Tag Archives: creativity coach

Copyright Protection or Nothing New in the World

When it comes down to teaching your art, you find yourself in one of two worlds: the kind where you protect your copyright avidly, not handing out how-to sheets for fear of having them stolen or shrugging it off and saying, “everything is derivative anyway. I got my ideas from someplace else, too.”

Those ideas lie at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I’d like to introduce a third idea, maybe a fourth.

First, let me admit I’ve lived at both ends of the spectrum. I was not happy when a fellow artist came into my booth, years ago, took photos of my work, claiming it was because she “loved my display,” then rolled out a line of stunningly similar artwork the next season, priced just below mine.

Nor was I happy when I was in a class on a topic I’d taught often, and was hoping to get out of a rut, and was handed a how-to sheet that looked stunningly familiar. It was familiar, in fact, it was my handout, complete with copyright on the bottom line, photocopied for the entire class.

At some point I decided that everything I taught, every article I published should be something I had already taught to exhaustion, or I was ready to give up. But part of the fun of teaching is getting inspired by students. Would I have to give it up?

Now, I am careful to copyright my work. I send it to the copyright office once a quarter, with payment. That allows me to sue for damages for violators. But I also don’t want to be the copyright police. And I want to promote innovation and creativity. If I do not want anyone to know what I’m working on, I don’t post it anyplace. Or talk about it.

People will always explore, and people will always use what they find. Gracious people ask, kind people give credit. But if you teach, no one can teach the way you do. Your personality combined with your skill and talent make your class. And people will come to your class because you are welcoming and a good teacher. No one can take that from you.

-Quinn McDonald teaches what she knows.

 

Round the World Blog Hop

If you read this blog and the comments, you know Wendy from Late Start Studio. Describing herself, Wendy says:

“I’ve been messing around with something ‘arty’ since childhood, have always been able to squeeze in time to explore some new creative venture, but still haven’t managed to settle on one thing . . . I’m not unhappy at the prospect of remaining a mucker for life, living on a beach on the wildish west coast of the North Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand.”

Check out Wendy’s latest work, I love her free-range ideas.

Hotel hallway wallpaper, Arlington, VA

Hotel hallway wallpaper, Arlington, VA The paper is flat, although it looks dimensional.

 

Wendy asked me to be part of a blog hop, which are like postcard swaps–you run into the nicest people anywhere in the world. I eagerly checked out the names on Wendy’s blog hop page, and, to my absolute amazement–I knew them all. Diana Trout is one of the kindest art teachers I know; Violette Clark wrote Journal Bliss about the time I was writing Raw Art Journaling,  and Tammy Garcia from Daisy Yellow is a great inspiration for me.

OK, so here are the blog hop questions and answers:

What are you working on? Wouldn’t it be nice if I gave one, succinct answer? Yeah, wrong person. I just finished a custom class on innovation and problem solving for a training course. I’m so proud that a municipality asked for it. Eventually, it will become the basis of my class on creative problem solving.  I just finished the workbook today.

"White Crow, Black Sun," © Quinn McDonald. Collage on handmade paper.

“White Crow, Black Sun,” © Quinn McDonald. Collage on handmade paper.

On the creative side, I  finished a collage  (White Crow, Black Sun).  I’ve already developed a change I want to make on the next version.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?  Many collage artists today favor “layers on layers” with bright colors, stencils, imprints, and a lot of paint and paper. My work is minimalist. The eye rests on and delights in the texture and color of the background paper. There is time for the viewer to create personal meaning, if they wish, or wonder what I meant. All of my pieces are named, and the name is part of the meaning.

Why do you write/create what I do? Because I can’t not write. Writing is always an exploration for me, a connection, a reaching out to see what will happen. I write for a living and to support my art habit. I also write poetry.

The collage work is purely for self-expression. I make meaning with my work. Creativity is my religion. I draw power and strength and comfort from it.

How does your writing/creating process work? Given enough sleep and coffee, I can write on command, on almost any subject. My corporate life was as a writer, and no one had time or room for writer’s block.

Hotel hallway runner, Washington, D.C.

Hotel hallway runner, Washington, D.C. Inspiration plenty here.

My collage work reaches back to a time before I knew who I was. I dream and develop concepts, plan an image. But I can’t anticipate design problems, so I solve what shows up along the way, or create a series that builds on what I’ve learned from the last piece, the last mistake.  I often make sketches to remind me of what I want to do.

My heart of my work is as a creativity coach, and I learn so much from my clients–about life, growth and change.

I have a small studio in my home, and I just re-did the studio to avoid too much product and having too many distractions. I find the room brighter, airier and the creative process seems lighter as well.

Next week, be sure to stop by Claudia Mazzie-Ballheim’s blog. She’ll be catching you up on her creative life. Visit Claudia’s website, too. There are two more bloggers, but I’m saving those for another day.

-–Quinn McDonald is going to Minneapolis tomorrow to teach. She is waiting for whatever may happen.

 

Traveling Shrine

Traveling is an adventure–you meet new people, eat interesting meals, and are awake to new experiences. Traveling is also exhausting and frustrating–airline delays, people acting out, and hotel rooms that make you feel like a stranger missing the comforts of home.

To lighten the discomfort of traveling, I’ve developed some self-care habits that make it possible to put up with frustrations, sleep better, and return home without needing a whole day to fit back into my body.  Some examples:

  • Buy a complete set of makeup for your travel kit–no more plundering your drawer before and after every trip.
  • Treat yourself to a pair of very comfy slip-on shoes to wear on the airplane so you can run through the airport if you have to, and take a walk when you get to our destination if you want to.
  • Switch to a Commonplace Journal. Packing a sketch journal and a notes journal and a travel journal means nothing will get journaled.
  • Bring non-work-related reading material and use flight time to read something fun or interesting. You really can’t work all the time.
  • Create a ritual for your hotel room. Make it something pleasant or soothing. Using a hotel room as an office then going to sleep with the TV on wrecks your sleep.

My ritual started with a tin of Trader Joe’s breath mints. They look like this:

Box_mintsA perfect little plastic window in a 2-inch square box. I wanted to make a small traveling Inner Hero shrine, filled with inner heroes that I can call on when I’m in a strange city. Something that calms me to a better self.

Box_openThe box is well-hinged and stocked with mild breath mints that are also low in sugar. Perfect all the way around. Note the label blocking the window in the lid. Remove it slowly, heating it with a hair dryer, to get it off. I had to use Goo-Gone to get off all traces of the label. I wiped the inside out with alcohol to get rid of the mint-dust.

Box_templateBecause the tin is already bright green, I don’t need to paint it. But I wanted to make a series of inserts for the tin, so I cut a template that would fit.

Box_insertsUsing pieces of Monsoon Paper, monoprint scraps, brayered-off pieces of paper, and other colorful scraps, I cut out colorful pieces of art. On the back, I scoured my journals for Inner Hero characteristics. I rounded the corners of each piece then wrote on the back.  My Inner Heroes have characteristics that I have or almost have and will get used to, with some practice. Here are a few:

  • She listens with curiosity, not to form an answer.
  • She hears fear in angry outbreaks. There is no need to reply in anger.
  • What is the speaker’s perspective? Can I stand in that space?
  • She notices when she judges, and considers.

Box_DoneSometimes I flip through the colored side, pick something that appeals to me, read the back, and that becomes something to pay attention to the next day. I put the card on the top, so the colored side shows through the window as a reminder.

Box_shrineOther times, I put my talisman necklace in the shrine with one of the cards to create a focal point of home and heart and use it as a meditation focal point at night or in the morning. It’s easier to meditate in a strange place with a well-loved and comfortable focal point.

Sometimes, I just shuffle through the colored sides, remembering the work they came from originally. It’s calming and grounding. And best of all, the box takes up a tiny bit of space that fits in the side pocket of my backpack, easily available.

—Quinn McDonald travels and teaches. She learns something about every city and she learns something about herself in every city.

 

 

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.

 

Creative Hop: May 3, 2014

Federico Uribe creates color-pencil art. Sure, he might use the color pencils to put down color, but mostly, he uses the whole pencil as part of the artwork. Uribe, a Miami-based artist, uses found objects in his sculptures and his artwork, integrating them so carefully, they look as if they belonged exactly where he put them. Because they do.

uribemixed3Uribe says that using found objects is like interpreting the shape of clouds. He says that each object is like a word, providing context as well as content.

In the top artwork, you’ll see the background is a long line of yellow #2 pencils.

*    *     *     *   *   *

Andy Ellison is an MRI technician. He takes scans of people’s brains to earn a living. One day, in order to check the settings on the machine, he scanned an orange. He was amazed at the detail, the shape, and the movement.  It’s the movement that mesmerized me. Below is an artichoke, and it doesn’t move. Click on the link below to see the magical moving scans.

MRI of artichoke by Andy Ellison.

MRI of artichoke by Andy Ellison.

In Ellison’s blog, Inside Insides, he has a series of animations that seem to grow, shrink, multiply. Art and nature makes a great combination.

*   *   *   *

Ron Isaacs delicate vintage clothing is certainly art. It gets more amazing when you realize it’s not fabric, it’s wood. Finnish birch plywood, to be exact.

isaacs-2Isaacs sees his work as a combination of painting and sculpture. Of his subjects, he says, “My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. “

Have a creative weekend!

—Quinn McDonald is constantly amazed at the creativity of people who make art.

 

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.

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.

Another Book Launch

Tonight and 7 p.m., for the second time in three years, I’ll launch a book at Changing Hands independent book store. Yes, I did a book signing at CHA in Anaheim. But doing the first signing in your own town is the real launching of any book.  Two of the contributors, Traci Paxton Johnson and Rosaland Hannibal with be with me to help people find their inner hero and to sign the books.

HeroBookThe Inner Hero Creative Art Journal is ready to go out in the world and stand on its own. I’m proud of it, and proud that I finished it. Several times while writing it, I didn’t think I had the courage to say the things I wanted to say.

Tomorrow night, I might feel that same fear. Just because you write about the inner critic doesn’t mean you got over your own. I just got to know him better.

But here is what I do know: without the encouraging, brave, funny, and imaginative group of people who read this blog, leave encouraging comments and help me solve problems, there wouldn’t have been a book. So to all of you who stop by here–thank you so very much for supporting my inner heroes.

If you live in the Phoenix area, stop by Changing Hands at 7 p.m. tonight. There will be chocolate chip cookies for snack lovers and seedy bars for diabetics and gluten-free patrons, fruit spears for vegans, too. Changing Hands is on the Northwest corner of Guadalupe and McClintock in Tempe.

We’re going to do fun exercises to call out our inner heroes. Original art from the book will be there, too. I’m so happy I finished the book. Because it’s a whole new beginning for outsider art and courage.

—Quinn McDonald never imagined there would be people stopping by to chat every day. She’s glad for the company. Writing can be lonely.