Sunday, December 8, 2013

Featured in Santa Barbara News-Press

Family Portrait
Artist illustrates "The Night Before Christmas" with mosaics featuring her loved ones

December 8, 2013 12:22 AM

Christine Brallier wanted to create a children's book unlike any other.
So she worked painstakingly for four and a half years creating 15 mosaics, made mostly of stained glass pieces, to illustrate Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" (Brownian Bee Press, $16.99). What's more, she put her family in her first children's book — and had Santa play the guitar!

The Goleta artist added a modern touch to the 1823 poem with images of husband Greg Brallier, their son, Jack, and their cat, Raymi, a domestic short-hair mix, along with their own decorations and ornaments.

"TheNight Before Christmas" was released recently and is being sold on State Street at Granada Books, where the mosaics are on the walls (but not for sale) through December in Mrs. Brallier's first major solo art show. Her books also are at Chaucer's Books, as well as Curious Cup in Carpinteria.

She will also sell and sign copies during the Winter Sing and Marketplace, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Goleta Family School in Goleta, where some of the proceeds will go to the school's PTA.

All but one of the mosaics are 15-by-24-inch, and they appear at two-thirds of their actual size in the book.

"I always wanted to do a children's book before I was doing mosaics, but my painting skills were not that great, so I never felt confident enough to do one," the 45-year-old self-taught artist told the News-Press at her home. But she felt inspired when creating a mosaic of a mouse and a skunk, and people said that would make a great children's book.

"I had never seen a children's book done with mosaics before, and I thought that would be really cool. So I was writing down ideas, thinking about it, nothing was coming," said the Bellflower native, who wasn't interested in a tale about the mouse and skunk. "On Christmas Eve, we were reading the story ('The Night Before Christmas'), as we always do, and I was thinking about how cool it would be to do it with my family in it and make it more personal."

"I tried not to look at other 'Night Before Christmas' books as much as possible because I didn't want to be influenced by them and didn't want to feel like I was copying any elements," Mrs. Brallier said. "I did want to look at other Santas (on the Internet) and make sure mine was unique."

Instead of the traditional American version, Mrs. Brallier went with a more classic European look: robe and hood instead of suit and cap.

"It's not what I grew up with. Anything that's different from what I'm used to is interesting to me."

Having never seen Santa play a guitar, the artist thought it would be another way to make her version unique.

In another scene, Santa gives her husband, a guitarist for the longtime Santa Barbara band Tearaways, an electric guitar for the verse, "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf."

"My husband wanted a guitar like that," Mrs. Brallier said. "I thought it would be fun to give it to him in the book because I couldn't afford it in real life." She laughed.

Their son, who's now 15, is shown as a young boy sleeping for "all snug in their bed."

"He said, 'How come I'm not in it more? My dad's in a bunch of pictures; I'm only in one,'" Mrs. Brallier said with a grin. "I said, 'Well, I'm only in one.'" The mosaic of her is based on a photo her husband shot while she slept, Raymi the cat lying on top of her.

Throughout the book, Raymi watches Santa in the house and eventually warms up to him. (When Santa comes down the chimney, the surprised cat leaps behind a chair!)

Photos on the Internet inspired Mrs. Brallier's depiction of reindeer. She saw how their tongues stick out to the side as they run. So she had a reindeer do that as it flew in her book.

"I was going for something realistic, but at the same time, a more stylized look: playful, colorful, whimsical," Mrs. Brallier said about the entire book.

The illustrations, she added, reflect herself: "Happy, joyful, fun, playful, silly, colorful. I love life. I see the world like a kid in a way."

Since childhood, Mrs. Brallier loved to draw, paint and play the piano. She decided to work with kids in art or music therapy. After graduating in 1986 from JohnMarshall High School in Los Angeles, she worked in preschools in Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles City College. In 1989, she moved to Santa Barbara, which she preferred over smoggy L.A., and went to Santa Barbara City College. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1994 at Antioch UniversitySanta Barbara and a master's in the same field there in 1996. She married Mr. Brallier in 1998 and worked as a masseuse.

Mrs. Brallier said her desire to help kids was fulfilled by becoming a mother, but she still wanted to create art. She said she struggled with her painting and drawing skills, but found a do-it-yourself mosaic kit in 2005 at the Michaels craft store near her home. "I made this box, and I was totally hooked. The process was so fun and meditative. I get to go into my own world."

She joined the Goleta Valley Arts Association and participated in its group shows at the Goleta Branch Library and the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center on Cabrillo Boulevard.

To learn more about mosaics, she traveled around the U.S. for conferences of the Societyof American Mosaic Artists. In Lexington, Ky., she was the lead artist for the society's project in that city and created a large mosaic of a nest and birds for The Nest — Center for Women, Children & Families .

Mrs. Brallier dedicated "The Night Before Christmas" to her husband, son, cat, and her mother, Robin Nichols, a Los Angeles resident who recently died from pancreatic cancer at age 67. "She was a big animal lover and loved the book, especially the cat."

For her next project, Mrs. Brallier has received approval to create a mosaic of trees and plants that her mother loved for a chapel at newly renovated Goleta ValleyCottage Hospital. She's waiting for fundraising to be completed.

The News-Press met with Mrs. Brallier again after the mosaics went up at Granada Books, where co-owner Sharon Hoshida, 66, said the art immediately made customers interested in the new interpretation of a classic.

Mrs. Brallier couldn't stop smiling as she stood surrounded by her mosaics. "This is the first time I've seen them all up. It's exciting! More people can see them."

Mom would be proud.


Christine Brallier will sell and sign copies of "The Night Before Christmas" (Brownian Bee Press, $16.99), the 1823 Clement C. Moore poem that she illustrated with her mosaics, during the Winter Sing and Marketplace from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Goleta Family School, 711 Ribera Drive, Goleta. Part of the proceeds will go to the school's PTA.

Her book also is being sold at Granada Books, 1224 State St., where her mosaics are displayed; Chaucer's Books, 3321 State St., 682-6787; and Curious Cup, 929 Linden Ave., Carpinteria, 220-6608.

"The Night Before Christmas" is available here.

Photo of reindeer by Mehosh Dziadzio
All the rest of the photos by Thomas Kelsey, News-Press
*Links added by me :)

No comments:

Post a Comment