Art Journaling Ideas

Yes, I was supposed to finish my taxes, no I didn’t . Instead, I spent a lot of time in the studio, working on art journal pages.

Splash Inks are really very interesting. There are just four of them: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. By mixing various amounts of them, you can create thousand of colors, hues, shades, and tints. Here’s a journal page I did with just yellow, blue and black. True, the background used a tiny drop of magenta, too.

Page. succulent

All those green colors just from mixing and adding water for transparency. You can layer really well with this ink. This is a larger image of a succulent I planted this morning–the repetitive leaf shape just charms me.

Most of my journal pages are now free-standing pages with an image on one side and a piece of writing distilled from my journal on the other. It expands the meaning to have the side relate to each other. (I’ve been using this with my coaching clients with some delightful results.)

The front of this page (a 5 x 7-inch Strathmore Ready Cut) is colored with Ranger dauber paint in Distressed Wood (light gray) and Vintage Photo (brown), a clock stencil and a piece of paper printed with rulers. Of course, I had to finish it with found poetry.


The found poetry reads:

Traveler’s timekeeping

Nearly 200 years earlier, another man
on the deck of another ship
had a radically different sort
of awakening about the stars.
The whales chanted the songs back and forth
for hours at a time.
The wisdom of thousands of years flows
through their lips.
Then you come to me like the progress of a shadow on a sundial.
We lived by the stars. The stars told us when to go fishing.
We had a name for every star.
You gave us calendars and clocks and schedules and we forgot the stars.
We don’t read them anymore.

The back of the page has a background of Ranger dauber stain in Moss which I  immediately spread with a wet watercolor brush. When it was damp-dry, I sprayed it with purple ink and let it dry. Then I stamped it with a compass, added gold to the compass rose (hard to see, I know) and then wrote on the back.


Next, a journal page with two kinds of fabric, stitching, and torn marbled paper. First, the red and orange swirl fabric was ironed on  Strathmore Ready-Cut with Pellon fusible webbing. Then the sheer fabric with spangles was put on with MistyFuse (you can see it through the fabric on the scan, less so in real life). I love that the fabric is visible through the sheer fabric.


I then cut the top of the mountain shape and tore along the bottom and glued the mountains onto the fabric. When it was dry, I wrote in the lines of the mountain with one of my new JetPens fountain pens with an extra-fine nib. This is refillable and writes with a thinnest line–the same as an 03 Rapidograph.

Next, I stitched my signature waves over the land portion of the page and then zig-zagged all around the edge to finish the fabric and hold it in place.

OK, now I really have to do my taxes.

Disclaimer: I purchased all the products myself and did not receive any compensation for mentioning the product names.

-Quinn McDonald  is taking mixed-media waaay multi.

Saturday Creative Roll

Giveaway: The three people who won Dina’s book from the March 27 blog post are Shannon Ganshorn, Annettte Geistfeld, and Ann M. Philli. Congratulations to all of you!

6a00d8341c766153ef017ee9cbb131970d-500wiJulie Fei-Fan Balzer is a multi-talented multi-media artist. I love her lettering and the design of her journal pages. I never draw faces–not in my journal, not in anything. So it’s time I gave you a link to someone who does.  Sharon Evans is doing a guest post about faces. The whole idea is interesting, 29 days of face drawing, on Ayala’s blog post. Whew, three amazing artists in one paragraph.  A good beginning, for sure.

Joanne Sharpe is a Journal Artist and knows how to produce a huge variety of lettering. Here’s some eye candy of Joanne’s lettering on Pinterest. And here is Joanne’s blog.

Donna Downey fills journal pages with bright, easy colors. Her busy website has a great inspirational blog and video to enjoy.

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

One of my favorite art journaling blogs is John a-Lookin’ Around. John P. is an engineer who lives in Kansas, and he doesn’t post as often as he used to, but the archives are just sitting there, waiting to be drooled over. I love his elegantly simple page design.

Have a great creative Saturday!

Quinn McDonald just got a delivery from JetPens. She also has to do her taxes. This is harder than she thought.

Perfectionist Makes a Postcard

postcard1Flipping through the completed postcards I’d made for iHanna’s international postcard swap, I decided two of them weren’t good enough. The Inner Critic agreed with me, so I sat down this afternoon to make a few more cards.

While I had fun, nothing turned out well enough to include in a postcard swap. The Splash ink explorations led to experiments, but nothing worth putting on a card. The new paper just in for my class in Sedona is colorful, but the card wasn’t special.

landscapeI know that any time in the studio is time well spent, and since tonight was trash take-out night, I cleaned up and picked up the paper towels to throw in the trash. There was a blue and purple one and a green and yellow one from the Splash Inks. And. . . the blue and purple one looked like sky, and the green and yellow one looked like a line of trees on one side.

I tore the paper towels into shapes, added a piece of handmade paper, and  made a postcard from them. The poured acrylic from last week, which was nicely dry, became the moon. I sewed over the edge and there was the last of the postcards, ready to send out. No time in the studio is wasted, ever.

Here are eight of the 12 postcards I made:

The brown/orange ones (mostly):


And the  blue-red ones:


Quinn McDonald is still arm-wrestling with her Inner Critic. He won’t like the new book, either.

Art Journal Freedom: Book Review (and Giveaway)

book1Note:  The three people who won the random drawing for Dina’s book fromare Shannon Ganshorn, Annettte Geistfeld, and Ann M. Philli. Congratulations to all of you!

Dina Wakley’s book is great. I could end the review there, but it wouldn’t tempt you enough to buy the book. And this is an art journaling book you should own, whether you are a beginner or an experienced art journaler.

I’ve taken classes from Dina, and I love her dedication to her art, her insistent encouraging to try new things or delight in familiar ones, and her easy way to bring out ideas and share them freely.

A few weeks ago, when I went to her book signing, I asked her just to sign the book (rather than sign it to me specifically) as I was planning on giving it away. But in the course of doing projects to review it, I got a bit enthusiastic, and splashed paint here and there and maybe dribbled a bit of gesso on the pages as well. So the giveaway book will be a fresh new one, but it won’t be here for about 10 days or so. If you are the winner, please be patient.

book2Details of Dina Wakley’s book: Journal Freedom: How to Journal Creativity with Color and Composition.
Publisher: North Light. Paperback, 128 pages long.

  • Tools and Materials
  • Symmetry and Asymmetry
  • White Space, Continuance and Closure
  • Proximity
  • Dominance and Repetition
  • Color Basics
  • Contrast with Color
  • Color as a Composition Tool
  • The Power of Black and White
  • Putting it All Together

On the table of contents page, there is a QR code that will take you to bonus content from Dina. A nice touch.

What I like about the book: It’s a real how-to, with basic creative art instruction. Many art journalers are self taught, and don’t want to go to school to learn color theory, the rule of thirds and other pedantic necessities. The genius in this book is that Dina teaches all the things you need to know to create beautifully composed pages by doing exercises that are fun and manageable.

book3She keeps the tone light and fun, and takes you along in a logical pattern that makes you want to learn. Her signature silhouettes are there, and in addition to seeing several ways to use silhouettes cut from magazines, you learn placement and balance.

I mean this next statement in the best possible way: Dina’s book is all hers. She doesn’t aggregate the work of 20 people, she teaches what she knows. I find it refreshing. Yes, it is nice to see different interpretations of an idea, but in this book having just one artist explain composition and color through her own work is a really good idea. It keeps lessons simple and allow the reader to try out personal ideas without having too many examples to choose from.

What I didn’t like: I kept a list and when I was done, I squinted at it to see if it was my preference, or an objective critique. The things I would have done differently would have made the book not Dina’s. So I am going to be happy that Dina’s fingerprints (colorful ones!) make the book what it is. I’m glad I spilled gesso on it and get to keep it.

This is more than a reference book, this is an enjoyable project and reference book.

Giveaway: If you want to win the book, leave a comment. I’ll be giving it away on Saturday morning, so you have time. And yes, partly that’s a stall to wait for the ordered book to arrive. The rest of it is that I am up to my armpits in paperwork this week.

Quinn McDonald loves seeing books with so much heart and soul of the artist on every page.

Luck and Secrets

When people I haven’t seen in a while notice I have lost weight, the inevitable question I get asked is, “What’s your secret.” When I say, truthfully, “There is no secret; I gave up everything I craved and walk three to five miles a day,” I get skeptical looks. “But what is your secret?” they repeat, unable to believe that there is not a smoothie, a pill, garment, or a new exercise behind  significant weight loss.

Create your own luck

Create your own luck

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll say, “Self discipline. Self control. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done so consistently.” That doesn’t work, either. “You have to treat yourself sometime, or you will quit,” they assure me. “It’s not good to have all that discipline.” I try to change the subject. I’m uncomfortable talking about discipline and success. It’s not the answer for everybody. But it has worked consistently for me–not just in changing my relationship with food, but for most things in life that I have relentlessly pursued.


“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” –The Buddha

It reminds me of how often I was told, after I landed a book contract, that I was “lucky.” Well, perhaps, but it also involved a lot of hard work and, ummm, discipline. I did research, I wrote the book proposal over again at least six times, I changed the idea of the book slightly when it wasn’t focused enough, spent hours doing research to find a publisher who specialized in the kind of book I wanted to write.

The need for “luck” and “secrets” comes because discipline and hard work are not fast and easy.  And no one (except the Little Red Hen) wants to say, “I worked really hard for this and I made it work.” It sounds conceited and self-satisfied. But I don’t know anyone who has lost a lot of weight and kept it off who had an easy secret. Same goes for people who have accomplished something big in their lives. They seemed to have given up a lot and worked hard for a long time.

Thomas Edison had it right when he said, “The reason too many people miss opportunity is because is goes around dressed in overalls and looking like work.” Followed by another good quote from Thomas Jefferson, “The harder I work the more luck I seem to have.”

Quinn McDonald is going to bed. It’s almost 1:30 a.m. and she has to get up to go teach in four hours. She is looking forward to being lazy when she gets back from class tomorrow. No, wait, she wants to do a book review and giveaway on the next blog.


Creativty, Originality, and Good Manners

If you do any creative work, you know that you will have a brilliant idea, fall in love with the idea, polish it, then release it to public view. As soon as you do that, you will see the same idea all over. You get angry. Who stole your idea? The answer is–nobody. There are several reasons this happens.


Parallel Universe from May 8, 2012 edition of the NY Times eXaminer. No photo credit is given.

1. Heightened awareness. Once you begin to concentrate on an idea, and certain words, phrases, images begin to repeat in your head. Your heightened awareness makes you see those words “more often,” when you are really simply more aware of seeing them. This happens when you learn a new word–you suddenly see it three times in a day when you don’t recall seeing it before. This is the same reason that gratitude journals work, but that’s another blog post.

2. Mysterious parallel universes. OK, I made that up. If you were to ask a Russian who invented the telephone it’s unlikely they would credit Alexander Graham Bell. They would mention a Russian who invented the device roughly at the same time. Simultaneous invention, writing, advertising ideas do happen. Regularly. And has happened for years. Now, with the increasing speed of knowledge shared through the internet, more people come up with similar ideas more often.



3. Your grass seed, my lawn. When we talk about our ideas to a friend, the friend often takes the next step with the idea. You talk about creating a journal page using a dictionary page, and suddenly your friend is teaching a class on altering dictionaries. And that’s when things get sticky.

This is the hard part. I know exactly how hard it is, because I just had to go through it. One of my favorite techniques (and the basis for the upcoming book) turned up on another site. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I felt cheated. But I also know that ideas can’t be copyrighted, and that my idea doesn’t belong to me exclusively. What to do? Well, break that list into legal, ethical and generous steps.

Legally, I notified my publisher, so if any of the images I shared or the journal prompts I created and shared appear on another website, the publisher can handle the copyright violation.

Ethically, if my idea is similar to another artists, I have to follow the rules The Ethics Guy uses to judge actions as ethical. (Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D. is the Ethic Guy). This isn’t that complicated:

  • Do no harm
  • Make things better
  • Be respectful
  • Be fair
  • Be compassionate

But the items may be hugely difficult to manage. If someone treats you unfairly, you don’t want to treat them (or anyone else) fairly. But you have to. The entire reason the world doesn’t collapse into savaging each other is that most of us want to be fair and even generous.

How do we act fairly and generously? We give credit. It doesn’t detract from our work, it adds to it. Giving other people credit for helping you get to your own idea is a wonderful way to increase your creativity and your peace of mind.

Saying thank you on your blog, in your classes, in your articles, even giving up some of those precious 140 characters in a Tweet to thank someone, is a gift to yourself.

Thanking and crediting others relieves you of guilt, makes you feel generous, expands your creativity. And I’d like to thank my editor, Tonia Jenny, for helping me come to that conclusion.

-Quinn McDonald keeps a gratitude journal and another one for ideas on change. Sometimes she writes one idea in another, and then alchemy happens.

The *Other* Five-Minute Rule

dali-clockNo matter how much I try, for the last few weeks I’ve been late–to client meetings, to hair appointments, to teaching gigs.  It’s frustrating because I  don’t know why.  It wasn’t that I secretly didn’t want to go or was afraid. Just late.

So I kept track of what made me late and found out some surprising things.

1. It takes you longer to get there then Google Maps tells you it does. A GPS system takes you from door to door, not from the time I get in the car, can’t remember if I’ve locked the front door, go back and check (I did), grab a bottle of water, get back in the car and drive. At the client’s, I have to enter the parking garage, find a parking place, walk to the parking lot elevator, and cross half the “campus” to find the right building. All that adds up. None of that is accounted for on Google Maps. Now I add 15 minutes to Google Maps just to get there, and if I have to drive across the Valley, another half hour for traffic delays. I can always take a book or work with me in case the lights line up and I get there early. What I didn’t want to admit is that leaving an extra 45 minutes was needed. I kept trying to do more work in less time.

clapperboardalarmclock2. That “one last email” before you leave takes more time than you think. In my case, finishing up “a few things” was about 20 minutes, not the “can’t be more than five minutes” I originally thought.

3. “Leaving” means out the door, not to the bathroom, stop to put on lipstick, and round up the cats, who are not interested in my schedule.

4. I’m slow in the morning. No matter how I wish I could wake up and get out the door in 20 minutes, it doesn’t work for me. I need at least an hour and 15 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast. So I need to leave that amount of time.

5. If the meeting is in the middle of the day, it often means I have to change clothes or at least shoes. It also means I have to lock up the house, and check to make sure I’m not watering trees or doing laundry. (I learned the hard way never to leave the washer running when you are out of the house.)

When I’m working and busy, I underestimate how much time I need and how much work I have. So I have to figure out when I need to leave and then give myself a ten-minute window to actually get out of the house. At first I felt anxious that I was wasting time. With a long to-do list, though, my idea of wasting time is changing. Trying to do “one more thing” is a bigger waste of time than I had imagined.

Quinn McDonald wears a wrist watch. It’s an analog watch, because she needs to know what time it isn’t along with what time it is.


Saturday Creative Stroll

It’s the weekend, so time for a stroll around the internet to give you a creative boost.

Galen Berry is a paper marbler. His work is amazing. He does traditional styles and some wonderful new innovations, like Dragon in the sky, below. See more marbled paper examples on his website.

Galen Berry's paper marbling.

Galen Berry’s paper marbling.

Quo Vadis is a blog with tools for creative minds. If I haven’t been there for a few months, I can get lost jumping around from ink recommendations to slice of life stories. He tells us about Alexander Wang (the creative director of Balenciaga) and his interest in altering a Habana journal. This is not your run-of-the-mill altering. The journal now has brass edges.

Anna Hawthorne is a bookbinder who does a wonderful job updating books with interesting and inventive bindings.

If you like wine and you like maps, combine you love with these interesting maps of various wine regions. I think they’d make great labels, book covers, or folders for loose-leaf journal pages.

If you are in the Phoenix area, I’ll be teaching One-Sentence Art Journaling at the White Tank Library at 2:30 p.m on Saturday. No charge. Just come and have fun! Address:  20304 W White Tanks Mtn Rd. Waddell, AZ  Call 602-352-3000 for question

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler. She has inky fingers.

Splash Ink: New Product

This isn’t a review, because I haven’t had these inks long enough to do anything except make a few basic mixes. But with a weekend coming up, there is the possibility you may want to try them, too.

colorbottlesI went out to buy ink today, because most of my work is done with ink, watercolor paints and pencils. I had gotten a flyer from Arizona Art Supply mentioning that there would be a demo of the new Splash Inks, and it had piqued my interest.

Here’s the premise: Splash Inks come in only four colors–the same four colors that printers use to make hundreds of colors by mixing them in different amounts or different size dots. You may know the colors as CMYK–Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. The K is used to prevent confusion with B for blue, which is called cyan. (Did you take notes? No matter. Read on!)

colorgreenThe inks are acrylics, and only slightly thicker than ink. They mix incredibly well, and can be used in waterbrushes and in calligraphy pens. (I haven’t tried that yet).  I played around with the yellow and blue to make various shades of green, turquoise, and jades. The more water you add, the more transparent the colors become.

Splash ink was developed by Karen Elaine Thomas  for Niji and is distributed by Yasutomo.

colorhowtoThe packaging comes with a mixing chart for landscapes, portraits and more. The colors are measured in drops (the bottle tops are designed for this) and water is added to lighten colors and make them transparent. It’s hard not to like the idea.

I’ve tried the most basic mixing with good results. While you are supposed to used these inks on watercolor paper, I think coated stock or Yupo will give a clearer color and less fast absorption, which made it a bit harder for me to mix. This is not a disappointment, it’s simply a new technique and needs some practice.  I have fallen in love with the colors you can make, though.


Karen Elaine was at the Mesa (AZ) stamp show, and demo’d an interesting technique using rubber stamps. There is something appealing about resists, and she used it in that way.

I’m eager to try working with these inks. They seem to be versatile and I want to explore them.

Disclosure: I paid for the inks and am not receiving any compensation from anyone to post this blog.

—Quinn McDonald uses ink to work on journal pages.

Feathers and Paint

Carmelo Rivas works in a dry climate. The charms of wallpaper are not a good choice in that climate. The wallpaper paste dries out and the paper shrinks and sheds off walls.

CarmeloCarmelo wanted a wallpaper effect on a stucco wall, but wasn’t sure how to achieve it. This was 1994, so Google wasn’t a first choice. Or any choice at all. Carmelo began to talk to people who did renovations and discovered that some people were creating decorative finishes with ostrich feathers. He loved the effect and taught himself how to use a big, curving feather to create an effect that looks a lot like Japanese Unryu paper with grass inclusions.

Over the last 20 years, Carmelo has perfected the technique and gone through a lot of ostrich feathers. The paint can’t soak through the feather, and the finish has to be done with a gentle touch. In order to make the finish look like wallpaper, the pattern has to be evenly spaced, have the same paint distribution and use a blend of colors, and sometimes a glaze.

When I saw Carmelo’s work, I had a lot of questions about techniques. He hasn’t ever been interviewed before, and my questions sounded as if I were trying to pry his secrets out of him. I backed off and just enjoyed the papers.


And here’s a blue wall with cream feathering.


Because I took the photos inside, under fluorescent lights, there was some color distortion, which wasn’t on the wallboard I was holding.

The two more were so subtle that they photograph poorly. Carmelo judges the light in a room and the colors that are outside, but visible from the room and those inside the room before he paints. Sometimes he chooses four of five colors, but the final effect is so well blended that it’s hard to pick out the different colors.


I have a great appreciation for people who choose a creative outlet that inspires them and spend years improving it. If others laugh at them or tell them the work is impossible or silly, they shrug and admit that others have their opinions. But it doesn’t matter as long as their work satisfies  their creative itch and improves with practice.

Quinn McDonald loves discovering people whose creativity is an integral part of their lives.