Custom-made cards tell a personal Christmas story

Special to the Gazette

Mickey Sego, co-owner of Art-cade Gallery of Art, first started creating his own Christmas cards at the age 7. This year, he mailed out the 70th card in his series. It features a montage of his favorite cards through the years, including his very first one, a drawing of a Christmas candle.

"My first card was done on a mimeograph with a stencil," said Sego. "I believe I still have the machine."

These days, Sego uses a computer and printer to create the images for his cards. He makes just 50 each Christmas for family and friends. Each card is numbered and sent to the same person every year so they have matching sets to collect. The cards are so popular among Sego's inner circle that there is a waiting list.

"I only do a few each year because I want them to be special," he said.

Typically, each Christmas card has a theme, either celebrating an anniversary or an event that occurred that particular year. When Sego married his wife, Arlene, in 1974, he began incorporating drawings of teddy bears into his cards, since Arlene enjoys them so much.

Some of his favorite Christmas card sketches include the Apollo 8 moon mission with Santa perched on the moon (1968); a drawing of his dog, Daisy (1977); A Christmas Carol (1993); his drawing in 2001 following the September 11 Attacks featuring a teddy bear Little Drummer Boy donning an I Love New York button; the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight (2003); Jingle Bells (2007); The Polar Express (2010); and Smokey the Bear (2014). That year, Sego also included a story he'd written about Smokey the Bear with his card.

"The Polar Express one is my favorite," said Arlene Sego. "He included a ticket to the Polar Express with the card, and we got a lot of notes and phone calls about it. I think just because so many people love the Polar Express."

"I like the one I did on Charles Dickens with Bob and Tiny Tim on the cover," Sego said. "We also got a lot of comments on the one I did after September 11. I only wrote in it Peace on Earth and that was it."

A new look

Sego used to paint all his cards, but in 2012 he switched to sketching.

He first began drawing as a child growing up in Berea, Ohio. Sego was a cartoonist for a time, and his drawing of President John F. Kennedy's assassination was republished in the book anthology "A Nation Grieved."

In the 1960s and 1970s, he created and operated Sports Specialties, a national sports cartooning service. He drew personalized portraits of high school and college athletes for sports information departments, including drawings of Willie Mays and Joe Namath.

Sego and his wife honeymooned in Williamsburg and vacationed here frequently, especially during the holidays. They relocated to the area after retiring in 1998 and opened Art-cade Gallery of Art on Jamestown Road. The gallery specializes in limited edition prints of nationally known artists including Disney and Dr. Seuss. The gallery also features The People of Williamsburg, a collection of fine art Sego designed and painted.

Sego does not sketch much anymore, except for his Christmas cards. He usually starts thinking about the idea for his cards around Thanksgiving, although "last year, I remember him sitting at the table the day after Christmas tossing around ideas for this year's card," Arlene Sego recalled.

"I really enjoy making these cards," Sego said. "It's a lot of fun.

"I love Christmas. I love the sights, the sounds, the songs, the traditions. I love everything about it."

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