Sparking Lyricality in Written Words
Sarah Jane Dayley, Class of 2021

By Sarah Jane Dayley, Class of 2021

Below is an article from the student blog of Sarah Jane Dayley, this year’s winner of the Forest Ridge Christmas Card Contest. She shares her artistic process for creating the winning piece

A few weeks ago, my school sent out a contest invitation for students to design this year’s Christmas card. Because I feel most comfortable in hand lettering and cards, I felt like this would be something I could both do well and have a lot of fun with. I started to brainstorm phrases and ideas, but nothing really stuck with me, so I set it aside for a bit. However, while I was taking notes in another class, the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” popped into my head, and I was instantly drawn to the line “may your days be merry and bright.” Merry and bright. A phrase used in all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia, but also inclusive and just all around happy. I started writing out the words in all sorts of layouts, playing with the contrast of cursive and print, serifs and flourishes, until I was happy with the base design.

The way the words fit together, the lightness and bouncy feel it had, really conveyed the joy I wanted to include. I resketched it, weighing the letter strokes on the words, and moved into color. I chose to use a bright red because the theme was Christmas, and it added to the excitement I wanted to convey. Normally this step I would do with good monoline pens, like microns or gellyrolls. However, I’ve been playing with different mediums, so I used a set of travel watercolors and a water brush pen instead. It was pretty difficult, as the brush was much thicker than the strokes I was attempting to fill, but it ended up beautiful! The watercolors added just enough texture, and any wobbles from my hand gave it some character. As a final touch, I made the star in the center yellow, to create a bit of contrast and draw the eye.


Honestly, I was happy enough with the design at this stage, but the card was going to be electronic, and often quotes without any background can look washed out and too minimal on a screen or within an email. So I pulled it into Procreate and started working on adding some extra elements. I wanted to do something wreath themed, so I drew some leafy arched branches to add more framing, but in a way that didn’t pull attention. I found this to be one of the trickiest parts, as tweaking just the smallest part could make it far too detailed. I was able to eventually get them to a place that I was happy with, and moved onto the background color, which was the original reason I had digitalized the piece. I picked a nice grey-blue and layered it on from the inside out, using a textured brush that really prompted cloud-like connotations for me. After many emails to my art teacher to make sure I hadn’t overlooked anything, I signed the final and sent it off! This is possibly one of my favorite pieces I’ve made.


The original goal was to create something that sparked joy and energy, in a musical sort of way, as I was drawing the quote from the song, and I feel like I have succeeded in that. First, I found a lot of harmony in the colors. I was happy with the way the muted blue and green helped to lift and emphasize the bright red and yellow, and also keep them from becoming overpowering. Creating that relationship has been something I struggled with in the past, so it’s satisfying to see the growth. Next, the font itself ended up fitting together perfectly. The way the shape of the words filled the empty space in each other really unified the quote and added to a happy mood. Finally, and the thing I’m most happy with is the connection of the Y to the H and T. That tiny, loopy detail gave the whole piece the extra “oomph” it needed and was the icing on the cake. It shaped the whole feeling of lyricality and a sense of music that helped bring the phrase to life.

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