year was devoid of any other noteworthy happenings or renewed preoccupations, these were just the most prevalent).

Of course seeing as both JAWS and flying have long been well known (and well chronicled) family obsessions/interests you may wonder what makes them specifically card-worthy THIS year?  And therein lies the accompanying narrative that has become as much a part of the Christmas card tradition as the actual illustration itself.

For those who need a refresher on the history of the Klein Family Fixation with JAWS please consult Christmas card 2011 “Galway Girl” (and if you have lost the explanatory notes the information can be found on my web site blog, under Background Stories). For this particular account however, we start  – literally – on the first day of the year – JANUARY 1, 2012.  That was the day Jesse and i got a hotel room near the Sanford Airport because Jess had to fly out at crack o’ dawn on the 2nd to go to training for her new job as a Flight Attendant.  And for those keeping track, that is the first flying reference of the year.

This is the JAWS one – January 2nd also happened to be the day Universal Studios was planning to shut down their JAWS ride, so since we were going to be in Orlando anyway, on the 1st, one day before the ride would be lost to us forever, Jess turned to me with those big, dewey “SpongeBob eyes” (you know the ones – all round and glistening and filled with innocent hope) and asked if we could please go to Universal and ride JAWS one last time – before she jetted off on this whole new flying chapter of her life.

Well, what self-respecting (indulgent) parent could resist that logic (plus the shared obsession.  Not to mention the dewey eyes). We dumped our bags at the hotel, donned appropriate shark-themed attire, and hauled off to Universal Studios where we rode JAWS 4 times in succession (once for each movie), took photos with the shark hanging in faux Amity, bought the prerequisite souvenir mementoes, and had dinner at Bubba Gumps (keeping to the sea/fish theme).

And that little tale alone should suitably link JAWS and Flying (“like peas & carrots” , to add a little extra Forrest Gump association) and qualifies them as worthy card material, but the connection between a 37 year-old shark movie and the art of aviation continued, for us, thruout the entire year making the choice undeniable.

FEBRUARY – Jess graduated from FA training and Bob got to pin her wings on her at the ceremony.

MARCH – Jess got a JAWS themed tattoo on her thigh [Quint’s boat, the Orca, and the three yellow barrels, all framed by shark jaws]. She came up with the idea, i drew the design for her.

APRIL – Bob passes his check ride (Bob’s flying connection is a given, but he really did have a check ride this month so i fit the timeline perfectly. Besides, Jesse and i also call him Chief Brody).

MAY – Jess decides she wanted to learn to fly and begins taking lessons.

JUNE – Jess solos.

JULY – Jesse and i go to an outdoor showing of JAWS on the 4th of July at the Enzian Theater in Orlando  (we “drink to her leg” at the theater bar with fellow JAWS fin-atics). This was the first time Jesse ever saw the movie on a big screen.

AUGUST – Bob, Jesse and i fly to “Amity” (as in, Martha’s Vineyard, where JAWS was filmed!) for JAWS FEST – a  weekend-long tribute to the movie where we got to meet actors, writers and locals from the film, check out actual locations and props, and watch the movie in the Old Whaling Church along with a guy who looked just like Quint and “Mrs. Kintner” (Bob asked her to slap him, but she doesn’t do that any more).

SEPTEMBER – Jess gets the Blue-Ray DVD version of JAWS.  As well as comes home from a flying lesson with a stray airport kitten she named Piper (after her plane).

OCTOBER – Jess takes Bob on a Cross-Country flight to St. Simons Island.

NOVEMBER – Jess goes to a seminar for Private Pilot Written Exam preparation (and in a semi-related link, at least by story terms – she, Bob and i watch “Forrest Gump” at the hotel where the seminar was held).

DECEMBER –  brings us to the JAWS/Flying-themed card and the explanation behind its final design. Which i struggled with for a bit.  Originally i thought of doing one of my usual multi-image symbol-ladened things but Thanksgiving was looming and i had a ton of “real” work to do. And – frankly – i just wanted to draw something simpler than cards past  And then i thought of this illustration i had recently done for my web site.  It was intended to be the icon for a “What’s New” section, done in the style of a JC Leyendecker Arrow Collar ad.  Featuring a Gnu (new), in a smoking jacket, reading the paper (The Gnus) i simply couldn’t figure out how to use it on the site so the drawing just languished (tho i did eventually post a blog about it, if you want to see the influence on this card).  I love the 20s style, and the incongruous combination of animals in formal human pose, and immediately imagined a shark as an aviator – combining the events of the year with our family movie fixation and the shared aeronautic skill & talent of BK & JK (who slip the surly bonds on a regular basis).

I found a great Leyendecker reference and then just needed to figure out how to add Christmas to the mix. I discarded a couple ideas before settling on a mail sack full of holiday cards and presents (commercial aviation having come into its own transporting mail). And rather than use the period bi-wing, the plane at the top represents the type Jesse flies – a Piper Cherokee Warrior, with its own unique tail-number – October Romeo Charlie Alpha (aka: ORCA). The card’s title inspiration came while thinking of possible holiday shark/JAWS reference quotes, such as: This card, swallow you whole.  Or,  You’re gonna need a bigger envelope.  So….

Come on into the water and have a Merry Chrissie-mas!  I hope it’s JAWsome!

LAK 2012