The Completed 2016 Christmas Art Countdown

When I first decided on doing my own Christmas advent challenge in early November, I was a bit skeptical as to whether I would actually be able to keep up with it everyday for the entire length of the challenge. Well, I have to say, my first Christmas Art Countdown was a SMASHING success!!

Not only was I able to post my designs daily to Instagram, but I managed to add 13 completed Christmas designs to my portfolio (and a few others that will be added after some tweaking). Here's the entire set of designs – you can see the detail of each individual design in my Instagram feed.

2016 Christmas Art Countdown Advent Challenge |  ©2016 Shannon McNab

And after spending a bit of time reflecting on my completed designs, I realized that the reason I managed to post daily was entirely due to all my pre-planning.

In the past, I've discussed how I used pre-planning when I was designing digital scrapbook products, but I never thought to apply that wisdom to building my surface design portfolio until I created this challenge. Whoa, what a game changer!

So what pre-planning went into this challenge. Here was my 3-step approach:

Step 1: Cohesive Color Scheme

The first thing I did after finalizing my list in early November, was to pull together an easy-to-work-with color story so the entire set looked cohesive. I opted for a fairly traditional palette that focused on red, green, and tan with touches of blue and pink. Picking my color palette before the challenge started really helped determine the overall vibe of my designs.

Step 2: Sketch Rough Thumbnails Ahead of Time

By the time December 1st rolled around, I think I had quick sketches of at least 50% of the prompts in my sketchbook which really helped me stay on track. And once December arrived, I'd spend an hour each weekend sketching any remaining ideas for the following week's prompts so I was prepared to complete each piece with plenty of time to spare.

Step 3: Finish the daily prompts BEFORE the day it's "Due"

In all but one instance (Day 23: Santa), I finished each prompt 2-5 days beforehand. I'm one who never likes to play "catch up" as it causes me unnecessary stress and by creating my designs in advance of the actual prompt day, it meant I was more at ease when completing each piece.


Another tip I should mention (maybe it should be Step 4), is that it's wise to take a break after completing such a daunting challenge. I had already planned on taking the week off between Christmas and New Years and I'm SO glad I did! I'm sure if I had planned any other design deadlines right after my challenge was over, I would have had a much different (& far less happy) experience.

I guess the bigger question is will I be doing this challenge again in 2017? Since I have no idea what's in store for me in the new year (especially leading up to and even after Surtex in May), I'm going to wait until November to decide if I want to try the challenge again. 

I hope you all have a wonderful day celebrating the New Year! I'm really looking forward to 2017 – I already know it will be a year to remember. Cheers!


Christmas Art Countdown: A Holiday Advent Challenge

It's been a few months since I announced that I'll be exhibiting at Surtex in 2017. Since then, I've been working furiously behind the scenes adding new work to my portfolio.

And I know I'm taking a bit of an unconventional approach to Surtex as I've never before walked the show, yet I'll be exhibiting sight unseen, and that's why I've been soaking up as much information about the show as I can get my hands on.

Perhaps the single most useful thing I've been told since starting my Surtex journey is that the majority of my portfolio should be focused on Christmas and floral themed designs.

The advice was from Jennifer Nelson during one of her live Prep Talk sessions (if you are currently working towards exhibiting at any surface design show, these sessions have been so helpful and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you sign up for them).

Before hearing that, I was had no clear direction with how or what to build my portfolio with. And now??? You can bet I'm spending all December on nothing but holiday designs. And that leads me to my first ever Christmas Advent Challenge.

2016 Christmas Art Countdown: A Christmas Advent Challenge by Shannon McNab

At first, I thought I'd just join one of the many advent challenges already out there on Instagram.

But I realized that since the whole point of this project is to build on my current body of work, I needed to focus on the types of motifs that would best benefit my portfolio.

And because I love hand lettering almost as much as illustration and patterns, I was inspired by Dawn Nicole's monthly challenges to focus half the days on holiday typography.

Also, by creating the list early (I created this graphic a few weeks ago), it's given me time to conceptualize design ideas and prepare for a month of daily art. I decided to post this challenge publicly because I'm hoping it will help me stay accountable and keep me motivated to create new designs every day.

I'd also love to encourage you to join me in this challenge! Feel free to pin the image above to Pinterest or share my post on Instagram so you'll remember the prompts for each day. And be sure to use the hashtag #christmasartcountdown and tag me @smcnabstudio on Instagram anytime you post your work so I can see your lovely designs!