Pour féliciter, Chateau Mcely

Romantic Christmas-themed pictures are an annual tradition at Chateau Mcely. Our first “PF”* artwork dates back to 2007. Ota Bláha, the Chateau Mcely “court designer”, created it for us based on the Chateau Mcely logo, which features the chateau swathed in a snowy cloud. It depicts a typical chateau perched on a pillow, symbolizing the comfort and care that we provide our guests.

Since then, our annual Christmas image has been created for us with love by artist Alenka Holá, who also did the illustrations for our children’s book Nely, Princess of Chateau Mcely. Let’s take a few moments out of the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle to take a look at Christmas, the way we remember it from childhood.

Your questions made me realize that there’s almost a proper collection of Christmas pictures and that they’ve become a small late-autumn/pre-Christmas ritual for me. Every year at about the same time, when the golden leaves have fallen from the trees, when the countryside slowly falls into a slumber, when twilight gradually comes earlier and earlier, and the skies already turn from shades of rose to dark blue in the late afternoon, I jump ahead in time a bit, and through my picture, I find myself transported into the true spirit of Christmas. So once Christmas actually arrives, I’ve already gone through one intensive holiday experience – the Chateau Mcely one :)

Where do you find the inspiration for your new picture every year?

It’s hard to say where I get my inspiration.
It starts off with a movie in my head – a kind of virtual tour – a walk through the park, the chateau, stopping sometimes to search for a scene and some hint of the storyline. I’ll do this throughout the day – fly off to Mcely while I’m in the car, the passing scenery blends into that of Mcely...as I’m falling asleep, my mind replays snippets of things I’ve experienced, things I’ve seen, previous drawings, memories.

How long does it take you to produce your picture and how do you go about it? Do you sit down and just start drawing or is it a more drawn-out process?
I rarely sit right down at my drawing table...I walk around slowly...it usually takes a few days for it to “ripen”, for things yet unseen to come together on my internal projection screen. Then comes the “execution” phase, bringing the vision to life in the most realistic way. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get the idea that’s projected in my head to transfer through my hand to the paper. The main image usually comes out in one go, in one evening – or rather night – and the next day, I go back and look to see if it’s what I want and if it’s worth finishing. I then spend a day or so “living” in the picture - that’s the most amazing part. Everything around me disappears, the night envelops me, and nothing else exists but making the lights on the Christmas tree shine even more brightly and sprinkling a few more stars across the night sky. Once it’s done and has passed the self-censor, then I’m really happy. And then I can only hope that at least part of that mood that I’ve imbued my painting with gets passed on. I don’t know if it’s really an inspiration per se, but this year, the first thing that came to my mind was the melody from Ryba’s Mass – The Stars Are More Beautiful Today – and it stuck.

Which of your pictures is your favorite?
I think I like the painting of Nely and the sled the best, probably because it was the most spontaneous, linked to the fairy tale world of princesses that I was immersed in and that I felt content in. And maybe also for its colors – I love that festive pink sky above the snow-covered landscape just before night falls.

Do you remember your first impressions of Chateau Mcely?
My journey to you goes through Otik Bláha, practically my lifelong companion...I don’t remember where his and Mrs Inéz’s paths first crossed, but I do remember my first meeting with her, and then my first visit to Mcely on one typically unpleasant November day in 2004, to a chateau without windows or a roof. During those now long-ago days, the universe came together and a miracle happened.

As I mull over your questions, it occurs to me that it’s so easy and such a pleasure for me to imagine myself in the chateau...dare I say that I know it like the back of my hand: every view from every window, in every season – from steamy summer days to quiet winter nights, when the night watchman and his dog make tracks in the fresh snow. It probably has something to do with its almost meditative solitude that these sensations are so intense – there were times that I was the only one there, with my paints and brushes, passing through the corridors by the light of my flashlight.
I think it was such a romantic winter’s eve that was the inspiration for my first Christmas painting, I guess from 2012 – I can still see it today. :)

*PF (pour féliciter) cards are a uniquely Czech tradition. They take the place of Christmas cards and are sent out in mid- to late December to wish their recipients a happy and successful New Year.