If you live in a large US city, you probably have an opinion about Santacon, an event that happens in early December and is a jolly good time or an obnoxious nuisance, depending on that opinion. The general consensus in both NYC and SF has trended towards the obnoxious in recent years as the event has grown to a near city-wide scale. I find that sad, as I attended the event in both cities more than a decade ago and, at the time, it was still small enough to be a pleasant surprise for someone encountering it unprepared, instead of being off-putting.
In Los Angeles, my hometown since 2004, the event is still relatively small (approximately 500 people attend every year, + or – 100), which keeps it from crossing that line into being something everyone loves to hate on. There is a totally separate Westside-based event that attracts more of the bro-culture, which probably helps.
Many who attend LA Santacon are creative souls who see the event as an opportunity not just to drink all day and be silly, but to create something special and unique to show off to their fellow Santas. This often takes the form of hand-made costume pieces and props, but can include musical skills, baked or liquid goods shared, or performance art (for a good example, see the Clowns).
I volunteered to help organize the event for the first time in 2010, as my way of contributing, and by 2012, I was ready to Make A Thing. So I painted a cozy scene on a canvas drop cloth and convinced a photographer to take pictures of Santas in front of it. I was happy with the canvas but had some problems during the execution of the plan, due to an uncooperative and sulky boyfriend (soon after that to be an ex) and a lack of location confirming before setting up. If I had to do it again, I would have planned better, but some fun pictures came out of it and the backdrop was hung again the next year at another venue for a more DIY photo moment for folks.
The fireplace that I painted for this backdrop went on to be an early study for Nolan’s Fireplace.
In 2015, we asked the attendees via email and the event page to donate to the event, to help us the organizers to afford fun things like snow (in LA!), props for games and beers for the park stop. As often happens when you’ve established a community, people gave. They trusted us to produce a fun event, and we delivered. We wanted to give the donors a little something as a Thank You, so I suggested stickers. They’re small and individually cheap, and people love them. I had several ideas for designs based on things I already had created (the backdrop and a pendant I had made for a different year). I emailed pictures of those components to another organizer, Joe, and he knocked out these 2 designs, with some last-minute help from our friend, Chris:
They were a hit, and so when we began planning for the 2016 event, which usually starts in late October, I knew we had to do another sticker. I took a lead role in planning the whole event that year, and came up with a design for the sticker that I was really proud of. Joe did an amazing job taking my sketch and fleshing it out in Photoshop.
The route began all the way in Santa Monica, in celebration of the recently opened Expo Line. We went to the pier after beginning the morning at the Promenade, so I decided to use the pier as my inspiration point for the sticker design. Later, I realized this design ended up echoing, in my opinion, my “HP Sauce Plaque”. They both contain the Route 66 sign and also the perspective buildings drawing the eye to the center of the image. Additionally, they both show off my love of color.
After taking on the 2016 event, with crucial help from a few of the other organizers, I needed to take a step back from the team in 2017. Even though I didn’t play a role in planning the route, I did have access to the group where a lot of that planning was happening, so I knew the basics of the route. I offered to design another sticker, and the team agreed. I had several ideas which I presented to Joe, and he and I settled on the simplest design. Since the stickers are small (we went from 2”x 2” to 3”x 3” for 2017), a complex scene would be too busy and chaotic. We played with the idea of also making a larger bumper sticker with the more involved design, but in the end we just did the one. Joe did an amazing job with the textures and the lighting effects.
The 2017 route included some time in Hollywood, at the iconic Chinese Theater and the Hollywood & Highland complex, so the boulevard stars tied in that way.
If you think these designs are creative and well-executed, I am available as a design consultant! Please message me to discuss your potential project and my rates!