The Ghost of Christmas Who & Other Relative Dimensions (2008)

I know this is an older card… and that it is no longer Christmas… but i am nothing if not fanatically obsessive in my persistent way of linking disparate things together; and in my little world it made perfect sense to begin this New Year entry with an explanatory back-story about the Christmas card i did in 2008.  For one thing i love all the miscellaneous detail that went into the picture and wanted to share it with anyone who happens to stumble upon the illustration on the web site  (but didn’t get the note that accompanied the card when i originally mailed it).  For another (or B) i think the story/card pretty much lays the ground work for what to expect in future entries of 2010.  And basically i just love the drawing and wanted to share all the background stuff.

So, for those of you who enjoy long, involved, labyrinthine explanations of why an artist did what she did please enjoy the following story of…

The Ghost of Christmas Who & Other Relative Dimensions

The Ghost of Christmas Who & Other Relative Dimensions

2008 –

For those new to the experience, this is what my husband calls one of my “weird cards”, in that i practically pull a muscle trying to make random images of the year relate to each other… and the holiday.  You be the judge.

It started with the medium – scratchboard.  A kind of reverse process of etching into a thin coat of white clay that has been covered by black ink.  I learned the technique back in high school, but with the exception of a few attempts (the last of which was 11 years ago) i haven’t had much call to use it since.  Until this year that is, when i got a HUGE 4′ x 2.5′ project and wound up falling in love with the process again.  I just knew i had to do [2008’s] card this way.  Now i just had to come up with the subject, and decided to revisit my favorite Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol” since that hasn’t been used as an inspirational source since 1980.  I have long wanted to feature the Ghost of Christmas Present (my favorite of the Dickens spirits) and thought this would be the perfect opportunity.

And the whole card story would end there (and be a much shorter tale) if i hadn’t also felt compelled to shoe-horn in some reference to my newest current obsession of the year – Dr. Who.  [NOTE:  This should explain why The Doctor found his way into the 2009 card as well]

A British sci-fi TV program that depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveler known only as “the Doctor”, the show originally ran from 1963 to 1989, and then continued via radio shows, books, magazines, occasional specials, and even a play or two.  I remember the show from college, with Tom Baker playing the 4th Doctor (from 1974 to 1981) and later with Peter Davison (who played the part of the 5th Doctor until 1984).  [And regarding the numerical identifiers – the character isn’t officially numbered, he has the ability to “regenerate”, so when any given actor left the series the Doctor himself  remained – albeit with a completely new look and personality.  There have been 10 Doctors to date].  [NOTE:  2010 will see the 11th regeneration of the character]

The series was relaunched on TV in 2005 (featuring the newest, 9th incarnation of the Doctor) but i actually didn’t become aware of it until August 2008, with Doctor #10; and as is so often the case with me, immediately got hooked to the point of obsession.  I still recalled the Tom Baker version with nostalgic fondness, and i had a bit of a crush on Peter Davison way back when, but i love this new adaptation.  How could i resist a show of science fiction and fantasy (“galaxy far away” anyone), not to mention its “relativity” to another growing fascination – time & dimension, multiple universes and unified field theories.  The Doctor, you see, is a Time Lord, who travels between time and space and alternative dimensions in his multi-purpose time machine/space craft – the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) – saving worlds and battling monsters and basically doing all sorts of wonderfully improbable, paradox-defying, logistical time-looping things.

The TARDIS – locked, due to a defective “chameleon circuit”, in the guise of a blue 1950s-style London police call box – can instantly transport its occupants anywhere in time, space or history and it dawned on me what better way for Santa Claus to deliver presents around the world in one night, so that became my (perfectly logical) reason for linking it to the holiday.  Of course, that means the Ghost of Christmas Present wound up being more of a St. Nicholas figure, but i have always felt that Spirit was really just another variation of Father Christmas to begin with – so the concept still works.

Inspired by Dickens and Dr. Who it would probably seem logical to set the picture in London, but i didn’t want to be that obvious.  I mean, if you have access to a machine that can take you anywhere in the universe you should use it.  Besides, our daughter goes to school in New York so i decided to acknowledge that by putting the Washington Square Arch in the background.  Also, additional research into St. Nicholas revealed he was the patron saint of Manhattan (brought to New Amsterdam by the Dutch) so that cinched the setting choice.  And in another interesting coincidence i happened to notice that in most images of St. Nicholas he holds a staff that looks like a Question Mark – the very symbol often used in several of the Doctor’s different incarnations.  So there you have it ~ Scratchboard, St. Nick, New York, and Doctor Who = Laurie’s 2008 Christmas card!

That’s the basic backstory but, naturally, i can’t leave it there.  So with your continued indulgence, please allow me to explain a few of the other, seemingly random, visual bits and pieces found in this holiday greeting.

*  The Ghost of Christmas Present is dressed as Dickens described him, specifically  the wreath of holly and icicles on his head.  However – the tartan under-robe is mine in a blatant use of artistic license (added because i realized i had made his coat too short).  As previously noted, he carries St. Nicholas’ staff as well as Santa’s pack.

*  He also wears a scarf that was an iconic costume element of the 4th Doctor, as portrayed by Tom Baker.

*  The stalk of celery (in the pack) is a reference to Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor, who wore one on his lapel (“Brave choice, celery.  But fair play to you, not a lot of men can carry off a decorative vegetable.”  Line from episode: TIME CRASH).

*  The pocket watch and “sonic screwdriver” (also in the pack) are both nods to the 10th Doctor, David Tennant (and if you look closely, he is the one driving the TARDIS).

*  The vortex-y image on the left also contains a 10th Doctor reference, specifically his explanation of time, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y whimey… stuff.”  (from the episode BLINK) –

*  As well as – Einstein’s Field Equation (put the image upside down & turn) for a scientific approach to relativity.

*  And, finally, in the pack behind all the Dr. Who stuff is a dragon holding its tail.  That is an Ouroboros.  Discovered while reading “Godel, Escher, Bach” by Hofstader (one of those “time-y whimey” books) – it stands for, among other things, Eternity, Infinity, and (my favorite) Alchemy.  It also represents Circularity and no better image symbolizes my circular thinking, or the way things from my past keep reappearing in my present – particularly in 2008.  A dear friend from junior and senior high found me after a 30 year absence.  An obscure TV show from my college days once again came to my attention. And i rediscovered an art technique learned back in the 70s.

I keep a notebook of all the Christmas cards i’ve done since Freshman year of college (when the tradition began).  Several years ago i did a scratchboard card of Santa Claus (the first use of the technique since graduating from high school) and out of curiosity i pulled it out to compare techniques.  I didn’t entirely remember when i had done the card, so imagine my surprise – that scratchboard Santa was done exactly 20 years ago – Christmas 1988!  So to the amazing, the coincidental, the improbable, the magical, and the just plain weird…

That was how i ended the original story… but i think it pretty well sums up my hopes for the new year as well!

One Response to “The Ghost of Christmas Who & Other Relative Dimensions (2008)”

  1. Keith says:

    I absolutely love this card for a variety of reasons, so I’m glad you posted it here on your new website – very cool !!

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