Tag Archives: Journal Pages

Monoprinting Experiments

imagesA few weeks ago, I was given two Gelli Arts Plates. My creative life hasn’t been the same since. Gelli Plates are gelatin-like consistency printing surface  that you can use to make gelatin prints without the hassle of making gelatin. I have a big weakness for monoprints. But the monoprints I learned to make are very exacting and precise, and we all know by now, I admire those characteristics–in others. Wabi-sabi and rustic echoes out of my soul.

Gelli plates are used most often in creating backgrounds for multi-media uses. And they are fun to use for that purpose. You put acrylic paint on them then roll out the paint with a brayer. To put designs in the paint, use stencils, homemade tools, or just your fingers. Then put a piece of paper on the paint, smooth the surface with your hands, then pull the print off the plate.

©Quinn McDonald, 2013

©Quinn McDonald, 2013

Quinadricone Azo Gold and Quin. Burnt Orange are desert colors that blend well with Payne’s Gray and metallic gold. I used a small tile to make the imprint.

© Quinn McDonald, 2013

© Quinn McDonald, 2013

You can layer the prints, which is super popular in the layer-on-layer art journaling pages. This was fun. But I wanted a little more experimentation. So I made a custom rubber stamp out of foam sheets. That’s a separate tutorial, but it is well worth the time. No carving. You cut out foam and put it on a piece of foam as big as the plate.


© Quinn McDonald, 2013

Here’s a foam stamp, showing both positive and negative use. This is fun. There will be more of this experimenting. But I wanted to make real monoprints. Not for backgrounds, for a print. So I started with a simple one.

© Quinn McDonanld 2013

© Quinn McDonanld 2013

Three squares, layered, but translucent colors. The middle one is stamped with a gold antique clock. The piece represents past, present and future, each affecting the next. Interesting, but not quite what I wanted–something more graphic and still abstract.

After the Fire, © Quinn McDonald, 2013. Acrylic monoprint.

After the Fire, © Quinn McDonald, 2013. Acrylic monoprint.

Much more of what I was trying to get. Landscape feel, contrasting color, and some interesting detail on the lower right corner. (Above) And then I figured out how to draw on the plate and use the accidental arc of Azo Gold. (Below)

Night Pines © Quinn McDonald 2013, acrylic monoprint

Night Pines © Quinn McDonald 2013, acrylic monoprint

I worked the dried monoprint with Pitt Pens to add more detail and to make it look a little more like a woodblock. Then I added Derwent Inktense details to create the final piece. This is what I’d like to do more of. My original intent was to write over it. Now I’m rethinking that, at least for this piece.

And now, it’s the week of Patti Digh’s Design Your Life camp, and I’ll be prepping for that as well as teaching my new Persuasive Writing course. But it was a creatively satisfying weekend.

Quinn McDonald loves experimenting with monoprints.

Journal Page: Inventing an Alphabet

OK, I’m a writer, so I like different alphabets and codes. They also make great additions to a journal page. A new alphabet, a code–it’s a clever journaling piece that adds an easy design element through writing.

Could be someone cheering.

This morning on my walk, I saw interesting writing on the street. My mind went to an interesting story line–what if visitors from another planet came down and took notes on the street on what they saw and learned? What I saw on the street would be a kind of alien journal, written in code. That idea appealed to me, and I took some photos of the “writing.”

Looks like it could be a back-to-back letter.

That idea led to another one: why just use the regular alphabet in your journal? Why not add some new ones? New letter shapes, new designs are all around you. You can use alchemy symbols,  the Greek alphabet, numerical symbols.

A really interesting one is the Mormon Deseret alphabet (below). When you use shapes from an alphabet, you can invent what they mean to you–what the letter shapes are going to mean in your world. You can translate interesting letters into whole words if you like.


My favorite of the street was the one below–this is definitely the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything:

I made a journal page with a new alphabet. First I collaged various shades of white and cream on the page, then I used a brush and wrote quickly, without hesitation, inventing as I went along. And here is what the journal page looks like with a new alphabet:


And if you want to check out a few more different alphabets, this page should get you started.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, and artist who makes things up as she goes along.

Saturday Creative Roll

Giveaway: The three people who won Dina’s book from the March 27 blog post are Shannon Ganshorn, Annettte Geistfeld, and Ann M. Philli. Congratulations to all of you!

6a00d8341c766153ef017ee9cbb131970d-500wiJulie Fei-Fan Balzer is a multi-talented multi-media artist. I love her lettering and the design of her journal pages. I never draw faces–not in my journal, not in anything. So it’s time I gave you a link to someone who does.  Sharon Evans is doing a guest post about faces. The whole idea is interesting, 29 days of face drawing, on Ayala’s blog post. Whew, three amazing artists in one paragraph.  A good beginning, for sure.

Joanne Sharpe is a Journal Artist and knows how to produce a huge variety of lettering. Here’s some eye candy of Joanne’s lettering on Pinterest. And here is Joanne’s blog.

Donna Downey fills journal pages with bright, easy colors. Her busy website has a great inspirational blog and video to enjoy.

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

One of my favorite art journaling blogs is John a-Lookin’ Around. John P. is an engineer who lives in Kansas, and he doesn’t post as often as he used to, but the archives are just sitting there, waiting to be drooled over. I love his elegantly simple page design.

Have a great creative Saturday!

Quinn McDonald just got a delivery from JetPens. She also has to do her taxes. This is harder than she thought.

Journal Pages Unbound

Today, I was working on free-standing journal pages. I love the idea of combining fabric and drawing. A drawing of a cactus with a sheer fabric seemed intriguing.

Fabric journal pages open up a whole new genre of writing and drawing in your art journal. I’m creating free-standing or unbound pages–experimenting with creating unsequenced book pages. So far, I’m liking it a lot.

Yellow, orange and red polyester fabric.

My idea was to use fabric as a background. The way it turns out, it’s sewn on as a foreground and takes just a bit of planning.

The fabric is a sheer polyester in yellow, orange and red. I thought of sunsets and desert evenings when I purchased it. The woman behind the cutting counter looked at the sheer, bright fabric and at my request for a quarter yard and asked, politely but with great wariness, what I might be making with this. I’m sure she was terrified at what piece of clothing I might have in mind. “Art project,” I smiled. She broke into a big, relieved smile and then said, “It’s so much fun to play crafty games with the grandchildren for Easter isn’t it?” I smiled back. No sense to disturb her fantasy of happy Easter projects.

Layers, top to bottom: fabric, fusible webbing, watercolor paper. Cover with parchment before ironing.

First I drew a cactus on a piece of Strathmore pre-cut, cold-press watercolor paper. I added a scrap of landscape to anchor the image and explain the sunset colors. To give the cactus and landscape colors, I used Derwent Inktense and Caran D’Ache watercolor pencils.

Next, I cut a piece of lightweight fusible webbing the size of the page, and a piece of the fabric just a bit bigger. I covered the entire work with a piece of cooking parchment, to prevent the iron from sticking to the melted webbing.

Edges finished with zig zag stitching.

After ironing the fabric to the postcard, I trimmed the fabric and using a sewing machine set on zig-zag, finished the edges of the page.

By placing the fabric carefully, you can create different lighting effects.

Different lighting effects using different areas of the fabric.

The back of the page is for writing. I don’t show those parts here because the writing is personal. Eventually, I’ll do some samples and show those, too.

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling. She will teach these techniques in a class called Postcards from the Other Side of Your Brain at Valley Ridge Art Center on May 5-6, 2012. There are still places left if you’d like to join.


Tutorial: Strip Weaving Paper

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Weaving paper strips makes a great trim on a page,  an elegant edge or letterhead-type top, or even a page itself. You probably learned to weave paper in kindergarten, and you probably learned the hard way–holding down vertical   strips with … Continue reading

Journal Page: Pear

Before I’ve unpacked my bag to teach journaling, the participants say, “I never know what to write in my journal. I’d like to keep a journal, but it would be blank. I don’t know what to say.” Let’s start with something easy. Here’s a recipe clipped from the newspaper. (A cultural artifact dating from the 17th to the early 21st century, printed on cheap paper and containing a condensed version of news, advertising and comics and angry letters to the editor delivered to your door for a reasonable price every day.)

Keep special or often-used recipes in your journal.

It’s Maya Angelou’s recipe for poached pears and is blissfully delicious. My recipe box is full. If I put this recipe on an index card and stick it in a recipe book, I’ll wind up paging through all 400 cookbooks looking for it. Yes, we have 400 cookbooks.

So I turned it into a journal page. I drew some brightly colored pears, so I can find the recipe when I flip through the journal, and left space for notes, ideas of recipes to serve it with, or notes of who shared this dish at my dinner table.

A journal is the GPS of your journey. Eat well along the way.

Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art, comes out in July, 2011, published by North Light Books.

Product Review: Liquid Pencil

Reductive drawing, graphite on paper, imaged made with eraser. © QuinnCreative, 2008

Maybe you have a journal that looks like a picture book; mine doesn’t. OK, I’ve made a few for classes that are all tidy, but my real journals are about my life–and that means messy pages where I try things out, take notes, demo products.

Powdered graphite has been around forever, it’s messy but wonderful. My favorite work with these is to do reductive drawings–you start by dusting the powder over paper, then draw by using an eraser to remove the graphite. Remove too much and you sprinkle on some more. I drew the dove in flight, above, using that technique.

Now there is a liquid graphite, called Liquid Pencil, made by Derivan. Less messy, but it has its own control issues. It comes in a small jar and goes on with a paintbrush. It comes in six colors, each in a choice of permanent or rewettable. I purchased Grey 3 in rewettable and Sepia in permanent.

Liquid pencil is great for backgrounds and painting in subtle shades.

You can see the different effects in the sample page. Grey is on top, and the three streaks are made with an eraser after the liquid pencil has dried. Sepia is on the bottom, and it was much harder to get the eraser to pick up any of the permanent kind.

Out of the jar, it is quite thick. It can be thinned with water or acrylic medium. Using medium makes it permanent, so you can buy the rewettable and make it permanent yourself.Because the shading goes from dark to light, you can also use liqud pencil to paint or write with a brush, and create shadings of great subtlety.

The rewettable stays down nicely. After it dried, I rubbed my fingers over it and very little picked up. About as much as powdered graphite with one light coating of fixative.

In the Phoenix area, Derivan liquid pencil is carried at Jerry’s Artarama in Tempe. On May 3 they will switch to summer hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so check the website before you go.

If you look at the journal page, above, right,  you’ll see a line of pencil writing with a wash of turquoise blue behind it. This fun pencil is worth owning. It’s called NoBlot 705, Bottle of Ink in a Pencil. It combines a smooth graphite with aniline dye, so it writes in a non-fading, tough-to-erase black, like a pencil, but if you wet it with a brush, it dissolves into a beautiful turquoise permanent ink. If you are old enough, you may remember the grocer or bank clerk, licking a pencil and writing in a ledger. He (it was rarely a she) licked the pencil to activate the aniline ink, and make the ledger permanent.

The pencils are discontinued. Sanford is offering a permanent pencil, but it won’t have the cool turquoise dye in it. You can get it in Phoenix at Arizona Art Supply in Tempe. There are several others in the area, but not all of them have the NoBlot705.

Keep color samples of pens, pencils, inks in your journal. It shows how the product looks on your journal pages.

I’m working on some new ideas, using Gelly Roll gel pens. I’m not much of a glitter-lover, but gel pens have some interesting uses. (I’ll share more when I have decent samples).  Each pen carries a tiny color code. Because neither the cap nor the ink-filled barrel show the real color, I create rectangles in my journal, and write the pen ID number in the rectangle. The image on the left doesn’t show the amazing amount of glittery goodness in the pen, so don’t judge by the scan. I put color samples in all my journals to see how pens or pencils work in the specific journal I’m using.

You are now armed with enough new products to create at least a week’s worth of journal pages–have a wonderful time trying them out!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal artist. She is writing a book for art journalers who don’t know how to draw but want to keep a meaningful journal. The book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be released by North Light Books in June of 2011.

To-Don’t List

Join by adding your own to-don't list items.

We all have to-do lists. Just for today, I’m creating a To-Don’t list. Things I can let go of, not care about, not do. Ahhh, it feels better already.


—Spend all day doing laundry instead of enjoying last of the cool, sunshiny weather.

—Dust all the blinds after the last few days of wind and pollen.

—Drop by other people’s blogs, leaving my website and blogsite so I can get their readers over to my site.

—Answer that angry email with an angrier email. That’ll show ‘em. Make ‘em feel sorry, too.

—Tell my best friend what she should have done in that confrontation with her boss; advise (unasked) my spouse how to look better for that first meeting at work; fix my client’s need for attention.

—Find other people’s mistakes and point them out, along with my expertise in these matters. Maybe snag a few clients by showing off what I know. Really put myself out there.

—Start six new projects, but with no idea why or what they are supposed to be.

That’s my to-don’t list for today–things I want to walk away from and not get involved with. What’s on your To-Don’t list? Leave a comment.

Page from a Raw-Art Journal

One of my favorite quotes is from Dogen, about enlightenment being like the moon reflected in water. The moon and sky can be reflected in a tiny drop of water and hold the whole reflection, without getting the moon wet and without disturbing the reflection.
If I were a calligrapher, I would spend hours playing with this quote.
But I’m not a calligrapher, so I created several pages in my journal of how I see and feel the quote.
That’s the joy of a raw-art journal–you don’t have to be an illustrator. You simply let the quote move onto the page in its own way.

Dogen enlightenment In the first page, the words are important, and the image adds movement, although it doesn’t illustrate what the words say. Nor does it need to. The curvature of the path of the moon and the increasing size stir memories of seeing big pale moons rise into the sky on a fragile spring night.
In the next one, the quote is not used at all, only the words “enlightenment” and “satori” (Japanese for ‘englightenment’) are used. One is bold and graphic, the other is a reflection of enlightenment in it’s absence of form. It shows the power of the quote, without ever referring to it specifically.Satori

A raw-art journal can let you explore your intellect and emotions without entangling either one.



–Images: journal pages by Quinn McDonald. (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer. She teaches workshops on raw-art journal writing. For more information, see her website, raw-art-journals.com

Magic Words: Journal Prompts

Words, the sound of them, their meaning and even their letter shapes, hold endless fascination for me. I collect words. It’s a collection that is constantly evolving and I never have to worry about running out.  To keep track of words, I write them down. Not on long lists, but on the backs of the tickets that say “admit one” that you use for video arcades or drinks at charity events. (You can buy them cheaply at Staples.)

Word ticket. Admit to anything you want.

Word ticket. Admit to anything you want.

This isn’t a vocabulary list, I simply write down words I like. China. Sideways. Torch. Bay. Vine. Indigo. The left  side of my brain wants me to separate them into piles of verbs and nouns, adjectives and adverbs.  Or put them in different envelopes marked “abstract nouns,” “colors,” “comfort words.”  The right side of my brain won that argument–I can do a lot more piling them all together.

What do I do with the words? Sometimes I simply sift through them to see what interesting combinations I get, quite by extraordinary coincidence. Star grass. Silver lantern. Poem leaf. Lightning root. They make great journal prompts. “Lightning root: The cause of lighting, the first tiny frzzt that leaps larger and jags across the sky.” Or, another one: “The place in the earth burned

The word book box

The word book box

by the lightning strike. It’s tap-root deep, and next year it will grow a transparent dandelion.” I never tire of these imagination games, and reading back over them has sparked many an idea.

Sometimes I draw three tickets and they represent the past, present and future. Today I pulled ‘Hope’, ‘Spin’, and ‘Comfort’ for the past, present and future, and spent a happy 20 minutes deciphering what it means, recording it all in my journal.

For years, I kept words in a bag, but a few days ago I found a box shaped like a book. It seemed the perfect place for the words.

The word book box, open

The word book box, open

I’ve been a word collector for a long time. When I was about eight, I noticed that ‘live’ spelled backwards was ‘evil.’ I thought that was very important, mysterious, and special. That was enough to get me started.
When I got to the moody part of teenage life, I turned to anagrams and came up with the idea that ‘live’ could be changed to ‘vile,’ which is how I thought of my life.
Later on, of course, ‘lives’ became ‘elvis’ and after that, Elvis lives.

In high school I discovered anagrams. While math was not my strong suit, I discovered that ‘Eleven plus two’ is an anagram of ‘Twelve plus one.’

In college, I anagrammed ‘dormitory’ to ‘dirty room.’ My favorite that year was “the eyes= they see.” ‘ Silent’ morphed to ‘Listen’. Still one of my favorites.

I use the tickets to think about words in different ways. “Bay” can be a part of the sea, a place where the truck unloads, a window, a color, and a sound. That’s one rich word.

If you choose the words randomly, they create a kind of poetry. You can always add the words that are missing. Before you know it, you’ll be playing with words and discovering their secret meanings that you’ve always known, but never noticed. Your journal will never be at a loss for writing again.
–(c) 2007. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a word collector and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com