One of my fondest memories as a child was going into the “tree reserve” where the province’s forestry department would allow people to harvest trees for Christmas.
As a family, we were always hikers and picnickers who spent a lot of time outdoors in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. But, there was something magical about going out in the dead of winter and making a day of it, and coming home with that perfect tree for the Christmas season tied to the top of our station wagon.
I outgrew the get-your-own-tree tradition as I got my own home, and seemed to be too busy to go outside the city to get a Christmas tree. But, the tree tradition slowly returned to the house, although not in its original form.
Our family went through various tree incarnations: decorating our house plants (our anti-tradition stage), fake trees (our conservation stage), a silver tree of my Grandma’s that changed color with a rotating light (our retro stage), and finally a do-it-yourself tree where you plugged branches into a broom handle (our frugal stage). But, through the years, I have to admit to always missing the smell and look of a real tree in the house at Christmas.
When we moved to the Rockies, and had pre-teen boys, we decided it was time to reintroduce the tradition of working for a real tree. We discovered lots of people around here buy a tree permit and go out to the designated area to bring home a Christmas tree. Last year, we took my parents along with my two small boys. It was fun to come full circle and watch my dad become the authority again on that perfect way to swing the axe, and argue with the boys about which tree was the best. And, of course, my mom lived up to her tradition of bringing hot chocolate and cookies like she did when we were kids.
After much debate, we did find the perfect tree. My youngest son offered to drag it home on his sled. Luckily, the weather was quite mild, and the snow was not that deep, so a 7-year-old could do this task without too much difficulty.
This day brought such fond memories, I wanted to capture the spirit of this special moment in a print for this year’s Christmas season. So, I got to work this snowy weekend in my studio, first sketching the idea on tracing paper.
I transferred the sketch onto the block (I am trying a new Speedball Speedy-Cut printmaking product that is blue!) and got right to work carving the image.
Here is the block partially cut. I want the boy in the foreground to stand out from the background of snow, much like the original photograph. I have simplified the forest behind so the background won’t be too distracting.
Now, I am ready to take the block to my table, and begin printing the image. I begin with inking the block.
Below is the block, fully inked, ready for the paper, but first I make a couple of minor adjustments to the block. I often make changes on the inked block because at this stage I get to see what my carving has created. The changes are pretty subtle, but they are little things that really improve the print.
Once printed, the prints hang to dry on my studio clothesline. I keep going until the edition is done, and it’s a nice feeling seeing all those prints lined up together.
And, here is the final limited edition art print: “The Perfect Tree“; Size 3.5″ high x 8.25” wide, an edition of 36 prints. (Click the image to view bigger.)I can smell the fresh pine, and feel the crunchy snow beneath our feet. It’s a tradition that I hope we will repeat again this year.