Poured Acrylics for Art Journals

Poured acrylics are exactly what they sound like–add acrylic paints to acrylic medium and pour or spread them onto a canvas. Some artists add water to the paint and spread it to create a blended background.

I tried a variety of mediums (gel, fluid, and glaze) and two different substrates, freezer paper and watercolor paper. The freezer paper allows the release of the poured acrylics and makes them usable in collage.

Experimenting with acrylics takes some time, but the results are worth it. Here are some results I came up with.

Poured acrylics mixed with gel medium on watercolor paper. ©Quinn McDonald 2012, all rights reserved.

Acrylics mixed with heavy-bodied gel medium on watercolor paper. This dries the fastest, but the results are a little more controlled than I like. I prefer the smooth surface of fluid medium.

Acrlic and gel medium poured onto freezer paper. ©Quinn McDonald, 2012, all rights reserved.

If you pour the same mixture on parchment or freezer paper, the acrylic will dry and can be peeled off. The front and back look completely different. This is the same color mix as above, but the colors that sank are different than the ones that were on top.

Acrylic paint and ink mixed with fluid medium and opal/gold glaze. ©Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Mixing ink (green and mallard blue)  and paint (Payne’s gray) with a mixture of fluid glaze and gold/opal glaze gives amazing results. Fluid glaze is designed to retard the drying of acrylics, and it does. This piece took 24 hours to dry.

Swirled and controlled colors. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Acrylics (Payne’s gray, vermillion, cobalt blue) dropped onto fluid acrylic and then treated like the surface of marbled paper or cake decoration. In the corner is a blend of metallic copper acrylic, and quinadcricone burnt orange swirled together in flue acrylic.

Inks on fluid acrlic and gold glaze © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

First, put down about a tablespoon of fluid acrylic and spiral a teaspoon (approximately) of gold/opal glaze (Golden’s) through it. Spray inks (I used Tattered Angels Shimmer mist) onto surface, wait 30 seconds, and tilt mixture, being careful to keep the ink on top of the fluid medium.

Can be peeled off parchment or freezer paper. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012

Payne’s gray, opaque white ink, Graphite Shimmer Mist, swirled on top of fluid acrylic. Once dry, these acrylics can be peeled off the freezer paper and used in collage. Use self-leveling medium to create a thin skin.

—Quinn McDonald is experimenting with inks. There’s something to be said for that. She’s a creativity coach and art journaler.

Social Media : Quality v. Quantity

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest, Klout–your “popularity” is measured in many ways, but largely in how many people follow you and how many you follow. Not how good the relationship is, not how many people de-friend you half an hour after you accepted their request, but quantity.

Unfollowing is fine. Image from http://tinyurl.com/d3pmgcr

Klout is interested in how much you post and how many people re-post. And we take the bait. We want to be popular. We want to be recognized–Klout has pure genius behind it. In ways they will not tell you, but will gather lots of information about you, they create a number and then tell you how you can make it higher. I’ve gotten more Klout requests from people I don’t know than I have from any other social media. We are hungry for popularity.

It’s easy to mistake quantity for quality, but the essential difference lies in connection. In relationships. In being with people around whom you can be authentic and be accepted, not for whom you have to act in ways that allow you to be approved.

How do you find those people you want to build a relationship with? Easier than you think. First of all, think quality–what these people offer to others. Would you bring someone into your house who trashes people in public? Who does nothing but market his/her product or service? For whom conversation is them-to-you only, never you-to-them?  Don’t follow them either. Even if they have 30,000 followers.  They can’t keep up with all of them; most likely you aren’t The One.

Other suggestions:

1. Before you follow back on Twitter, read the person’s bio and home page. The bio should be specific, not just cute. If the home page is loaded with mindless photos, requests for RTs, updates of their locations from 4Square, give them a pass. What will you learn, contribute to, or relate to from this person? A whole page is a good cross-section of their character for the day.

2. Check your values. I’m not talking about honesty, ethics, and courage, because they are easy to disguise or hide. I’m talking about characteristics that are important to you–comfortable shoes, spicy food, ability to listen to you rant without fixing. Those values are what you are looking for in a relationship, even online. Does the person’s posts express this?

If you follow someone and they immediately direct or private message you with a marketing offer, un-friend them. For them, you are a way to make money, not build a relationship.

3. On Facebook, the check is similar. A lot of those “Blah, blah, I know only 3% of you will have the guts to share this, but if you do. . . ” mean low content value, high popularity need.  A lot of links to  their Etsy sites and nothing else is a pass. People who never comment on your posts–is this a relationship? People who say they are thinning their FB friends and you should leave one word about them and then re-post, and then they will . . . .sigh. I un-friend them without a guilty thought.

So how do you find people you want to follow? Look at the friends of your friends. Look up authors you like of books you’ve read. If you read blogs, look at the blogroll. (Although a lot of blogs don’t have them anymore). But before you decide on anyone, read what they post. We are what we post.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who keeps an art journal.

Stencil Play

Stencils are a simple and interesting way to add a layer to a journal page. But they can do a lot more. Used with different colors, stencils set a theme, create a pattern, help colors blend in interesting ways. They can also be used as a resist.

I love this stencil of numbers. I have another one, too, with numbers as a positive image. Both are from The Crafter’s Workshop.

In this straightforward use of this number stencil, I put the stencil down on a blank sheet of paper and sprayed inks onto the stencil, let the paper absorb the ink and removed (and cleaned) the stencil. In this case, the stencil acted as a resist against the white watercolor paper.

I then sprayed the paper first, then put the stencil down and sprayed over the first color. Blending two colors gives the numbers a softer look, but it also creates a background for anything having to do with measurement, counting, or money.

Collage is my favorite medium, so I used both the positive and negative stencils, created some gel-transfer butterflies, then collaged some “magic words” from the box of interesting words I keep. Using the words as major focal point, I discovered a John Ciardi poem fragment that used those words.

You can  create pieces of paper that suit you, no need to torture yourself looking up poems. I had to memorize hundreds of poems in school, many of which are stuck in my brain and surface randomly.

I wrote the poems between the word blocks. While I like the mix of words and numbers, this piece seems a bit busy to me. The gel-transfer butterflies are interesting and I’ll make more of them.

Finally, my favorite collage of the series. Using color and geometry as the vocabulary, there are no words. There are some incongruous elements–Monsoon Papers, ribbon, and the pieces from a hole punch. The combination works. I could add words to it, but for right now, I’m satisfied.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who will be teaching One Sentence Journaling at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in Chantilly, VA on June 22 and 23.

Smart Poem Gets it Right

Sometimes poems say everything and get it exactly right. After a long discussion yesterday with someone who believed that the only things schools should teach is “what you need to do in life,” I realized how awful that would be.

Most of what I do today didn’t exist when I was in school. I certainly did not study how to handle communication problems in the workplace while in college. I learned that from making communication mistakes in the workplace.

When I was in college, there were no blogs, no Twitter and no websites. There were no computers, cell phones, or faxes. (Yes, that was a long time ago.)

What I still use today is the problem solving I learned. How to think, not what to think. And, of course, that art is the benchmark of a culture. And I’m still using all that knowledge, years later. This poem knows so much I can still learn.

You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

—William Stafford, from You Must Revise Your Life

–Quinn McDonald reads poetry to learn about life.

When Marketing Ears Slam Shut

Facebook combs through your responses to find what you want, what you like, and sells it to marketers. Google tracks your keywords and Target knows if you are pregnant before your family does. Every marketer hungers for first-hand information, hints of how you spend your money, what coupons you might want and which you might ignore.

So why is it, when companies have clients in front of them, expressing opinions,

Nautilus from information2share.com

the company seals its ears tighter than the Nautilus approaching Paris? It’s not just a communication problem. It’s also a training problem, and a creativity problem. And that’s why I am interested. I think companies are afraid of creativity because it might torpedo the status quo and the marketing plan. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went to the gym tonight. I’d scheduled some time with a trainer to concentrate on my upper body strength. The trainer walked in, big guy, impressive muscles, and told me he had 14 years experience and he could get me down to my ideal weight if only I would commit to a plan he designed.

“I came in to learn a routine for my upper body,” I said. He spoke over me and told me that he knew more about how I gotten out of shape than I did. (Really? Is interrupting a client and telling them what they need going to make them feel comfortable?) I waited till he was finished, and again said what I wanted. He gave me a sheet to fill out (that assumed I lacked discipline, was lazy and wasn’t motivated and didn’t want to admit it), and disappeared. He reappeared with the manager who began to tell me how wrong I was.

Talk to the hand from barelyablog.com

Again, I told the manager what I wanted. He held up his hand in the “Talk to the Hand” gesture, and said, “Hey, no need to get angry here.” Wow. I wasn’t angry. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be asked about my present routine and why that wasn’t working. It didn’t happen.

I tried again. “I’m not angry, I am trying to communicate my needs.” The big guy interrupted me again. I listened carefully and realized there was some sort of liability involved if I didn’t do the starter routine. The manager and the big guy double-teamed me, telling me that people “like me” (women? writers? over 50? those who need upper body strength?) need to do a routine planned by the health club, because, you know. . .they have all that experience. They were now speaking loudly and slowly as if I were one of those drunk guys wearing a wife-beater shirt in a poorly-lit, shaky-camera cop show.

Time is short and so is life. I want to use the gym because it is too hot to walk now. So I became very quiet, docile, and let them tell me about the experience they had and how I had to break my muscles down and how gaining 10 pounds of muscle would help me lose fat. And I remained compliant while the big guy took me around the machines I have no interest in and told me how to use them.Because if he doesn’t, the lawyers will get involved. He did not notice I wasn’t engaged. He pressed ahead, checking off  items on his new client to-do list.

At the end, he wrote up a routine for me. We had used maybe a dozen machine, and the health club had about three dozen. Many of them look alike to me.

Marketing, not listening. Or, losing business.

This was the second crucial moment that the deal could go wrong, that the gym might lose a client. Client loyalty depends on having the client feel smart, or at least competent.

“How do I know how to use the machine correctly?” I asked.
“I showed you how,” said big guy, briefly, writing down my routine.
“Do the machines have some sort of identification on them, so I can find the right machine again?”
“You will use the same machines as today,” said big guy. He was speaking slowly and loudly again, as if I were old and troublesome. And certainly slow.

I will admit to learning new things slowly. I will not remember the right machine, the right setting, the right way to set the machine, or the right way to use it. He was not going to help me learn. He was losing a customer and didn’t care. Didn’t know. He’d done his new-client routine and was ready for the next client. This is the biggest marketing mistake. Deserting the client while the client is unsure of the benefit of the product or service.

And that’s the training issue right there. Marketing department, are you listening? You won’t get people to use the machines if you don’t teach them how to use the machines. Not show. Teach. I learn nothing from doing what I’m told at a machine. I need to do it myself, with supervision, to make sure I know how. But that wasn’t going to happen, because, they have 14 years of experience and know why I am out of shape.

Big guy looked up. One more question on his part. “Will you be coming in around 9 or 10 in the morning?” he asked. Because, you know, out of shape women don’t work. They sit at home eating bon bons and watching TV.

As my silence stretched into oblivion, I realized that Marketing doesn’t know this is happening. They hand the new-client plan to training, who designs a train-the-trainer book, and big guy and his whole department memorize it and use it. No communication. No creative approaches to clients with questions. Just blind rule following. And then, when clients don’t stay, this well-known health club will pay huge money to Facebook, Google analytics and spyware to find out what clients are thinking. Because they don’t have a clue. They aren’t listening.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and trainer who saw a marketing plan fail today. She’s going for her three-mile walk tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. And it won’t be in the gym.

Working the Corner, ICAD Style

Tammy Garcia, of Daisy Yellow, is an creativity instigator. I’ve read her blog for years, and we met for the first time when I was teaching at the GASC (Great American Scrapbook Convention) in Arlington Texas. Tammy and I shared lunch, and before the food arrived, she had involved me in ICAD–the Index Card a Day project. She handed me an index card and some super-cool very fine colored gel pens from JetPens and I was off–creating. Since I’m working on a series of loose-leaf journal pages, the project appealed to me. (Tammy is letting me give away two copies of her zine. Details below)

Tammy asked me to talk about decorating the corners of a card. It reminded me of a wonderful lesson my father taught me many years ago. He said, “take care of the edges and the middle will take care of itself.”

It’s as true of the peanut butter sandwich I was making all those years ago, as of the index card.  Some of these go out of the corner and along the edges, but all of them start in the corner.

Decorating any page doesn’t have to involve half your stash. Or even a lot of wet media. This one was done in Pitt Pen. I used black. I repeated the pattern in blue and purple gel pen on a larger card, then layered the cards together. It looks sewn; copying stitches from your sewing machine is both easy and deserving of a second look.

This one is made with hole punches. Stars in one corner, the sun in the other. You can repeat on the other side, or, if you have a lot to write, just do it on the top.

You can also punch stars out of one color and the sun out of another. In this case, I made the sun using Sharpie Glitter Pens, which doesn’t show up in full glitter mode on the scan. Those markers add a nice touch of glam without kitsch. In this one, I also used a corner trimmer to round all the corners. It gives a nice vintage look to the cards.

This shows a paper mosaic. I cut up other cards that I had previously painted, and used these on opposite corners to create a tension that makes the writing look more important. You could do it on all four corners, too, I like a bit of asymmetry.

Stencils don’t have to be applied over the whole card. Place a piece of the stencil over the corner of the card, and use a stamp pad to rub over the stencil. The partial stencil applied unevenly gives a rustic look to the card. Again, you can do this on all four corners, but I like the idea of just one corner.

Index cards don’t hold up to a lot of wet media, but I wanted to have at least one with lots of color. To make this happen, I used fusible webbing to cover two cards with batiked fabric. Then I stitched them together using a ribbon-type knitting yarn. You can write on this with gel pen if you want. OK, so this one was the whole card, I couldn’t resist. The pattern is reminiscent of the first one.

Because I’m a writer, I’d fill all the cards with journaling or quotes, date them and create loose leaf journal pages. You can also create cards in series of colors. Date your cards so you can watch your progress as your skills grow with practice.

Giveaway: Tammy from Daisy Yellow creates a wonderful zine. You can preview it here. Ready for giveaway are two zines, emailed to you in a pdf format. All you have to do is leave a comment that you want to be in the drawing and an email address so you can receive the zine. Location unimportant, it’s a pdf. Winner will be drawn at random on June 13, 5 p.m. Phoenix time (8 p.m. EDT)

WINNERS: Traci Johnson and Stargardener, also known as Teresa.  Three other people who came up first gave me addresses that bounced out of my email.

Join me at the Chantilly, VA location for GASC July 22 and 23. I’ll be teaching One-Sentence Journaling with tips for non-journalers and, of course Raw Art!

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and an art journaler. She is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.

Watering at Night

The drip irrigation system isn’t working, so I’m doing the watering. At night. There is something lovely about standing outside at night, a deep blue sky over me, and house lights winking on and off along the street while the water hose makes the desert landscape smell of wet dust and blooming flowers.

The night-blooming cereus blooms just one night a year. The smell is intense and intoxicating. By dawn the flower is dead.

Watering at night is necessary. The air is dry and warm and water evaporates quickly. Watering at night allows the water to seep into the dirt and the plant roots to absorb more of it. Water at dawn, and most of the water evaporates before the plant can use it.

So I stand outside, the only person out in the street, watering the plants so they can face the desert sun tomorrow, having had time to soak up the moisture.

Metaphors make up a lot of my life. Looking at one thing, I can easily see it symbolizing something bigger, deeper, more important. Without metaphor, I couldn’t make it through one coaching session. Metaphor explains hard concepts in ways that are easier to understand.

I took the photo because the moon looked wonderful tangled in the trees. Only later did I notice the owl on the left side, toward the bottom. A lovely accident.

As I came in from watering the plants, I wondered about effort. The largest effort at the wrong time, no matter how sincere, is still at the wrong time. Someone offers to rotate your tires right after you’ve paid to have it done, and the effort is wasted. We wrong someone, we don’t apologize because we don’t think we were at fault. The hurt grows lager. The friendship falls apart over time. Years later, an apology won’t mend the friendship, won’t fix the wrong.

The rule of comedy is “timing is everything,” but I think it works that way in real life, too.

A problem you are trying to solve won’t get solved, no matter how hard you try. You walk away, and half an hour later the answer comes to you–in detail and just right. I don’t think you can force creative energy, love, or growth. Factors have to align.

Can you nudge your creativity into serving you when you want? Or do you have to wait for the right time to  act?

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach. She’s also a writer and art journaler. She is the author of Raw Art Journaling.

Stencil Altering

Stencils make great backgrounds on journal pages, collage, or fabric. Stencils can be used with spray ink or paint, pan pastels, or chalk. I have a bit of trouble using them with paint (the color slips under the stencil and smears), so I use spray inks.

While stencils work well and provide a lot of versatility, some of them create a problem. They are set in frames that shouldn’t be part of the stencil, but always wind up on the page.

This 6 x 6 TCW  (The Crafter’s Workshop) Stencil of a spirograph shows the edge on a 5 x 7 page. No matter how I turn it the frame is still on the page. The edge is useful, though. I use it to pick up the ink-sprayed stencil and make a positive print on another piece of watercolor paper.

While I love the incomplete, dots-and-dash look of the piece, the frame came out here, too, and the heaviness really takes away from the piece. (Yes, I should have purchased the larger version and there would have been no problem, but I did and there is.)

To alter the stencil, I took a pair of scissors and trimmed almost all of the edging off.

The upper left-hand corner still has the frame. Not only does it help stabilize this stencil, it also give me a handle to place the stencil steadily and evenly.

Now, the stencil is far more attractive on a page. I can adjust the corner frame to place it so it doesn’t show up on the page at all.

I’m careful when I choose stencils, looking to find those that don’t need or have a frame. (I just purchased two stencils with numbers–a positive and a negative, but that will be another post.) Sometimes the one I want has a frame, but it’s good to know it can be altered and put to good use.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and an art journaler. She’s also the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.

Trading Cynicism for Positive Self-Talk

“Cynic” –that’s what my keychain used to say. And I was proud of it. People were motivated by self-interest, I was sure. And day after day, my life proved it.  Honestly, while I thought it prepared me for the tough and gritty life I was living at the time, it was debilitating and exhausting.

Moon over trees.© Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

Part of the problem was that my group of friends were cynical, too, and what we look at and live with, we become. It was almost by accident that I met someone who was deeply happy. My reaction? Suspicion. But that moment was the starting point of a better life. It was a hard climb on a dusty road. And one that I am grateful for every day.

Research shows that we need about a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative feedback to be productive. Here are some other statistics:

  • 65 percent of American workers say they received no recognition for their work in the last year.
  • 22 million workers are not interested in their work or actively dislike it.
  • Bad bosses increase the risk of stroke by 33 percent.
  • When you tell yourself something is “too hard” your stress levels increase, and you are more likely to fail, even if you have done the same thing before.
  • Increasing your positive attitude even a little starts to add years to your life–as much as 10 years.

Dusty road. © Quinn McDonald All rights reserved

So what does this mean? It means that you have to start with yourself, deliberately turning away from negative thoughts and critical self-talk and choosing positive self-talk. Then pass it on. How?

  • Stop the automatic snarky, mean thoughts when you see someone poorly dressed, fat, or with weird hair.
  • Hang around positive people. Negative people’s snark might be more fun, but when you aren’t with them, it’s aimed at you, just as you talk about the people who aren’t there. Break the cycle.
  • Talk about ideas, not other people. Try it for a day. You may be stunned to silence if you don’t allow yourself to talk about someone else’s clothing, actions, or choices. Talking about your ideas or creative projects allows them to grow.
  • Tell people what they are doing right. They are likely to do more of what they are appreciated for.
  • If people need a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative, do your share to keep your own positive comments five times higher than your negative ones.

Think this is all new-age, woo-woo stuff? Nope.

  • Seth Godin, the entrepreneur who writes about change (and has written 10 bestsellers) writes about the damage lizard brain causes.
  • Steven Pressfield (the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) encourages people to cover the canvas, fix the details later. But start, and do as much as you can in one positive swoop.
  • Pressfield’s advice: “My writing philosophy is a kind of warrior code—internal rather than external—in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I call “Resistance” with a capital R (in The War of Art). The technique for combating these foes can be described as ‘turning pro.'”

So put down the negative anchor and pick up the positive wings and try them on. They’ll fit just fine.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach. She believes in positive self-talk. It inspired her book, Raw Art Journaling.

The Long Road to Starting Up.

Starting over is another one of those “chop wood, carry water” jobs. The good news is you can start over at any age–fall in love again, go back to school, learn a new skill–if you want to badly enough. The bad news, is you have to do the work of starting over to start over.

So I showed up at Zumba class tonight. Now that it’s too hot to walk in the early morning, I have to keep getting my exercise somehow–and I tried Zumba. There were about 50 people in the class, everything from young, lithe girls in neon and black outfits with Zumba boots (a cross between Cuban-heeled boots and sneakers) to lithe girls in leggings and sneakers. I did not blend in. The music was loud with a strong beat, and the regulars fell into the patterns easily.

Zumba is a cross between line dancing, jumping jacks, belly dancing, rhythmic moves, hand motions and a lot of booty-shaking dances. I lived through the hour, just barely. But I reached my goal: I dripped sweat and I made it through the hour. I felt awkward and out of place, but I kept going.

The secret to most successes in life is to keep going. Some women looked at me and then looked away. But most of them were working hard. I can honor that, that frankly, I don’t care what they are thinking. I stayed for the hour and although Zumba may well mean “let’s kill the newbie,” I saw potential. Nope,  I will never be a graceful dancer. But I may become more flexible, lose some weight, and get those troublesome arms toned. And that’s the goal–flexible, toned arms, exercise.

Oh, and I served as a mentor. The younger, slimmer woman behind me said, “If YOU can do it, I can do it.” And she was right. (Even if she did leave 15 minutes early.)

Starting over almost always feels awkward and often makes you feel dumb, different and deluded. If you let that stop you, you will have to start over again, and the next time, it will be harder. Know your goal, and keep moving toward it.

Who knows? By the time it cools down, I may continue to Zumba. That is, if I can manage to walk tomorrow.

-Quinn McDonald is happy she made it through Zumba tonight. She thinks she’ll make it through a few more times. She’s a creativity coach and has to give good example.