The Making of an Advent Calendar

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Dear friends,

We have had an amazing response to our illustrated Advent calendar for 2020! We really had no idea. I told my husband that I did not think I had a chance of being able to pull off an Advent calendar... Obviously I underestimated what prayer and grace are capable of, and now I have been humbled. About a week before the first Sunday of Advent I was looking around online for supplements to help with living the advent season more deeply according to the traditional calendar. As many of you probably know there is not much out there for the old calendar. I was disappointed, but it also inspired me that even if I could not make a particularly nice calendar, it was still worth doing. Many of you may have heard of the quote by GK Chesterton 'anything worth doing is worth doing poorly...' At least this is the frame of mind that got me to decide to begin.

With three calendars already under my belt I was able to get started more quickly. I began by reading over the Gospels for each Sunday and then finding images (usually from the missal) that I thought children would most especially connect with. Next, I look for any first-class and second class feasts that fall during the week - for these I usually have larger images. After that I begin mapping out the feast days and searching for images of the saints that seem to fit with the emerging design. I also begin to think about borders, headers, and other images that will help the children enter more fully into the season. I look up the moon phases and things in nature that coincide with the liturgical season to help children form the important connection between these two realities -- the natural world and the spiritual world. It is a mystery how the Holy Ghost inspired the creation of the liturgical year over the centuries following Christ's life as the Church grew. But, we do know that it was closely linked to the seasons and what people were experiencing in the natural world around them -- I hope the illustrated calendars can help recapture some of this union.

There is still much that I hope to improve in these calendars over the years because, as you may have guessed, my hope is to illustrate the entire liturgical year... of course only by the help of grace and prayer. There are several persons, among them deacons, priests, and monks, who have offered to help ensure that all the content of the calendars is in keeping with our Catholic tradition and the deposit of faith that has been passed down through the centuries. I live near Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert Oklahoma - The monks here follow the new calendar with regards the saints feasts (called the sanctoral cycle) --- with some exceptions because of preference for Benedictine saints --- but the old calendar for Sundays and other major liturgical feasts throughout the year (called the temporal cycle). In keeping with their spirit, these illustrated calendars give preference to the old calendar, but I also try to incorporate as much as I am able of the new calendar (without ever leaving out the old!) It is my hope that someday the troubles created by the differences of these two calendars will be reconciled... I can hope right? But it certainly makes it tricky sometimes.

Back to the process --- after I sketch out a basic plan for the overall calendar and have all the elements captured, I then transfer everything using a light box to a pen and ink sketch. This then becomes the black and white version of the calendar that is fun for children and adults to color. My previous three calendars never progressed beyond this step. But thanks to my dear little sister, Rose, who is also an amazing artist, we were able to then go beyond and translate everything into a full color calendar.

I won't go through all the details of how we did this since there was so much trial and error and it would take too long... But the basics are that the image was transferred onto watercolor paper (which is where most of the color comes from) and then details are done with colored pencil.

Rose and I worked side by side to make sure that all the colors flowed well and had a connected feeling... It was quite the marathon and my hands have been sore for several days since. Here are a few pictures my dad took and shared with me when he popped over to check on our work.