Judy Melvin: Class in Mixed Media

Judy Melvin, a mixed media artist, taught a class to the Calligraphy Society of Arizona this past weekend. Judy is a calligrapher with a big portfolio. She has a 12-year career with American Greeting Corporation where she designed and lettered product, invented new fonts and painted and designed cards.

Radish bird, bleach, pastels on Arches cover stock © Quinn McDonald 2009

For members like me, who aren’t calligraphers, the class was still rich in opportunity. I used mark-making, found poetry, and hand lettering in this class and had a wonderful time.

Judy demo’d “Sink Art” –you start by using sumi ink on white paper, then rinsing it under running water. Sumi ink is tenacious, but the running water washes some of it off. With careful manipulation, you can run the ink to other parts of the paper and develop a marbling effect.

We also used brushes and calligraphy pens to write on black cover stock with bleach. The stock was black all the way through, so the result looked like batik. We then went back and added pastels to incorporate color into the positive and negative spaces.

We worked with gesso and walnut ink as well, creating several pieces. The class ended with an art show. One of the delights in a class of creatives is seeing the results of people who have received the same instruction. None of them are in the least alike.

Judy’s friendly, easy-going style and encouraging manner is a big plus in making the class interesting and fun.

Below: Detail of a bleached  piece of cover stock, colored with pastels and then collaged with found poetry.


Bleach and pastels take away and give color

Rebels & Radicals

Dangerous women
Fight to build clarity, creativity and courage
Demonstrate How we are connected
in a world gone mad.

Below: Detail of a bleached piece of cover stock, colored with pastels using hand-cut stencils.


Detail of Radish Bird, showing stenciled pastels

Holiday Party? How to Hold on to Your Job After the Party

Every year, hundreds of well-meaning people jump off the career ladder and don’t know it. They attend the office holiday party and in one, colossal moment of misguided relaxation, kill their career. When they let go, they don’t remember that the problem started at the holiday party.

So let me be plain: Holiday parties are not for having fun. They are for proving you can behave well in public and know how to dress appropriately (Hint:  no flip-flops). Here, for those who may have trouble navigating the office party scene, some hints:

ornaments1. Even if there is an open bar, do not have more than two drinks. Don’t drink often? One is plenty. A holiday party is not for losing control or letting go. At best it is a networking opportunity, at worst it is a chance to prove you can behave in public. Slurred speech, bleary eyes and loudly insisting you are “fine to drive” doesn’t fool anyone.

2. Crying, vomiting, or taking off any portion of your clothing is not part of a holiday party. Stick to club soda or juice when you start to feel frisky and funny.

3. Unless you are a professional, do not give in to the urge to sing or dance on stage, with a microphone or in a spotlight. Cell phone cameras will have you on YouTube tomorrow, just when that company you submitted your resume to is checking your profile and finding the link.

4. Stay away from the copy machine. You don’t need to be there at an office party and the temptation to photocopy body parts increases with liquor consumption. martini glass

5. No matter how hot your boss’s spouse looks, not matter how flirty the CEOs date, do not, under any circumstances, reply in kind. The bigger the age difference, the less you should engage them in any conversation. If you think I’m not serious, rent and watch an old movie called The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman.

6. Do not discuss your promotion or engage in self-promotion at the party. Of any kind. Do not take the opportunity to snark on anyone who isn’t there. No one likes to keep someone else’s ego inflated at the holiday part. Slimy behavior engages the karma wheel.

7. This is not the time to pull off your glasses, fluff up your hair and be the inner animal you’ve always wanted to be. This is also not the time to wear anything that flashes, jingles, or glows in the dark. That’s for your own party, at another time. Wear party clothes that are appropriate for your age and figure. Spandex is tricky to wear and still be thought of as chic.

8. Avoid the person holding the camera or video equipment. If they ask you to do the solo from “Evita,” the full-body spelling of Y.M.C.A., or the hysterical imitation of the guy in accounting, feign ignorance, even if you have left people in the kitchen in stitches with the routine. (See warning in #3, above.)

9. Don’t be the last one to leave. Do not be the first one to leave either. If figuring this out causes you a headache, put your drink down, switch to club soda.

10. Learn to enjoy yourself with all the restrictions. Sometimes that’s as good at is gets.

Images: martini glass: midwestdiva.blogspot.com ornaments: http://www.jewelry-gift-boxes.com

–Quinn McDonald has been to many holiday parties, some of which she would prefer not to remember. She is a writer and certified creativity coach who teaches Workplace Communication.

Different Journals, Different Jobs

Keeping a journal is not a formal work for me. I have several journals, some larger than others, some with handmade paper. As long as I date the work, it doesn’t matter which journal I work in.

yhst-71326348041790_1977_1622103.gif As most people who juggle different projects, I have to keep track of voice mails, make lists, and jot down notes to find directions. I tried keeping the information on 3×5 notes, but discovered I often needed information on notes I discarded. So I began keeping the information on rollabind-punched 3x5s.

Warning:  I can no longer recommend Rollabind after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

Then I noticed that I have a hand-brain memory. I would remember on which side of the page certain information appeared, and about where in the book. So removing pages confused me and threw the whole book into disarray.

Another fact floated to the top of my brain: these notes, phone numbers, movie names, books someone recommended–all form a weird map of my life. They are as much journal information as the stories, artwork and posts in my more formal journals. I refer to them to find out when I saw which movie, or to draw a map to get me from the bookstore to the art class.  These pages form the real pieces of my life, the daily patchwork that makes life interesting, gives it colorSolstice and texture.

And now I’ve decided to start keeping those scribble journals.  Instead of loose cards, I’ve moved the whole thing to Moleskine Cahier bound-books, the 5×8 size. They are thin and flat and fit into my paper calendar that keeps my appointments straight. (Yes, I have an iPhone, and it keeps many things, but I need a paper calendar to show me what I’m not doing as well as what I am.)

This is a whole new direction, and piques my interest in mapping a life through journals. It may be a whole new kind of journal.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007-9 All rights reserved. Cahier notebooks by Moleskine.com   Image: “Solstice” by Quinn McDonald. Watercolor, pencil, on handmade paper.

Art Tutorial: Found Poetry Collage

If you like found poetry, you can take it one step further and create a collage with it. A few days ago, I used raw-art techniques for found poetry. Today, I’m using a different method. It’s the journaling version of NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month.

While the “rules” of found poetry say you underline the words, then copy them, I like the idea of cutting out the words and pasting them down. This can get a little tricky if you are using catalogs or magazines. It gives it a visual and textural feel, as well as a heightened realism in the cut-out words.

Here is my most recent venture into found-poetry journaling, a two-page piece, including cut-out. Directions are below the photos. Words of the poem:


In a seaside town
two minutes from the beach,
you grow up with nothing–
Winters hold razor-sharp edges.
Pearl moon makes the most of its small space
Still big and empty enough for
human-scaled dimensions.


Overleaf (page 1) with moon cutout backed with parchment. You can see part of the poem through the parchment.


Next page. Moon repeats--this is the piece from the previouis page. The letter "M" is large to emphasise the word "moon".


Materials: Several magazines, catalogs, old books and. . .

  • Scissors, craft knife (small box cutter or X-acto knife)
  • glue
  • tweezers
  • parchment paper, cut into 5″ x 8″ pieces.

Method: Read through catalogs, magazines, or an old book that you don’t mind cutting up. When you find a phrase you like, cut it out carefully. Leave a margin around the words you want. It makes it easier to change tenses or capital letters if the new piece overlaps, rather than butts up against, the cut-out piece.

Don’t worry too much if you don’t have perfect sentences. Right now you are gathering. It’s also a good idea to cut out a few extra words. You don’t know yet where this is going, and that’s part of the fun.

In this case, I had drawn a fancy bottle on the page, intending to make the poem about memories–the bottle was a perfume bottle, the idea that scents evoke memories. That was my idea. Poetry’s idea ran away in another direction. That necessitated the cut out page and re-thinking of the design. Leave yourself open till you have the poem. It’s much easier.

Put the strips of paper together, using lines to create phrases.

In some cases, you may want big or fancy letters for the initial capital. You could write them in, or use rubber stamps, but I find the search and cutting method to be more satisfying for this collage.

Trim the larger pieces you have to make just the words you want visible. Now use tweezers to place them as you would collage pieces, to see where you want them.

The glue choice is important. I tried a glue stick, but it doesn’t deposit enough glue and often the paper rips. Thin glue makes the paper too fragile. I like to use a PVA glue and a thin paintbrush. Put the strip face down on the parchment paper, use the tweezers to hold the paper in place, and stroke the glue over in a thin coat. This keeps the glue from oozing out underneath the paper and leaving marks on the page.

Use the tweezers to place the piece of paper, face up, in place. Pat over the entire surface, including corners, with the tweezers. You can use the paintbrush, too. I use plastic instead of painted wood paintbrushes. The paint flakes off the painted wood when you are working with glue and gets in your artwork.

First, circle the words.

Method II: Finding hidden poetry in book pages

Here’s another way to create found poetry. It’s easier in that there is no cutting and more challenging in that you are using words in the order they appear in a book.  Don’t use a book of poetry, this is your own found poetry.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Utility cutter to remove page from book
  • Pages removed from a book. (Novels are better than textbooks or non-fiction books).
  • HB pencil
  • Eraser
  • Acrylic paint
  • Newsprint or other paper to protect your desk
  • Small paintbrush
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons

Read through a few pages of the book until you find some interesting phrases that catch your attention. Then carefully cut the page out of the book. Start at the top of the page and start looking for phrases that tell a story. This is not related to the plot of the book, so you can use a book you haven’t read. Find a phrase that appeals to you and circle it.

The poem you find is not in one line–you might find it scattered word by word over the whole page. If you are lucky, you will find a few words grouped together. Use a pencil that’s easy to erase, the first stage is where you change your mind about what the poem is about. Erasing extra circled words is a normal thing to expect.

If you need to add an –ed or –ing, look for them after the main word. If you have words you won’t need, use an eraser to remove them, leaving just the words you want for now. When you are finished, read the poem aloud to feel the full force of it.

Paint over the words you don't want.

When you’ve circled all the words in your poem, you are ready to paint out all the words you aren’t going to use. Paint slowly, using small strokes. You want to surround each phrase completely. Words that are divided at the end or beginning of a line should be free of paint at the end of the line and have the hyphen visible. The words you want are easily visible, the ones you aren’t using should be covered with paint. It’s great if they are faintly visible, so you can see it was a book.

I used Titan Buff, you can use any color you want. You can also paint designs on the page.

Most book pages are thin, and will curl. If you paint the back side of the page when the front is completely dry, the page will stop curling.

Keep your journal open until the page is completely dry.

––Quinn McDonald is a writer who stands in the middle ground between words and illustrations, believing they both make meaning and create art. © Quinn McDonald, 2009 All rights reserved

Words Are Art

There is a strong connection between words and art. Not just words used to describe art, but words that form art. Some words look bold and important, others are meant to slip over a page.


Marta's amazing tree. See her website at: wordsareart.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/

My world is on paper. But there are other ways to handle words. Johnathan Harris does it in cyberspace with the Word Count. He’s an artist whose entire body of work exists on computers. Part of Harris’s mind is an engineer’s mind, part is an artist’s mind. Harris created a list of the 86,800 most common words in the English language. He sorted them and posted them. The most common word is “the” and its number is ‘1’ . “of'” and “and” are in places 2 and 3. You can look up a word to see where it is or type in a position number and see what word it is.

Looking at them turns you into an instant numeric scholar. Click on “666” and you get the word “easy.” There is some wonderful divine justice in that. “God” at number 376, is between “began” and “top.” It starts to make sense after a while. “Death” (number 454) is between “church” and “sometimes.” There are words in sequence that make sense. “Running” and “Feet” and numbers 698 and 699. “Contagious” (2159) is just one over from “Feverish” (2161).

Harris wasn’t finished yet. He started a count to see which words people looked at most often and created another list–the Query List. What’s the most common word people looked up? Of course, “sex.”

You can also see Harris as a speaker on TED–the conference of interesting ideas told by their fascinating creators. And read his 2007 story, the whale hunt.

Have some fun. Type in your birthday, your age, some special number. See what comes up. Words are art. In many ways.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist. See her work at raw-art-journals.com © 2007-9. All rights reserved.

Tutorial: Found Poetry, Raw Art

Found poetry is the discovery of hidden words and phrases in text that was written for another purpose entirely–a catalog or magazine article, for example. The poem is not found all together, you’ll find a word here, a few more six lines down.

I find this accidental discovery a perfect match for raw art--which is drawing abstract patterns that are pleasing, exciting, soothing, or engaging. Both are a discovery and both result in the creation of something new.

You can make up a variety of rules to make found poetry more challenging–mine are simple: You choose a set number of pages from a catalog, book, or magazine and find words or phrases that, when cut out and placed next to each other, make poetry. No fair using song lyrics or pieces that are already poetry.

Be careful to cut out words that are grammatically correct in the place you want to use them. That might mean cutting out extra letters. Because you are creating a collage  the words can be different typefaces, sizes or colors.

Then you add raw art–in this case a repetitive topographical pattern, with a suggestion of plant life, to match the seasonal theme of the poetry and to emphasize the word “freedom” and the tribal feel.

Horizon Dust

Time around us moves faster.
The seed that was sown 20 years ago
sweeps into the season raw-edged and tribal.
New growth, striped in rich autumnal hues,
moving to a new feeling and a new freedom
blossoming forth.

Found poetry with raw-art © Quinn McDonald 2009 All rights reserved

All the words in “Horizon Dust” comes from a variety of clothing descriptions in two pages of the Sundance fall catalog.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who stands in the middle ground between words and illustrations, believing they both make meaning and create art. © Quinn McDonald, 2009 All rights reserved

These Aren’t Your Parents’ Values Anymore

Finding a creative project (or a job, for that matter) is rooted in knowing your values.

When I ask my coaching clients, “What are your values?” they immediately reach for the “right” ones–honesty, authenticity, conscientiousness, kindness, spirituality.


Startcooking.com tells you how to load a dishwasher at http://tinyurl.com/yff44ev

“Piffle,” I say and hear a shocked intake of breath, followed by a protest.
“Those words don’t have any juice in them. They mean something vague and colorless to everybody. I want specifics.” I answer. Usually followed by a long silence.

The word “value” has been de-valued. Think about the words we used to think of as powerful: “Passionate” now means “I’m interested in it right now, “Authentic” means “I can’t be the real me, because no one will like the real me, but I wanna have a tantrum right now!” “Abundance” is something everyone else has but not you, particularly money. So we need better ideas for values.

When I ask about what a client values, I like them to use examples. Because what I’m looking for is what is important to them in the way they do their work, creative or not.

For example, you may value the bottom line–love it when people act in quick, decisive ways. Hate people who dither and endlessly consider every crumb of information.

Or, you may value being careful, thinking of a lot of choices, leaving the door open for more ideas, more thoughts. Then, when you do make up your mind, you will have done so after processing information thoroughly.

Neither of these people are wrong. Both have strong values in how they make decisions. But if they work together, collaborate on a creative idea, are in the rolls of “boss” and “employee” they will not form a good match.

While it’s true that we can’t expect to find our perfect matches in a job, a creative collaboration, in a boss, if we don’t find a match for the most important values we hold, we will be miserable. We also need to be able to speak to people who hold different values, because learning to speak to them means listening  and being heard–and being heard is a strong value with almost everyone, although listening is not.

You’ve probably had some thoughts (or heated arguments) on what is “right”–

  • forks and knives tines up or down in the dishwasher
  • toilet paper going up over or behind the roll
  • making important decisions first thing in the morning or when you have had coffee and breakfast
  • going to the airport 3 hours early to avoid panic or going just in time not to miss the plane so a short flight doesn’t eat up a whole day
  • Those decisions are based on our values–what we favor, prefer, feel comfortable with. People who hold the value of “big picture” will brush off those examples as not important to a full life. People who hold the values of “details make or break the deal” will think they are important to a good foundation.

    To do your best creative work and to have success at a job, you need to choose the job that matches your most closely held values. The place to start is asking the questions, “What are my values?”

    –Quinn McDonald is a writer, life– and creativity coach. She helps people sort out their values and use them to their best advantage.

    Tutorial: Easy Travel Journal

    The journals I like to make best are ones that are multi-purpose and not too big. That way, I can use them in creative ways, fill them up quickly, and make another one. Like most people who make things, I often enjoy the design and creation more than using the actual finished piece. So I always leave room for the possibility of altering my work some more.

    Envelope journal, centerTravel journal made of #10 envelopes. You can fill the envelopes with airline tickets, menus from interesting restaurants, receipts,  whatever you want to keep from your trip. You can use one envelope for each day, for each country, for each town.

    You can draw or write notes on the envelopes, describing how you got the content of each envelope. Make it before you go, and you won’t lose those small pieces of paper. Make a few, and you won’t run out of envelopes.

    Materials: This tutorial uses simple things you already have: cardboard for the cover (I used mat board), number 10 size envelopes, masking tape, bookbinding tape (it’s expensive, you can substitute gaffers tape), cotton thread, a pointy awl and watercolors.

    Purpose: This envelope journal has room to write in and room to keep mementos, but that doesn’t mean you can’t draw on it, too.

    Envelope journal cover

    Assembly: 1. Cut black (or another solid color of mat board) into rectangles slightly larger (about one-fourth inch all the way around) than the envelope you will use. Put them next to each other, long sides together, but about one-quarter inch apart. Cut a piece of gaffers tape* about 2 inches longer than the covers. Center the tape over the covers and place it down gently. Lift the covers, turn them over and smooth down the piece of tape at the top and bottom. Cut another piece of tape to cover the space in between the top and bottom overlaps. Cut it long enough so you have all the sticky part of the tape completely covered.

    2. Lay two envelopes, flap side down, in front of you, side by side. They should be about one-eighth inch apart. Tape them together, the long way, using one piece of masking tape. Create three sets of these. If you want to have the envelopes face in different directions, take into account that these pairs of envelopes will nest.

    * gaffers tape is the special tape electricians use in theater productions. Not as gooey as duct tape, it makes a cheaper alternative to bookbinding tape, which you can also use.

    3. Nest the pairs of envelopes and line up the top and bottom. Place them in the centerEnvelope Journal, open of the open book covers.

    4. Using the awl, or a self-centering screw punch (you get them from a hardware store) punch four evenly spaced holes in the tape between the envelopes and book covers.

    5. Thread a tapestry needle with cotton thread. It should be thick enough not to tear. Starting from the back of the book, come up through the top hole. Go down into the next hole, come up through the third hole, and down through the fourth. If you want to make your book sturdier, come back up through the third and work your way to the top. The needle should exit out of hole # 1. Tie the thread off and trim the ends.

    6. Decorate the cover. Paint geometric figures on the plain side of the envelopes. Leave enough space for writing.

    –Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. She teaches journal making. Images: Quinn McDonald. (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved.

    Theme Thursday #24: 11.5.09

    There are times you need to clear your mind and do something. . . fun.  Look no further. You can doodle to your heart’s content, finishing the doodles and connecting the dots. (I drew a raptor, but you can be more peaceful) on the Procrastinator site. It will also play rock, paper, scissors against you!

    You can pit your wits and your deep knowledge of culture and play Cheese or Font? It’s simple–you see a name and guess if it is a typface or the name of a cheese. You will ponder, you will laugh, you will not know cheeses had so many goofy names!

    Want to get to the C-level suite where all the CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs live? You can do it. Here’s the stairway to ambition.

    You know it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Well, it’s NaNoJouMo, too. If you art journal, you are welcome to join Pam, Dawn, me and lots of others.  There are no rules. Want some inspiration to get you started. There is a Flickr Group with great art posted already. and D’Blogala’s  blog posts daily prompts to get you started. (Check out the cool art, too!)

    You can join in on Theme Thursday: post three links to sites you love or blogs you follow. You can do it on your site or in comments here.

    Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays:  * * * Creative Play 10.29.09 * * * Creative Play 10.22.09 * * *  Creative Play 10.15.09 * * * Creative Play 10.8.09 * * * Creative Play 10.1.09* * *  Creative Play 9.24.09 * * * Creative Play 9.17.09* * * Creative Play 9.10.09 * * *

    —Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also wonders what you would like to say that you didn’t?

    What Did You Leave Unsaid?

    You know the feeling. You think of what you should have said hours after the opportunity is gone. Or you missed the chance to say “Thank you.” Or you should have said “Yes,” and you said, “No.”

    Now you have a chance to say what you should have said. What you wanted to say. It’s another chance to get it right. Put it on a postcard–any size, any way–if the post office takes it, it counts. Sign it, keep it anonymous. It’s all up to you to get it right this time around.

    Mail  postcard to:  P.O. Box 12183   Glendale  AZ  85318

    Here is the first batch.

    “Right Words” © Peg C.
    Blank, anonymous
    “Thank You” fabric on paper.©, A. Esqueda
    Silence © Journey C.