Category Archives: Reviews

The DVDs Are Here!

monsoon2Last March, I filmed two DVDs to go with my books. One of the DVDs shows how to make Monsoon Papers, and the other shows several different projects that show how to store and carry your unbound journal pages.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors, the mixed-media magazine covered a Monsoon Paper project in their online magazine. It ran last week while I was in Houston teaching business writing, and I was surprised to see the link in my mailbox as I headed off to class. It took all my strength not to tell the participants to check out the DVD!

Here’s a preview:

You can purchase the Monsoon Paper  DVD here.

T3492You can see a preview of the projects in the second DVD, Art Journals Unbound on the Cloth, Paper, Scissors website. And you can purchase the Art Journals Unbound DVD here.

I am not super willing to be photographed, much less video’d, but I knew that it would be good to support the book. And to bring projects to people who can’t come to classes. It took a lot of discussing the project with my inner hero to get me to decide to do these projects. But one of my most vibrant inner heroes, The Risk Taker, finally broke down my barriers. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who encourages others to take ambitious steps for creativity’s sake. She could hardly do less.

 

Aside

Super-specialized art supplies are fun and can ease the tedious part of creative work. What makes special supplies most useful is combining them with the basics you love and use every day. Here are my four new favorites for everyday … Continue reading

Aside

Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox is a book of poetry and a book about writing poetry. Best of all, it is a book about healing through writing your personal story in poetry form. The book is beautifully … Continue reading

Writing Wild (Book Review and Giveaway)

Tina Welling is a fiction writer, known for Cowboys Never Cry, Fairytale Blues and Crybaby Ranch. This book, Writing Wild, is non-fiction; in fact, it is a book about writing.  Here’s how Welling describes the book:

Everything we know about creating, we know intuitively from the natural world. Over and over, nature shows us the rules of creativity. . . Writing Wild offers writers, journal keepers, and those others of us who wish to live more fully a direct pathway into a stronger relationship with wildness, both inner and outer. The result is writing that inspires, heal, enlivens, and deeply engages both writer and reader.

writingwildAs a model, she takes Joseph Campbell, who wrote, “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

Welling lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a place where (I imagine) you love the natural world, or you move away.

She believes in using all five senses in writing, and has several exercises to show you how to do that, too. She uses a method called “Naming, Detailing, Interacting,” which she describes in detail, so you can learn how to get the most out of a nature walk, and bring it into your writing.

She also shows us how to truly inhabit our body. For many of my coaching clients, the body ends right at the neck, there is a vague connection to fingers (for writing or typing) and then. . .nothing. I’m always surprised at how many writers live their entire lives in their head. Welling pries you out of it with gentle, easy exercises that make you realize how much of your truth lives in your body.

Once you have learned to connect your body to your head, she guides you to understand that intuition is a knowledge we all have, but often don’t trust. And that writing is the healing action that combines body and soul.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the idea that we do not, after all, write what we know. Instead, Welling says, we write to know something, and that something is ourselves. (I found a hint of Inner Hero here.)

Chapter titles include:

  • Nature as a Writing Partner
  • The Body Never Lies
  • Creativity and the Four Elements
  • Lessons from the Natural World
  • The Energy of Writing
  • Follow Your Longing
  • Wild Spirit

This book is certainly not for everyone. But for hikers, naturalists or writers curious about the world around them, you will find help, validation, and some interesting exercises to help you become the writer you already know you are.

Giveaway: Leave a comment that you want a free copy of the book. On Saturday, I will announce the winner. Make sure you stop by on Saturday, May 10 to see if you won and send me your mailing address. Good luck!

Note: Congratulations to Kaisa Mäki-Petäjä, who won Writing Wild. I love her blog, here’s the link to the boulders she draws in her journal. Send me your mailing address to QuinnCreative AT yahoo DOT com. The publisher sent me two books, and I’m giving away the second one as well. Congratulations to Diane Becka, new owner of the second book!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment!

Disclosure: New World Library kindly sent me two copies of the book because I wanted to keep one and give one away.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves to read books about writing.

 

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