On Creating 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
by Daniel Kirk
It must have been twenty years ago that I first came up with the notion of a woodsman-Santa, wearing plaid coat and a cap with earflaps. I did an oil on canvas painting of him, standing with a camping lantern on a dark, snowy night, and made it into the holiday card that I used to send to friends and family. One of my editors, Howard Reeves, suggested that I should write a story about my character. Over the decades I’ve tried a couple of times to tell the story of this Santa, but I never came up with the perfect idea.
My favorite version happens to be the one Anita Lobel illustrated in 1984, featuring Brooklyn as the backdrop to the familiar tale. Gyo Fujukowa’s version is also quite lovely and stylized, as is Leonard Weisgard’s classic. I’d have to say that I tend to like the versions that add something new or different to the old poem. If something is worth doing, I believe it’s important to put your own stamp on it! It seems to me that it’s an illustrator’s job to make text come alive in a distinctive, individual way.
I’ve experimented with a lot of different media over the years. I began my children’s book career making oil paintings on canvas, then went to gouache, pastel, colored pencil, collage and many other things! My last five or six books have begun with pen and ink drawings, which I scan into my computer and add color and textures in Photoshop. It’s fun for me as an illustrator to try new techniques. As they say, if you always hit the target, you’re standing too close, and I like to challenge myself if I can.
I have a painting studio in the barn/garage out at the end of our property. But these days I find that it’s nice to set up the computer in the dining room in the house and work there, where the natural light is plentiful, and I am always close to the kitchen. I work better if I always have snacks on hand! And as we enter this holiday season, I am tempted to bake some Christmas cookies to nibble on while working on my next book project.
Learn more about Daniel at http://danielkirk.com.
Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore and illustrated by Daniel Kirk, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (£10.99) CLICK HERE to purchase the book directly from Abrams.