A Personal Project



A lettering and illustration project focused on self care practices and habits that we can cultivate to bring more joy, peace, abundance, and hope to our lives.

The Project

The Idea

I began the cultivate project as a way to practice my lettering and illustration art while also reminding myself of self care practices that I knew helped me develop a better mindset.

And the Cultivate Project was born. The first piece I completed was ‘Self Care Shouldn’t Be Rare’. And from here I continued creating a new one-word lettering piece every month. The first word was Stillness in January of 2022.

As I was creating these first 2 pieces, words started flowing and they were put into my studio journal. Then I had the idea to put those words out there with the art in the form of a podcast. So every month as a part of the Cultivate Project, I create a new lettering and illustration piece and record a podcast to go with it. I also offer a free calendar for that month with the art and a free digital background wallpaper of the art that anyone can download.

I believe in the efficacy of these practices and wanted to share them with anyone who feels they may benefit.


2022 | 2023

The Details

Size | Color | Tools

I knew I wanted the lettering art to be available to anyone. I first began with the idea to offer as a poster or notebook cover. I am a big fan of notebooks and sketchbooks and love posters as well. It’s the tactile realness of seeing the art printed that makes it even more exciting. So I went with a common art print size of 11×14 which I knew I could easily translate to a notebook size.

However, as I started working I realized I also wanted to offer the art as a free resource because I truly believe in the effectiveness of the practices and wanted others to be inspired to cultivate these habits through the art. So I decided to offer each piece once a month as a printable calendar and as a digital background wallpaper for phones, tablets, and computers. At this point, I knew the sizing would change so as I created the pieces, I knew I’d have to keep in mind the ease of changing the art to fit a size but I stuck with the original 11×14 artboard as a go to beginning size. Within that parameter, I allowed myself to switch up between landscape and portrait.

Also important at this point was getting down a moodboard so that they would at least look a little cohesive even though they were to be individual pieces. Below is a snapshot of the early moodboard I created for this year’s set. I wanted to set a mood of hopefulness and inspiration. There is movement in the moodboard because to me it denotes change. There is lettering that is beautiful because these practices are beautiful and there are of course flowers. As I tend to draw from vintage inspiration, this moodboard also consisted of that, playing between the art nouveau, art deco, the machine age advertising and poster design. Linework was integrated into the moodboard because I wanted to play with that and develop my skills in line while adding beautiful detail to the pieces. Color played an important role from the beginning. I wanted primary color hues that were more muted, giving a classical and vintage feel. I worked to build a color library that I would pull from for each piece. This is also below.

Finally, the tools I used for this project were pencil and paper, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.

From Beginning To End: Self Discipline

The Process


Step one

Step 1: Ideation | Thumbnails

This is a snapshot of how I create one piece. First I dive into looking at the moodboard and playing around with ideas for the lettering. How I want the word to be conveyed and how I might play with the letters. This I do in thumbnail sketches. I may pull out extra inspiration for the lettering to determine a good direction to go. Once I have around 10 or 15 thumbnails, I pull out one or 2 I like, and begin a larger rough sketch of those.



Step two

Step 2: Sketches

Once I have a sketch I like (this may take a few more of big changes to get me where I want to be), I begin tweaking that sketch by overlaying tracing paper or using a light table and resketching the piece. I keep tweaking and at times changing things up by making the lettering thicker or taller, or slanting it. I keep working sketches until I have something I love. Usually I get through about 10 sketches, then I create the final sketch.


Step three

Step 3: Digitize

After scanning in the final sketch I get to work in Adobe Illustrator, using the pen tool to create the letter shapes and illustration pieces. Here, I print out what I have and check for necessary changes. I adjust in Illustrator and print again. I use this process until I like how the letter shapes and illustration look.

Once I have the base down, I begin working through the detail using a number of tools in Illustrator depending on the need. Here I’ll print again and make necessary changes. After I have the details done, I work on color applications. I may work through several, trying them out on a number of different screens and eventually printing 2 to 3 and deciding on 1. Then it’s off to the final steps in Photoshop.


Step Four

Step 4: Finalize

Most of my letting art in this project makes it’s way to Photoshop. In photoshop I copy of layers and begin adding fine detail to the lettering and illustration. Usually this means light, shadow, textures, line work, and any effects like noise layers, drop shadows or bevels that I didn’t do in Illustrator. From here I take it to a couple different screens and print it off again. If I like how things look I move to creating mockups and the actual use items like the calendar.

Image Gallery

The Cultivate Project


Other Cultivate Projects

Mary Kathleen Scott

Let's Connect

Scroll to Top