New Year’s Card for a Business

I draw a New Years card every year for Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, and we try to make it relevant to what’s going on in the news, whether economic or otherwise. Well, this year the prevailing feeling was that everyone wanted to be done with the year 2020, so that was the theme of this year’s card.

I thought of a mountain-climbing expedition where the staff members were happy to see 2021 in the distance, because I’d been told they wanted the characters to appear ‘socially distanced.’ That idea was approved, so I started with a pencil sketch –

We talked over a few changes, and I went on to tighten the characters in the sketch –

I had thought perhaps I could show full faces so I left the mouths in for the sketch, but was later asked to draw masks on everyone.

I did a rough color sketch with colored pencils, and tried making the mountain in the background a volcano – do you see the 2020? – because that idea was considered. But in the end we stuck with just distant mountains in back.

and finally did the finished art in acrylic paint washes, below. Inside the card the message read: “WE MADE IT! Looking forward to a bright new year ahead!” and some kind wishes to their clients. Kohhepp Investment sends several hundred of these cards out to clients and colleagues, and they get some really nice responses indicating that people appreciate them and enjoy the funny antics in which we often portray the staff. They also use it on their Facebook page and other social media – it’s an effective way to personalize a business to their customers.

Bobsledding and Copyrights

I learned some interesting things about copyrights when I illustrated a New Year’s card recently for one of my clients, Kohlhepp Investment Advisors LLC.

Kohlhepp is a family business and I’ve been drawing the staff for years doing funny things to ring in the New Year – riding a roller coaster economy, holding up a crumbling debt ceiling,  almost falling off a fiscal cliff. This year, with the economy looking up in so many ways, they wanted to play on the upcoming Olympic games and have an upbeat drawing of the family members eagerly piling into a bobsled for a race.

I drew a pencil sketch with the younger members of the staff taking off, with Ed Sr., the patriarch of the family, coaching them from the crowd; then went on to a color-pencil rough color sketch.




I agreed with the staff that Ed sank too much into the crowd in this composition, so I moved him out of the crowd, coaching them from the left with a stopwatch in his hand.  At this point daughter Mary Beth asked if I was sure it was ok to draw the Olympic rings on the wall – could that be a copyright infringement? I had to check into it, and she was right, the Olympic rings, or anything even looking like the well-known five interlocking rings, is copyrighted by the International Olympic Committee.

We came up with an alternative: how about putting ‘Pyeongchang 2018’ along the wall?  Looked it up – no, that too, as well as Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, is copyrighted by the IOC. Upon further reading, I learned that the IOC is particularly aggressive in suing entities that appropriate their brand – in fact, they even filed suit against the first Special Olympics for using the word ‘Olympics’, until public backlash forced them to withdraw it. However, I can understand now why the IOC can be so particular – the companies that do become ‘Olympic sponsors’ pay an awful lot of money to be officially affiliated with the brand; and if organizations who are not an official sponsor start using Olympic branding to suggest that they are, that dilutes the value of the sponsorship of the officially designated companies.

We did not want to run afoul of this entity, obviously, so we came up with the idea of putting international flags – which are not copyrighted – along the wall. I drew the final art and I think the result still implies a famous sports event without treading on any legal  infringement.




Corporate Holiday Card: Executives and Slot Cars

For the last five or so years I have illustrated fun holiday greeting cards for the crowd at Safe-Guard Products, an international company specializing in vehicle insurance. I am usually asked to draw the eight company directors in some holiday activity, and this year brought the surprising request that they be racing slot cars, a hobby that many of them enjoy.  I have photos of all of them from previous years, so I started with a rough pencil sketch –


They asked for a few changes, and gave me very specific car models to match to their drivers – I had to google them all because I’m not really a sportscar buff! I tightened up the sketch –


and painted it in for the finish.



Sketches for a corporate holiday card

I have been asked again, happily, to draw up a holiday card for Safe-Guard Products of Atlanta. They’ve asked me to illustrate their eight execs in an outdoor winter scene, and I’ve seen fire pits becoming popular lately, so I sketched a very rough layout –


Then I got out my reference photos from 2013, when I last drew a card for them, and drew from each headshot they sent me, penciling in the figures with a little more detail. Toasted marshmallows & hot chocolate, anyone?


I’ll post more steps to the final art as it progresses.

2014 Illustrated Holiday Greetings for Businesses, Part 3: Card and Animation

For years I’ve enjoyed working with the team at Furia Rubel Communications, an award-winning integrated marketing and public relations agency. FRC always looks to present their brand in unique and creative ways,.and in their holiday greeting to their colleagues and clients we work together to come up with an illustration that combines both gag cartooning and caricature of a sort. The joke invariably revolves around the buzzwords they use with their p.r. clients, then we angle it toward a traditional holiday scene, and finally include simplified caricatures of each member of the FRC team.

The theme of this year’s sketch dealt with media technology, with a little poke at its obsolescence:

.  furia14skwp

We tweaked it a little and FRC framed the caption better, as a solution to the problem – here’s the final:


Very apropos for their industry. The unique thing about Furia Rubel is, they don’t stop with this art as just a greeting card.  When I create the art, I draw all the elements separately so FRC can send them to their animator Tom Donnelly of TD Post and Animation to create this very fun, very short, holiday video card:

That’s FRC president Gina Furia Rubel’s voice in the video too – It all creates a pretty memorable greeting for their business friends!

More cards in upcoming posts – scroll down to see previous cards in this series.

Company greeting card

Here is another custom illustration I’m doing for a law firm, for the Christmas holidays, although it has to be kind of multi-religious holiday-themed. This is the drawing before painting it in.  A table set for a holiday meal, including turkey but also brisket, cranberries but also challah bread, evergreens and gelt.


Corporate Thanksgiving greeting card

I drew the three owners of a financial advisory group a few weeks ago as birthday cake bakers – you can scroll down the blog here to see that one – and now they have asked for a Thanksgiving card to send to their clients and colleagues.  Not knowing how serious or funny they wanted to be, I drew several fast sketches on tracing paper to give them some ideas, below.


They surprised me by picking the last one, where the 3 advisers are dressed as pilgrims and chasing a turkey!  These guys have a sense of humor of which I was not aware.

I drew & painted the finish today, acrylic paint on illustration board. Their logo includes a blue tree, which they asked me to work in – it’s the tree in the background. Now I wonder what the inside sentiment will be  . . .