The Greatest Gift

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Oil on board, 36×36 in.
September 2018
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Born in a manger, Jesus was the greatest gift of God. He gave us life after this life and real life today.

He and Saint Nicholas have given their all to serve mankind, bringing joy and changing the lives of countless people for the better. Each has been heavily abused for their work but their message is clear: selfless service, endurance, and love. Still, Santa knows to whom he owes everything.

This season, join those around you in kneeling before the Babe of Bethlehem as we all give our lives to Him.

Final and Details

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This painting and several others will be on display in Branson, Missouri October 30 through November 5 2018. Contact me for more details.


This painting began as a series of sketchbook roughs, just noodling around to gather feelings. Once I had enough ideas to create several scenes, I arranged for Santa to join me in a fellow artist’s home for an hour. He was very friendly and gracious, reading stories as the large family gathered around, eating cookies and drinking milk. His excellent helper was Tom Bailey of Alexandria, Virginia.

Once I refined the images in Photoshop, doing a lot of experimentation with backgrounds, lighting, color correction, and format, I purchased a large sheet of tempered hardboard, available from most hardware stores. Because I don’t have a table saw, I had the store staff trim the board to size for me, creating several other sizes as well. I was very clear in my size requests and, as always, the saw operator was very patient and professional.

On my kitchen table, I cleaned the surface with 90 percent isopropyl alcohol to remove oils and dust then let it dry.

To keep the surface from bending, I used carpenters glue to adhere it to stretcher bars, clamping it in several places and letting it dry overnight. The next day I added cross-braces to the back to limit warping.

Because I like to work on smooth surfaces with a medium tooth, I coated the board with three layers of gesso thinned with about 10 percent water, letting the surface dry between each layer and then sanding it by hand.

Once the gesso was dry, I traced the image onto the surface then started adding the straight oil paint, no medium, filling in broad areas and finishing with small details. Sometimes I used a bit of odorless solvent to add smooth lines or thin details.

Once I began applying paint, I finished this in about 40 hours, sandwiching it between my day job and life.

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