Friday, 11 December 2015

The Night Before Christmas

At the end of last year/beginning of this year I had the opportunity to illustrate a version of The Night Before Christmas - a poem by Clement C Moore. I was very pleased to be asked because it is in fact a book I have always wanted to illustrate! In fact I wrote about it on my blog back in 2012.

I illustrated the whole book in 3d - using the same techniques I used for my Witch's Cat books and the Glitterbelle books. I thought I would show you some of the work that went into this book behind the scenes and a few of the final images. 

This image was used for the endpapers and is actually one of my favourites. 

The houses are actually all flat card cutouts standing in front of one another. They are not 3d houses. I just painted them to look 3d! I used fairylights behind the windows. I used yellow cellophane on the windows to really give them that warm glow. Here's a behind the scenes snap of the houses, before I lit the sky up. You can see the fairy lights and the wire in front.

I light the sky up by shining lamps from the back, though all the tiny pinprick holes and stars. It makes them very sparkly. You can tell I used a few different lamps to light up the whole sky as some of the light is a different colour. I quite like that though. Some of the stars are more of an ice white and some of them are a warmer white.

I think the scenes I enjoyed creating the most were the bedroom scenes. I always find bedroom scenes fun to make. I sewed some miniature christmassy patchwork quilts for the beds.

This was the parents room - before I put the characters in. I was quite pleased with how I made the little bedside lights. I bought some electric tealights from the pound shop and stuck the plastic flame bit through a hole in the top of the bedside table. Then I put a tracing paper tree in front of it. I like all the little details you can put in a bedroom, the snowman mugs by the bedside, the tiny little paper chains (fiddly to make!) the miniature paintings on the walls. I also designed the wallpaper.

This was the children's room. not quite the final image as the final image also has sweets and sugarplums floating in the air along with the fairies. Secretly I actually prefer this version though...

I made the Christmas tree out of pipe cleaners and stuck sequins on it for baubles. Then I used a string of dollshouse fairylights to light it up. I sewed the teddy and the rabbit on the top right.

These ones are 'in progress' shots...

The first image I created for the whole book was the one with Santa on the rooftop. I had to create a sleigh for this scene which was fun. I remember watching Mob Wives as I covered all the tiny presents in glitter. It's funny, I always remember what I was watching or listening to at the time of creating a piece of artwork when I look at that artwork again in the future.

Here's Santa in the chimney! This was before I changed his sack to one made from fabric. It didn't look very good like this...

Here's a test shot just to try and get the placement of everything right.

And another one. I used cotton wool for the snow. If you buy it in a roll then when you lay it out it looks like a sheet of soft pristine snow. 

This was the final image. You can see what a difference lighting makes! I think it looks much more cosy and Christmassy here with everything being darker. The stars glow more and I think it had more atmosphere. I sprinkled glitter on the cotton wool to make it look like the snow sparkling in the starlight.

I like how the reindeers had glitter and sequins on them. This one has various different moon and star sequins on him.

I had to make the reindeers in a smaller scale for another scene. Otherwise the set would have been HUGE! These reindeers are pretty small, about 2.5 cm.

I had to make the sleigh in a smaller scale too.

This was part of the final image. It wasn't possible to find fairy lights small enough for this scene so I had to add them in Photoshop. I MIGHT have been able to think of a way to create the illusion of very tiny fairy lights somehow if I had had more time. But I just didn't. 

Here are the reindeers flying in the sky!

To create something like this I put the reindeers on long stalks in front of the starry sky. Here's a test shot.

The houses also had to be made in two sizes. There was the scale I have shown above and then another even smaller scale.

I used electric tealights again to light up the insides of the houses.  They were... interesting to photograph. Basically it took me billions of shots to get this one right. I tried all sorts of different lighting effects...

The trees were all made from paper rolled into cones with V shapes cut out for the leaves/branches. And then glittered of course!

There are quite a few scenes in the book which are set in the living room. I quite liked making the living room. The tree was fun to do.

So sparkly!

Here's a test shot of the whole scene. I think a few things changed in it for the final version.

And here's the last scene in the book. Santa and his reindeer flying away!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the behind the scenes for this book. I enjoyed creating it.

There's a little video for it here too:

Hope you're having a festive December!



miniacollection said...


Chris Burden said...

Harriet Muncaster: Wonderful!

Anonymous said...

This looks so lovely! It's really interesting to see/ read about how you put everything together too :)

I remember things I've been listening to/ watching when I look back at things I've made too!

Erin K said...

Oh this is so brilliant! I can't wait till this gets to Canada, your Witch's Cat book just hit the shelves here for this years Halloween. I leapt for it just as soon as I saw it!
So kind of you to give us a little peep behind your process of making your gorgeous are so amazing. ^_^ I wish you so much warmth and joy this christmas and many more awesome things for the New Year!

Plushpussycat said...

Gorgeous scenes you've created, Harriet! I'm so happy to hear you say that it took billions of shots to get a scene just right. That's how I feel when I shoot my greeting card images. I'm glad to hear that that's what it takes, even for a shining star like you. :-) Hope you had a merry Christmas! xo Jennifer