What You Get Is What You See

In the last section of Raw Art Journaling, I use photographs as a starting point. I find something in the photograph that wants out, and let it out with pencils, markers, paint. You can do the same thing with words. Look at the photos below and use them as the starting point for writing. A photographic journal prompt. In this case, I wrote haiku, although you can use it as a journal prompt for a nature journal as well.


Water: smooth. Danger?
Frozen, biting, hot and cold.
Holding time in check.


Earth waits for water
Water waits for freshing wind
Wind waits for no one.


Light years cool fire’s heat
Less in the burning desert
Even the moon is hot


Dust hangs in the air
Reflecting heat and cactus
Glass is dust, is air

Haven’t bought the book yet? It’s time. Here’s a free shipping bonus!

Get free shipping on Raw Art Journaling at www.shop.mixedmedia.com! Just use promo code RAWART2011 at checkout to get free shipping in the US.  Of course there is fine print, but not a lot. Here it is:

The Fine print:
*Code RAWART2011 is valid until December 31, 2011 at 11:59PM EST. Free shipping offer on US orders only. Price discounts are available for a limited time on some items. Please note that discounts are not available on products that ship directly from the manufacturer: see product pages for details.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling.

Book Launch Success–Thank You!

Thank you for everyone who showed up at the book signing. Thanks for buying a copy of Raw Art Journaling, too! It was a good time–a great evening of friends, strangers, excellent questions, good food.

People gathering at Changing Hands bookstore for the book launch

Thanks for all your good wishes, your generous comments, your thoughtful questions. And yes, thanks for buying the book. I  don’t want to overlook that part!

I’ll get back to regular blog posts tomorrow, but I didn’t want to have spent a lot of time asking you to show up and not thank you right away. Tonight was a very special night for me, and one I will remember with joy and warmth for years to come.

Hot night, cool food!

Give-Away on Book Launch Day!

August 1 Update: Congratulations to the winners of the stuffies: Linda Darby and Donna McGuigan! I had to draw two winners with all these great entries! Please send me your addresses and the inner critic stuffie will be on the way!

It’s July 27–the day I’ve been watching since November of 2009, when I started writing the book. Tonight is the book launch, so today we are celebrating with two giveaways! First, you are invited to the book launch party. If you are in the Phoenix area, please join us at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. It’s at the SE corner of S. McClintock and Guadalupe, in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s. We start at 7 p.m.

Dessert includes fruit skewers, chocolate chip cookies, and Rice Krispie treats–a favorite I made when I was younger and doing a lot of writing, pretending to write a book. Oh, and there are M&M candies–in my logo colors with “QuinnCreative” printed on them. I couldn’t resist.

OK, now for the giveaways. First, on this blog: I’m giving away an inner critic–that voice in your head that reminds you of all your faults and lacks. This inner critic stuffie is perfect–s/he has a mouth that zips shut. Tired of listening to the constant stream of  criticism? Zip the critic’s mouth shut, and you’ll feel better immediately. Leave a comment and I’ll choose a winner at random. The photo is a representation–I’ll pick a color for you. Rita Ackerman of Tattered Past made these to order, and they are all different. (Click on the link and you can see a variety of them.) The one in the photo is mine, I’ll choose one just for you. Drawing is on August 1, so check back on that day for the winner (I’ll contact you, too.)

Second: Over at Tales of Studio Mailbox, there is another giveaway. T. J. Goerlitz made a video of a project from Raw Art Journaling and is giving away one copy of my book and nine goody bags for mixed media and journaling fans! You know how giveaways always say “Canada and U.S. only”? Not true this time. I’ll ship the book anywhere in the world. Leave a comment over at T.J’s blog and you could win the book!

It’s been a wonderful time writing the book, I’ve met so many interesting people with great stories. I can’t wait to see the art people make after reading the book.

Skewers for the Rice Krispie treats. I wanted to thank everyone who bought the book.

I’ve opened a Flickr group (Raw Art Journaling) for people who want to post their work and take a look at other people’s work. After you join the group, you can post up to five images a day. With 47 exercises in the book, I’m hoping to see some varied and interesting results!

Quinn McDonald is relieved that she no longer has to type the full title and launch date in her bio line. Quinn is an amazon.com best-selling author, and happy she wrote the book.

Sumi Ink, Big Brush

Just for a few days I have to quit working small. I like to work about 4 x 6. Lately I’ve been trying squares of 6 x 6. I love the square format because I’m fussing with grids. To break the spell of squares, I picked up a big Chinese calligraphy brush and an ink stone. Ink and brush are an ancient combination that create spare and simple art. The results make wonderful handmade cards.

Sumi ink and a big brush

With a little practice, the art of sumi-e yields wonderful results. You can leave them black and white or you can add a touch of color. You can buy the ink, or you can buy a stick of sumi-e ink and a grinding block.

The ink stick looks lacquered. It is. Rub the short end against a wet grinding block until you have a puddle of ink. If you live in a hard-water area, use distilled water in a spray bottle to create a deep black ink.

Good ink smells of incense, or at least soot. It’s made from plant charcoal, and some ink sticks smell better than others.

If you buy the fat brushes traditional for this art, soak and rinse the brushes. They are stiffened with fish glue to help them keep their shape in transit.

The basic strokes are simple: hold the brush upright, start with the tip of the

Leaves and stem in sumi-e style

brush, then push down, drag, then lift up as if it were an airplane taking off. That’s a leaf. A stem uses the tip of the brush pushed down and dragged, then pushed again.

The rest is practice. 15 minutes a day yields good results in about a week. The minimalism is soothing. The suggestion of the completed piece is all you need. Your mind does the rest. Creativity doesn’t have to use a lot to make itself known. Simple works, too.

–Quinn McDonald is keeping her excitement in check–the book launch is tomorrow night, 7 p.m. at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. She is spending half her time worrying that no one will show up and the other half that there won’t be enough food. She also believes this is normal.

Online Class: Raw Art Journaling, The Book

Thanks to all of you who have asked if I’m going to teach an online class from the new book. YES! It starts on August 14. Best of all, I’m being hosted by Jacqui Graham’s very cool group, Artists of the Round Table. It’s a Yahoo Group, you do have to join to take the class.

The class will run for 10 weeks, covering a section of the book each week. You’ll have opportunities to do the exercises and post your work online. I’ll post comments as a creativity coach, not a critic.

The class will look like this:

Raw Art Journal syllabus for Artists of the Round Table Group

There are two sections for each week–a portion to read (the square with the week number and date), and the homework–the part in the colored arrows.

The class will stay up beyond the time of the class if you want to catch up. I’m very excited to be teaching this class.

Best of all, there are only two requirement for the class: Sign up for the Yahoo Group, and buy the book. (That link takes you to my website, clicking the link will take you to amazon.com and give me a few pennies for sending you there.)

There is no additional charge for taking the class! If you want your book signed and live in Phoenix, please come to the book launch on July 27, 7 p.m. at Changing Hands bookstore. You can buy the book while you are there! Changing Hands is at the NW corner of S. McClintock and Guadalupe in Tempe. 6428 S. McClintock –it’s in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s. Phone: (480) 730-0205. There will be desserts, and we’ll be making permission slips!

Quinn McDonald is an instructor in art topics and business communications. She thinks there are a lot of similarities between the two. Creativity is an important part of innovative communication.

Want a Critique? Don’t Ask Your Creativity Coach

Yes, I’m your coach.

No, I won’t comment on your creative work.

This is hard to understand, because I am not only your coach, I’m your creativity coach. There are several reasons, so let’s get the one you most suspect out of the way:

1.  It doesn’t matter what I think. What if I tell you your creative project is horrible and I don’t like it? Will it destroy you? Why? Because one person doesn’t like it? What if I say it’s wonderful? Will my opinion validate you? What if I tell you it’s wonderful and then it doesn’t sell? Does that make me wrong? Does it make you wrong? Will you quit doing your creative work? That’s the worst choice. So my opinion doesn’t matter. Not about the meaning-making of your work.

2. You are paying me to coach you. Critiquing is a different service. Most clients think that once they’ve hired me as a coach, I can provide many services–adviser, researcher, conscience, authority-figure-to-fight-with, editor, marketer, problem-solver, and idea-provider. I can, but I probably won’t.  As your coach, my major service is to keep you in action in service to your own creativity. To give you a clear place to take a stand. To let you discover who you are and what your purpose in life is. I don’t give advice. It’s a bad idea. It gives you the idea that I’m responsible for your decisions, when I am not. You came to me because you were stuck in one place. Discovering your next move is your work, and I support you in that. I will toss out ideas for you to consider, but they aren’t advice. They are generally perspectives you can’t imagine yourself, but you will.

Yes, I provide marketing communication, editing, writing, problem-solving and idea-providing to businesses. And I charge them for it. All those services are separate, and my non-coaching clients pay for them.

3. I’m a coach, who understands the slippery work of creativity. I know about the danger of discouragement and the spike of “making it” and the long stretch of creative fear in the middle. I’m not an art/music/film/fashion expert. If fashion listened to me, there would be no 5-inch spike heels, none of those silly platform stilettos without heels, and none of those ankle boots that make women look as if they had ahoof instead of a foot. There are many things that work well, and become hugely popular, even if I don’t understand them or think they would be financially successful.

4. Writing is not about getting published. This is the hardest to understand. I am a writer. And writing is not about getting published. Writing is about writing. A born writer won’t quit, even if I tell them their story stinks. That’s how I know they are writers. Writers want to say something, even if no one listens. Being a writer is a struggle, and that’s the part I’m supporting and making accountable. The rest is details.

5. Because you need to build confidence, not gather encouragement. That’s the heart of the reason. You hired a coach to be able to create a change, work through change, live with change. Or learn why you can’t and live with that. There is a difference between what makes meaning and what will sell, and both have merits. That’s your work. I can’t do it for you. All the stories, the examples, the agreement in the world won’t amount to anything if you don’t do the work. Ah, and that’s the horrible truth. . .I won’t do your work. I can’t do your work. Doing your work is how creative people succeed and live their lives. It’s all about you. And I know that.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change, re-invention and transition. Her book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art has made it to the #1 slot on amazon.com’s Mixed Media division and #3 in Creativity.

Name Your Own Color

It’s time for another Michelle Ward Street Team Challenge. Last month, she asked us if our color palettes changed from season to season. Living in the Sonoran desert, where the temperature is currently on “broil” I instead compared the colors and styles I used when I loved on the East Coast and then when I moved here.

This month, in Crusade #53, Michelle asked us to find colors we had blended ourselves, and give them new names. I love exploring color, so I picked up my three Daniel Smith watercolor paint sticks–New Gamboge (yellow), Quinacridone (red), and Ultramarine (blue) and renamed them to Arizona colors. Our sky is huge and bright blue, so the blue became Arizona Sky.

The yellow is a dusty, dry color that matches the color of our horizons when the dust storms move through, so it got the name of our dust storms: haboob.

The red is the color of a the juice of a saguaro fruit. The fruit is pressed out of the very seedy pod, mixed with sugar, fermented, and then used by the Tohono O’odham in a ceremony to call forth the clouds that bring rain.

But that was just renaming the colors I used. The real task was to create blended colors and name those. Below is an acacia tree –from which we get gum arabic, among other things. The tree was painted with the three color sticks above. No other colors were used. The three colors I used are primary colors, and every other color can be made from them. The greens were mixes of yellow and blue, sometimes more yellow, sometimes more blue.

The sand and underpainting of the trunk were an orange mixed from yellow and red. I then added blue to the orange and made brown, added a bit more red and made the trunk and stems.

The re-named colors are: in the top of the tree: Sun-Shot. Over to the right, the tender green is April Morning. In the center, the leaves in shadow are July Shadow.

On the right edge, the dry, tired green is Sun-Blasted. The trunk is Bent Trunk, and below the tree, there is Hot Sand.

What a great challenge! Thanks Michelle, for your unending imagination and inspiration!

–Quinn McDonald’s book, Raw Art Journaling, is newly released by North Light Books.

Journal Pages: No-Layer Backgrounds

An image becomes recognizable when they eye sees 30 percent of it.

Put down the paint–all of it. Acrylics, watercolors, pastels. Lay down your  sizers, distressers, macro- and micro-glitter,  mica shards and flower petals. Put them down. Now. You don’t need them to journal.  Breathe. Clean off your desk.  Breathe again. Just for now, we are going to keep it simple. You can go back to layers-upon-layers tomorrow.

You don’t need “layers upon layers” in your journal pages. Just for today, allow your journal to be a quiet discovery of what’s in your heart and soul. It doesn’t need six layers of paint, crayons, punchinella stencils, gloss varnish, sprinkles and hot chocolate sauce. The last dozen journals I’ve seen were heavy and colored and had ephemera stuck all over them, but not a single word that helped the owner make sense of her life.

I believe in slow art–and I call it Raw Art. It’s yours. It has your fingerprints in it and your mistakes throughout it. Because it is original and raw. I believe that the original digital art was done by hand–ten digits, including an opposable thumb– with a pencil on paper. After that, pens and maybe watercolor pencils were added. That’s all you need to make meaning. Meaning might not come from words alone, but it doesn’t comes from pressure to buy pounds of tools to create busy, color-laden, thick, but word-empty pages, either.

Below are some pages from a journal I made without a painted background.  Simple. Spare. With words. If you feel that your journal pages have become the boss of you, and meaning has taken the back seat, throw everyone out of the art van and rearrange the seats.

Put creativity and your good common sense in the front seat. Everyone else who is clamoring for attention (“But X puts paint in her hair and puts her journal on her head to get color!” “Be like Y and use that new archival peanut-butter-and-jelly stain to create an inner child page!” ) has to sit in the way-back and be quiet. Give them a coloring book and ketchup packets.

Now you are ready to drive. Here are some pages that use only Pitt pens and watercolor pencils and my own weird handwriting. I loved making every page. Remember when you loved making things? Go back to that time. It was rich in content, satisfying in the doing. Here are 4 examples of raw art.

Use simple lines. Write with your own handwriting. It's yours. That's enough.

Lines make perfectly good backgrounds. And your pen isn't lumping over paint.

Stick with black and white. Or use color. In some places and not in others.

I created these flowing, intersection, organic lines. They leave space for writing divide up the page and let you meditate as you fill a page.

–Quinn McDonald writes and creates journal pages with raw art journaling. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art is now available.

Social Skills for Social Networking

Unrelated Note:  Photorapher Bo Mackison  interviewed me about my book on today’s blog. She asked good questions. Take a peek for yourself.

*     *     *      You see a post on Facebook that ticks you off. Hey, this is important, and this person should know they are wrong. You leave a sharp rebuttal. You are reading blogs and realize that this person said something you said better last week. So you leave a link to your blog. You discover a link to someone’s new blog or website, and you don’t like it, so you post a Tweet with the mistakes you found.

Image: from Fantastic Fiction.com

Why isn’t this successful when you are being authentic? You are showing up in the world exactly the way you are, so why isn’t that a good thing?

Because it’s hard to define yourself in 140 characters (on Twitter) or the line limit Facebook sets. You get to make a point, but it’s hard to see your intention. When we read Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter feeds, we react emotionally, we reply with the first thing we think. And while “telling it like it is” was great in the mid-’70s, times have changed. Children get away with saying what they think, because they are cute and forgivable. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are less forgiving.

You are what you say in social media. And what you say may be interpreted as mean spirited by the reader because context is almost entirely missing from the posts we leave. We behave like Angry Birds–slingshotting our chirping, cackling thoughts at others, forgetting that the anonymity of the internet is also detrimental–we are as we appear, not as we know in our hearts we are.

You have to work harder to be authentic on social media sites. Few people check out your profile, most people read what you say and take it for who you are. The biggest problem on social media is the serious disconnect between how we want to show up in the world—our public persona—and who we are in real life, our essential self.

How do you close the gap?

1. Edit yourself. Write what you think, then pretend you are the receiver. Read your post before you make it public. Would you want this said to you? Even if you are right? A few edits for context may help. “In my experience,” or “I think” can change a post from universal proclamation to opinion. It’s still your opinion, but you are owning it.

2. Support more than fix. If people aren’t asking for help, don’t give it. Life in the office has made giving “feedback” one of our natural rights. Let’s be clear–no one likes to be told they are wrong, broken, or not enough. “Feedback” is the new “micromanaging” and it’s more fun when you are dishing it out than when you are spooning it up. Before you give your opinion, make sure you were asked for it. Don’t tell people how to improve, praise them for what they have done well.

3. Leave your guru-ness on your own site. Your social networking profile can show you as a guru, expert, leader, super-achiever or god(ess) of wisdom, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us mortals want your wisdom in our blog comments. Of course you can link your own site in your comment, but only if it meets all three of these criteria: It is highly relevant to the topic thread, you explain why it adds information (the fact you wrote it is not enough), it’s not linked to a site that’s a big ad for your own business.

4. Yes, you are being judged right now. When you post on a social media site, you are showing up the way you want to be seen. We used to dress up to go out; now we judge people by how they show up on blog comments. The people who are reading your posts may be potential customers, your next boss, your soul mate, the hiring manager, your minister, or your jury. Write to them.

5. Anonymous posts say a lot about you. The internet allows us to appear to be anything–a genius, gorgeous, clever, a sniper. My first boss said, “If you don’t want to sign you name to it, ask yourself why not?” When I teach, the evals that require a signature are generally useful and direct. The evals that don’t require a signature are harsher and show a lot more bitterness. Instructors know this. Anonymity isn’t permission to be cruel, it is a revelation of who you really are.

Mistakes: Face, Fix, Grow

We make mistakes. We hide mistakes. We lie about mistakes. And they grow bigger and bite us back. Instead of  spinning, hiding, or rationalizing a mistake, make it serve you. It’s not easy, but we can face and fix mistakes, then grow from them.

Here’s the step-by-step to face and fix mistakes:

1. See the mistake. This sounds obvious, but the reason we make mistakes is because we don’t know what we are doing is going to result in a mistake. Often, when we notice a mistake, we immediately stop thinking about it, and focus on hiding it or blaming it on someone else. That’s the dangerous part. See the mistake for what it is–a slip up you made because you drew the wrong conclusion, thought something wrong was right, or raced ahead too fast. If you don’t know what you did wrong, there is no second step.

2. Acknowledge your mistake. First, acknowledge that this is your mistake and own it. You can’t fix it if you don’t own it. Take a look at the root cause of the mistake–was it sloppiness, overwork, the wrong process? Find how it went wrong and you’ll know why it went wrong.

3. Develop a solution. You know how and why the mistake happened, figure out a solution that solves it. You get to fix all your own mistakes. In fact, you are the only person who can do the best job. Because it was your mistake, you have more information than anyone else. This should take minutes, not days. The solution may have several steps that need to take place over days, but you have to have a reasonable fix in place quickly.

4. Alert your boss first, team members second. Your boss needs to know about major mistakes before your team members. Smaller mistakes that your team members can fix in their normal workday can be fixed at that level. Going to your boss isn’t a fun task, which is exactly why you developed the solution before you left your office. If you go to your office, dump the problem on the boss’s desk, you will be creating a panic situation and you will be responsible for using the boss’s fix. Your answer, because you are closer to the problem, is going to work better.

5. Know how to prevent the mistake. Besides acknowledging responsibility and knowing how to fix the mistake, you have to know how to prevent it from happening again. If your mistake is an emergency, this step needs to happen after the emergency is over. Preventing mistakes is the part where overwork– too many projects to be completed in not enough time–comes in. You can point out that you are concentrating on too many priorities and ask your boss to prioritize your workload. If you think everything is the same level of importance, you are headed for trouble. And you’ll be wrong. Not everything is equally important. That’s the short answer that leads to a big failure. Whether you need training, better communication, more responsibility, more authority and less responsibility, this is the time to point it out in a clear, tactful way.

–Quinn McDonald develops and runs business communication workshops.