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The Pen is Mightier Than The Planner

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Printing is more than ink, paper and specifications.

That sentence opens the 2014 Cushing yearbook because we understand how much time invested in the the print projects that come through the door.

You want them to make a difference, start conversations and be remembered. There is always a story behind the printed piece.

But how often does the story continue?

For over 15 years, Christopher Duff has been using the Cushing annual planner as a canvas and the output is just awesome. These are not random doodles. They capture different moments in time, historical events and family memories.


So here we are again to tell you these projects are more than ink and paper, even ours. We are proud this traditional collateral we call the Cushing planner has become the canvas for a larger story. And it’s being passed onto a new generation.

Chris was kind enough to share how this project came to be and how he is still inspired to this day.

Who gave you the first planner to start illustrating?

Cathie Cushing did in 1997 when I told her I was logging hours in a note pad which was stapled together and without dates.

However, this hobby actually started back in GRADE School – and back then it was a mixture of art work  and shock value. It all started when I moved to Illinois in 7th grade and attended Chandler’s.

1989 Chandlers Illustration

A lot of this drawing stemmed from being an ultra-high energy, OCD kid.

The only one who could corral me was my 5th grade teacher – he was an old cowboy, who played professional baseball – he was into art, fly fishing and a blue collar guy. Hunting fishing that kind of stuff.

Bll Bell Art 004

Where the other teachers did like me, I was his “star pupil” Bill Bell – pro ball player. He may have played for a New York team.

Bill Bell Obituary

You’ve been doing this for 20 years, when did you realize this was more than a hobby and artistic endeavor?

Bll Bell Art Three

Artwork, whether it be building, sculpting, painting, drawing or coloring has always been part of my life. Not until I had children did I really turn this into a journal of my family’s life. They inspired me.

Where do your ideas come from?

Directly from experiences and recollections of places, sounds, scenes, smells and actual experiences. Every sketch has a meaning, none are random. I’d also say family, world events, things that are happening in the moment – soccer games, scores, birthdays, events, etc.



Through the years, have you discovered a common theme in the illustrations?

Yes, we spend a lot of time at our farm in Michigan, so that is well documents. Birthday’s anniversaries, vacations, weddings and deaths are also memorialized in these journals, not to mention my old billable hours.

Planner Illustration 1998

The last page of the calendar I place quotes I hear from my children. I am documenting these things and  videos, photo albums together to help them remember.

Planner Illustration 2009

Are you normally working on these in one particular space (i.e. at home, in the office, hole in the wall coffee shop?)

I typically take notes and place them in the journal as to not forget experiences that month, but then sketch and color them at home when the chance arises. Sometimes I will bring them to other events such as practices or trips to the farm when I have a bit of down time.

Planner Illustration 2010

I included my girls in the sketching and coloring experience to not only spend time with them, but to share in the joys of art. I teach them skills that took me years to develop on my own. They have all taken to artwork, particularly sketching and coloring, but this always leads into other forms of art. Personal and custom Birthday cards are a very important to me and my girls because they are appreciated more. It tells the person receiving the card that a little more time was spent on their gift.

Planner Illustration 2006

A lot has changed since 1996, and at that time – did you ever think you would see your collection of illustrations scanned and spotlighted on the web or in a blog?

A lot has changed in my life in the last year and I have really ramped up my attention to the details of color and shading as well as the complexity of the sketches. Never thought I would be in a blog, but when it came to me it made perfect sense for not only myself, but for Cushing to place some additional attention on these calendars. I have loved them over the years and now my kids do as well, this should be shared so others can have a similar experience.

Planner Illustration 2004

They are a great record of events documented in a very unique and personal way and a fun thing to share with others as to inspire them to pursue art!

I am proud to pass it on.

Do you have a printed piece that has evolved into a passion? Tell us more in the comments or contact us!

Jon Davis

Jon Davis is Cushing’s Marketing Manager. From blogging to online communications, Jon writes about client developments, environmental branding, and much more. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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