In 2020, I fell back in love with fiction, by way of Helen Oyeyemi novels. Her fractured fairytales inspired me to write my own prose, and I started with a short story that personified the months of the year. It was just an exercise at first, but I soon realized every month has its own musicality and rhythm. They move at different paces but in the same direction: forward. As you can already see, the relay race metaphor wasn’t much of a stretch from there.
I have used a physical planner for the last twelve years and have no intention of slowing down now. Because “Relay of The Year” is so visual, I always envisioned it in a planner format with art from artists I know and admire. 2024 was the year to stop envisioning and just finally do it!
You can now buy a copy of your very own Relay of The Year as a paperback or a hardcover. I personally recommend the paperback. At the time I'm publishing this article, every copy is directly printed (versus purchased in bulk) which essentially means I can customize your copy as you'd like. It also means shipping times are a bit extended... Moving on!
My hope is that this planner adds beauty to your day-to-day as you relay every day in your agenda. Sure, the year isn’t a race, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make good time! Keep score in 2024.
I am so honored to feature art from artists I respect and admire. More on each of them:
Ilona Altman lives and creates in San Francisco, drawing constant inspiration from its diverse ecology. She is captivated by the beauty and spirituality that can be found in the everyday interconnectedness of our living world.
“Every year, we return to the window and dream,” Altman says about her art for January.
Caitlin Ann Bury is an LA-based visual artist and writer. Her work has been shown at a number of galleries in New York as well as in several publications. Recently, she has been transitioning into the film and tv space, specially in writing, directing and acting. Her work primarily focuses on family, girlhood, and memory.
“I used Procreate on my iPad, which is an artist practice I initially picked up during the pandemic. I normally create small animations on Procreate, so I tried to have a kind of motion in my pieces,” Bury says. “For this February piece, I was inspired by vintage valentines and kewpie dolls for the visuals, with Cathleen’s words inspiring the inclusion of wintery themes.”
March and July
Emma Bakos lives in Budapest, Hungary, and currently studies law. Art has always followed her throughout the years in all forms, be it art history, music, literature, or cinema. However, it was the creation of art that captured her most. The wonders of painting, the process of mixing the colors and shapes, capturing the gaze will never cease to amaze her. Cinema has become her biggest source of inspiration, and her portrait subjects tend to fall back into the ’20s through ’40s period.
The base for this art was the prose piece and old photographs. After reading March's section, Bakos had a vision of the birds swarming near March's running figure. She collated several photographs from the ’40s for the basis, then created from there.
“After reading July, an image came to my head: July had to be a gouache painting on canvas. Second, the composition of the portraits: July lazily sitting on the couch with a popsicle in his hand.” Bakos says.
Isabel Carreño is an illustrator from the Canary Islands currently living in the UK. She takes inspiration from music, film, and pop culture and has developed her personal style through years by drawing people and things she loves.
“For this piece I wanted to move away from my first thought when the month of May came to mind, which was colour and brightness—hence the lack of colour, but also wanted to illustrate the idea of May as a happy young carefree woman and represent the thoughts reflected in the piece,” Carreño says.
I've been a longtime fan of Kathryn Hastings & Co. and Kay Collier—the warm body behind Kathryn Hastings & Co. and my favorite podcast, so it is such an immense privilege to have her in the 2024 planner.
Here is a behind-the-scenes post demonstrating the seal she made for the November section of "Relay of The Year."
"My dear friend and talented writer, @cathleen.freedman , kindly invited me to contribute to her 2024 planner project. This extraordinary planner boasts a distinctive concept wherein each month is a canvas showcasing the works of diverse artists, accompanied by Cathleen’s thought-provoking prompts, a testament to her creative prowess. November, the month I was assigned, embodies a paradox - a season marked by both a slump and festive celebrations. Although I usually refrain from delving into personal matters, I have recently found myself navigating the depths of a slump, compounded by the burdens of anxiety and health issues. However, amidst the tumult, there exists a sanctum of solace where I regain my equilibrium - my art. It is in this realm that I rediscover my inner peace. Crafting seals, for me, is an embodiment of unadulterated joy. It represents an expanse of unfettered creativity and ceaseless exploration. The act of meticulously fashioning these intricate pieces serves as a reminder that the beauty we yearn for already envelops us, patiently awaiting our recognition amidst the oft-overlooked busyness of life. Moreover, these seals have a special knack for connecting people. Despite their small size, these little works of art serve a meaningful role in letters and as heartfelt presents. They become symbols of connection, allowing us to express our feelings in a tangible way—a lovely addition to the festive spirit of the season."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Alexandria Gonzalez started watercolor after being inspired by a couple of TikToks. She uses Holbein watercolors since Hayao Miyazaki uses them for his films.
“I have very little experience in art, so everything I’ve done is new to me,” Gonzalez says. “I mostly draw by sight. Right now I’m working on wedding invitations for a friend!”
“I loved designing September since I had to figure out a running figure. I had a lot of fun trying to create a playful scene with as many colors as I could. I wanted the sky to be extra blue, so I did lots and lots of layering. The picnic’s wine is definitely sparkling grape juice. (Kids can’t drink wine!) Thank you, Cathleen, for letting me add to your wonderful calendar,” Gonzalez says.
Tani Greenspan Koch
Tani (@tani.g.koch for art, @dietkoch for fun) is a New Yorker turned New Orleanian who has been painting since before she can remember. As a fine art minor in college, Tani leaned heavily on her painting background when 2020 came and has kept it as part of her daily escape from a busy week at work.
While watercolor and charcoal are her go-to media, Tani turned to plaster and impasto for her piece to help capture the feeling of wind and movement that comes with the impending changing of the season. The lush greens nod to the brightness of June and July, and the ochre shades and browns hint at what's to come as the days start shortening and vacationers return to their regularly scheduled programming after their last hoorah for the summer.
Alexis Kuri is a multicultural artist based in Switzerland. Though she discovered her passion for art through portraiture, she now loves to step outside her comfort zone and play around with mediums and art styles, drawing inspiration from her upbringing, travels, and background. Today, she helps businesses, events, and people find their voice through graphic design and copywriting.
Savanna Lim is an artist and designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She grew up in Singapore and Houston and loves using design as a way to solve the world's most interesting problems. She can be reached at @savlimphoto and www.savannalim.com
Lucille (Lucy) Tomforde is a multidisciplinary artist based in London who focuses on photography, social media, illustration, graphic design, and animation. Her work explores playful whimsy with intentional narratives to tell connective stories about growth, civics, gathering and life. Follow along on Instagram @tomfo_olery and purchase prints on Etsy.
“Tulips bloom vibrantly under the nourishing April showers, their delicate petals unfurling to embrace the revitalizing rain. In the midst of spring, these quirky bulbed flowers transform the landscape into a vibrant display, capturing the season of renewal and rebirth,” Tomforde shares.
Julie Scharf is a costume designer and writer based in New York City. She finds joy in fairy tales, overcrowded antique stores, and coats with hems that nearly graze the ground.
“This silver bodice was made for a production of Cinderella at the Heights Players in Brooklyn,” Scharf shares. “The handsewn twisting tendrils weren't part of the original sketch but in keeping all of my fabric offcuts, I realized how beautiful and useful they could be. The dress embodies December as it sparkles like a perfect winter and the glittering garlands of the season.”