By Gina Malone
These days, holiday greetings and well wishes often arrive as texts, phone calls, direct messages or E-cards. Gone for many is the past-time practice of sitting down with a box of holiday cards, stamps, an address book and, of course, a pen for the personal notes and flourishing signatures. Flat Rock artist Edward Morris, however, has kept old ways alive with new art, creating original Christmas cards that friends and family start checking their (snail) mailboxes for in early December.
Morris managed for many years to keep his personal pursuit of art separate from his career as a marketing and membership officer for a 3.5 million-member strong AAA club. “I had never let my artistic life be known in my business life,” he says. “That changed in the late ‘90s when I had a party at my house for the people I worked with. They saw all my paintings and drawings on the walls and I was outed!”
The following Christmas he began what would become a meaningful part of each holiday season right up to this one—sending out cards created from his original artwork. About 14 years ago, he retired early to devote himself to his art, and he and his wife Barbara moved to Western North Carolina, which had been a favorite vacation spot through the years.
Morris begins planning next year’s card before the Christmas trimmings of the current year have been put away. “My old Christmas music stays on in my studio through January, keeping me motivated,” he says. “Time is never considered when I have an idea. After all, I have a whole year to paint the card. Most paintings take from four to six months to complete from the planning stage, the life set-up in my studio, to small sketches, to the actual painting.”
Subjects have included a snowy landscape, cherished family ornaments, and, this year, stockings hanging on the mantel. “I try to tell a story in my Christmas paintings,” he says. “Inspiration comes from putting up the decorations each year and all the other Christmas activities. A simple act of plugging in the lights led to Christmas Overload and how we used to blow a lot of fuses at my house when I was young, or wrapping up my wife’s presents and seeing the paper, ribbon and bows on the table, or an old box of ornaments still in the tissues getting ready to be hung on the tree.”
His paintings are then photographed, color-matched to the paper used for the cards, proofed and printed as giclée cards. He prints 50 to 60 cards each year and mails them at the beginning of December.
Long-time friend Barbara Beggs, of Clarion, PA, is on Morris’ list and eagerly awaits her card from the Morrises each year. “I am amazed by the detail and life-like depictions in each one, whether the theme is whimsical, traditional or nostalgic,” she says. “I have saved every single card since Eddie started painting them, and I even have had two framed for hanging in my hallway.
Knowing how much Eddie loves Christmas and the plethora of Christmas decorations that he and Barbara have, I wasn’t at all surprised when he started painting his Christmas cards each year.”
For him and his family, Morris says, Christmas has always been “a magical time” that includes “decorations, homemade and hand-painted ornaments, our Christmas village under the tree with my mom’s candy houses, the Western town that I built when I was 14, and the model train that circled the entire Christmas village.” And, too, a long ago Christmas foreshadowed where he finds himself today, nearly seven decades into his art journey. “It was my seventh Christmas when I received my first learn-to-draw book from my aunt that changed my life,” he says.
Like many of us, Morris laments the passing of old ways. “It is sad that many traditions seem to fade over the generations—Christmas cards among them,” he says. “I have old long-time friends who don’t send cards. But I know they would be very disappointed if my card didn’t arrive each and every year. I like to think my card is a tradition now among my friends.”
To see more of Edward Morris’ art, visit EdwardMorrisFineArt.com. He welcomes visitors with appointments to stop by his studio.