November 17, 2022


Calendars (wall for 2023): Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave; Fragile World. Universe/Andrews McMeel, $16.99 (Tomorrow); Andrews McMeel, $16.99 (Fragile).

     Broadly speaking, wall calendars fall into one of two categories: ones that emphasize words and ones that draw attention to pictures. And each type invites your participation throughout the year – albeit in different ways. A pleasantly inspirational word-focused calendar, for example, is Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by illustrator Jessica Hische. The key here is not the messages themselves, which are suitably uplifting but scarcely original. It is the way Hische’s designs accent and interpret the fairly straightforward words that can make this calendar a pleasure to have on your wall all year – worth at least one glance a day and probably more (for the sake of re-inspiration). Each month has the words “Tomorrow I’ll Be” in an everyday type style at the top, with the word “Tomorrow” slightly curved. Then the design elements take over, with each month getting a single very large, emphasized word with its own eye-catching appearance. In addition to “Brave,” the words are “Kind,” “Honest,” “Confident,” “Curious,” “Strong,” “Patient,” “Creative,” “Smart,” “Adventurous,” “Grateful,” and “Helpful.” And each looks totally different from the others – although there are a few recurring features, such as the use in various places of cartoon animal characters, including a long-eared white rabbit in several months, a dragon in “Confident,” a zebra and other animals at a kids’ playground in “Patient,” an elephant dressed as a wizard in “Honest,” and so forth. This is not primarily a cartoon calendar, though: the words really do get most of the attention. “Confident” appears on the two-page spread of an open book, “Brave” is in a very large tree (or the tree’s many branches are growing through the word’s letters), “Curious” is spelled out using stars in a nighttime scene, and so on. The forms of the words’ letters differ quite a bit, too, with “Grateful” full of curls and curlicues and “Creative” in curved block letters with a 3-D look to them. A bonus poster provides an extra touch of self-assertive self-improvement, and the calendar as a whole offers a distinctive way of using wall space with room to make notes for each day of each month, plus an illustration that not only urges being even better in some aspect of life the next day but also makes it clear that even on a day that is not particularly good, tomorrow there is an option to improve, at least incrementally, in a wide variety of ways.

     The cartoon pictures are incidental in Hische’s illustrations, but the art is the entire point of the Fragile World calendar by Kerby Rosanes. This is a spectacularly detailed set of wall-art pieces, all of which invite thoughtfulness (they are nature-focused as reminders of Earth’s wildlife, including vulnerable or endangered animals) and very direct participation (they are all in black-and-white and can all be colored, either a bit at a time during each month or all at once). Rosanes has long specialized in art that looks highly attractive in its original black-and-white form, but still allows colorists to express their creativity in ways both big and small. A “big” way for this calendar might involve coloring the Galapagos sea lions that are featured for August or the New Zealand lesser short-tailed bats that appear for October, while a “small” way would relate to coloring the settings that Rosanes creates for these and the other animals shown during the year: the snowy landscape behind the Amur leopard (January), for example, or the bananas and other fruits shown surrounding an extreme close-up of a mandrill (June). Most Rosanes illustrations here focus on showing the animals super-realistically, but there are a few in which he offers the surreal scenes that are a characteristic of his creativity, such as one for July that shows a Philippine eagle appearing to carry an entire landscape, with mountains, on its back. Colorists who favor the realistic approach will want to investigate the real-world appearance of all these animals and match their own drawings to reality – but those with a more fanciful frame of mind are entirely free to create color palettes of any sort, both for the animals and for their surroundings. Rosanes’ point is to draw attention to the fragility of these animals and, by extension, the world they (and we) inhabit. That is a worthy goal for the entire year, and one that can bring a mixture of enjoyment and thoughtful concern to anybody who chooses to display this calendar prominently on a wall – and color the illustrations realistically, imaginatively, or not at all.

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