Morning Pages, Dark and Light

Morning pages are the first-thing-in-the-morning writing you do if you have ever read Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. Cameron describes morning pages as “. . . three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”

For years, when I wrote morning pages, I sat, wrote, and shredded them. They were too dismal and painful for anything else. Then I began to keep them and read them every now and then. To my relief, I was getting less angry, bitter, disappointed. To my greater relief, my writing was improving.

Occasionally, I do morning pages in a journal. My goal is to keep my writing unedited, just as it comes out. After trying out some Sakura pens, I discovered the clear gel pen in the Gelly Roll Glaze series was perfect for writing morning pages with. You can’t see what you are writing. I began to play with words–after all, using the clear pen allowed me to be clear. I cleared my head. “Clearly” became the keyword for the result of morning pages. Not looking at my writing made me write more boldly, effortlessly, and soulfully.

Journal page, written on in clear Sakura gel pen, covered with watercolor wash. © Quinn McDonald 2011

Then I decided to cover the whole writing with a watercolor wash. Doing that, I discovered a new keyword–resist. The clear gel pen acted as a resist, drying up through the watercolor wash, allowing me to read what I had written. (The page is more clear than above, I deliberately made some of it unreadable–TMI.)

I resist what I need to know, resist claiming what I need to claim, even resist showing up in the world the way I want to. And the pen showed that. No matter what you wash over yourself, you always show up as yourself.

I love the contrast between “clear” and “resist.” You can have both on one page. It’s taught me to think of my day in terms of “clear” and “resist.”

Dive into your own morning pages–clear pen or not. What do you wish were clear to you? What do you resist, even though you need it? Let me know in the comments–or just in your morning pages.

Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler whose book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be available in July of 2011.


Book Arts Eye Candy

Su Blackwell is a jaw-dropping paper artist who uses books the way other artists use canvas and clay. She’s got an extensive repertoire, but my favorites are the fragile truth she tells about fear and vulnerability by using pages from old books.

The light on the wolf makes the shadow large and scary, for the viewer as well as for Red Riding Hood.

”I often work within the realm of fairy-tales and folk-lore. I began making a series of book-sculpture, cutting-out images from old books to create three-dimensional dioramas, and displaying them inside wooden boxes”.

”For the cut-out illustrations, I tend to lean towards young-girl characters, placing them in haunting, fragile settings, expressing the vulnerability of childhood, while also conveying a sense of childhood anxiety and wonder. There is a quiet melancholy in the work, depicted in the material used, and choice of subtle colour.”

The paper in her work is often left in its original color with the original print on it. It gives her artwork a sense of freshness and raw emotion.

Hedi Kyle is an inventor of the possibilities of paper. She invented the flag book structure, blizzard book and spider book. The flag book is a fascinating shape in which pages travel in different directions at the same time. Kyle spent most of her life inventing new books in new materials.

Hedi Kyle's amazing mica book for Bind-O-Rama

This one is made of mica already scribed on. It allowed Kyle to explore a book as a transparent screen.  “I often envision the flag book as a movable screen to define space. Light and shadow capture my interest. At Penland I came across pieces of mica with inherent markings. They were transformed into this flag book.” [quote from Flagbook Bind-O-Rama.]

I love Brian Dettmer. So does anyone who has ever watched him perform the anatomy of a book or seen the results. In The Donut Project, you can see a step-by-step of his work.

Brian Dettmer defies gravity and creates art with old books.

Best of all, at the end of the article, there is a link to Dettmer’s Flickr site. Amazing work.

Matsaaki Tatsumi is an artist who, like Dettmer, cuts. His papers are cut into thin strips, arranged, and then lit to form otherwordly effects.  In all fairness, I should mention that he also creates edible books out of seaweed.

Cut paper by Matsaaki Tatsumi

My favorites, next to the lit ones, are the sculptures he designs on cardstock. A generous piece of paper is topped by a delicate skyline, often defying gravity.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who is in awe every day of the amazing reach of the creative mind.

Letter from Japan

Previously, from Tokyo: A week ago, I posted a letter from Sachiko Takagi--a Japanese woman who spent time in America and now lives in Tokyo. Her letter was a first person account of the aftermath of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear reactor failure. Her letter was calm and heartbreaking, brave and reflective of how life has changed, never to be the same again.

Photo of ripping earth from Geekosystem, via Jefferson Santos via Ryan LeFevre.

Postcards of kindness: I asked for postcards for the children of Japan. I thought it might be a small kindness, to let these children know they are not forgotten, that people far away think of them and are sending them messages of hope.

Meanwhile, I have heard from Sachiko again. Here is her message:

March 28, Going Forward
“Our biggest concern is the condition of Fukushima nuclear plants.
No one seems to have ideas on how and when the plants will be cool down.
Which means that radiation will be spread out through air and water for months and, possibly, years.
People who are evacuated from homes wonder when they go back to home.

Bottles of waters were completely out of stock at supermarkets, drugstore and vending machines.
I found a note at the supermarket nearby, which states that bottled waters are available only to people who have the certificate that they have infants at home.

We have been accustomed to life with dim light and expected power shut down.

For more than two weeks, we have been watching painful scenes on TV.
At a destructed elementary school, only bags, textbooks and shoes were left and no children left.
A crying mother was desperately searching for the belongings of her lost child.
These painful scenes…

Yesterday, I had a walk and stop by an art gallery.
Watching pictures and paintings, I felt my heart revived.
We need the power of the art to live now.

We have a long way to go.
Knowing your heart is with us is a great support.

Thank you for all.”

You can still participate by sending a postcard. You don’t have to be an artist to doodle on a card and add a few encouraging words of love, of hope, of encouragement. If you don’t want to make a postcard, you can buy one. Please send your cards to:
Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318
“Sakura” means Cherry Blossom in Japanese.

If you would rather donate money, here is a list of donation sites.

Product Review: Gelly Roll Stardust and Quickie Glue Pens

Yesterday I reviewed the Sakura Moonlight and Glaze pens. Sakura also makes Micron pens, and if you use those, you should know one big difference between Microns and Sakura gel pens–glaze, color, sparkle–all of them. Microns zip along, the faster you draw, the faster they put down color. Gel pens work best if you slow down just a bit. A slower, careful motion creates a smooth, constant line.

For a great Glaze Pen image on a transparency, outline with a dark color, fill in with a bright. Transparency film photographed on lavender paper.

Bonus tip: Store your gel pens point down, to keep the ink close to the tip. And keep the cap tightly in place so the ink doesn’t dry out. Those two tips will make a big difference.

Today, I’m reviewing the Gelly Roll Stardust, Gelly Roll White, and Quickie Glue pens.

The Gelly Roll Stardust ink is very fine pale gold glitter in a clear gel. Calling it pale gold is a judgment call. It could have as easily been called silver, except it’s really neither. Warmer than silver, cooler than gold, the color is really stardust. The line is fine, and, if pulled slowly and steadily, is wonderfully consistent. On white paper, it looks as faint as a snail trail, on black or other colored paper, the sparkle really shows up. Unfortunately, a scanner doesn’t cause colors to pop, so expect much more than in the sample below, which I made for general comparison.

Comparisons of various glitter and glue pens. See below for details.

The black paper sample, above, shows a variety of glue pens. Left to right:
The first three lines on the left are made with Crayola glue pens, applied by squeezing a line of glitter-filled glue. The colors, left to right are red, green and yellow. If you tilt the paper, you get more color sparkle.

The fourth line from the left is Sakura Quickie Glue Pen dusted with extra-fine Martha Stewart glitter. The glitter is consistent and dense, with no glue visible. The glue pen is permanent if used when glue is wet and re-positionable when the glue is dry. It’s a great pen and my favorite for all its applications. (More at end of article.)

The next four lines are Sakura White Pen. Again, consistent, smooth color that’s great for colored stock.

The last four lines (on the right) are made with the Sakura Stardust Pen. Far more sparkle than shown. The line furthest to the right was drawn very fast and you can see an area where there is little sparkle. Slow down and you’ll get the best results. Sakura warns that some sparkle may be lost with repeated hard use, so add a top coat of varnish if the piece is going to be rubbed or scuffed.

Top: Spiral made with Sakura glue pen and dusted with glitter. Bottom: Red glaze pen spiral, dusted with glitter. Right: Wave and dots, made with glue pen, 2 colors of glitter.

I tried the glue pen with two colors of Martha Stewart extra fine glitter in Hematite and Sapphire. Be very careful with the glitter. It spreads quickly and easily–the tapping you use with regular glitter will scatter this all over your studio. I discovered working with a damp brush and damp paper towels controls glitter getaway.

The glue pen works on transparency plastic (left) as well. You can see the consistent, even application on the shapes made with glue pens.

The Gelly Roll White pen is great for lettering on dark paper, true, but it also works for lettering over dark acrylic paint. What doesn’t work well is to use the white pen as a resist.

Below is an example of resists. On the left, I used a Sakura clear pen (one of the Glaze series). You can see how well it works as a resist. Even with a lot of color put down with a scrub brush (you can see the blue dots), the resist stayed.

Watercolor over clear, on left. Sparkle and white pens under watercolor on right.

On the left, I drew the same figure with a sparkle pen (left part of right side sample) and white pen (right side of right side sample.) As you can see, the sparkle pen worked better than the white, which can incise some paper and make the color sink in.

Personally, I am in love with the glue pen. It lays down a fine, flat bead of light blue glue, so you can see the line. I use a figure frequently in my artwork–its a slim wavy line that I use in two and 3-D.

Wave cuts glued down with Sakura glue pen, outlines in Starlight or White pen.

In the example above, I cut out the waves in pale lavender, lavender, and black. The usual way to put the waves down is to coat them with glue on one side, then very carefully lift them and place them. Glue usually get on my fingers and on some of the waves, creating placement havoc. With the glue pen, a simple wavy line work the first time. I drew a careful dot at the end of each wave. To glue down heavier pieces of paper, draw spirals in several places.

I outlines some of these waves in Starlight or White pen, and am happy with the results.

Disclosure: F+W Media sent me the pens for review. North Light Books, the publisher of my book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art is owned by F+W media.

Quinn McDonald is an author, artist and certified creativity coach who helps people through changes in their hearts and lives.

Review: Sakura Moonlight and Glaze Pens

Sakura makes an endless number of gel pens for journaling and scrapbooking–pastels, brights, sparkles, and now, Moonlight and Glaze.

Top: Moonlight pens on Sheer Heaven. Bottom: Glaze Pens on Sheer Heaven.

When I purchased my first Sakura a few years ago, I did it only because I had to for a class. I was a fountain pen/felt-tip writer. And while my nose was wrinkling my hands and heart were captured. The pens write the fist time. They put down a smooth line of gel ink. And they play to my secret, almost-hidden love of occasional sparkle. My head would say, “Well, maybe I have a one-time use for this new Sakura pen,” and my heart would say, “Squeee! Metallic sparkle!”

So when the Moonlight series landed in my mail box, it didn’t take me long to open them up and try them. I used three kinds of paper–Sheer Heaven, which isn’t really a paper at all, but a multi-media surface. I also used Arches Text Wove (Velin) and Strathmore Black Art Paper.

Colors in Moonlight series by Sakura. The colors are rich and vibrant.

Moonlight gel pens go down smoothly and evenly. The colors are rich, with the look of paint. I tried to resist the fluorescent colors, but they stole my heart. They vibrate off the paper, they are vivid and bold. And best of all, the fluorescents will glow bright under a black light (Ultra-Violet) source.  To test this out, I went to a hardware store and borrowed one of the scorpion lights–which are UV flashlights. Yep, the gel pens colors lit up.  They show up on white paper, but ahhh, they glow right off the page on black paper. In fact, these pens do best on colored stock, photographs and transparencies. They do write on plastic, and the colors stay vivid. On paper, I found no bleed-through or feathering. Like all specialty pens, they take about a minute to dry.

Flowers done with Moonlight pens, shooting starts with Stardust pens. Color in your monitor will vary. Shooting stars have more sparkle than in this scan.

The Glaze Pens have been around a while, but the ones I tested were in colors I haven’t seen before–ink blue, bronze, clear, white, black, purple and two greens–a forest green and an olive. These pens write on plastic, metal and glass.

Glazes dry to a slightly raised, polished look. The clear pen can be used as a resist, as shown.

I wrote my name on my scissor blades and will see how it holds up to wear. I love the effect on Sheer Heaven–glazes create a stained glass look. (The first sample in the post is on Sheer Heaven).

I tried mixing the colors and that doesn’t work–I’m relieved, because it allows for soft boundaries.

My favorite use of Glazes is the clear pen. It creates a great batik effect, as you can see from the red watercolor wash on the right. I think this will be my favorite of the bunch, although the bronze and olive are wonderful on transparencies, photos and plastic as well. The rich color goes down in an even flow, easily and thickly. I was surprised at the control the pen had. I tried the pens on black, and loved the subtle effect. I couldn’t tell the colors, but I loved the clarity of the writing. Don’t expect a puffy, lifted surface, the 3D effect is very subtle–more like engraving than raised type.

Glaze samples on Strathmore black art paper.

I’ll be doing a lot more playing artistic experimenting with these pens.

You can read Tonia Davenport’s review of the Secura Glaze and Soufflé Pens on the Create Mixed Media site.

Sunday, I’ll review the glue pen (yes, glue!) and the starlight–another sparkler. I’m having a lot of fun in the name of research!

Disclosure: F+W Media sent me the pens for review. North Light Books, the publisher of my book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art is owned by F+W media.

Quinn McDonald is an author, artist and certified creativity coach who helps people through changes in their hearts and lives.

The Heart of Japan’s Disaster

Sakura (cherry blossom) by S. Tagaki

The damage in Japan is so great, I feel like I am drowning in the sadness, the loss, the hopelessness.  I am the child of refugee immigrants, who came in poverty, having lost everything. It makes a difference to your aspirations, to your memories. How sad it must be to be a refugee in your own country.

Today a friend shared this insightful letter from Sachiko Takagi,  a Japanese woman of amazing strength and resilience who writes about her country’s tragedy. I have her permission to quote her letter, which I have broken into lines to read like the poetry it is:

Japan, March 2011, Going Forward
It has been 10 days since the earthquake.
Recalling what has been happening, I feel like many more days have passed.

Our biggest concern and fear is the nuclear power plant.
Last Wednesday, our manager forced the staff to go home early
to avoid the possible exposure in radiation.
We also fear radiation-contaminated food.

I do not expect nuclear power plant to be recovered and in use again.
This means that Tokyo and other cities have to live
with less electric power, going forward.

In Tokyo, all department stores and shopping malls close at 6 p.m. to save energy.
All places, stations, shopping malls, even pachinko parlors, are in dim light.
Only 3 out of 6 elevators are in service at Ebisu Garden Place, where my office is located.

But I think this is fine.
This is the world we live, going forward.
We have learned we can live with dim light and no shopping after 6 p.m.

I can not forget a scene I watched on TV.
300 Mercedes, shipped and docked at the harbor, were on fire
and drifted to the sea.
We do not need luxury anymore.

Today is the holiday as Spring Equinox Day.
It was a cold rainy day.
I think of people who stay in cold gyms with no air condition.

All I can do is to pray and do some donation.
On Saturday, I went to a shrine to pray and there was a park nearby.
The attached is the picture of cherry blossom at the park.

Please tell your students that we are in hard times but we are not desperate.
We feel that your thoughts are with us.
Thank you for your care and love.
Spring comes here soon!


* * *
If you would like to donate to the Japanese relief funds, the Network for Good, is

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

a page of links from charities, churches, and agencies that are helping with food and water.

If you would like to make a postcard with a short message of care, of hope, of blessing, of reaching out to show we are a country of compassion and not just fighter planes, I will find a way to get it to children in Japan, a small way to let them know that they are remembered, held to the light by people they will never meet.   That’s my postcard up there.

Send your postcards to:
Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

“Sakura” means Cherry Blossom in Japanese.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who hopes to get a few handmade postcards to send to children who have lost everything.

Super Moon

On Saturday night the moon was closer to the earth than any other time in the last 18 years.  Scientists estimated the moon would appear 30 percent brighter and almost 15 percent bigger than other moons when they rose. It was hard to see here in Phoenix because of the heavy cloud cover.

Full moons rise when the sun sets, and they vary in size. The orbit of the moon is oval, the closest point is called the perigee, the farthest point is called the apogee.On Saturday, the moon was about 221,565 miles away — the closest to Earth since March 1993.

Huge moon, rising between palms.

My photograph of the moon was uninspired–I have the simplest of cameras. If you look closely, you can see the moon rising over the roof of a house and between palm trees.

But I wanted to remember this huge full moon. I decided to create a journal page that made the moon seem both far away and close.

Moon perigee and apogee.

On the left side, the moon is in reverse–a black moon on a white page. Floating across the moon are some shreds of clouds.  On the other side, there is a black sky and a big gold moon. Floating across the moon is a translucent and dyed piece of non-woven fabric–dryer sheet.

What interesting for me is that the  moon on the left looks smaller than the one on the right. And yes, the one on the left is the cut-out portion of the one on the right, so they are exactly the same size. The surrounding colors make the difference.  I love how the brain doesn’t always tell you truth, even if you see it with your own eyes.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach and book artist.