Category Archives: Reviews

Art At the Speed of Life. Book Giveaway

creating-art-at-the-speed-of-lifePam Carriker is more than busy, she is a force of creativity. And her new book, Creating Art at the Speed of Life, leads you in 30 days of mixed media exploration and experimentation.

It’s a workshop in a book. There are not only exercises, there are worksheets that help you stay focused and on course. The book has 172 pages and is divided into seven chapters covering:

  • color
  • texture
  • shape
  • visual perspective
  • form
  • line
  • light and dark

CarrikerWhen describing the reason she wrote the book, Pam writes, “Assessing your own work is something that can be learned and is an invaluable tool to move yourself further down your creative path. The 30 lessons in this book are grouped into chapters that each focus on a different element of art.”

The art is designed to be kept in a journal you assemble yourself. The lessons are laid out in class fashion, each with a syllabus called a “Quick Look.” At the end of each chapter there is an “Open Studio” section where you can see artwork from contributors, including Seth Apter, Jill K. Berry, Chris Cozen, Jane LaFazio, and Joanne Sharpe.

There are tips throughout, everything from keeping your painted pages flat to making easy transfers. Throughout the book, you get Pam’s help, advice, and instructions. The purpose of the book is to create confident artists, and Pam does a great job by keeping the steps small enough to ensure success while still being interesting and experimental. There is plenty of room to grow in your own direction.

Giveaway: leave a comment if you’d like to win the book. The winner will be announced in Sunday’s blog. Be sure to check back on Sunday to see if you won–the winner will need to send me a shipping address.  Have fun!

Note: Congratulations to Anne Cross, who is the winner of the giveaway of Pam Carriker’s Creating Art at the Speed of Life. Contact me (right above the color header) and send me your mailing address, and the book will be on the way!

Disclaimer: Pam Carriker sent me the book as a gift. I couldn’t help sharing it for the great projects and wonderful inspiration of the contributors.

-Quinn McDonald loves creative ideas–other’s as well as her own. She is also a book junky.

Tip: Use Highlighter tape

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Sure, you can use it in your art journal, or your plain journal, but highlighter tape is saving the training side of my business this week.

Earlier this week, I was teaching a business writing class. There were students of different levels, and more material in the book than I could cover sensibly. On Day2 of the class, I had to choose what had to be covered, what could be covered if I had enough time, and what I could skip.

The instructor’s manual is heavily written in, and one more insert or note was going to get lost. How to make the material sound smooth and well prepared? Highlighter tape to the rescue.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that's not the workbook, it's a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that’s not the workbook, it’s a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

I purchased the tape from The Container Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. It comes in a small square case containing three transparent colors–green, yellow, orange, so I can color coordinate– green for items I must cover, yellow for items I can mention if I have time, but can also skip if a discussion or exercise runs long, and red for portions that can be skipped entirely if time doesn’t allow for a closer look.

The tape sticks to a page, but can be lifted off cleanly, without a residue. It’s as wide as a line of type, so I can pinpoint material. Each tiny roll has a cutter in the box, so I can tear off as much as I need.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

It’s brightly fluorescent so I can find it easily. It doesn’t damage coated or uncoated pages and won’t peel off color or ink. It’s a great tool. All I have to do is make sure I peel off all the evidence before I return the instructor’s manual.

The tape has no manufacturer’s name on it, other than highlighter tape, and the item number 128.

I recommend it highly for other uses as well–cookbooks, sewing/knitting/crocheting patterns, weaving instructions, sheet music (to mark your part), library reference books, as well as design elements on cards and gift wrap.

If you want to use it in art journaling, I’d suggest putting it down, rubbing it with a bone folder, then covering it with matte medium, so it doesn’t curl up over time.

The tape was an impulse purchase, but every time I use it, I save time. When you don’t know how many questions are going to be asked, it’s also great for speeches that have a time limit.

–Quinn McDonald is an instructor who always wants to add just one more idea. Sometimes that impulse needs to be stopped.

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.

Get It Done: Book Review (and a Giveaway)

What better day than Valentine’s Day to love yourself enough to give yourself the creative help you need to finish your work? Creative people are wired differently and see the world a bit differently–but the one thing they have in common with every other person is a lack of time to work on projects that are due, projects that sound like fun, and projects that need to be explored.

SamRt443-199x300Sam Bennett created the Organized Artist Company and she wrote a book that is part coaching, part time management, and part kick in the butt. Get It Done, from Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day is a book with suggestions, how-tos, and clever ideas to help anyone (but especially artists) choose their work, get their work done in a time frame (by working 15 concentrated minutes a day), and complete their work.

Here’s are some chapter titles:

  • Procrastination is Genius in Disguise
  • Which of Your 37 Projects to Tackle First
  • Overcoming Perfectionism
  • How to Do Your Could-Do List
  • Where Will You Find the Time?
  • Organizing Your Space
  • Why Is It So Awful When Everyone Thinks You are So Wonderful?
  • Do You Quit When You’re Almost Done?

When you read Bennett’s book, you know she is an artist, has been in your shoes, and can teach you how to dance in them–backwards–to success. Her worksheets are realistic, her steps doable and her process powerful.

sambennett-412fab8b-eff5-4bda-bf24-8f7aa46f6602-v2The book is a fast read but one you will want to concentrate on to overcome perfectionism and the destructive procrastination that goes hand-in-hand with it. She’s knows art is important to culture, supports the necessity for excellent work, but won’t let you ruin your success with senselessly chasing perfection.

It’s 204 pages that are packed with good advice, success stories, and real help.

Giveaway: I’ll be giving away this copy. so leave a comment for a chance to win. The drawing will be random. And the winner will be announced on Monday’s blog. Stop by and see if you were the lucky one!

Disclosure: The book was sent to me for review from New World Library. I did not purchase the book I read. However, I did purchase one after I read it, as I’m giving away the original.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who will be using some of the ideas in this book in combination with the ideas in The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

Fast Fiction (Review and Giveaway)

FastFictionAlways wanted to write a book? Have the story but don’t know how to start–or keep going to write a novel? Denise Jaden has your answer. Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days is the answer to most of the question you’ve had about how to write that novel.

Yes, I know National Novel Writing Month is barely over (or still eight months away), but you don’t need the challenge to write a book. And if you use Jaden’s book, you will be done by the time November rolls around.

I was a bit skeptical when I picked up the book. I may have even muttered about the way we do everything so fast and without real thought. But after I read the book, I changed my mind. Jaden herself says, “If someone had told me during my early writing days that I would be able to write a draft of an entire book in less than a month, I probably would have though they were crazy,”

Jaden guides you through the first draft of a 50,000 word novel. And she does it just in time for the novel-writing March Madness contest she holds each year on her own blog.  The book is divided into three parts–Before the Draft, During the Draft, and After the Draft. She doesn’t leave you hanging with a draft and no idea what to do. But I’m leaping too far ahead.

web+banner+booksIn Before the Draft, you’ll learn how to narrow down the idea for your novel, separate plot from story idea, and set a three-act structure (and she tells you how to do each step.)

You will also learn why theme is important, how much to develop your characters (and how much to let them develop themselves), and why setting is important. She helps you develop a list of scenes (in clear terms), and to write a story plan and how you will write your first draft.

All of this will happend before you start launching into During Your Draft. In that section, you will get help for each of 30 days in which you are going to draft your novel. Jaden reminds you that it is a first draft, not a finished product. One of the pieces of the book I found most useful is the weekly checkpoints she helps you set at the beginning of the 30-days.

For each of the 30 days of drafting, there is an encouraging portion of avoiding pitfalls, writing tips, and hints. Then there is a Simple Task for each day. Following her advice and using the tips will have you writing 2,000 words a day.

I expected to hear some repetition in the 30-day section, but there wasn’t any. Each day is molded by the goal for that week, and has a new idea and fresh approach to old writing problems. No clichés, no trite affirmations, no platitudes.

The last section, After the Draft, Jaden talks about revisions, using first readers to help you identify problem areas, and how to fix those areas.

I found myself wanting to write a novel for the first time in a long time, just to try out her method. I love the positive town that never sounds cheerleader-ish, and the real advice.

I received the book as a review copy and would love to keep it for myself. But I give away review copies. Leave a comment and I’ll give the book away on Thursday’s blog. If you’ve wanted to write a novel, but weren’t sure exactly how to do it, you’ll know how when you finish.

Quinn McDonald is tempted to write a novel now. She has always said she is not a fiction writer. She used to say she wasn’t a book author, either. She is the author of The Inner Hero Art Journal.

Aside

Pilot has come out with a new line of pens.  The only Pilot pens I knew so far were the disposable Varsity Pens and the parallel calligraphy pens–both of which I like to use. The new pens come in five … Continue reading

Peaceful Warrior Author’s New Book

Dan Millman is the author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior and several other books on the theme of spiritual awareness. His latest book, The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication, is different. First of all, he wrote the book with Sierra Prasada, his daughter.

BookThe book is for anyone who is creative and wants to take their work from the imagination out to the world. Because I’m a writer, I saw it more clearly as a book for writers, but it works in a broader sense as well.

The five stages of creative work, according to Millman and his daughter are Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine and Share.

Dream includes getting to know yourself and then developing your “stickiest” idea–the idea that gathers attention and interest and asking (my favorite question) “What if. . .?” The chapter ends with the interesting Dreaming on Deadline.

Draft tackles some hard topics–how to listen, how to read writing books, writing as a solitary act. The chapter is compelling and the father-daughter take on the topics are really useful.

Develop has some good, strong practical advice: sweat trumps talent, never surrender, allegiance to your story and the layers of learning.

Refine covers the ancient skill of trusting your gut, word choice and word order, working with an editor and knowing when that draft is final.

Share helps you understand how to move your readers, summarize your plot, handle rejection  and marketing your book. It also covers self-publishing pros and cons.

Normally, I give away books, but I am not finished taking notes on this one yet. It’s a good book, and if you are going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), this book is worth paying for.

Millman takes a sacred approach to creativity. It’s an appealing way to think of the hard work of book writing and meaning-making. Prasada doesn’t always agree, but they work together to bring a book better than either one of them could have written alone.

Quinn McDonald has an irrational love of books that make the task of writing seem sacred and worldly. Because it is. She just found out that her book will be available in mid-December–two full months ahead of schedule!

Finding What You Didn’t Lose (and a Giveaway)

410G4DDA8YL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox is a book on writing poetry. The whole title continues with Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making. It’s one of my favorite books on poetry. It has chapters on

  • The need for poetry making in our lives
  • Revealing yourself in your poem
  • Reconnecting with your natural creativity
  • Experimenting with the Delight of Language
  • Metaphor and Other Tools
  • Making Poems from Your Journal Entries
  • Creating a Community of Poem Makers
  • Breaking Through Your Pain With Words
  • Expressing the Sacred Through Poetry

So why am I giving it away? Because at one point I thought I’d lost it in Tucson and ordered another. Yes, yes, I understand the irony in thinking I’d lost a book called Finding What You Didn’t Lose. And once the second one arrived, I found the first one. Of course. That’s the only way you find something you’ve lost, by purchasing a replacement.

This book is the replacement book. It may have a few underlines in it, but not many.There are many examples of poetry, by Fox’s students as well as by well-known poets. There are also great quotes about poetry in the margins, so if you are a marginalia lover, this is absolutely for you.

It comes with a painted leaf bookmark–the leaf is from an Arizona eucalyptus tree–the leaves aren’t the round ones you are used to seeing with koalas, this leave is about six inches long and looks like a blade. One side is painted gold. There is no further explanation needed. Wait till you see The Gardener Chapter in the Inner Hero Art Journal book and you will understand.

Leave a comment telling me why you want a book on how to write poetry. On Wednesday, October 16, I’ll chose a winner at random, from the best answers. How’s that for an out? I can’t help it, some answers will make me laugh or feel the book is going to the right home. I’ll gather those and draw a random name.

Update and Note: In the book giveaway, I read every comment. I wished I had more books. And then I realized I did! So in addition to Sue in Georgia winning Finding What You Didn’t Lose, Ray in Canada won Saved by a Poem and Annie who Laughs won Voices from the Heart, which is more of a visual poetry book. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all of you who read the blog. There are more giveaways coming.

--Quinn McDonald writes poetry and dreams of being in a poetry slam some day.

Aside

Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson made my heart race–well, her work did. I saw her work in Featuring magazine, and knew that I wanted to find out how she did her work. I took her workshop in Sedona and was so … Continue reading

Gallery

Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Splash Inks are versatile fun in a bottle. I’m on the Yasutomo Design Team, and Splash Inks is one of the products I got to use. As soon as I found out you could marble paper with the inks, I … Continue reading