How to Draw the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a classic story that has inspired artists for generations. Some of the most memorable characters in the novella are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. These symbolic, stylized ghosts are metaphors for the life of the miserly protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens gave richly detailed descriptions of each ghost, which artists can use for guidance. Drawings of the ghosts can be made with any standard drawing tools, such as pencils, charcoal or colored pencils.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing pencils, charcoals or colored pencils

  • Drawing paper

  • Drawing board (optional)

  • Easel (optional)

  • Fixative

Step 1

Set up your drawing supplies on a smooth, flat surface. Remove any drinks without lids from the vicinity. If you want to ensure correct perspective, attach your paper to a drawing board and set it on an easel. Drawing on a desk, or other surface where you look down while you draw, can skew your perception of angles.

Step 2

Draw the Ghost of Christmas Past on a clean sheet of paper, preferably white. Sketch out your design first before making permanent lines.

In "A Christmas Carol," the Ghost of Christmas Past is described as otherworldly, with features that symbolize youth or decay by turn. His face is smooth and childlike, but with the long, white hair of an old man. He wears a robe of white that radiates warmth and is trimmed with summer flowers. In his hand he holds a branch of holly, a symbol of winter. A pillar of white light emits from the top of his head.

Use extreme blacks and pure whites to emphasize this contrast. If you're drawing with charcoal, let the white of the paper show through or use white charcoal (French silk) for contrast. If using colored pencils, try using both warm and cool colors to emphasize contrast.

Step 3

Draw the Ghost of Christmas Present on a fresh sheet of paper.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is literally a jolly green giant. Very tall in stature, the ghost wears nothing but a long green robe trimmed with white fur. His bare chest and feet are visible. The ghost is surrounded by a feast of traditional Victorian Christmas treats, including punch, puddings and suckling pigs. He holds a torch shaped like a horn of plenty. His curly brown hair is topped with a holly wreath studded with glittering icicles. His face and expression are overwhelmingly joyful and merry.

If using color, emphasize festive shades associated with Christmas, like bright red and fir green. Show the ghosts' large size by scaling down the size of the foods that surround him. Research photos and engravings of Victorian Christmas meals and foods for ideas of feast items.

Step 4

Draw the Ghost of Christmas Future on a clean sheet of paper. Use white and cream paper and black pencils or charcoals or use black paper and white charcoal.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is the personification of death, and is described in terrifying terms. The ghost is shrouded in a dark robe, almost a void that seems to suck in all light. No face is visible, only a single "spectral" hand.

Use the deepest blacks you can for the ghost's robes, and highlight folds in the fabric with lighter blacks, grays or whites. Try placing the ghost against a light background for contrast.

Step 5

Spray your drawing with fixative once it is complete. Always spray fixative outdoors and away from fire. Spray your drawing in the same direction as the wind so the fixative won't blow back in your face.

Tip

If you're sensitive to chemicals or don't have fixative, hair spray can work in a pinch.

Warning

Spray fixative on a small sample area before spraying the entire picture, just in case the fixative reacts badly to your paper or drawing material.

References & Resources