what the dickens

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in collage, Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 3 comments

Once again, Portland Stage Company debuts another season of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ holiday classic written over 170 years ago. I was thrilled to create the marketing visual, back in July 2014 when Christmas felt a century away. This is a return of post I made in November of that year. They are using the illustration again; some things bear repeating, right?

At the time, a new look was at hand, allowing a half-circular space for illustration. I couldn’t get the idea of ornaments out of my head, and these preliminary sketches all played a part in the final image.




In referencing all things Victorian, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage by Elizabeth Siegel was a great source of inspiration for this unlikely pitch, a Father Christmas in Marley’s chains.


Surprisingly, I got the green light for this direction, which led me down a big rabbit hole on Pinterest. This is young Dickens, who became an instant success with the popularity of this story in 1843.


Here’s my Young Scrooge Blinded by Greed ornament.


Um. Didn’t fly, though. I went back to a the drawing board and showed this look next.


Each ornament represents the Past, Present, and Future. I did them separately.


Rabbit fur muff or roll of toilet paper? Your call.


For the background, I drew London rooftops and shafts of smoke unfurling from brick chimneys.


Maybe too many chimneys, yet it needed something more.


I layered the ornaments in photoshop.


In the end, wunderkind designer Karen Lybrand decided the backdrop was the thing. Less is more!

It’s always interesting to see the variety of reproductions and layouts.


With new snow on the ground, A Christmas Carol should put me right in the holiday mood. How about you?


  1. This is a real WOW of a poster. Less is more, indeed less is everything. No characters, no plum puddings, just this essence.
    Brava, Jamie!

  2. Thanks for sharing your process. It is a peak into the final forms of your amazing illustrations. So many ideas and so little time. Also helps us realize that it depends a great deal on who is the guard at the gate of what bits get chosen to be a part of the final work. Where do you take that next journey into the final product. Illuminating and your timing is impeccable. You did this in JULY? All I can say is WOW.

  3. Wow! I was following you along, and loved the chimneys with snowflakes. As you were moving to the next incarnation I thiught, oh, no, I think it’s just right….and I’m glad Portland Stafe does, too! It is wonderful!

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