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ICAD Retrospective

Amy Creative Journey | Featured | ICAD , , , ,

The 2019 Index-Card-a-Day Challenge is coming up (June 1-July 31). Hosted by Tammy at Daisy Yellow, this is an annual creative challenge and a good one! I have talked about ICAD many times through the years, and in the CMP creative group at Facebook, ICAD is beloved by many. It affects each creative person differently, but for many people, the challenge is really important for helping affirm creative goals and helping build creative routines and practices. For people who work “daily” throughout the year or engage in multiple creative challenges each year, the index card challenge may feel a bit different, but the forced focus on an index card as the substrate and the community enthusiasm for ICAD make it a great way to focus creative energies in summer months.

The challenge started in 2011, and I spent time this weekend trying to sort out how many years I have participated in ICAD. I have known Tammy since before there was an ICAD (and before there was a Daisy Yellow), but it seems like I must not have participated in ICAD in its earliest years. I tracked down the boxes holding some of my cards yesterday and took a look at each year, reflecting on what I did in that year, what my line looked like, and how I approached the challenge. In most years, I approach ICAD with some form of loose plan, whether it involves subject matter (like chairs), or medium (like ballpoint), or a combination of elements. I often start with a plan and then shift as the days unfold. There are prompts that can be used for ICAD, too, and some days I nod to the prompt, and some days I don’t.

Note: Early on, I was one of the very few people who “drew” for ICAD. I always felt a bit out of place in the ICAD community because my work was so different. As the years have passed, more and more people who do ICAD draw. And more and more people who do ICAD also now do portraits. Times change!

My History with ICAD

Here is a quick look at my experience with ICAD through the years.


2013 may have been my first ICAD. In pulling out these cards, it is immediately obvious that there is a difference in the type of cards I used and a difference in approach, but seeing these pen and ink pieces brought back the days so clearly. Many in the set from 2013 are graphic novel or “panel” in style, but there are assorted drawings intermixed in the series.

ICAD 2013 Pen and Ink
ICAD 2013
ICAD 2013 3


2014 was a year marked by a plan to have every card tick off several boxes, including the use of fabric and song lyrics. I sometimes am away from home for several weeks during ICAD, and so my plan doesn’t always end up easy to fulfill while away. I loved the challenge of incorporating the elements along with a drawing — and meeting the prompt on some days as well.

ICAD 2014 Samples


I found only a few cards for 2015, which may mean they are somewhere else, or it may mean something else. (I am not sure which.) I include one here to mark the year.

ICAD 2015


2016 was a favorite year. This was also the year I “came back” to my podcast. My enthusiasm was really high, and I started out with a plan to do “stuffed things” (Episode 185: Tracking Teddy). Mid-way through the challenge, I morphed into series both with chairs and with windows. At the end of the challenge, I started doing cards that combined collage and pen and ink and continued working on index cards on for another month or more.

ICAD 2016 bears
ICAD 2016 Samples 2


2017 was an important year for me and ICAD. I had started drawing portraits (for the first time in any real way) in the Fall of 2016 (shortly after ICAD 2016 ended, in fact). By summer 2017, I was entrenched in (and entranced by) the portrait drawing process and practice. I was drawing portraits daily and maintaining a daily drawing habit. In response to “life,” I latched onto the idea of a “simple pen” (a remnant found on a shelf from a stay at a hotel), and I started experimenting with ballpoint drawing. In the process of this exploration, I discovered the world of ballpoint pen artists, which is incredible. (There are amazing ballpoint artists all around the world!) There are all kinds of ways to use ballpoint (which is important to remember). Because I have an affinity for hatching, I was using ballpoint in a specific way and building up multiple layers of very light lines and always trying to find ways to get even more even tone. Because the approach I used took a great deal of time to build up tone, these drawings ended up being very time-intensive but calming and meditative in ways that taught me something new about what I need and look for in my daily practice. My skill with portraits wasn’t all that great in the summer of 2017, but I still enjoyed the exploration of “blue” and ballpoint. I loved seeing each portrait come into being in blue ballpoint each day. For 2017 ICAD, I also played with the surface of the index card, layering random paper on top of the card to create a varied substrate. I loved this part of the project and how the tone of the ink would shift over the different papers.

(Note: I had forgotten until looking at this post later and seeing card 1, the first one shown, which I drew on an airplane during a redeye flight, that part of my goal for this series was to also read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and incorporate a line from my reading each day. I still love the idea of that, but I wasn’t able to keep up with it.)

ICAD 2017 Day 1Week 6 Roundup - ICAD 2017Week 7 Roundup ICAD
ICAD Week 8


In 2018, I explored Copic (alcohol) markers. I am, at heart, a black-and-white artist. I love pen and ink. I love the refined feel of an extra fine nib and very precise hatching. Markers are completely the opposite for me. Inspired by the work of artists at Sktchy, I became enamored with the idea of Copic markers in 2017, right around the time I committed to the ballpoint series. At the time, I wanted to explore Copic, but in almost a reaction to the overwhelm of the high price point (per marker) and the zillion colors available (how to choose), I went with the humble ballpoint (and splurged on a pack of Bic pens). As I geared up for ICAD 2018, I was still experimenting with graphic novel style (which is part of a project I always keep in process). In my portrait work, I had been experimenting with more color (various ballpoint pens and/or colored fountain pen ink) and combining my black and white approach with color. I was thinking about how to use color and how to really push myself to go all in with color. I decided to try some really comic-style pieces modeled, first, after Lichtenstein. I had been given a couple of Copic markers (but I had no skin tones), and as ICAD got started, I decided to work in color for the summer. It wasn’t the easiest fit for me, and at the same time, there was something addictive about the process and the vivid feel to the pieces. Summer 2018 ICAD turned into a “sunglasses” series. Many of the pieces include reflections in the lenses, and some of those reflections (not all) nodded at the daily ICAD prompts. In terms of technical skill, this series doesn’t match up to work with pen and ink. The lack of control with the markers and the feeling of the clunky nib was very hard for me. I had to just “go” with it. I was still using pen and ink with the Copic, so the feel of my line is embedded throughout. I love this series for many reasons. (And I just printed postcards from this series to help support the podcast.)

ICAD 2018ICAD 2018


I haven’t decided what I will do this year for ICAD. I have a #the100dayproject in process (contour drawings). I initially thought ICAD might intersect, but the closer ICAD gets, the more I am realizing that I might do something again with Copics. I know the dangers of trying to repeat a project, so I am not sure what approach I might take. Or, I might just roll into ICAD with my regular portrait drawing. I often don’t know until I really start — and I often do “something” a few days before the start and see how it feels…. and just go with it.

Looking back through these last years was a good process though. It let me see, all at once, how my work has changed and evolved, but even in the earliest cards, I see “me.”

More about ICAD

I talk about ICAD every year because I support this challenge and most of my community are involved in it. There are many shows from prior years about ICAD and about working in series (which is super important for me).

This post contains some links to prior posts and pages: ICAD 2018 (pre-challenge thoughts)

I encourage you to do ICAD and to make it a part of your summer, too!

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