Thursday, May 3, 2018

April Calendar Sketch

I had so much fun last month keeping a daily sketched calendar that I decided to continue with the month of April. (Read about my March 2018 calendar here.)

Click to enlarge

Never one to get stuck in a rut, I changed my layout to reflect the essence of April. It's a month of high hopes and deep disappointments, of fickle weather and happy surprises. It's a month of ups and downs - daffodils nodding their heads in a soft spring breeze in the morning, and, that evening, winds so strong that they shake the house.


But I survived those thirty capricious days, sketching a little something every day to remember them.

I began this calendar page by trying out a new art material, Con-Tact paper! I first drew some guidelines on my page, so I could line up the tilted squares. I used the layout detailed in this blog post. I cut thirty 1-1/4" squares (with an Xacto knife and cutting mat), peeled off the paper backing and, eyeballing the angles, I stuck them down on the page, rubbing each one firmly in place and offsetting the Con-Tact paper squares from the penciled-in squares I had drawn.


This is a 12" x 9" American Journey Journaling Sketchbook from Cheap Joe's. It has twenty pages of 140 lb. hot-pressed Saunders Waterford watercolor paper. The paper has some tooth to it, rather than being smooth like most hot-pressed watercolor papers.

The next step was to mix up some watercolor paint in a fine mist spray bottle. I first spritzed on yellow paint, to give the page a nice warm glow. After it was dry, I sprayed on sap green.


When the paint was completely dry, I peeled away the Con-Tact paper to reveal thirty little calendar squares, waiting to be filled.


It was exciting for me to see all those empty spaces, not knowing what would happen during that month and what I would choose to paint. Oh, the possibilities!

April 1st was Easter, and we had the whole family over for an Easter egg hunt and a big ham dinner. I have four grandchildren, ages 2-11, so it was a fun day and the perfect choice for day 1 on my calendar.


Easter may have been sunny and pleasant, but the next day we awoke to a winter wonderland, with several inches of snow covering every branch and twig. It was beautiful!


The next day the snow melted, and we were treated to a hodge-podge of thunder, rain, and hail!

On the 4th of April, I had no choice but to try to depict the wind in my sketch-of-the-day. Our house sits on a hill, and the wind blew so hard that day that the windows were rattling and the walls were shaking. It was a memorable wind!


Chickadees entertain us all winter long at the bird feeders outside our kitchen window, so I included one in my sketch for day 5. Throughout the month I tried to come up with unique ways to include the date in my calendar squares, and this in one of my favorites.

This next sketch may look like a root beer float, but it's really a cappuccino freddo, my daily morning wake-up coffee drink. I first tasted cappuccino freddo in Athens, and now I'm hooked. I make it with instant Nescafe espresso powder and organic milk each morning, and sip it while I paint.


On April 7th I had a visit from the grandkids. We played games, baked a cake, and had fun playing outside. I love being a grandma!

Chocolate cake with caramel frosting is so-o-o-o yummy. It deserved a spot on the calendar.


A portrait of our Golden Retriever, Buckley, was the subject for April 9th. He likes lying next to my chair as I paint. He's the perfect painting buddy - always supportive and never critical.

My grandkids played hooky from school on the 10th & 11th so we could all go to Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. It's a huge indoor water park with pools, slides, a lazy river, and fun activities for the kids. We had a great time, but they never did convince me to go down the BIG waterslide. I'm a chicken at heart.


The weather warmed up on the 12th and dried out the garden so we could till it. I use the word "we" very loosely. You can see who's pictured with the tiller in his hands...Fred. I shoveled and raked the dirt into rows and planted strawberry plants, sugar snaps, and lettuce. By the end of the month, everything was growing nicely.


My daughter is being featured in a business magazine this summer, and they did the photo shoot at my house on the 14th. So exciting!


The daffodils started blooming by the middle of the month...


and I tried a new recipe for Cowboy Caviar, a bean salad-type dish that's yummy with tortilla chips.

After all the pretty spring weather earlier in the week, it was a shock to the system to see snow falling again on the 17th.


The next day, the snow melted and Fred and I got to work tackling the jungle of plants around the house. Pruning, pulling, chopping, hauling - man, that's hard work!

On the 19th, I went on a mission to find enough matching folding chairs for a seating area in my teaching studio. I found what I wanted at Target, but then had to go to every Target store within 60 miles to cobble together the number of chairs that I needed. I was all over the map...


On day 20, I think I finally went over the edge in my efforts to include a lot of information in a 1-1/4" square. I drew a grocery cart filled to overflowing with food. After it was finished, I held it up and looked at it and thought, "You must be crazy! I think you've finally lost it. You don't need to put EVERYTHING in the picture!" (I do like the way I oh-so-cleverly included the date on the bag of potatoes, though.)


I learned my lesson and kept things simpler the next day when I painted the seed packets from the flower seeds I started indoors...


Sunday the 22nd was my grandson Nicholas's 7th birthday. He was born on Good Friday and Earth Day, a very special little boy, indeed. He loves all things outer space, so he had a sun-and-planets birthday cake.


Our Alpine Lake Painting Retreat began the next day in Terra Alta, WV, and since it was a rare sunny day, we all headed to Swallow Falls State Park for a little plein air sketching. The water was high due to all the spring rains, so the falls were spectacular. (This is the one day out of the month that I forgot to put a date on my square. When I realized my omission, I decided I didn't want to ruin my little sketch, so I left it off.)


By the way, here's the sketch I did that day at the park...

Ink & watercolor in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman and Birn softcover Zeta series sketchbook

It was a relief to work a bit larger after spending so much time on the tiny calendar squares for the past two months. And the Zeta paper always forces me to paint looser, it seems. The paint slides around on the paper, and I don't layer as much, so it ends up looking more spontaneous.

We had a tasty lunch the next day at the Cornish Cafe in Oakland, MD, and did a little shopping before we headed back to Alpine Lake. We can't paint all the time! (Can you spot the date on this sketch?)


The rain stopped long enough on the 25th for us to venture out for a walk along the lake, where we spotted a lone loon swimming offshore. We tried playing loon calls on our cell phones to try to entice it to come closer, but it maintained a safe distance from the "loony" ladies on the shore.


The last full day of the painting retreat was the 26th (I'll share what I painted in an upcoming post), and I spent hours painting, so I chose my sketchbook and palette as my calendar subject that day.

In the flowerbeds at our rental cottage were several groupings of hellebores, or Lenten roses. It was the first time I had ever seen that flower up close, and the colors were simply luscious. I enjoyed seeing them everytime I went in and out the front door, so I wanted to include them in my sketch.


Back home after the retreat, it was time to do laundry, and I was so happy to have a sunny day that I decided to hang clothes outside on the line to dry. Do you love sketching laundry as much as I do?


April's full moon came on the 29th of the month. It's called the pink moon because the moss pink, or creeping phlox, blooms at this time each year. I drew and painted this sketch of the full moon, trees, and hills, then thought it looked too empty, so I added a white-tailed deer. (They may look sweet and picturesque, but they devour my daylilies and azaleas like we eat chocolate chip cookies!)


And finally.......the pink azalea just off the stone patio on the south side of our house is always the first one to burst into bloom. It somehow escaped the notice of the neighborhood herd this winter and is now covered with blossoms. Spring finally feels like it's here to stay.


30 days! Another month completed.


All those days, all those little moments, they make up a life, and it's worth it to me to take the time to memorialize them with pen and paint. They may not be important in the whole great big scheme of things, but I treasure the life we've made here. The everyday life of everyday people. It's worth celebrating, even if it's only in little 1-1/4" squares.

Doing this project has made me slow down for a few minutes each day and reflect. It's kept me from going through my days on auto pilot. And, looking back, I see the richness that's there. I see family and friends, pets and wildlife, fun events, and quiet moments.  These are the real things in life, and this is why I journal - to press the pause button and be grateful, to tell the story of my everyday life.

Normal day, 
let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me learn from you, love you, 
bless you before you depart. 
Let me not pass you by 
in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. 
Let me hold you while I may, 
for it may not always be so. 
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, 
or bury my face in the pillow, 
or stretch myself taut, 
or raise my hands to the sky 
and want, 
more than all the world, 
your return.


― Mary Jean Irion

10 comments:

  1. Great post Leslie! What a beautiful way to document those everyday “sacred” moments of life!

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    1. Thanks, Annie. Give it a try sometime. I'd love to see what you do with it.

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  2. So true. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. This is such a great way to keep track of the days. It makes each day special.

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    1. So true, Terri. It's not always easy to keep up with it, but it's so satisfying at the end of the month when I look back over all those days, and it has certainly gotten me painting almost every day.

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  4. I LOVE this post Leslie!! What a great idea! These tiny pictures, memorializing each day are so wonderful. Thanks for sharing the technique for blocking out the squares- that's not as bad as I thought it might be!! I think I might give this one a try! I love the thought of slowing down to record these events whether special days or simple days, they all become wonderful when we look at them the way you've recorded them!! Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. You're welcome, Roxanne. I hope you will give it a try. It teaches you a lot about many different things: focus, design, painting, perseverance, and appreciation.

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  5. You are a bottomless well of creativity, Leslie! I love your use of Con-Tact paper to make April a little different from March, and the spritzed background looks great! I need to start a “Leslie” notebook of all the things I learn from you. :-)

    "All those days, all those little moments, they make up a life, and it's worth it to me to take the time to memorialize them with pen and paint. They may not be important in the whole great big scheme of things, but I treasure the life we've made here. The everyday life of everyday people. It's worth celebrating, even if it's only in little 1-1/4" squares.

    Doing this project has made me slow down for a few minutes each day and reflect. It's kept me from going through my days on auto pilot. And, looking back, I see the richness that's there. I see family and friends, pets and wildlife, fun events, and quiet moments. These are the real things in life, and this is why I journal - to press the pause button and be grateful, to tell the story of my everyday life.”

    Yes. This.

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  6. Oh I just love this post, it is adorable! Especially the sketch of the puppy; gorgeous!

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