On the Studio Table

New supplies are always fun, but new supplies that are weird are also wonderful.

Here are two items on my studio table for upcoming projects that I’m not sure about yet. I’m sure I’ll use both of these items, but I haven’t done enough exploring yet.

Copper fabric

Copper fabric. I mentioned it a few days ago, when I wrote about Inventables. It feels like a highly-starched cotton. It is copper thread woven with cotton thread. It’s washable and has a coating so the copper won’t fade or tarnish. I have a huge urge to sew on it. It would make a great journal page, but I don’t want to write on it just yet. What would you do with this copper fabric?

soy silk

This is a soft fiber in great colors. (Yes, it comes in other colors). It’s faux-silk, which means it’s not silk. In fact, it’s a soy fiber, the by-product of tofu-making. (Let the jokes begin).

I’m going to experiment with this by separating the fibers into delicate strands and seeing if I can use a felting technique (good thing I read the books I review) to make a paper-like material. That should be fun.

What would you do with this soy-silk? With a bit of skill, you could knit with it.

-Quinn McDonald loves the idea of not using materials in ways they were designed. She got in trouble for that in grade school, but that was then and this is now.

Saturday Hop

Take a walk to clear your mind this weekend, then do some wicked good creative work!

It’s been a busy week. Time for creativity and comfort.

Want to do some hand-lettering? Some ideas, a book suggestion, and a hand-designed sneaker by my friend Lynn.

Tired of all those layer-on-layer journal pages? Keep it simple with these easy no-background journal pages.

Journal getting too fat? Two ways to help your journal lose extra pages.

Diana Adams has an interesting collection of photography through a microscope. Don’t miss the fly with a mohawk!

Have a fun weekend!

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and art journaler.

Creative Prompt: Lawn Care

Book Winner: Carla Sonheim generously donated a book to the winner of today’s drawing so I could keep the book–I was so pleased! But there were so many comments, I decided to give away my copy, too, so there are TWO winners!   Joy Moore and  Leah Boulet–Congratulations!

* * *

Today we’re doing something different. If you are exploring your creativity, it’s always interesting to play with metaphors. Metaphors use one term to describe another, unrelated term. (Comparing a company to a ship and the financial futures as sailing on stormy seas, for example.) The kind of metaphor I’m talking about is an extended metaphor. (How the coming and going of tides affect the ship.)

Here’s your set-up: Phoenix is on the Sonoran Desert floor. We don’t have a lot of water to waste, and many people have xeriscaped yards–no grass, just crushed rock and desert plants. This is hard on some people who move here from someplace green and miss their lawns. Lawns really can’t be sustained in summer, so September is the time to replant your lawn, water it early in the morning, and hope for the best.

From greengardenaz.com

Creative Work: Think of your free time, and how you spend it. Are you fighting your inner geography and planting a lawn? Are you going with the ambient climate and keeping it simple? Report Back: Are you tempted to make changes in your creative time? Are you keeping it simple? Come back and tell us. If you have a blog, link back to it in your comment. (One link only).

Journal Keepers: Dive into your journals and work through a metaphor the lawn story suggests. For example,  Do you want to do work that is intense and may not fit the popular climate, or do you want to go with the flow and keep your work suited to an easy schedule? Or, do you want to create an environment that’s exotic for you or do you want to explore your nature as it is? Post a link to your journal page. (One link only, please).

Don’t want to post your blog? No pressure. It’s always interesting to see other people’s interpretations.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and a journal keeper.

Shame, Anger, and Getting Over It

My current “listen while I walk” book is Brené Brown’s book on shame, I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t). I’m nodding my head so much in agreement I look like a bobblehead walking down the street.

Doesn’t this look exactly like the naive rural girl right from the Main Street of Shame?

What had me nodding like a drummer in an 80s hair band is the way Brown links shame to excuses, blame to anger—and then breaks the links so you can breathe again and feel whole.

When I started to write my new book, The Inner Hero’s Art Journal: Conversations with Your Inner Critic, I thought it would be a big, inventive idea to ask some well-known people to contribute to it. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if art people could be introduced to some well-known people who have big inner critics and hear their

story? Wouldn’t it be even cooler if those well-known people tried some art projects in dealing with their inner critics? And then shared those stories? I was so excited. I did not for one nano-second think that maybe those well-known people would shrug it off.

In fact, when a friend said, “Sure, what’s the worst that could happen?” I said, “They’ll say ‘no’ and I’ll survive.” But that was not the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is that not a single one of the four well-known people responded to my several emails, Twitter and Facebook contact, and a written-on-paper letter.

My first reaction was, “Well, Well-Known Person (WKP) #1 just had a serious health scare in her family; WKP #2 just bought a new house in California to create an environmental safe haven. WKP #3 is writing a book, and WKP #4 is on a book tour for her new book.”

My next reaction was, “Well, c’mon, most of these people have staff or at least an

The big, negative mind of the Inner Critic. (Pitt Pen on paper, © Quinn McDonald)

assistant, they can’t even take time to say ‘no’ or ‘thanks’?”

And my next reaction, was, yes, shame. Who was I to think that those people would think my idea was cool? My ideas wasn’t cool, it was dumb. And who am I to think that any WKP would care about appearing in a book that won’t sell as well as theirs, and give up their time when they won’t get paid.

There I saw it—just like Brené Brown said:  excuses, anger, blame and shame. Just like in the book. If I hadn’t been so involved with my shame, I would have laughed. But I was consumed by the pain of shame.

And then–and I’m telling you this because it’s so vividly real—one of my ceative ideas from the book came to mind.  I grabbed a Pitt Pen and a piece of watercolor paper and did the exercise. (No, you won’t find it here, it’s still in development for the book).

This whole shame thing is part of a conversation I’m having with the Inner Critic. The one that goes, “I’m not good enough for WKP to care about me, who am I to write a book?” I did the exercise, and I realized that while I would love to have those four WKP in the book, the books worth, ideas, and usefulness don’t depend on it. That’s my job. I was worrying about someone else’s job. Someone I couldn’t control. My job was to create exercises that worked. That resonated with readers. And I smiled, because I have a group of people whose Inner Critics I know because they’ve told me about them. They are also contributors.

And just like that, the shame steamed off. Of course I would have liked the four people I asked to respond. But they didn’t. And I don’t know why, and can’t guess. And I’m actually OK with that. I don’t have to approve their reasons, I have to move on. I have a really good book to write.

—Quinn McDonald is writing a book on he Inner Critic. She writes what she knows.

Yom Kippur: Thoughts on the End of the World

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement. In Jewish mysticism, it’s the day our fate is sealed for the next year–The Book of Life is closed and your name is either written in it for a year or it’s not. It’s the day we think about our mortality, the day we think about the impact of our actions on others. Religious Jews spend the day in shul (temple), fasting and praying.

It’s Complicated. Ink on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald 2012

I’ve always had trouble finding the Creative Force in buildings, and I often spend much of the day in silence, thinking about what I need to do, what I want to do, what I have to do with the time I have left.

None of us came to stay. None of us know when we will die. It’s good to think about that—and think about it without fear, without regret.

One of the most commonly asked journal prompts is, “What would you do if you had one week (month, year) left to live? I’m always astonished that people would do something different than live their lives the way they are living them now.

I’ve never understood bucket lists. Why are we postponing enjoying life? Why are we waiting to make meaning with our whole life? What are we waiting for? A sign? A guarantee that we have X number of years, months or weeks left? That number exists already, it’s just that none of us know what it is.

Do the things that feed your heart and soul. Do them today. OK, so most of us work to have money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and maybe a few special things–but then many of us put off the vacation, or the visit, or the trapeze lessons, because we don’t have time. Well, they aren’t making any more time. If you want to accomplish your dream, stop waiting for your boss to give you permission. Stop being scared that if you take time off you’ll be fired or replaced. Fear is no way to live whatever life you have left.

Of course you shouldn’t quit your job and take a cruise around the world because you want to do that now. But you shouldn’t do your job grudgingly, wishing all the time you could be on that cruise, and resent your co-workers, family and pets because you are in an office and not on a cruise ship.

Look at your life. Look at your work. Where they overlap is where happiness lives. If you aren’t happy, something big is missing.

This year Yom Kippur falls on my birthday, as it has only two other times in my life. It’s fitting that I spend the day thinking about my life, how I live it, how I mend the parts I can, how I live my own happiness. Fear and regret have no meaning here. This is a day that is given to me with no promises. It is enough of a gift. And I am glad.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who watches the shadow of her life move across the round curve of the earth.

Book Review: Imaginary Animals (and a giveaway)

Book Winner: Carla Sonheim generously donated a book to the winner of today’s drawing so I could keep the book–I was so pleased! But there were so many comments, I decided to give away my copy, too, so there are TWO winners!   Joy Moore and  Leah Boulet–Congratulations!

This is Carla Sonheim’s second book. The first, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists covered drawing many different subjects in both realistic and stylized ways. This one concentrates on Carla’s fun, stylized way of working–from her imagination and with humor. The giveaway is at the bottom of this blog.

Book cover

Title: Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sondheim.

Author: Carla Sonheim

Details: Quarry Books, softcover, 144 pages, $24.99


  • Just Messing Around (Blobs and Sidewalk Cracks, Photos and Life, Memory and Imagination.
  • Mixed-Media Projects (Oaxacan Dotted Elephant, Imaginary Animals, Junk Mail Creatures Book, Watercolor Transfer Animals, Doggone It!, Animals in Tape, Creatures on Wood, Go Fish!, Wrapped and Tied.
  • Artist’s Gallery of Inspiration with Featured Artists.

What I Like: I’ve taken classes from Carla and I like her casual, easy style. The book follows that non-anxiety-producing style. When you read the book, you can hear Carla talking to you. With 250 illustrations, you can follow what Carla does, step by step. You can also strike out on your own, if you prefer.

There are a number of international contributors and the examples make the book more interesting. There are also 3-D animals and instructions how to make them. There’s a lot going on in the book, all of it fun.

Not all the animals she draws are real. They may have real elements, but because they are imaginary they are easier to create, more mistake-proof, and more vivid.

The book shows you how to use a scanner/printer to make duplicates of beginning sketches on art paper, then turn them into a variety of different animals. You’ll learn  clever and interesting techniques that are achievable—big plus! You’ll be guided through a variety of shading, cleaning up and adding color to get artistic results.

What I Don’t Like: Not much. Again, the first lines of the chapter are in gray, not black, ink. The instructions are in sans-serif type, and when the tips are printed on a shaded block, I find it hard to read. If you don’t use glasses or just reading glasses, you’ll adjust. If, like me, you hold books a bit farther away to get them into focus, the type is a bit small. It’s a minor thing.

Disclosures: I received the book from a publicist for free. I enjoy Carla’s style and her classes.

Giveaway: I’m giving away the book. Leave a comment and I’ll have a random drawing on Thursday afternoon, September 27, 2012, at 5 p.m. Phoenix time. The book will ship October 6.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and a creativity coach. She reads a lot. She is working on her second book.

Authentic Admitting

OK, I’m going to admit this–I waste enormous amounts of time on the interwebs, and I tell myself that what I am doing is important. And it is not.

Wrist band that looks like a watch, but isn’t. From tru-tv.com

Reading through Facebook today, I had no desire to post anything. Many people are now endorsing products (they get paid for doing this) and it drains their credibility for me. If I don’t know if you like the product or like getting paid to say you like the product, I don’t want to give up a chunk of my time figuring it out. Pinterest is nice eye candy, but I’m not connecting to anything. I’m looking at nice things, and forgetting them. I was neither doing anything nor being me, I was floating in a half-world or unreal experience that wasn’t memorable.

I got up early this morning, and was supposed to be writing my book. But first, check Facebook and emails and Pinterest and stop by Twitter. Because, no kidding, I feel guilty if I don’t check in on my. . . what, exactly? My fake feeling of connection is what. One of the people I follow on Facebook posts every thought, every decision,  all to a wash of predictable support from her friends. I have begun to dread seeing her avatar. This is not connection.  This is not friendship. This is also not doing nothing. It is fueling a low-grade irritation about someone I have never met.  Still, I can do this because on the internet you can do nothing and rationalize it as social networking, and call it working.

Who knows if you are wasting time with the Un-Time clock from randomization.com

By 7 a.m. when I’d been up for two hours, I has spent the entire time sitting at my desk, staring at my laptop. I was not relaxing. I was not doing anything, either. I was in some sort of half-awake world of semi-attention, hoping that something would inspire me.

What would really inspire me was rest. It came up like a huge bubble from under a deep pool–if I wanted to rest, I should rest. Stop fooling myself. So I got up, closed the computer, and went back to bed.

I lay on my back, wondering if I should be working. No, I was tired, so I closed my eyes. It felt. . .good. I fell asleep quickly. Slept for two hours. Woke up rested.

When I returned to the computer, I did not check in on Facebook. It ran just fine without me. Instead, I wrote down what I needed to do, set the timer on a reasonable amount of time to accomplish it, and started writing. It worked. Because I was rested.

Lying down is resting. Lying down and opening your iPad is not resting.
I like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. But it’s not work and it’s not research. It needs to fit into my goofing-off time. So if I don’t have time to goof-off, I will not call posting on Facebook “working,” and spend 45 minutes reading what people who are not in my computer’s contact list are doing.

Rest when I’m tired. Work when I need to work. Goof off when i am done working. That feels better.

Quinn McDonald rationalizes too much of her life. She needs to write more about the Inner Critic, who can also tempt us away from work, then snicker behind our backs. She won’t give up Pete’s Pond, though.

Multi-Media With Mad-Science Products

Multi-media usually means inks, paints, fabric, fiber and encaustic in various combinations. I wanted to try some things that were mad-science incredible, or, in this case, inventable.

The website Inventables, is a place that sells interesting scientific equipment, like aluminum foam bricks. Six inches by 10 inches, half an inch thick, under $30 each.

Aluminum foam bricks–look spongry, but are metal bricks.

There are lots of fascinating “what can I use this for?” ideas, so I began to comb the site for unusual journaling material.  Here’s what I found:

Radiant light film. Looks like chrome film, reflects light like a butterfly’s wings. Comes with adhesive backing, so it can be a journal cover or journal pages. Sheet measures 12 inches by 28 inches and costs $17.50.

Radiant light film.

It can be die-cut, embossed, cut and printed. Use adhesive to attach it to a substrate. It’s used in car decorations and interior decoration, but I’m thinking it would make a great journal cover.

If you don’t like shiny, and want more dimensional effects, you an go for multi-directional, shape-retaining plastic sheets.  Already used for casts that are lighter than plaster and visors you can bend into any shape, I think it would make an amazing journal page that looks crumpled but holds its shape.

Shape-retaining plastic sheet.

You can cut it with plastic-cutting devices.  Approximately 10 inches x 10 inches for $20.

There are also light-defusing sheets that are translucent white that break up light from behind and distribute it evenly. No photo, they look just like sheets of paper. An 8.5 x 11 sheet is about $23, and I could see it being used in an open-frame journal standing in front of a light, or as a shade for a strong LED.

Self-illuminating ribbon in green

Journaling at night? Sew this self-illuminating ribbon onto the cover and you’ll find your journal, even in the dark. Comes in both blue and bright green. A piece thats 10 feet by 2.75 inches is about $90, but a foot (still 2.75 inches wide) is about $10.00

You “charge” it by exposing it to sun for about 10 minutes and it glows for 8 hours. It can be machine washed and sewn on.  I can see it layered over folios as stubs (short pages) or, even better, edged onto the outside edge of a page for a book that won’t get lost at night. I’d probably add it to dog collars, back packs, hiking or biking jackets, too.

Temperature-sensitive sheets would let you hide your journal writing till your hands warmed up the page. Would also make a great postcard with a secret message. Made from a more sophisticated

Change the color of your journal page with your warm hands.

materials than mood rings, these  6″ x 6″ sheets would be a wonderful surprise in cards or as journal pages. About $28 each.

Make a slipcase for your journal or CDs and DVDs or even use these paper-thin sheets of wood veneer as journal pages. an 8″ x 12″page is about $5.00 and has interesting possibilities, from wood burning to painting to leaving it the way it is.

You can also find fabric that is woven from cotton and steel, which can be washed and dried like regular fabric. There is a silicone rubber that looks like glass and crumbles like glass, and makes great faux-ice and cracked glass. $44 for about four pounds.

Real copper fabric for garments.

Make your next project (quilt? journal?) out of copper fabric that won’t tarnish. You can cut it and sew it and expect it to get warm when the sun shines on it–it’s a great conductor of heat. It’s real copper, after all. One yard, 42.5 inches wide, is $32.85.

There is much more on this website to encourage you to experiment, putting “multi” back in multi-media in the best of all ways.  What I admire about this site, and encourage more websites to do, is that it puts the price right on the index page of photos. Each page has several items, or variations of items and each item has a photograph, a short description and a price. You click for details. No deceiving words, like “investment” and “wait, there’s more!”–just honest copy and a price.

Disclosure:  Inventables are not paying me in any way to mention them. I have just ordered some of the copper fabric, glow-in-the-dark ribbon and tape, and wood-veneer flexible sheeting.  Prices will vary over time, and products come and go.

–Quinn McDonald is a secret science geek, has always loved the combining of science and art, and is writing a book on conversations with the inner critic.


Saturday Stroll

For a Saturday creativity boost, some posts you may have missed:

Poured acrylics make great additions to journal pages. They are worth the wait–it takes a while for them to dry.

Resists like Friskit cover spaces on paper that you want to keep white. You can also used them in layers, to show the layers beneath the top one.

Zippers are underused in art journaling. Here’s a zipper drawing and a zipper made of rhinestones.  Here are a group of mixed-media postcards. One of them has a zipper, too.

Send postcards? Belong to Postcrossing? Make this clever fabric box to keep your postcards in.

Have a creative Saturday!

-Quinn McDonald is writing a book on confronting the Inner Critic.

In Praise of Slow

You have an idea. It’s a great idea. You gather materials and carry it out. It doesn’t work. You give up. What made you think that would work, anyway?

Slow motion: One drop of cream being added to coffee.

Wait. Act fast, fail fast, criticize fast. All that speed doesn’t allow you to learn a damn thing. Cutting your losses doesn’t teach you anything except how to cut.

There is a huge benefit to doing things slowly. We live in a super-fast culture, but it’s the same culture that doesn’t like mistakes, that encourages blamestorming as a fair shot in competition.

What’s the benefit of slowing down?

Three water balloons bursting.

You can anticipate. Slowing down lets you think before you act. You can think through the next several steps to see if they are what you want, if those steps move you to the result. If they don’t, you can choose another plan.

Slowing down saves time. Anticipating helps you plan more than one step ahead, create a Plan B, and discover options. All that saves time. Saving time reduces anxiety and possibly money. All because you slowed down.

Practice helps you get it right. Slowing down allows you to practice your steps before you have to do them. Practicing anything, from a piano concerto to a speech, makes you better at it. “Winging it” will just result in making your mistakes public. Slow down. Practice. Then when you do it, it will work, and you will know how come it worked. That allows you to do it again–the right way.

Slowing down slows time down. When time slows down, you see more and you understand more. The more you understand, the more you learn, the more you can use what you know.

Excellence takes time. No one was born an expert. You are not the exception. When you do things step by step you can see mistakes, often before you make them. You have more time to do each step, if you aren’t racing. John Wheeler, the physicist, said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Take advantage of time.

Quinn McDonald likes the idea of not always rushing.