A Minute in the City 4-22-21: The 20-Month Calendar

Before I created my first calendar in 2017, I did everything I could to streamline the process. I researched packaging and shipping and framing to make sure my product conformed to standard sizes. I created templates for my illustrations to minimize inconsistencies from month to month. I inventoried things I already owned to cut show costs. I carved out time for social media and promotion. I even planned illustrations for the first seven years of the calendar, just in case my idea took hold.

The one thing I didn’t do was to start a second calendar before my first one had wrapped, figuring I might jinx things if I got too far ahead of myself. But since then, a natural rhythm has set in – owing mostly to production and show schedules. And I have come to accept the fact that, though each year starts on January 1st and ends on December 31st, my calendar business need not be constrained to 12 months. Time is a continuum.

April is a good month in A YEAR IN THE CITY land. This is the time that I nail down pictures for a calendar year that will start 20 months from now. For a few glorious weeks, I drive and walk the metro area in search of twelve perfect visual stories. Sites are selected for their coolness or their quaintness or their historical significance or sometimes just because they’re brand spanking new. I throw these ideas into the seven-year mix, changing things around as needed. In the end, I want to have mostly outdoor scenes with varied color palettes, preferably drawing from all parts of the city and county. Some sites may feature kids. Others, adults. Most of them need to appeal to people of all ages.

With my camera full of pictures, I tear into the illustrations, which can take up to 30 hours apiece. I space these out over a nine-month period – usually completing one or two a month. When I’m finally happy with all twelve, I create the calendar itself, checking and rechecking dates and holidays, tweaking colors, editing blurbs. And then it goes to print, one full year after I started it.

In the months that follow, I bind, package, promote, and sell my calendar – all while creating the next one! Today, for example, I am blogging from the kitchen, where my 2021 calendar hangs on the wall. And I’m getting ready for Laumeier – the first art fair of the year – where I’ll be selling my new 2022 calendar. And I am creating illustrations for 2023.

With the snow we got this week, I’m not entirely sure we’re in the month of April. And I really couldn’t tell you what year it is. But I’m not sure any of that matters. Time, after all, is a continuum. And, in the calendar business, that’s a very good thing.


A YEAR IN THE CITY is now in its 5th year! The new 2022 calendar features the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, the sunflower fields at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, and the Katy Trail. For calendar details, please visit ayearinthecity.com.

A Minute in the City 4-5-21: A Moment on the Bridge

Is it just me, or is everyone vowing to reorder their lives right now, pledging to live life differently on the other side of COVID? It feels like a pivotal time for all humanity.

But this illustration of the Clark Bridge was a pre-COVID endeavor. I took my reference shots in August of 2019 and completed the artwork the following January. My aim was to capture the bridge and the town of Alton in a single shot, because I found Alton every bit as interesting as the road to get there. Alton, with its brick streets so steep they seemed to rise right out of the river. Alton, with its grain elevator, century-old row houses and modern-day casino – all in a single block. Alton, with its eagle-sightings and legendary hauntings. I was really going to have to get into the weeds to tell that story.

And I did. My photos of Alton were taken from the banks of the river on the Missouri side. I had to actually climb down to the shore line to take them. But when I uploaded the pics to my computer some time later, I realized there wasn’t much “there there.” No one was going to see Alton in this picture. They were never going to get past the bridge.

Here’s the thing about bridges. You really can’t see much when you’re on them. What’s behind you is behind you, and there’s no looking back. What’s ahead is often obscured by the bridge’s arc. And that’s where I feel we are right now, standing in this place between the recent past and near future, trying to figure out who we’ll be when we get to the other side. What should carry with us moving forward? What should we leave behind? For once we’re aware of the magnitude of our decisions.

In many ways the pandemic has been like a bridge between two lifetimes, and I expect the memories of this time will always be poignant ones. For me, the pace of life has slowed, and I’ve come to savor that. Interactions with others have become rare, so I’ve found them even more joyful. The uncluttering of my personal space has given me a renewed sense of value. The loss of life has given me reason to appreciate those I still have.

As much as I long to return to a pre-COVID world, I am grateful for this moment. No matter what awaits on the other side, I don’t think I’ll ever get past the bridge.


The Clark Bridge is the subject of my March 2021 calendar page. It is also available as a litho print. For a full listing of products, please see ayearinthecity.com.