Nisse family

Leading up to Christmas 2022 I created a series of illustrations that were themed around the traditions I grew up with. In Norway, and in other Scandinavian countries, we have lore about little nisse characters/creatures. Some would help around the barns, while other would help around the house. Based in this lore I imagined a story about how this nisse family was getting ready for Christmas. While they are small, they’re still doing their best, and they appear to be having a blast too.

The illustrations were all created using the same colour palette which helped tie them together even further. In total I created 24 illustrations, one for each day leading up to Christmas eve, which is when we open presents in Norway.

Media: Digital illustration.
The nisse father, with his beard and nisse hat, is leaning up against a loo roll Santa that's clad in red felt, with a star on its belly, a big red hat, and a beard made of cotton. While the nisse father is wearing a white wooden sweater with black tots and grey overalls, the beard and hat are an unmistakable resemblance. The expression on the nisse father's face is one of amusement and pride. The nisse boy is doubled over in laughter, and pointing at his father, while the nisse girl is trying to hide her giggles by covering her mouth. The amused nisse mother is standing behind the kids, and is also having a little giggle.

It’s not uncommon for Norwegian kids to make home-made decorations in kindergarten or school. One of them is the beloved “dorullnisse”, or loo roll santa. Which, pretty much is the inside of a toilet roll decorated with felt or paper, with a big paper ball secured at the top as a head, with a beard made of cotton and a paper hat. It doesn’t sound too impressive, but it’s amazing to see how different these decorations can be depending on who made them.

The little nisse boy is standing on one of the branches of the Christmas tree, and is holding a little ornament that's been hung from a branch over him. The ornament is made of wood, and is of a simplified angel, sitting on a red sleigh with a few packages behind it.

Decorating the tree is another important task when getting ready for Christmas. As this is something that can be very time consuming, as there might be a lot of ornaments, the nisse family would of course take part in this fun activity.

The little nisse children are writing a Christmas card, though they appear to be smaller than you probably imagined. The little nisse girl is wielding a pen that is two or three times bigger than herself, but she's still got a decent handwriting. The little nisse boy is holding the stamp that should go on the card, which covers up his upper body. On the card the little nisse girl has managed to write 'Happy holid', not quite finished the word 'holidays'.

A tradition it might have taken me a while to get into is sending Christmas cards. While it might seem as though you’re writing the same thing over and over, it’s always nice to remind people that you care about them and think about them during the holidays.

The little nisse boy peeks out from underneath the paper from a slightly unrolled roll of wrapping paper. While the little nisse girl is using all her strength to pull a pair of scissors into frame.

Wrapping presents can both be a core and really fun. Of course I had to create some paintings of the little nisse children struggling while wrapping presents. This image also shows that while things are difficult, you can can succeed at doing them.

Three presents are wrapped in white and red stripy paper. The nisse girl is standing on her tip toes in front of the smaller gift in the foreground. She holds a ribbon rosette over her head that the nisse boy, who is standing on top of the gift, is catching, so he can add it as a decoration on top the gift.

The nisse children did an amazing job with wrapping these presents. It seems as though they even made their own bows.

The girl nisse and her mother are standing on a baking sheet, and doing a little bit of cookie decorating. They're holding a large fork that they're using to make a depression in an unbaked cookie.

Baking Christmas cookies is one of my favourite traditions. In Norway there are so many different types of cookies and sweets that are made in time for the holidays.

A large gingerbread heart lies on a table, and the tiny nisse family hold a large icing bag, and work unison to ice the cookie. Both the gingerbread heart and the piping bag are larger than each of the nisse family members, meaning they are all holding some of the weight, but also need to help get a steady stream of icing and place it nicely. So far they've got a really good line going.

Decorating gingerbread is a tradition most people know, and maybe even do. While baking tends to fall on just a few people, decorating, on the other hand, is a thing everyone can partake in. Of course, for the nisse family it might be a little bit trickier, as they’re smaller than what they’re trying to decorate. However, they are masters at team-work and get the job done.

In a darkened room four candles stands on a silver or blue plate. The candles are slightly different heights, indicating that they've not all been lit at once. The candle in front is the lowest, while the one to the left is a bit taller, and the one in the back is ab it taller again. The candle on the right, on the other hand, hasn't been lit at all. Three of the candles are already lit, but the fourth candle is in the process of being lit by the little nisse girl. As the nisse girl is too short to actually reach the top of the candle, the nisse father is standing on all fours on the lip of the plate, allowing the nisse girl to stand on her back.

In Norway we light advent candles the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, though we don’t light them all at once. The first Sunday we light just one candle, but don’t let it burn down. The second Sunday we light two, and three on the third Sunday, and finally all are lit on the fourth Sunday. This is also why the candles are all a slightly different height.

A little boy and a little girl, both wearing red Santa hats sit in a window and look out at the falling snow.

Watching the snow come down isn’t necessarily for all people, but it’s pretty calming, especially when you can stay inside and stay nice and warm. Of course I felt it was fitting that the nisse children would do the same.

Two nisse children are putting the twig arms on a snowman that has a coal smile and eyes, and a thin stripy scarf. The sky is a greyish blue behind them, with lots of snow falling in the foreground and background.

Building snowmen is a thing these tiny nisse children also enjoy. Their snowmen might not be as big as you or I could make, but it’s still pretty impressive to that they create a snowman that’s bigger than themselves!