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.

Taking a Collage Class from David Addix

Every artist should take art classes; every teacher should take classes, too. I did both this week by taking David Adix’s fun and interesting collage class in Tucson.

Adix shows a basket made of found pieces of wire and metal.

Adix shows a basket made of found pieces of wire and metal.

David is a collage and assemblage artist, and he brought a lot of his work for us to see. I was absolutely taken by his assemblage “Chancel,” and his sculpture of a human figure made of telephone wire. (Take a peek at his website and the process video to see more of his work.)

He started class by leading us through seven warm-up exercises, each one exploring an aspect of collage:  positive and negative space, torn and cut paper, color, and composition. I found myself wanting to follow directions more than do something that was pleasing to my aesthetic. That was a surprise. I also followed directions too strictly–David said move out of your color comfort zone and I moved so far I had no idea what to do with the colors I chose. Lesson learned: it’s fine to explore beyond your comfort zone, but if you move into a zip code with colors you loathe, you won’t make art, you’ll feel you visited cruel and unusual punishment on yourself.

Adix2A fun exercise was to create our own table name tags using only torn letters. The two “Ns” at the end of my name always leads to scrutiny when I do table tents, so I used an upper case and lower case. Doing anything with people’s names is a smart idea–people have given a lot of thought to their names and are familiar with them. Great place to start.

AdixconfettiIn this exercise, we studied deliberate and random elements. Cutting up the colored strips and letting them fall created an eye-pleasing result.

After a lot of interesting challenges and some deep work, we spent most of the second day doing design work. My favorite segment was creating a spatial design out of our initials–we could rotate them, make them upper- or lower-case, and any size relationship. The only rules were cutting them out of black paper and arranging them on an envelope we had previously glued down. We then added a color to one of the negative spaces.

From left to right, the letters are LKP, PKM, and QCM.

From left to right, the letters are LKP, PKM, and QCM.

The variety of the results was wonderful and inventive.

Adixletters2The work, lined up against a wall, looked ready for an exhibition.

This class was not only time well spent, it was challenging, interesting and a perfect break in a hectic schedule. Thanks, David!

--Quinn McDonald is returning to collage as her art medium. And she’s doing it with more information and learning.

Reading and the Clean Plate Club

If you had parents who grew up in the Depression, or went through other hardships, you remember the “Clean Plate Club.” You cleaned up your plate at every meal.  Hungry or not, you ate. You finished your meal. old-fashioned-thanksgivingSomehow, I translated that to reading books.

I find it almost impossible to abandon a book I’ve started, no matter how unsatisfactory.  I keep reading, even when the plot is weak, the characters uninteresting, or the premise vague. There is no good reason I do this. But I do.

I just finished an audiobook, and when the female protagonist (a flighty, timid, weak soul who is always “rooted to the spot in fear,” “numb with indecision,” or  “quavering  with hesitant hope”)  gets into yet another scrape, I begin to root for the villain to do her in. When the writing is weak, I keep hoping for a change.

Maybe the next chapter will pick up. At some point, I should know better. It’s not patience, it’s not tolerance. It is a good lesson in the difference between patience and endurance.

There comes a time in every situation when the excuses are used up, the reasons for staying the course unclear. That’s the time to stop listening, stop eating, and look for another source of  satisfaction. If satisfaction is not found in what you are dealing with, it time to stack the plate, put the CD back in the case, and start the search for more satisfaction.

–Quinn Mcdonald has moved on to another book. A far better one.

Reading Isn’t Believing

As a blog omnivore, I read a lot of advice, thoughts, and beliefs of other writers and artists. It’s a big world, populated by writers of every emotional and spiritual stripe (and rant).

Smart-is-when-you-believe-half-of-what-you-hearThe last two days, I’ve been reading about other people’s success stories about blogging and book promoting. (I have a tendency to read about what’s on my plate). Interesting what happens in my brain (maybe yours, too) when we read something new that we don’t agree with. The other person must be smarter. Particularly if we don’t know them. Because no matter what our experience is, surely the other person is smarter, richer, wiser, and a better all-around human being. (Inner critic alert).

I’m amazed at my own gullibility. “Content is no longer king,” says one blogger, and I gobble up his article, afraid that one of my basic truths has vanished. “The reader is king!” he proudly proclaims, “content doesn’t really matter.” Oh. And what is King Reader reading? Content. And why will King Reader read the content? Because it is interesting to King Reader. So, finish the circle, content is still king.

“If you are still doing book signings, you are over 60 and a dinosaur,” says another blogger. Her idea is that everything is virtual, and social networking is the only action that sells books.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure people buy books for lots of reasons, and a good reason is to meet the person who wrote it and talk to them if they are available. And that means I want to make myself available. Because people who are satisfied tell others. (Not as many as people who are unsatisfied, which is motivation enough.) But can’t I do both? The Inner Hero book had two launches (one in California and one locally in Phoenix) and is having a fun run on several people’s blogs.

Before you believe everything you read (I call this “the last person I talked to is an expert” syndrome) run it through your value-meter. I’ve been writing for a long time, and content matters. If an article is cheap starchy filler, I leave faster than a barefoot pedestrian crosses a freshly-tarred street.

imagesMy value-meter knows that meeting people face to face and hearing their stories is what made me write my book in the first place. I heard so many people say, “I’m not really good at anything” while hungering to make meaning in life,  it was impossible for me not to write the book.

Of course, I also learn a lot from reading blogs.  I’m happy to explore new ideas, and I’m a big fan of change. But change for change’s sake rarely sticks. Change is fueled by current failure, pain, or general misery.  What makes change possible is that the current plan isn’t working.

What works for someone else might not work for me. And if it doesn’t match what I know to be true from my own life, it’s probably not true for me. My life is a big circle, and I invite a lot of people in. But it doesn’t mean I have to follow them around in circles.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach whose coaching practice is based on working with deeply-held values and, well, change.

Ice Bridge to Magic

Jenna Erickson is the program director of the Madeline Island School of Arts. Madeline Island is in Lake Superior, which at the moment, is largely frozen. Jenna’s commute includes the ice road between Bayfield, WI and Madeline Island. It looks like this:

ar123446568432946In a few weeks, when the ice road gets melty, slushy and more suitable for a Margarita than transportation,  Jenna will go to work on the wind sled. It’s a boat that can travel on ice or water and looks like this:

ar120491287446552That must take a lot of dedication. It must also give Jenna a lot of time to think about things other than if the ice road will hold up until she gets to work. One of the ideas that Jenna came up with is to give the people who are registering for my class a discount.

This is my second year teaching at Madeline Island. I’m teaching a 5-day mixed media workshop on June 2-6, 2014.  By that time, the view out the classroom window will look like this:

MISAYard

It looks like a painting, but I took this photo and it feels as good to be there as this looks.

So, I wanted to let you know about the special Jenna came up with for my blog readers called “The Red Barn Special.” This is specifically for my workshop at MISA. It’s simple. Save $85 on your on-site lodging reservation when you register for my workshop by April 15, 2014.

It’s called the Red Barn Special because the classroom I taught in last year looks like this:

IMG_3910That balcony was the place I stood to take the photo of the prairie and trees.

The class is going to be an incredible exploration of writing and mixed media techniques, and each participant will leave with a journal stuffed with work you didn’t know you could create.

Now is your chance to get first pick at the cozy on-campus rooms in their Mission Cottages. The great thing about spending a week on Madeline Island is that the time there is magic. You can work in the classroom any time, day or night. You will get a free session of creativity coaching with me. The breakfast is delicious and gives you lots of choices. You will be surprised at your intuitive writing and art skills. And you will have plenty of time on our own, for journaling or exploring.

A 25 percent deposit is all you need to hold your place in my workshop. Check out the class details of my class, and then call the Registrar, Anne Leafblad, at 715.747.2054, or email misa@cheqnet.net.

You’ll want to see the moon rise over Lake Superior one night:

night

Madeline Island is an amazing get-away that keeps out the world so you can  find yourself and your creativity all over again. Please join me in this very special place. Oh, and Jenna? She looks like this:

0But you never see her at Madeline Island. She’s always a step ahead of you, making sure everything is working and taken care of so you can dedicate your time to exploring your creativity, your energy, and the island.

-Quinn McDonald is planning some special surprises for her class at Madeline Island. She hopes she gets to stay in the farmhouse again.

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.

 

 

 

String of Words.

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!

*  *  *  *

quote-a-book-of-quotations-can-never-be-complete-robert-m-hamilton-283470Coming across a sentence that lights up a page is one of the joys of reading. I’ve come to a complete stop (to hell with the plot and characters)  and read a sentence over again several times. Then I’ll highlight it or mark it. When I’m done reading the book, I’ll go through it looking at the highlighted sentence again. Sometimes, I have no idea why I loved them. Those I let go.

Ahhh, but sometimes, they are perfect. They hold a speck of wisdom like a drop of water in a curled leaf. Unexpected, sparkling. I began collecting quotes and sentences from books.  I often take them to art classes, because they make wonderful words to add to collages and journals.

Often, I’ll pick a quote at random and start writing about it. I’ll have different takes on different days. I’m surprised at what I find in myself.

6a013485f24774970c01901b624f54970b-piWant to start keeping your own quote pages? I’ll help you get started. You can add even more by looking up any of the people you don’t know.

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” — Elizabeth Lesser

“Stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Remember, they’re doing the same thing.”  —Martha Beck

“You know what? People can take a lot from you. They can take away everything except your mind and your heart. Those things you have to give away. I decided not to give them away, and neither should you.” — Nelson Mandela, explaining how he overcame his bitterness, hatred, and resentment

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  –Ram Dass

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” –Nelson Henderson

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Quinn McDonald is in love with words. And today’s blog post is brought to you by her word of 2014, Scatter.

Creative Stroll 3.29.14

Much as I love the desert, I miss fireflies from back East. So when I saw how Vincent Brady had spend months photographing fireflies at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, I was enchanted.

Here is the video of several timed photographs.

And here is a great still from the series, “Firefly Planet” by Vincent Brady:

bradyphotography4

From the small bits of light, we back up and take a look at houses making patterns across what used to be a natural landscape. The photographs are from The Big Picture column from The Boston.com website.

 Circular layouts of homes near I-75, southwest of Fort Myers, Florida. Map. (© Google)

Circular layouts of homes near I-75, southwest of Fort Myers, Florida. Map. (© Google)

While this pattern looks like vines and flowers, there are others that look considerably more uncomfortable.

Part of Verona Walk, a gated community in Naples, Florida. Map. (© Google)

Part of Verona Walk, a gated community in Naples, Florida. Map. (© Google)

While I was flying over Nebraska last week, I saw, through thin clouds, acres of irrigation circles. A different look, but also an example of geometric precision.

photo

Continuing with the natural world (sort of), Johannas Stötter paints animals. Not on paper or canvas, nope. He paints animals on humans, who look like animals when he is done. Below is not a parrot, but a human being painted to look like a parrot.

parrot-body-painting-by-johannes-stotter-1Luckily, the paint allows the skin to function, so the long process isn’t harmful. If you look closely, you’ll see a woman sitting on the post, one leg uplled up (to make the wing), one arm lifted over hear head, (to form the parrot’s beak).

Check out the five-person frog and how it was done on his website.

Have a wildly creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald still misses fireflies. But now she has a video to watch when she misses them too much.

 

 

Easy, Cheap, No Work

” I want the eight hour class, but I want you to spend no more than half a day. And I don’t want you to lose anything. Can you do that?”

Postcards“The two day class seems like a lot of work. Can you cut out some of the exercises without losing any of the learning?”

“My group really is scared of complicated classes. What can you do to make the topic simple so no one has to ask any questions or see a demo?”

I hear these questions at least twice a month, both about my art classes and my business writing classes. Fun, easy, simple classes are wonderful. Many things that are easy and simple are valuable and worth learning.

From Lisa Loves Learning

From Lisa Loves Learning

But there is value in complicated. Struggle with something and conquer it and you have two valuable outcomes–you’ve learned something new and you have learned that you are strong enough to stick with something worthwhile.

Sadly, challenges are getting a bad name. If something is hard, it is the teacher’s perceived job is to make it easy. I’ve seen the title workshop become “playshop” because, you know, work is hard.

Teachers are not meant to hand people pre-digested solutions to solve problems or to complete a project. Part of  personal growth is in the struggle, is in finding solutions, is in completing the work. No one loves failure, but it can be part of a larger success. A life that has no challenges, whose answers come supplied by others does not add any significant learning or meaning.

Struggle for the sake of struggle is not useful. But working hard for what you want brings rewards independent of winning. And rewards are worth working for.

Quinn McDonald draws out the brave in people. She admires the brave meaning-makers far more than winners.

 

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.