My grandpa is a great watercolor painter, and my dad knows his way around a pencil and sketchpad, too, so I’ve always wondered if that artistic gene made its way into my system. I’ve long harbored a secret thought about my potential painting prowess which, embarrassingly, is most aptly expressed by one Lady Catherine de Bourgh: “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”And so, in a fit of creative optimism, I purchased a set of watercolors, a slew of brushes and some blocks of the very best paper and set about becoming the proficient I knew I could be.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much practice goes into being good at something.
Since first setting brush to paper, I’ve managed to create some happy little cacti and a few not-so-terrible peonies, but the only thing I’ve really mastered is the humble paint swatch. I could sit for hours and hours, loading my brush with paint, dipping it in water and tracing square after square on the toothy paper. And you know what? I find them really beautiful. The simple shapes let the color and texture of the paint shine through.
Because I’ve come to love the paint swatch (actually, my love is long-standing; I used to beg my mom to let me collect a small mass of paint chips anytime we took a trip to Home Depot as a kid), I figured: what better way to add color to my day—and desk—than swiping some color across the top of a homemade calendar. It’s a simple and very satisfying project that is easily completed in front of your current favorite TV show.
For this project, you’ll need the following:
• good watercolors (I use Winsor & Newton)*
• a big ol’ watercolor brush (I love this one in a size 16)
• good cold-pressed watercolor paper
• a mini easel
*A couple of notes: Not to sound too much like Ina, but when you’re painting with watercolors, it’s really important to use high-quality paint and paper. I love the incredible saturation I can achieve with Winsor & Newton Professional watercolor tubes, and I almost exclusively paint on Arches cold-pressed paper blocks. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes when you use these professional-grade materials versus the five-dollar watercolor pans you used in elementary school. For this project, however, I opted for a watercolor paper that was pre-cut in 6″ x 6″ squares, so I didn’t have to worry about waisting my Arches paper and cutting out perfect squares.
1. Tear 12 pages from your watercolor pad. We want them to be separate from the start so you can paint them one after the other and not have to worry about tearing off the paper while the paint is wet.
2. Using a pencil and a ruler, loosely sketch out where you’d like your calendar to be. I drew light lines and inch and a half from either side of the paper and a little more than half-way down the paper so I knew where to start my numbers.
3. Starting with yellow, paint a big, free-form swatch on the top of your first month. Work your way through all 12 months in ROYGBIV order. Let dry completely.
4. With a fine felt-tip pen, add the monthly calendar to each month.
5. Display on a mini easel and enjoy your watercolor desktop calendar all year long!