Christmas cards 2006-2012

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Energy Saving Santa (2012)

[Santa with beard as light bulb] [Spiral CFL]

A 20 foot spiral-wrapped, dual-interleaved beard is easier to visualise than to simulate. After trying a few available substitutes (cotton wool, tassels, loft insulation...) I decided that only real hair would do. So I found a photo of two girls with long wavy hair, and used it to construct a straight "beard" which could be highlighted as necessary, and copied in sections over the CFL tube.

Santa was taken from an old Christmas card, where his raised finger and facial expression clearly signified "be good". Happily, this was in keeping with the energy-saving theme - wrap up warm, eat well (see the pidgin Greek for a suggestion) and maybe you can do without your electricity supply!

Gourd Vibes (2011)

[Men made from sweets encircled by bird-like gourds]

This card was inspired in the summer, when someone (who should have known better) gave me a decorative gourd from the vegetable tent at the Havering Show. The "eyes" had already been painted on, so I added ivy-leaf "feet" and took a number of photos with a circular arrangement in mind. After several gourd-awful brainstorming sessions, I hit on this dire caption (I did consider using "Gourds roast ye cherry menthol men" but decided it would be too obscure, plus I'd have to include a fire, barbecue or similar!).


I hadn't seen Tunes since I was a child, when they came in a square-section tube like the sweets from the same era called Spangles. The advertising slogan was "Tunes help you breathe more easily". After a fruitless tour of local supermarkets, I found some in a chemist's shop - now elliptical, in a box, minus the slogan (and sugar), but still tasting pretty much as I remember them.

At first I tried to make a Cherry Menthol Man by moistening the sweets and sticking them together, but quickly found that this destroyed the glaze. Even handling them dulled the surface, so I ended up wearing gloves and using sticky tape to assemble the figure. I think I've brushed most of it out in the photos. The only problem was that the models had a bit too much sloe gin to drink and kept falling off their boxes...

Grabit! + Wrong Steed (2010)

[Frog princess]

This year I did some real photography for a change, using a friend's extensive collection of trinkets and seasonal stuff. This one was staged on a small table, in natural light from a window and a skylight...

[Santa riding duck]

...while this was taken outside in real snow. In the end I couldn't decide which to use, so I sent both as e-cards and printed equal numbers to post.

Santa, 2020 (2009)

"Look, it ain't been easy since the deer flu. Mind you, I got this from a bloke down the docks. Real bargain. Doesn't fly though. Good thing they banned night-time deliveries, eh? Oh, and these floods, it's not climate change you know. If you ask me, there's some dodgy plumbers about. Blimey, them chimneys look a bit tight..."

[Santa with lifeboat in flood]

Ho hum. I thought this would be grimly topical, in the wake of the November floods. How was I to know it was going to be the coldest winter in 30 years, reviving the authenticity of the traditional snow scene? Never mind, after last year's foray into refraction, I took the opportunity for some gentle reflection.

I photographed the rooftops in Westcliff and the boat in Felixstowe, and nicked the sack of toys from an old Christmas card, which left the problem of the Main Man. The archive eventually threw up a set of photos I took many years ago in Camden. One of them had Santa posed in almost the right position (he was actually carrying a small parcel up a flight of steps). The problem was that his robes were bright green (don't ask!). Hue changer to the rescue. The rest was done with digital "smoke and mirrors".

yesnomen (2008)

[Snowman-shaped beer glasses] [Beer Mat]

I had some fun using trueSpace3 to model this ambiguously-named pair, and re-learned the refractive indices of glass and water in the process! The glass shape is basically two spheroids combined then truncated by the subtraction of cubes. For the empty one I made a very slightly smaller copy, which I subtracted from the original to leave a "shell" about 2mm thick. The full one is actually solid, but contains a reduced copy, tinted brown, topped with the opaque cylinder of froth which stands slightly proud. The appendages are simple spheres and cones, rendered faceted to look like cut glass, with some judicious deformations applied to the miserable ones!

A 2-D texture map for the beermats was made with Photo-Paint.

[Holly leaf wireframe]

I tried several ways to make a holly leaf, before settling on a 16 x 16 rectangular plane with enough deformation cross-sections that each thorn could be shaped and bent convincingly. The scene is lit by three local lights, two in front and one behind, the latter with shadow casting enabled. Raytrace parameters are set fairly low so that the beer looks clear and uncluttered, also to save rendering time. Nevertheless, it took my poor little P-II laptop nearly half an hour to make a 300dpi image for the printed cards!

CreaseMouse! (2007)

[Picture-word puzzle]

If you find yourself staring at this one with incomprehension, there's a gentle clue in the title!

PowerSquirrel (2006)

[Squirrel with coloured lights in tail]

Earlier in the year I took a photo of SQL (q.v.) sitting nonchalantly atop a fence, planning its next campaign of mischief. That tail, I thought, might pass for a Christmas tree if held vertically and lit up. So I took a photo of a conifer trunk (it's actually where SQL lives) and rotated the subject to match, equipping it in the process with a seasonal cap borrowed from a bear in a chain store catalogue. I remembered to rotate the glint in its eye as well, but decided not to worry too much about a natural pose (e.g. crouching the body and digging the claws in), on the grounds that I didn't have much time and the tail was the thing. I made that organ even larger than in real life, perched an acorn on top and then rendered each light as a combination of two spotlights, one at 90° for the "bulb" and a second, in a more saturated colour, at 30° to make the halo.

The printed card looked somewhat less dramatic, because I used a white background to save ink!

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