The Whole Spread in Somerset Studio!

For years, I’ve been writing the Business of Art column for Somerset Studio. It was always somber and filled a page and when people said they read the dense copy, I was please and surprised.

About six months ago, TJ Goerlitz (artist and book contributor) asked if she could illustrate one of the articles. I thought it was a great idea, and so did Somerset Studio’s readers.


And now, to my huge surprise, when the March issue arrived, the one-page article has been put on two pages to give it breathing room and let TJ’s art shine!

I’m thrilled for her, and, well, I’m pretty happy for the column, too!

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler.

Minimalist Journal Pages

Art journals right now are filled with color, layered with texture–each page is painted, layered, inked, stamped, collaged. It’s a wonderful, colorful looks that makes books thick with layers.  It’s practical if you are in a studio surrounded by equipment. But what if you are just sitting somewhere, with a pen and a journal?

I’ve always loved a minimalist look. And now that I’m experimenting with loose-leaf journals, I’m also exploring minimalist pages. There’s a big history of minimalism in  Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and American art.  There is a lot to explore.  I want to design a page so there is room for words and images, using as little as possible in the way of design. I want to leave room for writing. Below is a sunrise landscape I tried with a Micron marker, leaving lots of room for writing. Maybe I’ll add color later.

02 Black Micron on Co-Mo sketch paper 80 lb.

02 Black Micron on Co-Mo sketch paper 80 lb.

Almost none of my journal pages show people. I know right now it’s popular to have long-necked, big-eyed women gazing out from journal pages. Again, in this minimalist phase I’m in, I want to explore the suggestion of people, creating spaces inside the image outlines to write. I like the idea of an outline holding my thoughts. I like the idea of hinting at the spiritual aspect of people by just suggesting a form, and letting imagination flood in.

Figure of woman with writing, Micron pen on Co-Mo paper, 80-lb.

Figure of woman with writing, Micron pen on Co-Mo paper, 80-lb.

–Quinn McDonald is exploring loose-leaf, minimalist art journals. And a lot of other ideas.

Quinn’s Ink Technique

For the last four years or so, starting with Monsoon Papers, I’ve been working with ink, using it instead of paint. Then I developed this fun ink drop technique for backgrounds for found poetry or as part of a collage. This is what the completed piece looks like:

Quinn's ink technique in three colors.

Quinn’s ink technique in three colors.

Part of the thrill of making these pieces is seeing the ink move. And the only way to show you that is with a video:

I can spend an inordinate amount of time developing these. And yes, they are in the upcoming book.

Quinn McDonald is actually starting to do videos. And liking them.

Five Ways to Sabotage Your Friend’s Diet

I’m grouchy. I’ve been re-evaluating my relationship with food since October 3, 2012. So far, I can give you a list of things that taste a LOT better than slimming down feels. That list can be alphabetical (comes in six volumes). Or ,it can be by date I decided not to eat it anymore, and be on four, tear-stained pages. Some of the pages may have a tiny bite out of them.  I was hungry.

Giving up what you love is always hard.

Giving up what you love is always hard.

What I learned quickly is that I am addicted to sugar. I love sugar. It’s yummy. My blood glucose levels do not like sugar. It also makes me cranky, sweaty, shaky, confused, unable to speak clearly and sleepy. But that does not mean I love it less. Certainly not.

So the only decision for me was to quit eating it and everything that came with added sugar. Which, if you start to read labels is everything. Canned fruits, sure, I get it. But canned vegetables? Ketchup? Bread? Peanut Butter? Yes, and not as the last ingredient, either. There are some foods that convert to sugar quickly too–wine, beer and vodka, do, too. So no more of those. Ever.

21024962_funny-diet-dieting-sucks-i-want-ice-cream-print-by-The short list of never again food: ice cream, donuts, cookies, chocolate less than 80 percent dark, pancakes, french fries, rice, pasta, breads, crackers, chips.  Mashed, baked, and new potatoes. Muffins, cupcakes, cake, pie, cobblers, jams, preserves, jellies–the list is long and contains every single thing I love to eat, from apple pie  to zabaglione. And while I’m giving up sweet stuff, no artificial sweeteners, not even “natural” ones, because they all have either sugar alcohols (which fight with my GI tract) or they make me crave sugar worse than before.

Lucky for me, Cooking Man got behind my need to change the relationship with food and helped me by cooking meals that were delicious and low in carbs. Alas, when he asks me what I’d like for dinner, I am still likely to say, “A chicken. Stuffed with eclairs. And a side of fries.” Sigh. Sometimes I say, “I’d take back the 40 pounds I’ve lost for three perfect tamales. I know that’s not true. But it sometimes feels like it.

Diet is DIE with a T at the end.

Diet is DIE with a T at the end.

My biggest shock was what people said when they noticed I was losing weight. They mean well, I know that. But they say things that are not helpful. So if you have a friend who is dieting for any reason at all, here are some things you might want to reconsider and alternatives that you can safely say.

1. Don’t say: “You’ve lost X pounds? Great.  I lost X + 10 pounds in the last year and kept it off. ” Losing weight is not a competitive sport. It is not helpful to turn your friend’s weight loss into your winning number. There seems to be some magic number in our recent popular culture, a number between 50 and 90 pounds that makes the effort heroic, and if you’ve done less, it needs to be pointed out. Trust me, I know exactly how much I’ve lost.

Instead, say: “How are you feeling?” Some weight loss comes from difficult diseases and people don’t want to talk about it. Please let them not talk about it. Telling them they look wonderful when they are very sick does not make them feel happy to be sick.

Danger comes on every plate a well-meaning friend brings you. (Bet I could grab that plate and run.)

Danger comes on every plate a well-meaning friend brings you. (Bet I could grab that plate and run.)

2. Don’t say: “You have to treat yourself some time. That will help you keep going.” It’s not true. If I “treat” myself to a bowl of ice cream I’ll end up in the emergency room. Sugar addiction is a tough as tobacco addiction. You have to stay away from it all, or the next day I’ll be found slumped at the table with an empty bag of Oreos and crumbs scattered around my body.

Instead, say: “That must be hard. I’m proud of you.” Re-tooling your meals is hard. Being acknowledged for doing the work feels wonderful and makes me want to keep doing it. Particularly is there is no added advice given.

3. Don’t say: “You’ve lost X pounds? You must have a lot more to go.” I own a mirror and a scale. I know I have a lot to go. One of the very hardest thing about having lost 40 pounds is that it is not enough and I have to lose more. Please don’t make that “more” seem unlikely.

Instead, say: “That’s great. How are you feeling?” Then comment on the improvements.

images4. Don’t say, EVER: “So you are off sugar? That’s not as bad as being gluten-free. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s really hard. You shouldn’t be eating gluten, either. Gluten is in more things than sugar.” Every diet is hard for the person doing it. Don’t compare. Don’t offer advice. Not one tiny bit, unless the dieter specifically asks you for advice. If they ask for advice, double check. Your hearing may be faulty. Do not suggest they try green smoothies, or the Paleo diet or vegan food. Do not recommend tests for thyroid problems or tell them horror stories about your diet or someone you know, or made up because you like drama.  We don’t want to hear it. Really.

Instead, say: “How are you managing it?” And listen. Listening is excellent, as it will tell you how much your friends wants to reveal.  Go with that.

Borrowed from

Borrowed from

5. Don’t say, “Have you tried X. . .?” or “You should go to my doctor, he has this great diet. . . ” or “What you are doing won’t last, so. . . “ In other words, unless you are a doctor and I’m in your office, do not give me medical advice. Because someone, somewhere is going to believe you, take your advice, and it will be harmful because she quit doing what her doctor advised and followed your well-meaning and very harmful fix-it tip.

Instead say, “How can I support you in this?” Maybe your friend wants to talk, maybe not. Listen. Don’t fix. If you listen, you’ll hear what you need to hear.

Bonus. Don’t ask “What’s your secret?” There is no secret to weight loss. It takes an enormous amount of self control, and for most people it means taking in fewer calories than we expend. Maybe with medical intervention. And not everyone wants to talk about their medical intervention. Worse, if we had aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas who endlessly bored us with the organ recitals and every ache and pain, we have taken a vow not to do that. Don’t lead us into temptation. Please. And if you ask, and we answer, listen. To it all. Then say, “You are brave. This must be so hard for you.” Say it like you mean it. Then turn the conversation to a nicer topic. Which is never about your illness, weight loss or tragedy.

—Quinn McDonald is still changing the way she eats. Don’t offer to bake her a cake. She’s weak.


Saturday Creativity Links

The last week, I have been swooning over those “paper as paint” collages–people who carefully cut, tear, and paste paper pieces to shape images, like Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson, who paints with paper. She creates richly-colored paper collages that are illustrations.

This video shows how she builds the support, does the underpainting and then collages.

Peter Clark does the same thing with his dog collages. He uses a variety of

"Too Precious" by Peter Clark's garment collection.© Peter Clark.

“Too Precious” by Peter Clark’s garment collection.© Peter Clark.

papers, including maps (maps!) to create movement. I’m in love with the greyhound and the dalmatian. He has other sections on his site, too. I’m not generally a fashion maven, but his collages of garments have huge charm for me, as well. Clark has a book out, too.

"Hidden Staircase" © Ronni Jolles, from her collection of sold work.

“Hidden Staircase” © Ronni Jolles, from her collection of sold work.

Not all artists who use this collage have the same result. Another artist who does paper painting collage, but with a totally different look  is Ronni Jolles.  Jolles  subjects are landscapes, and very different from Nelson’s or Clark’s. The subjects she uses are more textured, so her work seems more like mixed media. (Yes, collage really is mixed media as it uses paint and paper). Some of her work is almost photographic.

Interpretation and execution is one of the interesting things about creativity. The same idea can be carried out in so many different ways.

Poem Titles

Yes, I’m doing research for an online class on writing your own poems for your own journal. One of the issues that will come up is the title you choose.



For years, I’ve had book and poem titles run through my head. The Inner Hero book was originally going to be called Magic and Metaphor, but it is now considered smarter to choose a title that explains the concept of the book. Yes, that’s right. But poetry is different.

In the shower, on my morning walk, titles have always appeared. Titles for poems? Titles for books? Poems firs lines? Who knows. Here are some that have silhouetted across my mind:

A Handful of Night

Shutters, Shadows, Shelter

Lift the Moon into the Sky

Teaching the Hawk to Fly

Too-Sweet Sound Bite

Untangle the Sparkline

When you think of the poetry of your life, what line connected to an idea crosses your mind?

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and journaler, writing through the night.

Dusting off an Old Book

Books shouldn’t be judged if you use them for purposes they weren’t written for. Giving a book a new life by giving it a second chance is a wonderful thing.

    Use Jocasta Innes's "Paint Magic" for your journal projects, too.

Use Jocasta Innes’s “Paint Magic” for your journal projects, too.

Jocasta Innes’s book, Paint Magic is a book reborn for me. In the 80s, I bought it to give myself some new ideas for creating interesting painted walls. I recently discovered that the same techniques can be used in art projects.  Paint Magic did a great job for that alternative purpose, and I’m delighted to recommend it for book artists, which is why I purchased it.

Looking for some new techniques to create backgrounds for my art journals, I flipped through the pages and found a section on using gesso (a background that prepares a canvas or board for paint) and another on stenciling.

Each technique has a description of the effect, then includes preparation, materials, equipment, how-to and some variations. There are wonderful photos of the finished result (on walls).

Sure, the book includes rubber stamping on walls, but for journals, I recommend Graining (p. 106), marbling (p. 114) and ragging (p. 53). The techniques can be easily adapted and give delightful results.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who is sifting through a lot of ideas to create a few good, new classes.  Don’t miss her local classes starting on March 9 in Paradise Valley, and her class at the White Tank Library in Waddell on March 23

Go Back to Possibility

Note: The winner of the Featuring magazine #3 is Sandy Ward. Congratulations, Sandy! The three people who want to buy the magazine have also been notified. Thanks to everyone for participating and loving Featuring magazine!
*    *    *    *   *

Paper-Cut-Sculptures-9-590x757For my visual readers: Thanks to Pete, here is the visual treat for the day: Peter Callesan is a paper artist who cuts images out of paper and uses both the positive and negative space. CreativeGreed has a series of his work. You can also see different sculptures at Peter Callesan’s website.

His sense of humor combined with his talent turns ordinary  A4 sheets of paper into clever art.

For seekers: We all know the commentors on this blog are smart, sharp and verbal. So are my coaching clients. Last week, one of my clients was talking about changing her approach to creativity. She’s done some wrestling with her Inner Critic over the past few weeks. “I want to get back to possibility,” she said.

And just like that, I knew it was a brilliant. We wake up in the morning and start thinking what we are not and what we don’t have–“I’m still tired, I didn’t get enough sleep,” or “I’m late,” or “I don’t have time for breakfast,” or  “It’s not Friday, and I hate work.” Imagine if we woke up and got back to possibility.

“It’s a new day, and I wonder what will happen today?” or “If I don’t check my email, I can get to work on time and avoid the stink eye. That would be nice!” The place of possibility is right under the wet blanket we toss on the smouldering resentment of our lives. You don’t have to fear the place of possibility–it doesn’t obligate you. It just has. . . a fresh possibility.

-Quinn McDonald thinks possibility is almost as good as a cappuccino first thing in the morning.

Featuring Magazine #3 (Giveaway)

Magazine-Cover-issue-3Note: The winner of the Featuring magazine #3 is Sandy Ward. Congratulations, Sandy! The three people who want to buy the magazine have also been notified. Thanks to everyone for participating and loving Featuring magazine!
*    *    *    *   *Featuring magazine #3 has been out for a while, but the copies I ordered just arrived recently. Time to share!

I love this magazine for the depth of the articles. And yes, I wrote one of them in this issue. It’s on found poetry, and the pleasure of writing an article that covers four pages in a magazine is the writer’s equivalent of eating a chocolate ganache cake with no dietary consequences–a dream that’s hard to believe.

Linda Germain has an article on monotypes–the artwork that is the latest rage with gelatin plate prints or gelliprints for a non-refrigerated shortcut. Linda does it the old-fashioned way and the article on monotypes–and the illustrations–are fascinating.


Nelson’s portrait of a singer is done in torn paper pieces.

What I love about Featuring is that the articles are about art–a huge variety each time. Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson  paints with paper. She creates richly-colored paper collages that are illustrations. Instead of paint, she uses torn paper. The effect is startling and haunting. The idea of hunting for colors and knowing the shapes with your fingers of the colors you are using over a big area is astonishing. (And yes, she has a workshop in Sedona in April.)

The magazine is international in scope–with articles from contributing editors in Europe and the U.S. You won’t want to miss the article on the collaboration between a Dutch rock band and a Chilean artist, Carlos Vergara Rivera,  who created the album cover in woodcut enhanced with watercolor and digital work. (I’m trying not to use the phrase “cutting edge’ here.)

For those who have seen iHanna (Hanna Anderrson) post here, she is the magazine’s featured Blogger in this issue. The interview is a useful background to following her blog.

There are more articles and interesting photos out of the authors’ windows. It’s a great issue, so I have to give away a copy.

Giveaway Leave a comment if you’d like to win the copy. This time, I’m shipping only to the U.S. and Canada.  I also have three copies for sale. Each copy is $20 (shipped in the U.S.–if you live in Europe, it’s cheaper to buy direct.)
The winner will be announced on Wednesday’s blog. If you want to purchase a copy, just add that to your comment, and I’ll pick the winner first, then pick the first three people who want to purchase the magazine.

Quinn McDonald has a deep love of found poetry. And written poetry. She’s playing with the idea of teaching an on-line poetry writing course.

The Simple Joy of Reading

What I wrote: We were the only family in town with a library in the house. When the carpenter put up all the shelves in the combination dining room/library/office for my Dad, he asked, “You opening up a grocery story or what?” When we told him it was for the books, he grunted and said, “Past the Bible and the Sears catalog, don’t have much use for them myself.”

The room was soon filled with books, top to bottom. I learned to read early, and

Reductive art: graphite, eraser on pastel paper. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

Reductive art: graphite, eraser on pastel paper. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

after I mastered the comics in the newspaper, and the Betsey McCall section of my mother’s McCall’s magazine, I began to read National Geographic.

One day, I considered all the books in our library and asked my father if I could read one. (It wold not have occurred to me to simply take a book without asking. Different times, very different upbringing.) My father told me, kindly, that I wouldn’t understand them.

“Why not?” I asked. “I can read English.”
My father smiled and handed me a physics book. “Read this, then,” he said.
I worked through the introduction, getting the words right, but with no idea about the ideas in the book. At 5 years, physics isn’t a familiar concept.

I remember the mix of awe, anger and concern that I could not grasp the material. It was English. I knew how to read English. Why couldn’t I understand this English?

Slowly I came to understand the difference between reading and comprehension; between seeing and knowing. The complex relationship between seeing words and understanding concepts came slowly to me, but I began to read more, eager for the ability to link words to concepts.

There are still many books I don’t understand, and many I don’t try to understand, but the joy and mystery of reading can fill me with a joy that few other things can reach. I hope the love of reading doesn’t fade away, replaced by electronic pastimes. Reading was my comfort, excitement and cure for loneliness. It still is.

What is your first memory of reading?

Quinn McDonald is pretty sure that people who are good writers also love to read.