Slow Art

Art retreats can be intimidating. Not just all the art instructors, ideas, books, and people. It’s the material. I don’t browse in Michael’s, I shop for specific things online, so there is much I don’t know about. And every bit of it is here. . .mica sheets, postcards, and flakes. Microscope slides for soldering into pendants; scraps of silk, threads, and fibers of miraculous origin, packed into color-coordinated envelopes. Metal embossing plates, rubber stamps that aren’t rubber anymore, they are plastic and stick onto acrylic blocks.

There are colored inks, stamp pads that do everything except print themselves (that’s next year) and pieces of paper printed, embossed, and covered in particles to look like glass, river stones (and rivers), drifting snow and hundreds of other things. Die-cutting and binding machines in pastels for fun studio use; machines that make stickers or add glue to one or both sides of anything.

colorsMany of the classes require using these objects. It makes me feel old and out of date. I use colored pencils, paper, India inks and other things that have been around for years. I’m not against progress, I have a Mac and blog, for heaven’s sake. But what I noticed was that a lot of classes were about assembling more than creating.

And I was intimidated. Not owning these tools makes me feel behind the times, not up to date as an artist. It took a whole day for me to have the “Aha!” about this. It’s great for people to assemble things that make them happy. I’m sure when the first dress patterns came out, someone grumped about “shortcuts.” I’m not against assembly, or pre-cuts or pre-colored. I think they save time and are great to make people feel

I just don’t want to use them myself. I’m more of a wabi-sabi artist. A minimalist. The simple tools of art–pencils, ink, paint, glue create enough variety for me to create. In fact, I like limiting what I can use, it forces me to think of the technique, the connections between materials and the result, and the pathway to get there.

Neither one is more valid than the other. I just choose the way that works best for me. It’s not about purchasing the best equipment, it’s about using what you have to create art. And now I’m ready to go back to class.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist who is at an art retreat learning more about herself than about the latest machines. See her work at  Images: color wheel,; Water landscape, using only inks and colored pencil, Murray Chowlowsky,
(c) 2007 All rights reserved.

10 Travel Tips for Today

Having just flown 10,000 miles in two weeks, I’d like to pass on some tips to make travel a little easier. Every flight I was on was packed, middle seats and all. Along the way, I learned some things that are good to know, for comfort and for cost-savings if you own your own business.

1. Plan ahead. If you know you are flying, start looking at the Internet sites early. Yes, you can find great last-minute savings, but if you have to be somewhere on a certain day and don’t have a lot of spare time, book earlier rather than later. Always choose a seat for your flight. Don’t leave it to the gate agent who cares more about filling seats that your comfort.

2. Ask, and you might receive.
At the hotel, ask if you can have a microwave or refrigerator in your room. Sometimes, they are free for the asking. Sometimes not. But you should give yourself the choice. Chilled drinks, heated snacks or meals made from restaurant leftovers can be a big cost saving.

3. Carry easy food.
You don’t get food on a plane if you aren’t flying first class. Carry a granola bar, trail mix or raisins for snacking and to stave off the hunger that encourages you to make bad food choices when you arrive. You can also carry an orange, apple, or a bag of grapes, but I found I didn’t want to have to watch out for my food in travel. There are many small spaces in the travel world, spaces that will squash your carry-ons.

4. Ask your hotel about wi-fi. Most hotel websites are out of date. What cost $10 on the website (and lets you pre-register) was free at the hotel. Without the hassle of having to fight over the credit card charge.

5. Find your favorites ahead of time. Before I left, I used Google maps to help me find wi-fi spots, a coffee shop, a bookstore, and other places of interest for me. I printed out directions from the hotel to these places without having to ask for directions.

6. Know where to find a drugstore. A good source for bottled water, toothpaste, hair product, sunscreen and other things you don’t have room to take (or that doesn’t come in small enough containers) but want to have.

7. Use tools at hand. My cell phone screen lights up when it is fully charged. Annoying when it’s on a nightstand, quite useful when I plug it into the hotel’s bathroom plug and let it serve as a night light. Also makes me get up to turn it off when I use the phone as an alarm clock.

8. Going to a convention? Staying in a hotel with a kids’ sport convention? Most conventioneers are noisy and not thoughtful of sleeping guests. Carry earplugs and a CD of soft music. Many hotels now have radios with CD players. I have a friend who bought cheap, wafer-thin speakers and connects his i-pod at night.

9. Check the radio. Figure out the alarm or how to turn it off before you go to bed. Hotels often have off-brand and older clock radios with the writing worn off the buttons, or just baffingly difficult to work. The person before you needed to get up at 4:30 am, you don’t. I unplug the extra-bright clock radio and bring my own small (about $30) LLBean clock radio that has a far better sound.

10. Lines at airport security are horrible. Wear a jacket with pockets or carry a bag with an outside pocket to hold your license, boarding pass and receipts so you don’t have to open and close bags in the quadrillion steps it takes to show certain documents. Then carry a big envelope (at least #10 size) to put in all your receipts so you can have them when you create your travel expense account.

–Quinn McDonald has traveled to all the continents except South America and Antarctica, which she hopes to do before travel gets too weird to make it worthwhile. She is also a writer and artist. See her work at (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

Journaling Classes Come to Tempe

August 8: Journaling for Perfectionists

Have 10 journals started but none really used? Wish you could fill all those great journals you have? Get rid of the guilt, the procrastination and the fear of not journaling “right” at this lively course. Get the benefit of creativity coaching and journaling!

The Paper Studioshop_view1.jpe

520 E Southern Ave
Tempe, AZ 85282
To register, call Cindy Iverson at (480) 557-5700

August 9: One-Sentence Journaling

Pressed for time? You can keep a journal writing just one sentence a day. (Two, if you are ambitious.) Learn how to keep track of who you are in a meaningful way, and still have time to live your life. You’ll learn how to be aware, how to write intensely, and how to write using all your senses.

ch3.jpeChanging Hands Bookstore

6428 S Mcclintock Dr ,C101
Tempe, AZ 85283
Call Pinna Joseph to register:(480) 730-4828

Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach, writer and artist. She teaches what she knows. A recovering perfectionist, she has let go of control and opened her life to not knowing, possibilities and growth. (c) 2007