Sunday, April 7, 2019

Guest Post: Cathy McCort & Her Yearlong Calendar Project

We have a guest blogger today, my good friend Cathy McCort from Washington, PA. Cathy was one of six students in the very first sketchbook journaling class I taught back in 2014. She had never picked up a watercolor brush before that class, but wait till you see how far she's come in five short years!

When I first had the idea to do a monthly calendar back in March 2018, I shared it on the Facebook group I have for my students and asked if anyone else was up for the challenge of sketching every day that month. Cathy accepted the challenge and RAN with it, completing not just 31 but 365 days of calendar sketches! It's an amazing accomplishment, and one of which she should be justifiably proud. I wish you could have the pleasure of examining each of these 9" x 12" calendars in person. The vibrant colors pop off the page, and the creativity, humor, and zest for living that's shown here tells you a lot about the wonderful woman who created them.

Now, let's hear from Cathy and see each of her wonderful calendar pages...

Completing 12 months of tiny calendar drawings was indeed a challenge but I was intrigued from the beginning. 

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Most of the time I painted every day, but sometimes life got in the way, and I would play catch-up by painting several days at a time. Either way, I loved the idea of documenting some life events or just painting an object or idea that I came across that day. 

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Deciding what to paint is always a challenge for me. I wanted to break free of the little squares at times, and I also chose to do some themes as in July and August.

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

I'm not going to lie, some months were more of a struggle than others but I'm just OCD enough to not have given up!

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

I loved this exercise mainly because it kept me painting for an entire year even if only for a short time each day.

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

I have framed these twelve pieces in simple frames and they are hanging on a wall in my family room. 

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

I haven't been painting very long, and so for me, this is a huge accomplishment, and I love it! Leslie, thank you for the idea and the constant encouragement!
~ Cathy

Thank you, Cathy, for sharing it with us!

This exercise offers a wonderful way to record life in all its variety - the ups and the downs, the happy times and the days that are a struggle, the joyful moments and the things that drive us crazy. It shows the richness of our experience of being in this world, of making our way and living life to the fullest. Brava! to Cathy for persevering and creating something absolutely WONDERFUL!

Copyright © 2019 Cathy McCort

Thursday, March 21, 2019

February Calendar Sketch

Life can become a bit of a blur sometimes, can't it? One day merges into the next and before you know it, another month has gone by. I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday, not to mention last week! But I've found that keeping a daily sketched calendar is a great way to capture days and moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

Ink & watercolor in a 12" x 9" Kilimanjaro sketchbook filled with 140 lb. off-white watercolor paper

I started this practice last spring and did a few months' worth of calendars (see March and April), then when workshop season arrived, I put it on the back burner. On January 1st of 2019, I started up again and have really enjoyed the process over the past two months. (See January Part I, II, and III) I have now completed five months out of the year, and I plan to eventually have a calendar for all twelve, even if they're done in different years.

I vary the layout each month to see how creative I can get with my boxes. February was easier than most, since there were only 28 days in it this year, which made four identical weeks.

After I drew the layout in pencil, I laid 1/8" blue painter's tape over the lines. (To make 1/8" tape, I sliced 1/4" tape down the middle with a #11 Xacto blade.)

I penciled in the dates, so I wouldn't get confused and forget a day, then started adding my daily sketches. All the sketches were drawn with a Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen.

The month included sewing, exercising, snowy weather, buying new glasses, learning to make my own sketchbooks, and getting ready for a teaching trip to Florida...

There were fun, happy days, like when some friends came over to paint on the 5th, and less-than-fun days like the 7th, when I spent a long time in the dentist's chair, and the 14th, when I received some discouraging news from my doctor.
I left the wintry weather behind on the 18th when I flew to Tampa, then spent two wonderful weeks teaching, relaxing, and enjoying the Florida sunshine.

Designing these little triangles was challenging. With such a limited space, the sketches had to be very small, especially if I wanted to include some lettering, too. To keep things interesting, I varied the lettering styles in lots of different ways, just like I teach in my introductory sketchbook journaling classes. Here are a few simple ways to alter a standard printed lettering style:

  • Use all caps or all lower case letters
  • Add serifs to the letters
  • Elongate the letters
  • Make letters short and fat
  • Make the letters more rounded (like on my Feb. 22 sketch)
  • Add curlicues to the letters
  • Use bold block letters
  • Fill block letters with varied patterns, such as plaid, stripes, & polka dots
  • Put dots on the ends of each letter
  • Curve the line of lettering
  • Make the letters "bouncy" (some up, some down)
  • Use cursive instead of printing
  • Thicken the downstrokes of printed or cursive letters 
  • Place the lettering on a banner
  • Use a fancy lettering style from your computer

At the end of the month, after all the boxes were filled with sketches, I knuckled down to finalize the design of the rest of the page. I decided on a bold lettering style for the title, hoping it would stand out against all the busyness of the triangles that filled the page below.

I added the three quotes that I had chosen to border the page then taped off the three sides using 1/4" painter's tape. The quotes were hand-lettered using a pointed dip pen and black ink.

Using the same colors I had used earlier on the triangles, I painted a border wash of blended colors around three sides of the calendar. The trick to seamless blending is to keep all of the paint the same degree of wetness as you paint. Mix up plenty of paint on your palette before you put brush to paper, then work quickly to cover the area with wet paint, then don't touch it again while it dries! Flooding wet paint into a drying wash is a surefire way to get blooms. Also, using a skimpy amount of paint and a fairly dry brush will result in lines, overlaps, and irregularities in a wash.

I like the bold, chiseled look of the lettering, painted with just two colors, a light aqua and a medium-dark blue.

Decorative motifs help to draw attention to the title.

The final step in completing this page was to add some darker values to the daily sketches using richer, more concentrated mixtures of the background wash in each block.

I think adding the darker values helped to make each block more cohesive.

Keeping a daily sketched calendar definitely takes commitment, but I enjoy taking some time each day to work in my sketchbook, and all those little snippets of time add up to a wonderful gem that's filled with memories.

This February calendar brings a smile to my face every time I look at it, remembering all the events, places, and people that were a part of my days. 

Click to see larger image 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

January Calendar - Part III

My January 2019 daily calendar is finally finished! I chose cool blues and purples for the borders and the spaces between the blocks. It seemed the perfect choice for a month filled with every kind of cold, dreary weather you can imagine.

12" x 9", ink & watercolor in an American Journey watercolor journal

It took awhile to do all that detail work...

I think I'm ready to work on something big and splashy next. (Well, maybe after I finish the February calendar I'm working on, which has 28 more little shapes to fill!)

I'm off to Florida tomorrow to teach in Bradenton and Sarasota. Can't wait to soak up some sunshine! I'll check in when I get back. Meanwhile, click on the image below for a larger view of January, in case you want to see the individual entries....

Click to enlarge

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Taking a Chance

As I painted this sketch yesterday, I thought about all the chances I've been offered in my life, the ones I took and the ones I didn't.

Watercolor sketch in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman & Birn Delta series sketchbook

And as my thoughts meandered back to younger days and decisions I'd made that impacted the course of my life, I knew with a deep certainty that the best decision I'd ever made, the one chance I took that affected my life more than any other, was to say "Yes!" to this man...

He's been with me through the ups and downs, the joys and the tragedies, the days that were filled with happiness, and the ones that left me reeling. He's a good man with a good heart, and I'm so thankful to have him in my life. He's the solid foundation of my life that has made all things possible.

Happy Valentine's Day
to my one and only, 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

January Calendar - Part II

My January calendar still needs a few finishing touches, like a border on the outside edge and some color between the boxes, but while I'm working on those, here's a step-by-step explanation of how I drew the elliptical layout for the 12" x 9" calendar page.

31-day elliptical calendar layout

1 - Use a pencil to draw the layout, then ink the final lines.
     Mark a 1/2" border on all four outside edges.


2 - Connect opposite corners with diagonal lines.


3 - Use a clear plastic ruler to mark a line on both sides of each diagonal line. (I used a Westcott ruler with tenths increments. The spaces between my boxes are 1/10" wide.)


4 - Draw center lines vertically and horizontally to divide the rectangle into equal quadrants.


5 - Use an ellipse template to trace half of an ellipse shape onto the center of the page. Be sure to align the template with the horizontal line.


The center ellipse should look like this...


5 - To make a border around the center ellipse, use a ruler held perpendicular to the ellipse line and make tic marks equidistant from the line all the way around. (Hint: Don't try to use a larger line on the template - the proportions won't match up with your initial ellipse.)


Use the tic marks as a guide to draw a solid line. The border space around the center ellipse can be embellished any way you like.


6 - Make tic marks to allow for a 1/10" border just inside the outside border line on the page. Divide the space between those marks and the center ellipse in half. Make tic marks on both sides of the halfway marks. (You're marking the 1/10" space that divides the boxes.)


7 - Lay a piece of tracing paper over the page and use a pencil to lightly sketch an elliptical shape to connect the marks you just made. The new ellipse should echo the shape of the center one. You only need to sketch the new ellipse in one quadrant. Use the tracing paper pattern to transfer the design to the other three quadrants. Be sure to draw a double line with a 1/10" space between the lines.


8 - Repeat Step 7 to draw a larger ellipse between the middle ellipse and the outside edge of the page.


9 - Add more equally spaced division lines to the outside ellipse. The lines should appear to radiate from the center, so align a ruler with the center point on the page and rotate it around the page to draw your lines. Make sure the quadrants match, except for the lower center box which is larger, to give us a total of 31 days.


10 - Ink all the layout lines, as shown in the image below, then erase the pencil lines.

You're ready to start filling your boxes with daily sketches!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

January Calendar - Part I

Occasionally I get the urge to keep a sketched daily calendar for a full month. Last spring I did three months in a row in MarchApril, and May, and that was enough to last me for awhile. I figured I would do another month whenever the mood struck, and eventually I would have a whole year's worth.

On the first day of 2019, the mood definitely struck, and I decided to dive in and do another month. I was inspired to use a different layout than the other calendars I had done last year. After all, who says a calendar has to have five rows of seven boxes each? I decided to base my layout on an ellipse rather than a rectangle.

Unfinished January calendar, 12" x 9" American Journey Watercolor Sketchbook with 140 lb. cold pressed paper

Each day I designed a little box filled with simple sketches and text about what I had done that day, where I went, who came to visit, etc. The process I used for getting the images down on the page enabled me to test various ideas before committing to ink and paper.

Here's the process ...
  • Lay a piece of tracing paper over an individual box and tape it in place with painter's tape.
  • Design the images and text on the tracing paper. (Lines are so easy to erase from tracing paper, and you don't have to worry about messing up the page with lots of erasing.)
  • Flip the tracing paper over and retrace the lines on the back side with an HB pencil.
  • Position the tracing paper, right side up, in place over the box. Tape in place.
  • Rub over the image with your finger or fingernail to transfer the pencil lines to the paper.
  • Remove the tracing paper.
  • Ink the lines. I used a black Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen.
  • Erase pencil lines with a kneaded or white plastic eraser.
Alternatively, you could transfer the images using graphite transfer paper.

Here's a closer look at the 31 days...

I'm planning to leave the squares/boxes black and white, but I'll add color to the borders between the boxes and also add an inked border around the outside edge of the page to frame it. I'll be sure to post when it's finished.

Would you like to see how I came up with that crazy elliptical layout? Click here.

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