Sunday, June 5, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

When I was a young boy, I believed in Santa Claus. I had proof after all that he existed. Every Christmas under the tree I found presents with the label, "To Richard, from Santa". Yes, it was in my dad's handwriting. But we all have to help Santa, I reasoned. He is incredibly busy as we all know. So my doubts were self assuaged.

When my editor at Haper Collins asked me if I wanted to illustrate Clement Moore's poem, The Night Before Christmas, I wasn't so sure at first. There are over a thousand different versions that have been done since he wrote it in 1822.  But the more I thought about it the more I fell in love with the story all over again.

I remembered that my father was a pilot of his hand-crafted airplanes in the 1920's. This got me to thinking about Santa as aviator.  Note that in the image above he is wearing a scarf which his wife put around his neck with the MacLeod tartan (which is my mother's clan).

I rented an airplane and flew over Port Townsend and took pictures to use as reference for my illustrations. Never mind that I almost fell out of the plane as I was hanging out of the window to get just the right angle. This scene shows a house in town on Christmas Eve. Although I took the pictures in July when there was no snow. The illustrator often has to fill in details from memory, or by cross pollinating other images.  See the Studebaker in the driveway? I love that era of car design.

In the back of the book, I conducted an interview with Saint Nick while we were having coffee at the Tyler Street Coffee House. He talks about his high (and low) tech sleigh, and the top secret formula for reindeer feed. You may read this interview in the book, or on the "about" section of my blog ~ click here for q&a. 

Thanks for visiting. I'll put in a good word for you next time I go to coffee with the man. So be good for goodness sake!