Shipping Tag Journal

Traveling makes taking a journal a bit harder. You don’t want to take a wire-bound journal in your bag, because the wires will get crushed. A hard-bound book takes up a lot of space. So I’ve been experimenting with loose-leaf journal pages.

Take a few loose-leaf pages on a trip, fill them up, bind them in some way in the future. With a date on them, you won’t lose the order, if that’s important.

Book1Most recently, I’ve used shipping tags. They are just under 5 inches x 3 inches, so they are great for one-sentence journaling, capturing a quick thoughts and impressions.

After I filled up some manila tags, I decided to color some of them. What a fun idea! Using only a brayer and a credit card to apply paint, I colored a dozen or so tags. Once they were dry, I put a bolt and wing nut through the hole to bind them.

BookpageThe poem fragment by Mary Oliver caught my attention, so I copied it down. Using a dark Sharpie on the light part and a white pen on the dark, the quote fills the page in an interesting way. The circles (done with the corner of a credit card) look like portholes. It says “Now, of all voyagers remember, who among them did not board ship with grief among their maps? ”

Practical, easy to take along, you can always keep the next blank one on top to work on.

Book2The only thing that made this project hard is that the fluorescent bulbs we all have to use make the colors look harsher and more gray than they are. There is a good amount of gold in the pages, and it doesn’t show. That will teach me to photograph the blog images late at night.

–Quinn McDonald thinks there are no limits to what constitutes a journal.

A Word for 2014 and a Giveaway

defaultNever a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I recommend another ritual that’s more powerful and has more potential than New Year’s resolutions: Choosing a word for 2014.  You choose a word that will symbolize the year for you–set the intention or create a verbal amulet.

The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or benchmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.

Choose a word that has possibility for you–a word that will inspire you or keep you at peace, a word that makes you reach in anticipation or offers a rich depth of exploration.

Verbs are good, because they are action words. And taking action is a favorite step of mine to get unstuck or move ahead.  Of course, there are also the state of being verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Small verbs, but powerful.

Other people prefer nouns–things or ideas: creativity, intuition, freedom. Nouns can be things you hold in your hands–paper, pen, seeds, feathers. Or they can be things you hold in your heart: wishes, wisdom, peace.

Now is a good time, at the end of the year, to think of a word you can hold and use for all of 2014. Choose a word that will last, that will build you up and support you. You can choose a word that is both a verb and a noun.

You can, of course, choose a description of your first inner hero to honor in 2014. Something like Stubborn Kindness (which has a long history in my family), or Explorer, or Spark-Striker.

Your word can be any part of speech, and you can use it in as many ways as you תרגוםwant–present tense, active voice, transitive with an object or not. Use it as many ways as you can and see how you change it and how it changes you.

If you keep a journal, you can write it down and visit it every week or month and see how that word has shown up in your life at the end of every week and how you would like it to show up the next week. You can write it on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket and rediscover it every day. Write it on a key you use every day and remember it when you unlock the door.

What is the word you want to invite into your life for the year? Leave it in the comments, and tell us why. I’ll pick two winners on Friday and will send a copy of my new book Inner Hero Art Journal to the winners–as soon as I get my copies!

Update:  Pia from ColourCottage won one of the new Inner Hero books! The other winner was Suzanne Ourths–congratulations to both winners! As soon as my shipment arrives, two books will be on the way to new owners!

—Quinn McDonald is choosing a word for 2014. Right now, she is inclined to choose an inner hero and re-visit it once a month.

The Inner Hero Art Journal: The New Book

InnerHeroCoverThe Inner Hero Creative Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic. It’s quite a mouthful for my new book’s title. And admittedly, I did not choose it. But it’s exactly what the book is about, and that’s exciting. I didn’t have the nerve to give it the name that describes precisely what’s inside.

We all have inner critics. Some of us have whole vans full of them; whole clown cars that unpack themselves with each new direction we take. The inner critic speaks of lack and attack. We listen and believe. But we don’t need to.

Margaret Peot's illustration from Chapter 2.

Margaret Peot’s illustration from Chapter 2.

The book helps you discover and call out your inner heroes–parts of you that you may want to deny exist. The strong parts. The ones that know your worth. And yes, the vulnerable ones that hold great wisdom that you may know want to live up to.

The inner heroes in this book are there to help you find the words to speak to your inner critic. The ones you aren’t bold enough to come up with yourself.

The projects in the book are new and challenging. You don’t have to know how to draw. You are not going to draw your inner hero. Instead, you are going to do deep writing exercises, be with your own heart, and use color and technique to create an atmosphere that surrounds you with strength and courage.

A leaf I painted for Chapter 5, The Gardener

A leaf I painted for Chapter 5, The Gardener

The book encourages you to make free-standing journal pages to help you develop messages that confront the inner critic through strengths you may not know you have. The more pages you make, the more sure of your own mind you become.

The book also gives suggestions about how to use all the free-standing pages (or cards, if you like), and ways to carry them with you.

The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal is available from North Light Books (the publisher) right now, and within a few day from, Barnes and Noble, and your neighborhood independent book store.

—Quinn McDonald is creating a class for coaches who want to use the book to work with creative clients.


Saving Discards

Running my brayer on a big drawing pad to clean off the paint brought a mumble from class members. I raised an eyebrow, “Question?”

“You shouldn’t be using good drawing paper to clean off the brayer,” said one person.

“That’s what a phone book is for,” said another, helpfully.

“Or a stack of newspaper,” added a third.

Background1They were all right, of course, except that a brayer is not just a tool for spreading paint. It’s the creator of accidental art—backgrounds, layers, textures.

When I’m applying paint on Gelli Plates, the extra color on the brayer needs to go someplace–but often, it creates a great background of its own. On a newspaper or phone book, it mixes with the cheaper soy inks and makes a pile of discard papers.

On the other hand, if I brayer off on a good piece of paper, it becomes a background, or a piece that can be torn up for a collage.

Here’s a nice accidentally textured background:


And this background became a good place for a stencil, making an instant page that can be used as is, for a card, or for a journal page:

background3Discards don’t have to be thrown out. They have something of their own to offer. Accidents can become fresh new starts. And that’s as true of art as in other parts of life. Don’t be so quick to bury your past, it brought you to where you are today.

–Quinn McDonald makes use of the layers of her life.

The Power of “Off”

The space heater finally died. It was quiet, efficient, warmed the studio which is in a cold part of the house, and after two years, it grew cold and stayed cold.  Two years–average for small appliances. It would cost more to fix than to throw out, so reluctantly I replaced it.

20A-on-off-switchThe new one has a digital temperature reading, a timer, a high- and low speed setting . . . and no “off” switch. I could unplug it to turn it off, but the plug is in an awkward place, difficult to reach. Sure, I can use the digital system to make the requested temperature much lower than the temperature in the room, or click down the timer, but wouldn’t an off switch be simpler?

The digital readout is always on, so it’s sucking up electricity every minute of the day.

Which made me think–our appliances reflect our needs and culture. The first microwave could cook turkeys and came with special browning sauces and powders. Now they have pre-set buttons for heating coffee, warming pizza, popping corn and baking potatoes—because that’s how we use microwaves. Turkey? Of course not.

119709197585381818TzeenieWheenie_Power_On_Off_Switch_red_2.svg.medOur lives no longer have off switches, either. My friends and clients expect me to be available at all times. They are sure I am checking in their Facebook posts, tweets, and their fan pages. They no longer leave voice mails, I’m supposed to notice I missed a call and phone back. Most of my clients text me, emails are not fast enough. The idea that I may be in a meeting, teaching or in bed means nothing. I have to be available. I should point out that I’m not an emergency-room neurologist,  I’m a life coach and a trainer who teaches writing, and an artist.

The millennials–the group of adults who are now between 18 and 28–have never existed in a time when they could be alone. They will survive little more than 30 seconds of silence in a conversation before talking or texting to someone else.

Thirty-five percent of babies between the age of six weeks and three years have a TV in their room that is on more than two hours a day. We now live in a culture that is always in touch, speaking, connecting. (I’m not sure how much we’re listening. That’s another post.)

In order for me to be fully functional, I need down time. To sleep deeply, to create, to refresh. I have an off switch and I’m willing to use it, even if my space heater can’t.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, trainer, and certified creativity coach.

My World, in Blue and Yellow

undersea+mountains+in+Google+EarthThis morning, when I peeled off the patch over my eye, my world looked blue. Icy blue, like a super strong fluorescent light had been turned on. It was bright, crisp, and unbelievable. I squinted shut the eye that had been bandaged and slid back into the dingy, dun-colored world I’ve been in for the last five years.

The scarf that was a muddied brown and maroon when seen with my right eye was rich purple and orange when looked at with my left eye.

Diabetes is a disease of slow, creeping changes. They are  so gradual, you incorporate them into our perspective, into your reality.  At night, you see halos around lights. Small ones, that grow so slowly you accept them. Finally, you can’t drive at night because lights are blurs and oncoming cars are giant glares.

Street signs aren’t distinct, and you can’t read freeway signs. But you think it’s your glasses. Because diabetes doesn’t signal changes clearly.

Protein deposits cloud and finally occlude the lenses in your eyes. No glasses can imagesrepair the damage. Some diabetics can’t chance the surgery because of retinopathy–little aneurysms in the walls of the capillaries in your eyes. I was lucky. Having stuck to a sugar-free diet, lost a lot of weight, brought down my blood pressure and reduced the amount of carbs I love and wish I could still have, I was a good candidate for eye surgery.

The surgery was simple and fast–a surgeon removed the damage lens in my eye and replaced it with a clear plastic prescription lens. Not a contact lens, but the one behind the cornea inside the eye. I was awake during the surgery but felt nothing. Late in the afternoon of the same day, I was able to run some errands, although Cooking Man had to drive. Today I ran my own errands. Tomorrow I’m teaching proofreading.

But until the eye heals enough to have the same surgery on the other eye, one eye will see a bright, crisp world; the other a dusty brown one. With both eyes open, I see the clear world more often because my left eye is dominant. I had the left lens on my glasses replaced with a clear lens, because the correction is already in my eye.

It was a gift of sight, and the surgeon did a great job. I do have a black eye, but it’s a small price to pay.

Why am I taking up a whole blog to yak about health problems? Because a majority of diabetics don’t know they have it until the disease is advanced and damage is done. I caught mine in time, I brought the numbers down. The disease is almost entirely symptom free. If you love french fries, ice cream, cookies, pies, bread, sweets, sodas, and enjoy them, stop by a drug store or grocery store with a minute clinic. Ask for a blood sugar reading. It’s easy and almost painless. And it can save your eyesight.

And if you don’t have diabetes, this is also a wonderful opportunity to look back and see how you have changed and not noticed it. Your life is a metaphor. Everyone gets used to the dingy. What can you do to get that crisp view again?

Quinn McDonald lives in a blue and yellow world. Within the next month, both eyes will see the world clearly again.

Saying “No” With Grace

Wish you could say “No” more effectively? Without hurting the other person’s feelings? You can. It takes a bit of practice, but practice is worth the freedom you gain–from doing things you don’t have the time or energy for.

When+you+say+yes+to+others+make+sure+you+are+not+saying+no+to+yourselfWhat to do? When you say “No” you will be met with cajoling, from ones that generate a big load of guilt to ones that tell you how long the favor will take–and it’s always “Five minutes, max.” Of course, the only worthwhile thing that can be accomplished in five minutes is brushing your teeth.

So here are several technique that work. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than saying “yes” and exhausting yourself or heaping stress on yourself. Because that’s what we are doing–when we say “yes” when we should say “no” we are the generator of our own stress.

1. Listen to the entire request. Cutting the speaker off before they are done only makes them more demanding and insistent.

2. Re-phrase what they want you to do. This is important so you can understand what is being asked of you. Frequently, people asking favors use diminishing language (words like only, just, little, quick, easy) and you hear that instead of the task.

3. Agree, but set a time that works for you. If you WANT do what is asked of you, and you CAN do it, agree but give yourself plenty of time. This includes setting a time you will spend on the task. For example: “So you want me to take you shopping for a used car? I can come with you from 2 to 4 on Saturday. How does that sound?” or “You want me to proofread your marketing letter? Sure, I’ll be able to get to it on Monday, the 18th, and complete it on the 21st. Does that sound OK?”

imagesNotice that in each case you are asking if the time is agreeable. If not, you have a great excuse to turn it down. If the person wants more of your time or a faster deadline, you can decline, having offered what is possible.

4. Do the favor, but for a limited time, set the time at the outset. “Sure, I’ll go with you, but I have to be back at my house at noon.” Or , “I’d love to help, and I can go from noon to 2 p.m.–will that work?”

Like the first Polite No, it offers your help, within your limits. If the person doesn’t like your limits, you can gracefully back out.

5. If you don’t want to or can’t, suggest someone else. “I can’t go on Saturday, but you might want to ask Joe, he knows a lot about cars.” Suggesting some other solution helps the other person walk away and makes you helpful.

There are times when you will have to choose between two “No’s” or say “No” more often than your guilt-meter wants you to, but remember that even in an airline emergency, when the yellow oxygen masks drop in front of you, you are supposed to help yourself first, then those around you. That’s a good image to keep in mind–saying No let’s you take care of yourself so you can survive to help others.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps others help themselves. Occasionally she is better at that than doing it herself. But she keeps practicing.


Origami Paper Collage

As a Yasutomo Design-team member, I get to have a lot of fun playing with the company’s art materials. One of the ways I experiment is using different materials in unexpected ways. I’ve always liked origami paper, so today I tried using it as a collage element. You can read the complete instructions on the Niji blog site, but here are the highlights. For the project I used Fold’Ems origami paperSplash Inks, Yasutomo’s gel pens, and a touch of the gold sumi-e watercolor paint.

fleur1Yasutomo’s Fold ‘Ems origami paper is double sided. One side is a print, the other a pattern. This was the star pattern, which worked well to give parts of the collage texture.

Start by choosing a sturdy watercolor paper.

Free-mix Splash Inks in a palette to make green, teal, and purple.Dilute the colors with water, then drop the colors onto the wet paper using a fat watercolor brush.

As the colors spread, tilt the paper to allow blending. I like to avoid mixing watercolors in wet-in-wet technique.

If you must blend, use a light hand, allowing the colors to run and mix.

fleur3Allow to dry completely. Select some coordinating colors from the origami paper.

I like abstracts and a rustic look, so free-hand drawing loose flowers appeals to me. Cut the majority of the flower from the solid paper, then add touches of the patterned side.

Try several shapes rather than just one. It makes the completed piece look more natural.

fleur4Cut double portions of leaves, so you have a mix of dark and light. It makes them more interesting. As a finishing touch, I added a bit of gold watercolor shine to a few of the leaves and darkened the stems with a green gel pen. You can use the purple pen to add depth and give the flower petals some definition.

Quinn McDonald is on the Niji Design Team; she is a creativity coach and collage artist. She was not paid to create this post or any she does as a design team member. She was given materials to experiment with.


Adapting to Change, Woodpecker Style

Change is hard. Most people don’t like it. It feels disruptive, awkward and different. We like our routines. Birds must like their routines, too, migrating every year, building nests, raising hatchlings. From time to time, I see something surprising, and today it was from a gila woodpecker.

The male is a noisy, colorful addition to the area; gila woodpeckers live in the

Male Gila Woodpecker. Photo from the Cornell lab, where you can read more about them. Link below.

Male Gila Woodpecker. Photo from the Cornell lab, where you can read more about them. Link below.

desert and don’t migrate. This one is the mate to the leucastic female who loves to drill holes in my oranges.  She doesn’t, however, eat the lemons. Just the beautiful oranges.

The male keeps wanting to drink from one of the hummingbird feeders, but the feisty and fierce birds dive bomb him and drive him away.

These are the same hummingbirds that boldly pull the tail of my long-tailed cat, harassing a beast that could easily swat them out of the air.  She now dives under the patio table when she hears  the warning clicks of the hummingbirds.

The gila woodpecker was at the feeder today, using his slender beak and long tongue to slurp the sugar-water mixture. The little buzzers were at the front feeder. After a while, I became curious.  Why they had deserted the post they  defended for weeks?

The woodpecker had deposited ants into the feeder. Hummingbirds don’t like the taste of the ants’ protective formic acid. They deserted the feeder. The woodpecker then ate sugar-water coated ants, leaving enough in the feeder to keep away th hummers.

Clever adaptation. Although the woodpecker is much larger than the hummingbirds, he had no desire to fight. So he poisoned the well–for others–creating a feeder he could empty over the course of the afternoon.

There’s a lot to be learned from this: small size doesn’t have to mean giving in to larger sizes; when the hummingbirds attacked the woodpecker, he left. Then again, finding a way to make the food you want distasteful to your enemy is a way to get it all for yourself. My job was to clean and  re-fill the feeder.

–Quinn McDonald is a naturalist with a sense of justice. But not enough to mess with hummingbirds.

Two Books, Both Worth Reading

Looking for a book to read? If you like novels, please consider reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Gaiman’s most recent book, The Ocean at the end of the Lane is a magical mystery tour of the mind and heart of a young boy who is surrounded by magic. American Gods is a completely different book–an almost hallucinogenic road trip in which old and new gods battle for the attention of America.

AmericanGods_MassMarketPaperback_1185415388It’s not a post-apocalyptic novel, it is a novel in he present tense in which the old gods realize that once no one cares about you anymore, you are no longer a god. And America, as they keep repeating, is a bad place to be a god. The new gods realize that information isn’t power, attention span is. So the old gods battle it out with the new–technology and drugs in a story that combines love, lust, searching, loss, mystery, sacrifice  and murder.

As in most excellent mythologies, the gods here inhabit human bodies, but act as avatars. Their mistakes and ego get them into trouble and their mistakes delight us, because we can see them coming. Until, of course, we cannot.

Gaiman’s mind is both nimble and complex. The story never flags, and at the end of 560 pages you are sorry to leave the characters.

Another book that’s worth reading is Margaret Atwood’s Madd Addam. It’s the17262203 third of a trilogy, but the first one I’m reading. The book is so well-written and cleverly populated, I’m going to go back and read the other two, even though I know what happens. (That’s the definition of a good book for me).

Atwood sets her book in the future. Corporate greed led to re-engineering a new breed of human, and a non-water flood (most likely a virus that could not be engineered out of existence fast enough) destroys the world, leaving a few people (who are either the hippy-like God’s Gardeners or the eco-warrior Madd Addamites.) Then there are the Craikers, the newly-engineered, placid, curious, and beautiful Craikers who are to re-populate the world. Unfortunately, the trusting Craikers are no match for the Painballers, sociopaths who roam the world.

And no one is a match for the wonderful animals Atwood creates in the world. The smart, destructive Pigoons, are both delicious, smart and mean. There is also the food species, ChickieNobs and Liobams, who need to be avoided. Oh, and of course, the cross between humans and sheep, the Mo’hairs, who provide hides, well, hair.

Both novels rely heavily on metaphor for understanding and pleasure. As a reader, you can see what will happen in either a clash of gods or a corporate “accident” in which the victims are everyone. The smart at not the only survivors, and as Yeats pointed out, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

You don’t have to love science fiction to love either of these novels. As in all cases of perspective, your enjoyment of these books will vary. I love them both and am glad to have spent my time reading.

-Quinn McDonald wishes she could write fiction. She also know that half of being smart is knowing what you ar dumb at and not doing it. The other half, of course, is knowing what you are good at and doing a lot more of that.