"2020 illustrated calendar"

by Sanja Stiković

2019 was coming to an end and two weeks before the new year I got the idea to create an illustrated calendar. I wanted to combine functionality and art, into something that has a purpose but is also pretty to look at, so I set myself a challenge to finish the project in two weeks and publish it before the new year, so that people can actually use it when the new year comes.

This was my first bigger personal project and I gave myself very little time to finish it, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice the quality, so I worked on it for hours every day and surprisingly, I never got tired of it. I felt confident in what I was doing, and the fact that I could see my progress from first to the illustration I did (they weren’t done chronologically, to avoid having the last months being completely different than the first) really helped me to step out of my comfort zone and experiment despite my deadline getting closer.

I wanted for the illustrations to have a backstory – something I’ve always struggled with. I didn’t have anything in particular in mind when I started, but as the drawings started coming together, the stories behind them did as well. My goal was to make an illustration you could look at for a while and keep finding new details that help narrate the story (and also keep the illustration interesting even after a month of it hanging on your wall heh). Little frogs hiding, spiders having to exchange small talk, framed pictures on the wall and other Easter eggs make the drawings look like captured moments, and what is most interesting to me, is that later, when the calendar saw the light of day people came up with their own stories that I didn’t even think of in the first place!

I imagined a sort of post-apocalyptic world without humans, a whimsical, careless universe where all the creatures live in harmony and just happily do their own thing. I draw the inspiration for my style from countless incredible artists, animated TV shows and movies, nature and animals, add my own spin on it and mush it together into something I like to call post-apocalyptic cuteness – a combination of adorable animals and not so adorable creepy stuff.

The process

As for my process, it is pretty simple, I still like to sketch traditionally, as it gives me way more control, and I don’t really bother with the details at this point, I just want to figure out the composition and the basic elements. I then take a photo and upload it to my drawing program, maybe tweak it to get the composition right and then start with the linework.

I like to keep the linework layer very clean so I really take my time with this one, adding details as I go along and just being spontaneous about it, the best ideas usually come to me at this point, when I’m in the flow of things.

After the linework follows the coloring (layers layers layers), then shadows and highlights (low opacity colors) and at the end (my favorite part) I play around with the colors until I like the look of it :)

I ended up finishing the calendar in a little under three weeks. I put the digital PDF in my store, so that people could print it at home, and printed a few for my friends and family as well. I’m not the kind of person that hangs their own art on the wall because I’d just get tired of it and hate it, but this calendar might be an exception because I’m still pretty proud of it.
It showed me that I’m capable of finishing an intimidating project if I set my mind to it and that the thing everybody says but nobody wants to hear (draw more and you’ll get better at it)- is true.

Back to Creative Inspiration Gallery

Sanja Stiković is also featured in our sticker buyer’s guide found here on Creativehowl, 32 Artists & Illustrators to Buy Stickers from