A snowman in a Red Sox hat, a Christmas tree made of lobster pots, a large wreath hanging off the railroad bridge and Santa relaxing on a beach chair overlooking the water are a few of the Christmas card designs from Sandwich artist Joe Gallant. Every year for the past 17 years Mr. Gallant has come up with several new designs to add to his popular line of holiday cards.
“People seem to enjoy them,” Mr. Gallant said.
A full-time painter for more than two decades, Mr. Gallant considers the holiday cards a significant part of his business, noting sales of holiday cards on his website (Capecodwatercolors.com) start about mid-October and go right through January 1.
Mr. Gallant said he started out his professional painting career working mainly in watercolors but now works almost exclusively in oils, except for the Christmas cards, which he called an easier medium for cards. “The coloration is better in watercolor—more vibrant,” he said.
Mr. Gallant sells his cards wholesale to gift shops and independent bookstores Cape-wide in addition to selling them online. “I might be in 20 to 25 shops at any one time,” he said. “Splash Stationery, and the Dan’l Webster Gift Shop in Sandwich are two examples.”
“I woke up this morning and three sales had come in overnight,” Mr. Gallant said. “One from Washington, DC, one from Denver and one from Pocasset.”
While his customers might live all over the country, Mr. Gallant said, they usually have some kind of Cape connection. “Often the people visited here, or they grew up here, or they lived here at one time,” he said.
Mr. Gallant will periodically retire certain designs and create new ones.
“Usually every year I get rid of certain old designs that have been around and have gotten stale,” he said. This year Mr. Gallant said he came up with five or six new designs and continued “all the old favorites that people seem to like year in and year out.”
“Forgot the Reindeer,” a card featuring Santa carrying his pack of toys along the canal bike path with a bridge prominent in the background, has been a favorite.
While a lot of the cards feature what Mr. Gallant describes as “light humor with a nod to the holidays,” others have a “quiet feel of home and family.”
Most have a beach design: a seascape, a marsh, the architecture of Cape Cod. A transplant to the Cape 42 years ago, Mr. Gallant said the landscape of the Cape inspires him year round.
“I keep a legal pad everywhere I go—in the car, in my studio, whenever I have an idea I jot it down,” Mr. Gallant said. “I’ll make notes all year round. As soon as this Christmas is over, starting about February 1, I sit down and do new designs because I have some retailers who want to order in the spring, with delivery in the summer.” Retailers, Mr. Gallant said, including Snow’s Home and Garden in Orleans and Tale of the Cod in Chatham, sell a lot of cards in the summer.
Mr. Gallant said he currently has 52 card designs in his catalog, but that he’s probably done about 80. “Some of them fall by the wayside. Sometimes I might put certain designs away for a few years and then bring them back,” he said.
Mr. Gallant said he sends out to commercial printers for prints of his larger paintings, but he does the printing of his Christmas cards in house.
“Most of the cards are high-quality laser. I print on demand. I don’t keep any inventory,” he said.
A full-time artist whose work can be seen at the Gallery on Jarvis in Sandwich in addition to his website, Mr. Gallant also teaches painting classes and workshops at both the Cotuit Center for the Arts and the Falmouth Art Center.
One of the workshops he teaches is called “Big Brush Painting.” Using a technique he developed himself, Mr. Gallant guides students using inexpensive wall paint brushing to paint landscapes on large canvases. The inexpensive brushes, he explained, “create more texture.”
“I get both beginners and people who have been painting for years. Most new painters are intimidated by a big canvas or a big piece of watercolor paper, so I started offering the workshops. Most people when they paint small, they paint with their fingers and wrists and they get very realistic. With the big brush you use your whole arm to paint and it’s much more impressionistic,” he said.
Mr. Gallant, who worked as an advertising manager before making the switch to art, saidhe took some art classes in college but it wasn’t until he was living in Sandwich that he really got inspired. He remembered seeing some plein air painters at work at the site of the Sandwich Farmers Market. “This one woman was doing the most beautiful watercolors. I was just mesmerized. I stood there for a long time just watching her paint,” he said.
Now he’s the one mesmerizing tourists when he’s not painting in his home studio.
“The Sandwich Boardwalk marsh area is one of my favorite places to paint. It’s fun to paint outside during tourist season, people always want to stop and watch.”