DADE CITY — When Suzanne Desneux was a child, she liked to surprise family members with handmade cards for the holidays.
"She sketched all the time," said her mom, Lucille. "It made me feel wonderful to get a card that my daughter made."
Said Desneux: "I just drew my dreams."
As she grew older she turned the drawing into a career, becoming a private art teacher, doing artwork on commission and eventually going on to found Hi Brow Art Gallery in Dade City. She also heads the visual arts committee of the Moonlight and Ivory music and art fund-raising show.
In the meantime she continued to make personalized and often humorous cards for friends and family members, many of which featured cartoon caricatures of her mom and their four dogs. Other people and animals soon found their way into her images, all of which are hand-painted with oils and acrylics on high-quality paper stock.
"I had a friend that was a veterinarian, so I drew a cartoon of a vet chasing a reindeer through the snow with a hypodermic needle in hand," she says with a chuckle. "For some friends of ours in New Jersey, we sent them a card with cartoon versions of Mom and me enjoying a sunny day and our friends neck deep in snow."
Soon, as more and more people began to receive Desneux's cards, they began to request their own. And this year she is officially launching Makin' Memories, a line of homemade cards.
"Cardmaking is very personal for me," she said. "This is a one-on-one project."
Indeed, Desneux's cards do not come with price tags attached. "I encourage people to pay what they can," she said. "If they can help me cover the cost of paint and paper, that's great. But if a person is in need, if a person is sick in the hospital, they get the card for free."
Desneux recently sent a Makin' Memories card to a neighbor in the hospital, and she's more than willing to work with local charities to send complimentary cards to the sick and needy.
"Sometimes a personal gesture like this one can make somebody feel so much better," she said.
Many of those who order Makin' Memories cards request caricatures of themselves, their kids and their pets. They can ask Desneux to hand write a greeting for them, or leave them blank so the greeting can be printed later. And while Desneux is pleased to draw sacred symbols such as angels and crosses, she tries to avoid yuletide designs that are too somber or conventional in nature.
"I want the cards to be happy," she said. "Also, anyone can go to the store and buy a card with an image of a wreath. I'd prefer to draw the wreath if it's over someone's head, or maybe over their pet donkey's head."
Ultimately Desneux hopes her cards will evoke the Christmas spirit in all who see them.
"Everybody gets a little giddy this time of year," she said. "And Christmas art is a wonderful subject for an artist. It makes you feel good."