By Laurel Long
The Legend of Holly Claus is a beautiful, classic and timeless story. As I read this story, the journey of Holly through mystical realms to find her purpose and a meaning for her life, unfolded. I realized this was an unforgettable character and a story with heart and soul; a story that would enchant, elevate and inspire all who read it; an exquisite story that would endure time. Holly as a character is a charming mix of innocence, courage and curiosity. She has the intelligence, compassion, wit and wisdom befitting a modern heroine. Holly sparks hope into the hearts and minds of those who have lost and forgotten their dreams. She awakens the dreams that bring joy and make the world a better place.
When I was asked to illustrate The Legend of Holly Claus novel, it was a dream come true. Holly Claus wove together themes that inspire: Christmas, fantasy, beauty, and tenderness. Even better, The Legend of Holly Claus was to be illustrated in black and white. I was thrilled. What better way to illustrate a classic than with pen and ink illustrations? I recalled Thomas Nast’s drawings of Santa Claus for 1862 Harper’s Weekly, Sir John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, E.H Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh, The Golden Age Illustrators: Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and so many more.
I think my love of pen and ink drawing began at the age of five on a Christmas morning, when I unwrapped How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Suess. I knew it was a book before I unwrapped it, but I had no idea what a fabulous book it would be. I was captivated by the pointy, thick to thin lines, the crosshatching, the swirling, organic shapes and the furry, green creature dressed up like Santa. The Classic Mother Goose, a gift from my grandmother, became another favorite of mine. The line illustrations by Walter Crane, Jesse Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Kate Greenaway resonate in my memory to this day.
During study halls in middle school, I pored over the drawings of the Renaissance masters like Da Vinci and Michelangelo. I saw how the pen lines created movement, three-dimensional form and a feeling of life. But it was the 16th century engravings of Albrecht Dürer that revealed a complex world of imagery, textures, and tone, that I had never seen before.
Dürer’s elaborate, surreal world made its way into my imagination and ultimately into the world of Holly Claus. Holly Claus is rich with textural imagery: Holly’s furry and feathery companions, her flowing gowns and hair, the architecture, the trees, the toys… It is a world of endless invention, magic and fun for a pen and ink artist.
The villain, Herrikhan, is described in the story as a horrific monster. I imagined Herrikhan as a mercurial phantom like those depicted in 19th century Japanese line drawings and woodcuts. He is a miasmic, tornado of flowing shapes and textures reminiscent of Ukiyo-e or “images of the floating world”; specifically, the Ukiyo-e art of Aya Kashi that illustrates the supernatural creatures of nightmares. Herrikhan, the anti-St. Nicholas, is also absurd and comical in his awful way. He is comfortable in the company of the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge and Krampus.
The Holly Claus illustrations encompass my lifelong joy and practice of classic line drawing. Holly Claus inspired drawings of fable and fantasy, that I hope, like Holly’s story, will engage and delight people for generations to come.