Sand Castle Journal Page

Now that it’s summer, wouldn’t it be great to build a sand castle? Don’t want to get gritty? Build a castle in your journal instead, with ink and a stencil. Use it as a background, or work it into a dramatic foreground image. This one is almost 3 feet wide, but you’ll see that you can use the same idea on a variety of journal pages, from small to medium to big.

I purchased a chipboard “book”–one that had a number of  chipboard pages–shaped like a sand castle. Instead of

stencils of castles decorate a journal page.

attaching the pages with binder rings, I coated the pages with gesso to protect them. I then put three pieces high on the page, covered the rest of the page with a blank piece of paper to protect it, and sprayed ink on the page, using the book pages as a stencil.

To create spray ink, I used Adirondack re-inkers, bottles of concentrated ink used to refill stamp pads. This brand is from Ranger, the company most people associate with Tim Holtz. I used two drops of denim and one drop of eggplant in a Mini-Mister,  added 10 drops of water, and sprayed across the top. You can mix re-inker colors quite nicely. (These aren’t alcohol inks). If you do this, use distilled water to dilute so the mini-mister doesn’t clog. You can also use the ink you create in dip pens and brush calligraphy. I load technical drawing pens with the ink, too.

After waiting about a minute for the ink to dry, I carefully picked up the first layer and rearranged a second layer, using some of the pages I used before as well as some new ones. This time I sprayed the left side with the color pesto and the right side with mushroom. For the final layer I sprayed mushroom mixed with ginger and one drop of butterscotch. You can see the piece with two towers and the gate on the right repeated again on the far left. Repositioning the pieces makes the piece more interesting without looking repetitive.  What please me was the places of most coverage are white, which

Close up of a page showing the definition of color and white space.

will let me write on the page and make the most of the white space as well.

The really great part is that I can continue to create different backgrounds on different journals. The gesso can always be reapplied if I want to start over and create a sandcastle book. I could also paint a solid, very dark blue background, then trace around the edge of the chipboard in white china marker (grease pencil)  and create mid-dark  first line (with Payne’s Gary) and a medium-dark second line of castle images (Payne’s mixed in with a tiny bit of white) and put in yellow windows, to create a somber collage background. If you are fussy about the ring-holes showing, you can cover them with tape. I plan on turning them into windows–round on top, flat on the bottom, when I work on the page.

You can use any interesting stencil to do this. I love the castle because there is a lot of potential to write about vacations, or travel, or dreams, or even sandcastle ideas–ones that you use quickly and that are washed away over time.

Leave a comment if you have ideas about using this or other stencils in your art journal.

Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler, who works at the intersection of words and images. She teaches one-sentence journaling, journaling for perfectionists and raw-art journaling, which includes found poetry.

Morning Light

I’ve never been a morning person, but my cat doesn’t care. Injured in a fight last year, he’s up pre-dawn, begging to patrol the perimeter of our yard–he won’t stray beyond the fence. This time of year, pre-dawn means 4:15 a.m. or so, and in order to let my husband get some sleep, I get up, feed the cats, watch the sky tuck night behind the horizon, and head out for my walk.

© Quinn McDonald

Life is not always filled with fun, eagerness and joy. Sometimes you have to do work you wish you could palm off on someone else. Sometimes you feel run down and have to wind yourself up. Sometimes you have to attend to duty, suck it up, and stop whining. I live in a land of extremes–extreme drought, extreme heat, extreme beauty, extreme poverty, and extreme laws. There is little middle ground here.

© Quinn McDonald

So this morning, when I saw the sun come up, I just let it feel good. I didn’t think about what was hard in my life, I didn’t think about how much I have to do, I didn’t think about obligations, or money, or responsibility, or the future. I just watched the sun come up.

© Quinn McDonald

The sun came up far North of East. It pushed fingers of light into the sky first. It struggled with the clouds, lighting them from behind, then burning through them. I thought of many metaphors of light and darkness, of sunrise and a fresh day. And then let them go. Sometimes a good sunrise is all you need.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist, and certified creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, is being shipped to stores right now.

Review: Cellphone Tripod and Holder

On the way to making my own book trailer and tutorial videos, I stumbled. I had an easy video camera (iPhone 4 has an HD camera), but when I tried to speak and do the video at the same time, I ran into two problems. First, it was hard to remember what I wanted to say while also filming. Second, I didn’t hold the camera perfectly steady, and the movement was distracting.

The easy fix was learning iMovie, which allowed me to do a voiceover separately from making the video. The second fix seemed easy, but had a gap–a tripod would solve the distracting movement in the camera. But the iPhone doesn’t come with a built-in tripod attachment, like a video camera.

Glif in place on the gorillapod

What I needed was a holder that secured the iPhone in place and attached it to the camera. Enter the Glif. The cleverly designed piece of plastic holds the camera securely–even if tilted–and has the universal attachment for the tripod bolt.

I wanted to show you the camera in place. To do that, I snapped the camera into the Glif. The raised corner on the right keeps the camera in place. The low rise design lets me click the shutter release. It wasn’t till I reached over to take the photo that I realized I needed another camera to take a photo of my camera. You can see the Glif in use, here. The camera can be put into the slot vertically or horizontally. You can see the slot shape, below. You always get the corner support.

You can put the camera in vertically or horizontally.

The Glif also has a kickstand application.  (The link goes to Mashable’s website–if you are any kind of a geek, it’s a site to bookmark.) The Glif was designed to multi-task. If you read or watch videos on your iPhone, you can have the Glif  hold it for you.

Bottom view, with tripod attachment showing.

I have a regular, metal, collapsible tripod from a previous, heavier video camera. The Glif works well with it. But I wanted a gorillapod, too. It’s a tripod that you can bend, wrap and morph into various shapes. It’s plastic, but stable enough for the iPhone 4.

The Glif is plastic, matte black, so as not to reflect light into our shot, and can fit in a bag.  The only drawbacks I’ve found so far is that you can’t use the Glif with a case on your phone, and you don’t want to leave the Glif on all the time–it’s not meant to replace a case. About $20.

The Gorillapod is lightweight and fits into a box that’s about 1.5 inches square and less than 7 inches tall. Available from various stores for about $18.50. I purchased them both from

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and author of the book Raw Art Journaling.

The Dark Side of Creativity

The guy looked like Grizzly Adams without the smile, but complete with suspenders and wild beard and hair. I worked in a very conservative company as the marketing writing manager, and he was a freelancer, hired for his creativity.

Sometimes creativiy discovers new worlds, sometimes creativity discovers empty galaxies. Photo credit: JimKSter

Getting to the point, I hated him. He delivered nothing on time and made fun of me for wanting to stick to a schedule. He told huge tales (none of them verifiable) of amazing deeds in the service of his country,  impling shadowy connections to black helicopters and secret missions. He had scars to show, both physical and psychological. Frankly, to me, the scar looked like a Sunday morning bagel cut. He insisted it was from hand-to-hand combat is a dangerous country where even the air was deadly.

He got a lot of attention for being “creative.” His bad behavior and poor social skills didn’t matter because he saved my boss from daily tedium. For my boss, relief  balanced the havoc wreaked on every project he touched. My boss didn’t care that I had to re-write everything he handed in because it was not suitable for our clients. My working deep into the hours of the night  was a small price for my boss to pay in exchange for bragging rights to claiming that the creative genius slept, as he claimed, on the floor with a knife under his pillow. War scars, you know.

My boss adored him and constantly suggested I was jealous of his creativity and resentful of his success. Maybe. They paid him a lot more than they paid me. In more than one case I said, “Please let me hire someone who is not quite as creative, not quite as brilliant, but a lot more reliable.” It never happened. No doubt he was smart, but he was also impossible to work with. He gave creativity a bad name. He’s long out of my life, but the incident reminded me: there is a dark side of creativity.

Creativity is often thought of as a light, cheerful gift. Not always.  Mondo Guerra (Season 8 of Project Runway) nailed it when he publicly  said “I feel like this gift and talent is a curse to me sometimes.” In a corporate setting, creativity can easily be considered a mental aberration by a supervisor. Soon the creative feels like an outcast.  The process of coming up with something innovative is only creative when it generates ideas that are money-makers or practical. If it falls short, it’s just weird and different. Occasionally it’s also called Not playing nicely with others, a bad attitude or “not suitable for corporate vision leadership.”

Creativity has deep roots in unhappiness with the status quo. With willingness to go against the grain. With certainty of purpose. With the idea that the creative ideas are better than what exists now. That’s tough when your culture values individuality only if it fits in with what already exists. (Before you doubt that we are a culture that turns the different into outcasts, consider how we judge people of color, those with uncomfortable handicaps, those who don’t speak English well, those who are fat, or those who want to marry people of the same sex.)

Creativity has roots in “other-ness.” There’s a lot of responsibility attached to it. Creativity isn’t re-arranging the fruit plate, it’s overturning the apple cart. While risking reputation for an uncertain result, the creative has to explain how the result is useful and why the risk is worthwhile. And, of course, sometimes the creative is wrong, and the risk causes damage.

Creativity is absolutely how change comes into the world, but it is not the preternaturally cheery, holy, shamanic gift it’s painted to be. It has a dark, difficult, mean side, and that needs to be recognized, too. It’s not for everyone or every place. When you choose the light, you choose the dark. One does not exist without the other. In fact, it’s how we know it’s light. Because we know the dark as well.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, will be out in July of 2011.

Photo credit: JimKSter through Creative Commons.

Book Marketing and Celebrity

Writing a book is just the beginning. Then you market the book. A lot of this can be fun–a blog tour, giveaways, meeting new people. A lot of it is not so much fun–lots of rejection (again) from bookstores, editors, and places you think are perfect for events. After the writing was done, I felt I had completed something, come to a good place. But it’s just the beginning. In fact, every rest stop in the journey has a great view of the future. But the road to that future is another steep path.

The bright promise of celebrity can feel a little dry and prickly.

I felt elated when I got a book contract, then terrified that I actually had to write the book. I felt elated when it was done, thinking I had stepped up a notch, but my rosy idea that book stores would welcome me, smile, and suggest a book signing was really way off. You have to struggle with book signings. It seems that book stores are busy doing not-signings, and you are a giant bother to them. As usual, it helps if you are already famous.

Which is where I ran into the snag. I subscribe to several marketing-idea blogs and newsletters, and last week was hit with several on the topic, “Marketing isn’t enough, you must turn yourself into a celebrity,” and “Unless you are a celebrity, your book isn’t moving.” Oh.

I am not sure what a celebrity is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a rock star, sweat-lodge emerging, champagne drinking,  talk-show-tour celebrity.  I’m a creativity coach, I run workshops. I’m happy doing that. Am I supposed to want a line of products, a TV show, people recognizing me on the street?

Actually, what I really want, if I had a magic wand, is my book reaching people who feel they are not enough, not good enough, not smart enough to be creative. Those who have journals with one or two pages filled up, and more pages torn out in disappointment. Those who want to journal but don’t feel complete enough to be themselves, even in a journal.

In my magic-wand world, I’d be celebrity enough if there were some people who pick up kits and do them so very well, and still feel empty read the book and realized that there is a life beyond kits. Beyond a project class that has you assemble a cute object and give it as a present. There is a satisfying life of sloppy experimentation and doing stuff that doesn’t work that makes you feel connected to creativity, to a bigger sense of yourself. In that life, making meaning is the point, and trying out ideas is exciting because you are learning about yourself and your ideas and how you connect to a huge web of ideas and, well, healing. Healing your own pain, growing into and beyond your own “not enough-ness,” connecting to another’s feeling of ‘not-enough’ and being OK with that, too.

I wrote the book for those people. People like me. People who yearn to have some sort of creative spark fanned into a flame. I want to share that joy, that incredible flood of gratitude that comes from creativity. The startling realization that an hour in a studio or workshop creates a life more satisfying than any “real housewife” has ever dreamed of. And you can have that life without wearing an underwire, pushup bra or stilettos or photographing yourself in your underwear and sending it to fans. I believe the pursuit of happiness is interesting and engaging and may be what happiness really is. That’s why I wrote the book. That’s why I teach. That’s my kind of celebrity.

–Quinn McDonald’s book, “Raw Art Jouraling: Making Meaning, Making Art,” is being shipped at this very moment, and will be available in July, 2011. It’s not too shabby that it has broken Amazon’s top 5 in Mixed Media, top 30 in Creativity and top 75 in Crafts and Hobbies. Maybe it’s a celebrity!

Review: Liquid Pencil v. Charcoal

Reductive drawing using charcoal and an eraser.

My journals are stuffed with notes and try-outs of products that work and those that don’t; products I like and those I don’t, even those that work just fine and I still am not eager to add them to my must-have list.

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.

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. I know at least one artist who is crazy about it; I’ve had it for a few months and am just not drawn to it as much as the dry charcoal powder.

In the Phoenix area, Derivan liquid pencil is carried at Jerry’s Artarama in Tempe. Check the website for hours 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 spending time tring to find. 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. I bought several, but they were the last in Phoenix at Arizona Art Supply in Tempe. There are several others in the area, but not all of them have the NoBlot705.

Color Evolution: Crusade 52

 When Michelle Ward asked if our color palette changed from winter to summer, it was a hard question to answer. When you live on the Sonoran desert floor, the tendency is to quiet down in the summer. When people in other parts of the country are running around outdoors, we desert dwellers are looking for every scrap of shade we can find. It was 111 degrees F today, and it will be 113 tomorrow. That’s just not running around weather. Talk to me again in last September and October when our temperatures are in the 80s and I’ll be perkier.

Back to Michelle’s question–do the colors you use in your  artwork change? I wanted to check on something slightly different–color evolution. I’ve spent most of my adult life on the East Coast. The light is different, the culture is different, surely the colors I used in my art journal pages were different.

What I had forgotten is exactly how much those colors had changed. Let’s take a look. This is a drawing I did after my first visit–nothing wrong with pen and ink, but it is a bit spare.

In my East Coast days, I limited my drawing to a small area, and my hand lettering yearned for the traditional.

This drawing was made when I was already in Phoenix. It spreads across the page, but it’s still kind of restrictive.

The color doesn’t surprise me as much as the space use and technique. I sprayed ink randomly on the pages, then created a map. Much less control, much more randomness. Notice the title, “The world turned upside down,” is actually upside down.

Again, full spread in uncontrolled colors. Also cut paper, stitching, and writing in different directions. There is a line of words up the left third of the page that says “If you aren’t failing some of the time, you aren’t trying hard enough.” It’s written in silver sparkle ink–a color unknown to me on the East Coast.

I’ve always loved found poetry, and always used it. But I rarely spread it out across a page and used red so heavily. On the East Coast, I didn’t own red. It was a color I didn’t like. Here, well, it adds heat. The poem reads:

Your Choice

He does not know that he is in love with her.
His mind slammed tightly closed, a violent “no!”
His life suddenly seems unaccountably sabotaged.
“Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
A woman in the kitchen, her eyes so blue.
She wanted to be out of the
quiet swiftness. That meant nothing.
Then, suddenly, like a hand passed over his face, his smile would come, transforming it.”

I knew I’d changed my color choices, but I didn’t know how much. It’s good to watch your own growth.

What’s changed in your life? Check out Michelle Ward’s Street Team Crusades and join the fun!

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, almost ready to ship!

Journal Page: Paper Mosaic

My favorite journal is gone from the shelves of Hobby Lobby. It was similar (but much less expensive) than the popular Moleskine 5 x 8 sketchbook. The generic came in a watercolor version–The Hobby Lobby generic brand–with a rubbery cover, an elastic closure and sewn-in pages. The watercolor paper was sturdy and stood up to a lot of mixed media abuse. But now it’s gone. No one at Hobby Lobby remembers it, even when I show them mine.

It may be time for me to move to loose sheets and bind them myself later.  Working with loose sheets is fun because you can make what you want and arrange them later. I found the new Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor sheets really convenient. Watercolor paper, in a a choice of cold- or hot-pressed, 25 sheets to a pack. Cut straight to 5 x 7 inches. My idea of a time saver.

I wanted to start by trying some paper mosaic. Using slivers of printed pages cut from magazine, I assemble images on paper. I’ve done it since I was 10, taught myself, made up rules, and call it paper mosaic.

One of the problems I have with loose sheets (or postcards) is painting the front means getting paint on the back. I paint flat on a paper, and the water loves slurping from one side to the next. Here’s how I avoid that.

Tip: Take a piece of freezer paper, the kind that has a plasticized front and plain back. Rip off a piece slightly larger than the working paper. Put the back of your working paper on the plastic side of the freezer paper. Heat your art iron to “cotton” setting. Cover the working paper with parchment (in case the iron isn’t flawless) and iron slowly across the working paper. It sticks to the plastic, forms a seal, and you are ready to paint.

What happens when you paint? Well, the paper curls. Doesn’t matter, the seal sticks. In this photo, you can see how much the paper curls.

You can see that I’ve painted right over the edge. No paint gets on the back, the paper is protected by the freezer paper. Be kind, though, no soaking or lifting the corner–once the seal is broken, all bets are off.

I painted the grass on the page, sketched in the tree,  then used paper clippings from catalogs to start the tree image with shades of brown. The small pieces of paper go over a layer of glue, and I paint glue right over them. You have to work fast, as the cut magazine paper curls and twists. I use a small brush, dipped often in water, then in glue. You want to work wet for this.

When the paint is dry and I need to turn the sheet to work from both the long and short sides, the page is ready to pull from the freezer paper. You can see the back of the page here. No paint. Nice and clean. Easy, too.

Here’s the tree, as far as I am going tonight. Before I put on the leaves or write on it, it needs to dry completely. The paper strips are very wet, so a night of drying and a few hours in the book press will make it ready to add the leaves–which I will do with watercolor. Then I’ll approach the writing.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art, ready for delivery in July–just a few days away!

Hand Lettering–DevelopYour Own

Hand-lettering is a personal way to use writing other than your regular handwriting to create design on a page. You don’t have to be a calligrapher to create hand lettering. The key is practice, and willingness to try something new.

Practice letters, leads to development.

Here’s one I tried recently: a scribble letter. Each side of the letter has three lines. They are unevenly spaced and not the same length. I like the random, impermanent look.

The straight-sided letters are easier than the rounded letters. I’m not satisfied with the B, S, C, and G yet. But that’s fine. That’s what practice is for. I’m trying a few techniques to develop those letters–writing faster, writing slower, going in between the first and second lines.

After I developed the alphabet and practiced a bit, I wrote down a sentence I thought of a few weeks ago.

When I had it written down, I filled in some of the spaces between the line with a Spica marker. I like the result. I find the saying matches the stark, uneven lines. The reality of the tough answer works with the rough lines.

Try your own ideas in hand lettering. It doesn’t have to be copperplate or italic, it can be what you want to do.

Note: I purchased the turquoise Spica pen used in this illustration.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. The book is about art journaling for those who don’t know how to draw. I wrote the book because everyone who longs to be creative is enough. Has enough.

Father’s Day Fortune Cookie

Cooking Man has never loved to eat fortune cookies, but he loves the fortunes. For the last several meals out, he has received uninspiring fortunes, so I decided to make him a fortune cookie with a special message. I didn’t want to bake them, I wanted to make them out of paper.

Folding instructions for paper fortune cookies

To see how to fold the cookie, I looked up a recipe for baking fortune cookies, and adapted it for paper.

It’s not hard, but because it involves that mystery–spatial relationships–I drew a diagram.

Start by choosing a paper in a color close to fortune cookies. A paper bag will work, although I used a double-sided mulberry paper.

Cut a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Fold in half, top to bottom. Crease.

Cut a narrow piece of double sided tape about an inch long. Place it along the fold line, in the center of the circle.

Now pinch the paper so the short ends of the tape stick to each other. Keep

Paper fortune cookies, ready to give.

holding the pinch with your non-dominant hand, transferring it if you have to. Using your fingers of your dominant hand, push out the sides, joining the flat sides of the circle.

Let go the pinching hand, and create the fortune. Place it in the cookie. Three drops of glue along the top of the cookie will hold it in shape. No baking necessary. Happy Father’s Day!

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and the author of Raw Art Journaling, about to be shipped, probably before July 20, 2011.