A Commemorative Birthday Poster

It’s sometimes difficult to come up with an original idea for a birthday gift for a spouse. There are the old standbys of specialty clothes, favorite foods, dinner and a movie, and many other traditional ideas. Anymore, when asking a spouse what they want you might be referred to a Wish List at one of their favorite online retailers. But as the result is certainly what they want, on occasion it seems impersonal.

Interestingly enough, Mary has regularly referred to the week leading up to her September 25th birthday as “Marypalooza”, some years insisting the event lasts the entire month. With the amount of travel she and I have enjoyed here in New England since April, it dawned on me at some point in early September that the entire trip could be interpreted as “Marypalooza!: The Wicked Awesome Tour.” In one of my many trips to the local office supply to get documents printed as necessary, I found they are capable of printing a variety of poster sizes in full color. With a background in large-format printing, a copy of Adobe Illustrator installed on my laptop, and more than 1,500 images from three different cameras over that time so far, the concept for a birthday poster started to form.

It took more than a day to review the images we had, to whittle them down to a few dozen possibilities. At the same time, I would hover the laptop cursor over the image, which gave me the date it was taken. This became a list of the dates and places we’d taken pictures. I was also looking for consistency in color and light in the images, and a variety of experiences. After going through those short-listed images, I found one that would work as a center image of Mary, and two nice panoramas for top and bottom, one of the sky and one of the ocean. It was then a matter of picking five more images of places she really enjoyed. With the center image and top and bottom in-place, the rest just needed a bit of randomness in their placement.

The list of dates and places became a three-column list at the bottom of the poster. The pectoral fin of the sleeping humpback whale just happened to land in a space where the lettering formed around it. “Marypalooza! 2018 Wicked Awesome Tour” had to be at the top in two lines. The main line had to be a rather fun font, while the second line matched the highway sign font I used in the rest of the poster. The pink colors of those upper three lines of text were then derived from Mary’s top as seen in the portrait in the bottom-right corner.

Last but not least is a two-page “key” with notes, that are now in an envelope attached to the back of the framed poster.


Mary had to work on both the 24th and her birthday, the 25th. On Friday the 21st she had a rather rough day at work, so in an effort to cheer her up I had her reveal the poster by removing a covering sheet from it that evening. She was obviously startled by it, and has told me since that she really loves it. Unique gufts are hard to come by. I think maybe I got this one right.

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