Auld Lang Syne In the Land of Let’s Pretend (w/ bagpipe & fanfar)

I have been drawing my own Christmas cards since college.  The first one began as an assignment but every Christmas after that i just liked having the creative outlet.  The designs started out simply enough – variations on traditional holiday icons – but before long i began getting more adventurous.  It wasn’t long before i started coming up with little stories to complement the picture, and added that to the back of the card.  Over time however the stories started getting more complicated, or  the illustrations did – becoming a kind of visual version of a Year in Review letter only with lots of hidden subtext.  Thus requiring a full sheet of paper… and very small type.

All this is by way of a Preface for my 2009 Christmas card and the story behind it.  Now besides simply showing the work i can also share the behind-the-scenes details and inner workings of my convoluted thought process.  So sit back, relax, maybe stock up on some food and beverages cos this might take awhile, and allow me to share the explanation that accompanied ~ “Auld Lang Syne In the Land of Let’s Pretend (with bagpipe and fanfare)“.


It’s that time of year again ~ time for Laurie’s seasonal homage to current interests, obsessions, and the year’s events and activities, the Rorschach Test known as my annual Christmas card.  While i really intended this one to be less complicated then usual those familiar with the process know even the most simple idea tends to have a convoluted story behind it and this year is no exception.  So let the elucidation begin.

The original idea was born in October at my alma mater, Maryville College.  I had been invited to do a book signing for Homecoming and Oblivious Me didn’t realize it also happened to be my 30 year class reunion (i’m terrible with numbers so didn’t notice the date but friends suggested i was simply in denial) so Reunions and Reconnections became something of the underlying theme for the card.  And it began with the Scottish Terrier.

I should note here that i have long loved Scotland (we have relatives in Ayrshire, the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland has a few of my books, and this year i met a delightful couple from Edinburgh on the A Train from JFK) and while it has been a source of artistic inspiration oddly enough i had completely forgotten Maryville College had a strong Scottish connection (we were the Fighting Scots after all, with a Scotty dog mascot.  We even have an official tartan).  Once i was reminded of this past link i knew i had to celebrate it in this year’s card and figured the Scottish terrier was a natural place to start.  Problem is, we do not own a Scottish terrier which i feared might cause some confusion (our dog heralds a bit farther south: Wales to be exact).  But then i thought – why not include our new Welsh corgi, Taliesin (named for the famous Welsh bard, tho we call her Tali for short) since she has yet to be featured in a card, and this will be her second Christmas with us.

And that was the card, tho obviously i couldn’t leave it at that.  I wanted to include some of the year’s other hi-lights so that’s what prompted the addition of the standing stone.  I’ve used them before [refer to the 2007 card ~ “Tasha & Taliesin, In the Company of King Arthur’s Bard”, which also happens to feature our first corgi], but what better way to include a whole bunch of disparate ideas (not to mention tie into the Celtic theme) then by carving them into a Pictish stone which, in this case, was specifically inspired by [another connection] a book on the Picts recently given to me by our Scottish relatives.  Historically there is some debate about what the various stones, circles, and carvings might mean, but speaking as an artist who likes to tuck the occasional personal image into her work i can easily imagine a few ancient sculptors including their own obsessions and memorable events into their commissioned designs (i just use paper while they use rock).  And this year was full of memorable events.

For one thing, i now have this web site (new this year).  For another, i painted a series of murals for two local elementary schools:  J A Crookshank (represented by their mascot, the Cougar) and Ketterlinus (represented by their mascot, the Dolphin).  The dolphin carving serves multiple purposes as it also represents a couple other projects – my first residential mural (an under-the-sea theme featuring three dolphins) and the 47 species of dolphins i drew for SeaWorld (36 Oceanic Dolphins, 5 Fresh Water/River Dolphins, and 6 Porpoises).

As for the obsessions ~ interest in Doctor Who continued from last year [featured in last year’s scratchboard card ~ “The Ghost of Christmas Who…” ]  particularly when my daughter, Jesse, got hooked on the show over the summer (my wonderful partner in crime).  And since this will be our Doctor’s last year (sadly he regenerates into a new guy in 2010) i specifically wanted to include him and the TARDIS in this card.  Other Doctor Who references include the Gallifrey Time Lord Seal of Rassilon and Tali is wearing the scarf favored by the 4th Doctor (who i first encountered back in college – note the returning connection).  Also, the music wafting above the stone is not Auld Lang Syne, despite the title of this card, but is instead the final bars of the Doctor’s original, hand-written, symphony, “Ode to the Universe” (as seen in his Music of the Spheres concert appearance).

Of course no card would be complete without Jesse’s and my original Mother/Daughter obsession – Star Wars, especially since we both saw “Star Wars In Concert” (albeit separately and in different states), thus combining both music AND obsession.  To that end (and to mirror the Doctor Who images) i included Obi-Wan Kenobi  and the Rebel Alliance insignia on the stone.  And to further the musical emphasis Tali holds a Fanfar, the wind instrument played by Tedn D’hai of the band, the Modal Nodes (aka: The Mos Eisley Cantina Band).

Which brings us to the most memorable event of all, represented by the box at the base of Tali’s stone.  As mentioned in my bio on the Contact page, when i was a little girl in Philadelphia one of my favorite TV shows was Cartoon Corners General Store, hosted by Gene London.  Mr. London told stories and illustrated them on big pads of white paper and i have long credited his show, and his drawing, as inspiring me to be an illustrator.  I mentioned this in an Internet interview earlier in the year and a short time later received an e-mail from my publisher, forwarding a letter they had received on behalf of London Studios.  GENE LONDON himself wanted to contact me!  Words cannot express my thrill, but perhaps the picture can.  My parents once took me to a taping of Cartoon Corners and as one of the kids in the “peanut gallery” i got to draw a design on Mr. London’s drawing pad which he then turned into a picture.  Sadly i no longer have the sketch he drew but i do have the memory of a squirrel that he made out of my squiggle.

And one last note before i bring this tale to an end.  Often i spend as much time coming up with the titles of my cards as i do drawing them but “Auld Lang Syne” seemed an obvious choice for an illustration of a Scottish terrier playing a bagpipe inspired by a college reunion (“Ode to the Universe” aside).  Of course, much like the card itself, it would have been far too easy to end there.  Then i remembered seeing the lyrics to the song Mr. London sang just before he’d tell a story, the final line of which was, “In the land of Let’s Pretend”.  Brilliant!

So with that, the links and connections, the reunions and the remembrances, the music and magic are complete.  To old acquaintances & cherished friends, Time Lords & Jedi Knights, sculptors & storytellers ~ Merry Christmas!

One Response to “Auld Lang Syne In the Land of Let’s Pretend (w/ bagpipe & fanfar)”

  1. Deb says:

    Hey! Here it is. I did miss it. Love the card and your crazy, complicated, complexified, lovely mind! A professor gave us a philosophical definition of beauty that I think is quite cool and seems to describe you: Beauty is the integration of diversity into a meaningful whole.

    As such beauty stands between cacophony and monotony.

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