Using Advent Calendars–Insights and Learnings

Dec 3, 2015

It’s not too late to count up to Christmas with an Advent calendar. Templates are available here

My friend Cindy O gave me permission to doodle about 30 years ago. She encouraged me to enjoy the process of moving pen and colored markers on paper and to forget about the end result. I have been a doodler ever since. Cindy has joined me in praying Advent calendars since 2008. Here is her 2008 calendar followed by a list of things she learned about the process. Do not be intimidated by her drawing ability! My calendars never look this good.

Cindy Advent 2008 export 800 max

At first I was apprehensive with all those little boxes on the blank calendar. How would I fill them all up? Would I run out of things to draw? Would I ruin it halfway through week 3? But something emerged every day. And I didn’t ruin it.
• The boxes seemed very small (1 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches), but they were very spacious. My note cards (4 x 6-ish) now seem enormous.
• The words and the drawings illuminated each other – Not “illustrating a word” or “labeling a picture,” as I would have predicted. The spaces have become icon-like for me, windows into someplace else. “We are leaving ordinary time” became true of the calendar.
• I loved seeing the themes and color patterns emerge. Candles for Sundays, blue and beige/yellow for Saturdays, large words to decorate, purple/red/pink, purple and blue, red and green, and brown making a comeback in week 3. The pictures are all very different from each other, but they go together somehow.
• Some days the words came first, and other days the drawing came first. Either way, choosing the words took me deeper into the Advent messages. I spent as much time there as on the drawings, reflecting on the words and the hymns, prayers, or scriptures they came from. Music is embedded too, because of the words.
• The drawing was right-brain, and the word choices were left-brain. Now they are fused together.
• I tried a lot of different techniques, some of them new, like the lace for the 3rd Sunday. The small size encouraged me to try it in a finished picture, even if I might not want it for a larger scale.
• They are all my favorites, and there’s not a single one that I want to do over. This probably ties back to the icon aspect of it. I didn’t expect that. I assumed some would turn out ugly. At the very least, I expected some would be nicer than others.
• I drew things I never thought I could draw – the pressed glass candlestick for the 2nd Sunday, the Nativity scene. And other things I never would have consciously decided to draw – “the Lord is near” with neon glow in week 4, the landscape in week 2, the “way” in week 1.
• Without the Copic markers, I wouldn’t have kept it going. I needed the reinforcement of how beautiful it looked. In the same way, I seem to need the beauty of words, music, liturgy, and space in worship. From my upbringing, I feel I shouldn’t need that so much, but I do.
• I did a lot of pencil layouts and sketching. But the drawings still look free. That makes me happy.
• I loved being able to scan & share with Sybil weekly as I went along. Never thought the scanner on the printer would get so much use.
• It was very soul-satisfying. Just the right pace. I am so glad I tried it.
• When I finished the Nativity drawing, I could feel the weight of 25 days of advent hopes and longings, all resting in that one scene. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Thanks to Cindy for her insights about the calendars. Her website is Mostly Markers. You can follow her growing Advent calendar for this year on the site.