Category Archives: Journal Pages

All about journaling, journal prompts, visual, art and soul journals.

Making it Mine

When I take a class, I follow the same rule that Cooking Man does when he experiments with a new recipe. First, do it exactly the way the recipe says to do it, even if  you have a better idea. Once you have tasted it, you can make changes that make sense to you. But unless you follow instructions first, you will not be sure of what went wrong. Or right.

In the collage class I took, we received clear, explicit directions. I followed them as I heard them. Then, when the class was over, I went into the studio and made the information mine and made collages using the information, but making it with my esthetic.

Here are three collages I made in class:

collagetoomuchWe were told to cut five figures. I interpreted this as figurative, although they were supposed to be random. After we pasted them down, an additional step was to add five more, using different colors. Because I had made a figurative piece, the result was quite busy.

collagetreeThis was the homework piece. We were to create a collage titled “tree” using only items found in our kitchens. This posed an interesting problem, as I was staying in a hotel. I used a paper grocery bag, a coffee filter (using the pleated seam) and a Lipton tea bag to create the leaves.  I cut the bag to size and had a large seam right through the middle. That didn’t work for me visually, so I cut two more pieces (OK, tore them with a straight edge) and placed one over the seam and another near the bottom to create balance.

collagerobertUsing the works of Robert Motherwell, we were to take the idea of the piece and create our own faux-Motherwell. I wanted to use a limited palate, and fretted a lot about the lines (and my old nemesis, the straight line). If the first piece was too busy, this one was a bit spare, but I can live with spare.

Once I got home, I wanted to explore the idea of the bird in the first image, rather than the whole, busy composition.

collage2Using a photograph of bird feathers from art quilter and book contributor Diane Becka, and a piece of Monsoon Paper, I created a different kind of collage.

collage1The original figure in the busy collage intrigued me. I wanted to explore it some more. So I created a collage using both the figure and the piece I cut out of the figure, leaving the meaning to be interpreted by the viewer.

collageshadowI can see this idea developing into a series, so I did another, also on Monsoon Paper. This is called “Shadow.” I’m liking this enough to create a serious series of figures under the Moon and Sun.

-Quinn McDonald is exploring Monsoon Papers and collage. She’s a writer, but these have, as yet, no words to go with them. Visual literacy is its own kind of vocabulary.

Geli-Plate Fun

Experimenting with my Gelli-Plate, I discovered two new ways (well, at least to me) to use this monoprinting technique. As a collage artist, I always need interesting papers, in every color or texture I can imagine.

Mono_StencilOne of my favorite techniques is to cut out shapes (heavy paper or overhead projector film) and use them as masks (to block paint printing) or as a stencil (to create a pattern with the paint.

The resulting pieces pick up paint and become quite interesting in themselves. After they have served as masks or stencils several times, they can be used as collage elements.

Another technique is to prepare the plate with a background, lay the elements on the plate, and photograph the plate before you print.

Mono_HouseThis gives you an image to print that looks quite different from the print itself, but can also give you more detail and color. You can then choose to create the collage by gluing the elements down over the printed piece or add color with a brush.

This also works for fabric–chose a fabric background, then attach the paper pieces on top of the background using fusible webbing.

Mono_PlantThe final experiment was to enhance a ghost print. Once the first print is lifted, remove all the masks from the plate. Then lay another piece of paper (in this case a piece of multi-media paper) over the plate and use a brayer to roll over the monoprint plate to pick up a ghost image of the paint the masks had protected. The plant and sun are clear, but the background picked up only partially.

I used Tombow Dual Brush markers to enhance some of the color. These markers are watercolors, so let the paper dry first. After the color is put down, I used a brush dipped in water to blend colors and create an abstract landscape.

On Tuesday, April 1, I’ll be demoing these techniques at the monthly meeting of the Scottsdale Art League. We’re going to have a busy night because I’m going to do an Inner Hero exercise, and everyone will leave with a hand-made Inner Hero Postcard. And two lucky people will win the prizes: a copy of the Inner Hero Art Journal and a Gelli plate donated by Arizona Art Supply.

Upcoming classes using Gelli-Plate techniques: I’ll also be teaching Gelli-Plate techniques on April 26-27 at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts and the week of June 2 at the Madeline Island School of Arts, where you will make a whole book of different art and writing techniques. Come join me in exploring!

-Quinn McDonald is typing this with paint-colored fingers, and an ink-stained heart.




Castle Journal Page

When my son was small, I lectured him on using items for the purpose they had been designed. Umbrellas weren’t parachutes, and  forks weren’t garden tools. I often think of those lectures when I re-purpose one item as an art tool.

I purchased a chipboard book–one that had a number of  thick cardboard pages shaped like a castle. Instead of attaching the pages with binder rings and making a book, I coated the pages with gesso, then matte medium, to protect and make them water-resistant.  When dry, they became stencils.  In this long journal, put three castle pieces high on the page, coverthe rest of the page with a blank piece of paper to protect it, and spray ink on the journal page.

castle-allTo create spray ink, I used Adirondack re-inkers, bottles of concentrated ink used to refill stamp pads. This brand is from Ranger, the company most people associate with Tim Holtz. I used two drops of denim and one drop of eggplant in a Mini-Mister,  added 10 drops of water, and sprayed across the top. You can mix re-inker colors quite nicely. (These aren’t alcohol inks). If you do this, use distilled water to dilute so the mini-mister doesn’t clog.

After waiting about a minute for the ink to dry,  carefully pick up the first layer and rearranged a second layer, using some of the pages used before as well as some new ones. This time, spray the left side with  a different color than the right, allowing the colors to blend or overlap in the middle. You can see the piece with two towers and the gate on the right repeated again on the far left. Repositioning the pieces makes the piece more interesting without looking repetitive.

castle21The spaces you cover the most often and consistently  are white, which will let you write on the page and make the most of the white space.

Inventing your own stencil is fun, often more fun than purchasing expensive ones.  A lot of every day items can be turned into stencils (or the opposite, masking pieces).

If you are fussy about the ring-holes showing, you can cover the book holes with tape. Or you can incorporate the pattern into the finished page.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler who works at the intersection of words and images. She teaches one-sentence journaling, inner hero journaling, and on Friday,  April 25, will teach a journaling class at the Minneapolis Book Arts Center.

Tutorial: Bag Journal for Looseleaf Pages

Yesterday, I posted a tutorial for a box for your loose-leaf journal pages. Today, your journal is going to be made from a paper handle bag–the kind that better stores use. This tutorial will use two different bag, but the style is the same.

Book2Here is a photo of the outside of the completed journal. Below is the first steps, using a different kind of bag.

Bag1Start by looking at the size of the bag. There are two ways to approach the bag journal. First, you can measure and cut all of our pages ahead of time. I did that with this one. Second, you can use this method to bind a variety of page sizes as long as two sheets (four pages) are the full size of the journal.

The first step is to fold the bag flat, so the bottom portion is flat against the sides of the bag.

Bag2Next, crease the bottom of the bag, along the center of the bottom. This will become the spine of the book. If the bag has paper handles, trim them off carefully. If the bag has ribbon handles, detach them.

Bag3Cut along the sides of the bag, top to bottom, in the center crease, as shown. Cut down both sides of the bag.

Bag4(Now I’m switching bags). Fold open the bag, making sure you fold the edges down neatly.

bag5You will now have the journal cover. The center spine will be a mountain fold that faces you. Strengthen the inside of the bag (now the front and back covers) with a layer of decorative paper.

This is the time to measure the bag for page size. Measuring before this stage allows too much stage for error (at least for me). Wait until the bag is fully cut, trimmed and the cover is complete. The mountain fold allows you to place a signature on each side. It also allows for pages with a lot of inclusions and attachments, if you like that style.

bag6Fold the pages so that like-size pages all are folded down the middle. Pages that aren’t the same size can be folded with a stub (one side shorter) or down the middle. In either case, line up all the creases, and nest the pages together in the order you like.

bag7Flip through the pages to make sure you have them all oriented correctly and in the right sequence. (I mess this up frequently. This is a good time to fix it.)

Open up the signature (group of nested pages) you plan on stitching into the back of the journal (right side of mountain fold). This will be a 5-stitch pamphlet. Mark five dots in the crease: one in the center (top to bottom) of the page. This is #3. The ones above and below the center mark (#2 and #4) should be the same distance from the center. Marks #1 and #5 (the top and bottom of page) should be the same distance from the mark nearest to them.

PamphletBindingUse an awl to make holes in the pages and cover at the same time.  Measure a length of 4-ply waxed linen twice the height of the book. The above diagram is taken from Design Sponge, which has an excellent 5-hole pamphlet stitch tutorial.

In the first signature, I put the knot on the inside of the pages.

bag9Repeat the same stitching for the other signature. This time, I made the knot on the outside, and tied the signature stitching together. This keeps the center fold from opening.

bag8Glue the ties to the inside of the book, allowing them to dry completely before continuing.

bag10Cut the ties in half, and repeat the gluing process on the other side. Tie a square knot to hold the journal closed.

Book1A look inside the completed journal. There is no writing because this is a sample for the tutorial.

Book3Another inside spread, showing the center of the book. The spine looks like a stub page, part of the charm of shopping bag journals.

I love making different journals with different bags. Some bags have colorful lining already in them. Others have cut-out handles, and some elegant black bags can be changed with bright ribbons. You can also paint or stencil the bags, but I like using bags with writing or logos on them and leaving them recognizable as recycled shopping bags.

Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and creativity coach. She is teaching journal-making classes at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts (April, 2014) and at Madeline Island School of the Arts (June, 2014).

Loose-Leaf Journal Box

Loose-leaf journaling is practical and fun; I’ve talked often about why. But when you make loose-leaf journal pages, you need a place to gather them.

box1Some weeks ago, I found a lovely box of stationery. The box was well designed and sturdy. Once the stationery was gone, the box was the perfect size for 5-inch x 7-inch loose-leaf pages.

Box2Using a piece of lavender ribbon, I glued it to the back, long side of the box and about one-third of the way across the bottom of the box, leaving the rest unglued.

box3Once the ribbon was dry, I placed the loose-leaf pages into the box. This happens to be a group of inner hero cards from the last month.

Box4The ribbon, because it is not glued to the entire bottom of the box, allows me to lift up all the cards easily. One or all can be lifted out without wearing down the corners or breaking a nail. It’s an easy way to carry the cards and a sturdy way to store them.

—Quinn McDonald has an ever-growing collection of inner heroes.

Let The Inner Hero Do the Talking

I was just so damn clever. Fitting in a coaching between a client meeting and a busy afternoon,  I researched and found a peaceful park where the conversation could be undisturbed– a perfect mix of privacy and outdoor beauty.

Park1My hand fished into my purse for the phone and headset and out came the headset. No phone. The hand went back in, a bit more frantically. Still no phone. The phone was charging peacefully on the desk in my office, 35 miles from the park, silent and hidden, filled with unusable power.

I went frantic. A beloved client would phone and not get a reply. How careless could I be? How stupid was I to forget the phone, when it was the most important thing? I shouldn’t be a coach. Maybe this is senility creeping in. Alzheimers!  I’m an idiot! An embarrassment to the entire coaching profession! Maybe I should stop coaching, if I can’t remember the phone.

Park2If you are smiling in recognition or shaking your head that I’m not seeing my own inner critic, you are smart. The inner critic uses the spiral of guilt and embarrassment to twist emotions to crisis level. The inner critic manipulates a useful emotion (slight anxiety, which makes me alert) into global statements and crises (which is non-productive). I even wrote about it two weeks ago–our best characteristics, turned up too loud, are our worst faults.  I had traded attention to detail  (timing the drive from client to park and choosing a non-bark part) for missing the big picture (taking the fully-charged phone).

There was nothing to do but drive home and phone the client and apologize, but the feeling of guilt and stupidity stayed. This is exactly why I wrote the Inner Hero Art Journal–it’s fine to feel every emotion from joy to anger to frustration and self-flagellation–but it is not useful to hang on to them past the productive portion, which was long over. I knew what I did wrong, and knew also I was likely to meet it again. We do repeat our mistakes. Often.

Here’s how I got in touch with the Inner Hero I needed: I went to the studio and using a small piece of monoprinted paper, I folded an accordion book.

Book1The whole point of working with inner heroes is not to create images of them, but rather call forth the healing spirit, the wisdom that’s needed at the moment. In this case, it was recognizing my care for the client in arranging a quiet place to do deep work as well as recognizing my attention to detail.

Also worth recognizing is the fragility of planning. And idea can be well-thought out, but without all the steps, it can fall apart.

I thought of all the feathers I see when I walk. They help a bird soar, escape from danger, keep warm, keep cool, keep dry. But they are fragile and easily torn apart. I called on the Protector of Flight Feathers, an inner hero made up on the spot.

Book8Inner Heroes don’t have to be grand, or easily understood by the world. Compassion, Generosity, Kindness, Happiness are all great, but what was needed at that moment was the Protector of Flight Feathers. So I would not be stuck on the ground, easy prey for spiritual raptors.

-Quinn McDonald knows her Inner Critics, but she depends on her Inner Heroes.

Last Page of Your Journal

You already know what to put on the  first page of that new journal. No more staring at blank pages for you!  Once you get past the middle, you can decide how to end your journal.

How do you  end a journal so you don’t have to continue a thought, a project, or a story into another journal?

Step-cut of last three pages. The page that binds the signature to the book is left untouched to keep it strong.

Step-cut of last three pages. The page that binds the signature to the book is left untouched to keep it strong.

Create a table of contents of favorite pages.  I like to come to the end of a project or idea flow in my journals. I don’t mind having a few blank pages in the back. Over time, I’ll fill those blank pages with dates of pages I keep looking up or those with favorite quotes or poems.  I don’t number my journal pages, but I date each page, so sometimes I write the start and end date at the end of the journal. It becomes a useful index to the contents.

Decorate the end pages. If there are a few blank pages left, I also cut steps into them. I trim the last page about an inch from the end, the next one two inches, and the third one three or four inches in from the book edge. Using a craft knife, I cut a wavy line and create a three-page landscape. Remember to put a cutting mat under the page you are cutting.

Tinting the page edges gives it a nice finish. I use a water color wash to keep the color pale. You could tear the pages straight down or give them a deckled-edge look. I like the curved look better.

dont-throwmeUse stickers or postcards. Daniel Smith, the art supply house, puts a sticker on small or lightweight packages in larger deliveries. The sticker is bright orange, about 4 x 6 inches and says “Don’t throw me away.” It strikes a chord, so I often use one on the final page of a journal. It seems about right. You might be done with it, but there is lots of meaning to be made.

Add a photo of yourself, your children, your pets.  That way, when you look back over them in the years to come, you’ll have an evolving view of what you looked like. Adding a photo of your house shows how it changes over the years. A photo of the kitchen is always fun with advancing technologies changing what our appliances look like.

The last page of a journal doesn’t have to be an ending. For a powerful last page, flip back to the beginning, and read the first post or two. End the book with a recognition of how far you’ve come.

–Quinn McDonald keeps journals. She’s also the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal, and keeps loose leaf journals.

Book Review: No Excuses Art Journaling

And yes, there is a giveaway of a signed book. But first, about the book.

Before I met Gina Rossi Armfield, her book, No Excuses Art Journaling, had me hooked. After I met her at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association Convention in Anaheim), I felt I’d met someone I’d known for a long time and crossed paths with again. She’s warm and happy to share her ideas. Over dinner, I got hooked on her style of art journaling and am having a lot of fun doing a “No-Excuses” journal of my own.

Cover of the No Excuses Art Journal.

Cover of the No Excuses Art Journal.

Her book is a flat-out, ingenious way to journal. There are easy step-by-step instructions. Take a book-size calendar, weekly preferable. Convert the datebook into a  journal by adding the journaling program (a free download) by taping it into the datebook. Add envelopes in each month, to store snippets you will want to use as you go along.

Gina also gives you monthly theme pages with quotes, ideas and prompts to put in the calendar for each month. You then add watercolor paper so you can draw, collage or paint, as you decide.

That’s just the beginning. Each month has a theme, there are tasks for each week. Feeling overwhelmed? No need. She just wants to make sure you aren’t bored. You can do as much or as little as you want.

I decided to use a watercolor sketch book and added sticky-note weekly calendar pages. This page shows some envelopes I made to hold painted leaves and feathers.

I decided to use a watercolor sketch book and added sticky-note weekly calendar pages. This page shows some envelopes I made to hold painted leaves and feathers.

To help you stay interested, she teaches you some techniques: how to carve your own rubber stamp, how to create collages, how to do contour drawings (so you can create sketches, which you also learn.

Jennifer Joanou's pages on seasons.

Jennifer Joanou’s pages on seasons.

There are hints to work with photo strips, the color of the day, getting in touch with your emotions and drawing the weather. Just when you think you are going to pop if you don’t grab a journal and get started, she gives examples of her own and from guest artists like Jenny Doh, Jennifer Joanou, Traci Lyn Huskamp, LK Ludwig, Susan Elliott–one for each month of the year.

"Nice Pair" watercolor marker and Gelli plate collage. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

“Nice Pair” watercolor marker and Gelli plate collage. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

Each artist chose a color palette to work with and answered a set of interview questions. You get an intimate look at each included artist and a view of their interpretation of the assignments.

The book is cheerful and peripatetic. You will want to use it as a reference, as a guide, as an inspiration.

Gina has offered to sign a book as a giveaway. Leave a comment, letting me know why her book would help you, and I’ll have a random drawing. Winner will be announced on Sunday–make sure you check in to see if you won.

This book will show you a fresh new way to create a fat, interesting journal while exploring your own seasons and landscapes. Oh, and Gina’s giving away the Inner Hero book today, too.

Quinn McDonald loves to read other artist’s journaling ideas.

Journaling While Traveling

It’s not a travel journal–that’s a journal for a vacation or a special trip. I journal while I travel. In an ariplane, at a restaurant, in my hotel room–a few notes, observations, capturing characters or scenes. More than that feels like work.

Because I travel only with carry-on luggage (one suitcase, one backpack), my journaling has to be limited to a small space and a few implements. Here’s how I manage it:

Travel1A practical carrying case for pens and brushes. Two zippers make it easy for me to peel back the cover and the stiff bottom means it stand upright. Writing implements, top to bottom: A white Sakura gel pen, a Pitt pen (Fine) permanent, a Yasutomo Koi pen (watercolor, for shading), Niji waterbrush, bookkeeper pencil (writes like a lead pencil, but when wet, it writes in bright turquoise and becomes permanent), and a lead holder with a lead for writing and shading.

Travel journal © Quinn McDonald 2013.

Travel journal © Quinn McDonald 2013.

It’s all I need for basic sketching and writing. What do I write on? No room in the backpack for a big journal, so I use shipping tags that I paint before I leave. I attach them through the existing hold with a photo-album screw post. The post allows the tags room to swing, so I don’t have to take them apart and can write on them. Not a lot, but enough to help me remember that great restaurant, that interesting woman sitting next to me on the flight from Houston to Dallas.

Tiny journal © Quinn McDonald

Tiny journal © Quinn McDonald

While I travel, I use bricollage–a French word for collaging with whatever is at hand. These bright colorful lines are the pieces between the stamps.


Best of all, the journal packs comfortably into the pencil case. Everything in one spot.

Tiny Journal 2© Quinn McDonald

Tiny Journal 2© Quinn McDonald

When I have filled up the pieces I carry with me, I separate them by date and put them together with a screwpost and wing nut. It’s a great way to collect memories and it doesn’t take a lot of space in the creation or in storage!

--Quinn McDonald gets more done when it doesn’t require a lot of extra materials. She may be a minimalist.

Living with Your Messy Journal

Somewhere in your head is the vision of the perfect journal. Maybe it’s all online, on a beautifully decorated page with changing photographs. Or maybe it’s all written in fountain pen, in a lovely Palmer penmanship. It’s a nice thought, but it’s unlikely. If you are like me, you drag your journal with you and it has sticky spots on the cover, grease spots on the inside pages and some place where the cat (or your) chewed the corner.


“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are, you’ll fall into someone else’s plan and. . .”

Life is messy. Your journal will be, too. Unless you create separate pages and include only those you like, (and whose life is that controlled?), you will have pages that are neater than others. If you use your journal daily, you will write in various pens, include things torn from magazines, and in other ways, create a journal that looks like your life–messy and busy.

"Guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

“Guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

It’s a much more realistic approach to journaling. There are people who tell me that they are waiting for their lives to “quiet down” before they start coaching. They never get around to it. Coaching, like journaling, takes place in the middle of messes, tears, joy, and confusion. That’s how life is.

If you hate a messy journal, here are three ways to make changes:

1. You can cut out an annoying page, leaving about an inch close to the spine. Then tape another page, one you like better, to the stub, using washi or masking tape. (If you have a sewing machine, you can stitch it in.)

2. You can gesso over the page you don’t like, and re-create it. Now you don’t have to look at the annoying page. You can also use a cream-colored acrylic and let some of the old work peek through. It’s more interesting that way.

3. Tape a piece of vellum over the offending page and write a list of things you would do differently on the vellum. That helps cover the old work and lets you remember what you like and don’t like. (That may change over time).

Or, you can enjoy the journal exactly the way it is, knowing that you are a recovering perfectionist, and your journal is fine the way it is.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who keeps a messy journal. Several of them, in fact.