April Calendar Free Download

    Welcome to April! It’s probably my favourite time of the year. It’s the first full month of spring, the days are longer, temperatures are just about right, nature is at its best. And is also my birthday month. My new day job is not leaving me with much time to paint, as I hoped, but I’m doing my best. My perpetual nature journal is being filled in every week, my current everyday sketchbook is coming to its last few pages and I’m a bout to embark on the “100 day project” (you can read about last year’s challenge here). 

Hope April brings you lots of beautiful and happy moments!
Click on the image below to download.

March Calendar Free Download


March starts the beginning of a new phase of my life. A new day job, which means lots of adjustments, lots of planning and lots of work trying to find a new balance. Our family routine hasn’t been shaken up too much, but surely my daily rhythm has had a sharp turning point. Sitting at my desk to paint daily is going be a distant memory, nonetheless I’m planning to carve out time to create, anytime, anywhere I can.   

Digging out my pen and brush while out and about with the family during the weekend will be on my wish list. And I’m surely will be carrying my painting travel kit everywhere.

Bedtime doodles is another option, less viable as I’m not a night owl and I find working after the kids are asleep almost impossible. But a late afternoon coffee could be of help!

I love sketching in the car before and after work. It’s becoming my favourite quiet and creative time.

And maybe doing a bit of planning and research during my lunch break could help making the most of my free time. Life with kids and a day job is hard, but fulfilling nonetheless.


Enjoy your free monthly calendar and happy March everyone! Spring is on its way.
Click on the image below to download.

February News and Calendar Free Download

   I feel like we had the longest January ever! The Christmas holidays are by now a long distance memory and we are already longing for the first signs of spring.

I have been busy painting lately; the more I do it, the less I feel the pressure to make a masterpiece everytime I pick up a brush. My preferred subjects are dried leaves and small branches; anything that doesn’t tilt or fade overnight. And I’m getting obsessed with olive green!

I have also started an annual perpetual nature journal. It is a simple concept that doesn’t require too much energy and most of all doesn’t have to be completed in a year. Basically you take a blank journal, I’m using Stillman and Birn Zata Series, and date the first page to represent the first week of January (Jan 1-7). Then continue dating the pages to represent each week until you get back to January. Each week you put an entry, it could be a sketch, a painting, some notes, and carry on to the following year by turning the journal to the current week and entering a new drawing.

I’m currently working on a new website and shop, which I’m hoping to launch by the end of the month. Fingers crossed I don’t get swamped by too much coding.
Enjoy your free monthly calendar. Click on the image below to download.

January Calendar Free Download

I know we are already halfway through January, but I finally dug out that illustrated monthly calendar that I started back in September. Since I’m still working on some of the months, I will make each calendar available for download every first day of the month.
Click on the image below to download. Enjoy!


2-week holiday sketchbook challenge

  The holiday season is upon us and like every year I like to set out some plans for creating memories and recording the summer time in a way that is not just taking pictures and let them sit on my laptop for the years to come. I love travel journals, but with a busy family schedule during the holidays is becoming more and more difficult to set aside the time to fill in a sketchbook.
This summer I’m going to try a different approach and inspired by Sara Midda’s South of France – A sketchbook, I’ve put together an easy sketchbook challenge to help me make a visual record of my two week summer holiday.
How does it work
The challenge is open to everyone interested in creating a holiday sketchbook.
It contains a total of 7 prompts + 1 for the cover page. Each prompt will be developed over two days on a two-page spread to give me, and you, the chance to plan the page, gather informations and make up the time to complete it.
I will be using mainly watercolours, but really any other material or technique (photos, collages, etc) will do.
List of (suggested) materials
  • 8 loose sheets of paper (I will be using A4 watercolour sheets)
  • pencil + eraser + pencil sharpener (I will be using an HB pencil)
  • black sketching pen (I will be using a Staedtler 0.1 black liner)
  • brushes (10mm flat sable, no. 5 round sable, no.1 round synthetic)
  • watercolours (I will be using a travel set I made out of a mint tin, containing: winsor yellow, indian yellow, scarlet lake, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, french ultramarine, turquoise, winsor green blue shade, olive green, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, titanium white)

List of prompts

  • Cover Page: Create a front page for your sketchbook. It could be a fun and colourful front cover or a more descriptive one, adding places and dates of your holiday.
  • Colour Chart: Create one or more colour palette based on the surroundings. It could be based on the colours of a landscape, a garden, a house, whatever catches your eyes, or all of the above. Next to each colour write down the object it refers to; i.e. olive tree, rose, shatter, plate, sky, etc.
  • Food: Create a page to depict the local food. It could be seasonal food, a special recipe, a list of favourite plates, a restaurant menu, your breakfast, a holiday treat.
  • Weather: Create a page to take notes about the weather during your holiday. It could be a weather legend, a 24-hour pie chart with the sky’s colour for each slice, the weather forecast for the 2-week holiday.
  • Journaling: Create a page for your journaling notes to include facts, quotes, dooddles, weather, feelings, daily routine.
  • Landscapes: Create a set of thumbnails to show the surrounding landscapes or local sceneries (beachscapes, cityscapes, local markets, etc)
  • Patterns: Look for patterns around you and create a series of small thumbnails adding some notes.
  • A collection of…: Create a spread of objects that caught your attention. It could be something from nature (flowers, plants, trees, fruits, stones, etc.), from the surroundings (house numbers, windows, signs, etc) or simple objects (vases, bags, shoes, mugs, etc).
I’ve created 2 different downloadable summaries of the prompts to use as a reference (look at the end of the post), so you can have it with you the whole time during your holiday.

There’s really no right way of doing this; you can finish off each page spread or leave blank spaces to add things later on; you can add more prompts or complete the given ones within a week.

The challenge can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

I will be posting each prompt and my personal take on it on Instagram every other day starting Friday 15 July 2016.

Everyone is welcome to join in! Simply use the prompts as your inspiration and use the hashtag #2weekholidaysketchbook if you are posting your pages on Instagram so we can all see your work and tag me @marina_cerra if you are joining in.

You are more than welcome to do this challenge on your own blog, just link back to this post. Thanks! Also let me know in the comments if you decide to join in; I’d love to see where your creativity takes you. Feel free to share the list and invite your friends to join along with you.
Happy creative holiday!

Downloadable jpgs (for personal use only)

Working through the middle of a project

 I’m one of those people who tends to jump right into a project with a lot of enthusiasm, hard work and big ideas. But also, with not enough planning and thinking through it. This leads most often than not to be completely burned out half way through the process, bringing depression, self doubts and the lot.
I had already recognised a few years ago, that short term projects do work best for me as the initial momentum is enough to get me to the end; we are talking monthly commitments tops. Although, even in those instances, sometimes my interest shifts after a few days or weeks.
I guess it is totally normal to feel like this at times, but I felt the need to dig a big deeper and figure out why this happens.
I recently started listening to some podcasts while driving back home after my morning school run, and a few weeks back I came across the Creative Pep Talks by Andy J. Miller. In one of the episodes (sorry couldn’t figure out which one was) he talked about the some of the key factors one should have to accomplish anything. And apart from familiar terms, like skills, planning, etc. the phrase the most resonated with me was “knowing the whys”. Knowing why you are doing some particular project, why you are committing to this particular job, why you do things the way you do it.
It is not always easy to answer, at least in my case, but asking oneself the question at the beginning of a project (and maybe writing it down) I think will help keeping in mind the end goal, and will serve as a motivation to get through the hard part of it.
When I started my #100daysofleaves, the idea was to, and I quote, “commit to something just for fun”. Well, the fun ended about half way through it, when I realised there were other things I wanted to do and spend time on. The motivation, the why, behind starting this project was not strong enough and not well thought to keep me afloat during the dry spell. We are now on day 64 out of 100, and I just posted on Instagram my group picture for the past 4 days….
Clearly I feel like there is no point in carrying on with this project, yet my tendency to self destruction and stubbornness is keeping me from leaving it.
I also feel that the failure for not keeping it up is equally depressing that the failure for doing a bad job. So there’s no win here.
However, finding new motivations, creating new goals and actually shifting the why of this commitment from “doing something just for fun” to “create something good everyday”, or “make a small leaf painting everyday”, could bring the spark back and help me reach the end in a much better state than I feel right now.
What keeps you motivated throughout a project? Any tips you want to share?

100 days of leaves

 It feels like a lifetime ago when I had time to plan year long projects and play monthly challenges. Two kids later and an overseas move, I think it’s about time to commit to something just for fun.
The100DayProject with Elle Luna & The Great Discontent has been on my mind since it launched back in 2014. It’s a community based making project, open to everyone with basically no rules, if not public commitment to make/do something for 100 days; showing up day after day is the actual goal.
illustration by Elle Luna
My action for these 100 days of making will be to create a page depicting a leaf; it could be a drawing, a painting, a collage, a print, a dried leaf. I want it to leave it as open as possible to experiment and also to make it easier to stick to it.
I’ve already made a small journal to simplify the process. Let’s see if I can get to the end of it!

Follow the hashtags #the100dayproject and #100daysofleaves on Instagram to see all my instances in one place!

The 100 day project will start next Tuesday April 19th and end Wednesday July 27th 2016.
Are you in?

One year on

A year ago today we took a cab to the hospital at around 8am to have an induction and get labour started. I don’t remember vividly that morning; the only thing I knew for sure was that I thought we had waited long enough (too long!) and that I wanted you out as soon as possible. I was feeling a bit frustrated as all my pregnant friends had given birth already and I was the only one left still with a huge belly. You were 10 days overdue and were not giving any signs to wanting to meet us. It was hot, everyone had already left town to go on holiday and the streets were empty. We checked into A&E and waited together with other 6 couples. It was a very long wait and only one topic to talk about: babies! Around midday we finally got our room and at 2pm we headed to the delivery room to get induced. We stayed there for two hours but nothing happened if not just us taking pictures, looking at the beautiful views across Rome from the window, complaining about the heat and wondering what would be happening next. We got sent back to our room and spent the rest of the afternoon chit chatting with our room mates who were expecting twins and booked for a c-section the next day. I was due for another induction shot at 8pm, but at 7.30 while talking with our friends my water broke. We waited about 15 minutes before calling the midwife and by the time she arrived contractions had started. I remember leaning against the bed frame trying to remember what I had learned at yoga classes, the bee breath, the golden thread exercise, and so many other things I didn’t know I’d be able to remember. All the delivery rooms were full and we were assigned to the emergency one. I remember being able to walk out the door of our room and all of a sudden contractions getting too painful I needed a wheelchair. I took my time to get off the chair and climb to the bed, I wanted to stand, but they made me lay down. There were about 10 people in that tiny room and so much light I could hardly find Gianluca’s face. I was conscious the whole time, I remember exactly what I was going through; the pushing, the pain, me saying: “I don’t want this baby anymore..”, and just like that you were born at 8.50pm on August 1st. They put you on my chest, I looked at you and said to your dad you were absolutely beautiful! It was a strange feeling, different from what I experienced the first time around; it was love at first sight. So here you are, one year later, walking, talking, laughing and making our lives full. Happy first birthday my sweet little one!
With love, mama.

Colouring pages

Everyone seems to be obsessed with adult colouring book these days. And to be honest some of them are so beautifully drawn that it is a bit intimidating to even start colouring. Considering my love for gardens and flowers, there are two books that I particularly recommend:
Art therapy: extraordinary gardens by Sofie Leblanc; and
Secret Garden: an inky treasure hunt and colouring book by Johanna Basford.
Inspired by these books and by some vintage fabrics I had around I gave line work a try and made two colouring pages.
I printed them out using different types of paper and had so much fun using different colouring techniques. Even Olivia gave it a go and asked for more copies a few times.
If you want to give it a go yourself, feel free to download a copy and let me know how it goes. Tag me along if you are sharing your coloured pages on Instagram (marina_cerra) so I can see it too. 


 Happy colouring!