Geli-Plate Fun

Experimenting with my Gelli-Plate, I discovered two new ways (well, at least to me) to use this monoprinting technique. As a collage artist, I always need interesting papers, in every color or texture I can imagine.

Mono_StencilOne of my favorite techniques is to cut out shapes (heavy paper or overhead projector film) and use them as masks (to block paint printing) or as a stencil (to create a pattern with the paint.

The resulting pieces pick up paint and become quite interesting in themselves. After they have served as masks or stencils several times, they can be used as collage elements.

Another technique is to prepare the plate with a background, lay the elements on the plate, and photograph the plate before you print.

Mono_HouseThis gives you an image to print that looks quite different from the print itself, but can also give you more detail and color. You can then choose to create the collage by gluing the elements down over the printed piece or add color with a brush.

This also works for fabric–chose a fabric background, then attach the paper pieces on top of the background using fusible webbing.

Mono_PlantThe final experiment was to enhance a ghost print. Once the first print is lifted, remove all the masks from the plate. Then lay another piece of paper (in this case a piece of multi-media paper) over the plate and use a brayer to roll over the monoprint plate to pick up a ghost image of the paint the masks had protected. The plant and sun are clear, but the background picked up only partially.

I used Tombow Dual Brush markers to enhance some of the color. These markers are watercolors, so let the paper dry first. After the color is put down, I used a brush dipped in water to blend colors and create an abstract landscape.

On Tuesday, April 1, I’ll be demoing these techniques at the monthly meeting of the Scottsdale Art League. We’re going to have a busy night because I’m going to do an Inner Hero exercise, and everyone will leave with a hand-made Inner Hero Postcard. And two lucky people will win the prizes: a copy of the Inner Hero Art Journal and a Gelli plate donated by Arizona Art Supply.

Upcoming classes using Gelli-Plate techniques: I’ll also be teaching Gelli-Plate techniques on April 26-27 at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts and the week of June 2 at the Madeline Island School of Arts, where you will make a whole book of different art and writing techniques. Come join me in exploring!

-Quinn McDonald is typing this with paint-colored fingers, and an ink-stained heart.




String of Words.

Note: Congratulations to Anne Cross, who is the winner of the giveaway of Pam Carriker’s Creating Art at the Speed of Life. Contact me (right above the color header) and send me your mailing address, and the book will be on the way!

*  *  *  *

quote-a-book-of-quotations-can-never-be-complete-robert-m-hamilton-283470Coming across a sentence that lights up a page is one of the joys of reading. I’ve come to a complete stop (to hell with the plot and characters)  and read a sentence over again several times. Then I’ll highlight it or mark it. When I’m done reading the book, I’ll go through it looking at the highlighted sentence again. Sometimes, I have no idea why I loved them. Those I let go.

Ahhh, but sometimes, they are perfect. They hold a speck of wisdom like a drop of water in a curled leaf. Unexpected, sparkling. I began collecting quotes and sentences from books.  I often take them to art classes, because they make wonderful words to add to collages and journals.

Often, I’ll pick a quote at random and start writing about it. I’ll have different takes on different days. I’m surprised at what I find in myself.

6a013485f24774970c01901b624f54970b-piWant to start keeping your own quote pages? I’ll help you get started. You can add even more by looking up any of the people you don’t know.

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” — Elizabeth Lesser

“Stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Remember, they’re doing the same thing.”  —Martha Beck

“You know what? People can take a lot from you. They can take away everything except your mind and your heart. Those things you have to give away. I decided not to give them away, and neither should you.” — Nelson Mandela, explaining how he overcame his bitterness, hatred, and resentment

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  –Ram Dass

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” –Nelson Henderson

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Quinn McDonald is in love with words. And today’s blog post is brought to you by her word of 2014, Scatter.

Creative Stroll 3.29.14

Much as I love the desert, I miss fireflies from back East. So when I saw how Vincent Brady had spend months photographing fireflies at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, I was enchanted.

Here is the video of several timed photographs.

And here is a great still from the series, “Firefly Planet” by Vincent Brady:


From the small bits of light, we back up and take a look at houses making patterns across what used to be a natural landscape. The photographs are from The Big Picture column from The website.

 Circular layouts of homes near I-75, southwest of Fort Myers, Florida. Map. (© Google)

Circular layouts of homes near I-75, southwest of Fort Myers, Florida. Map. (© Google)

While this pattern looks like vines and flowers, there are others that look considerably more uncomfortable.

Part of Verona Walk, a gated community in Naples, Florida. Map. (© Google)

Part of Verona Walk, a gated community in Naples, Florida. Map. (© Google)

While I was flying over Nebraska last week, I saw, through thin clouds, acres of irrigation circles. A different look, but also an example of geometric precision.


Continuing with the natural world (sort of), Johannas Stötter paints animals. Not on paper or canvas, nope. He paints animals on humans, who look like animals when he is done. Below is not a parrot, but a human being painted to look like a parrot.

parrot-body-painting-by-johannes-stotter-1Luckily, the paint allows the skin to function, so the long process isn’t harmful. If you look closely, you’ll see a woman sitting on the post, one leg uplled up (to make the wing), one arm lifted over hear head, (to form the parrot’s beak).

Check out the five-person frog and how it was done on his website.

Have a wildly creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald still misses fireflies. But now she has a video to watch when she misses them too much.



Easy, Cheap, No Work

” I want the eight hour class, but I want you to spend no more than half a day. And I don’t want you to lose anything. Can you do that?”

Postcards“The two day class seems like a lot of work. Can you cut out some of the exercises without losing any of the learning?”

“My group really is scared of complicated classes. What can you do to make the topic simple so no one has to ask any questions or see a demo?”

I hear these questions at least twice a month, both about my art classes and my business writing classes. Fun, easy, simple classes are wonderful. Many things that are easy and simple are valuable and worth learning.

From Lisa Loves Learning

From Lisa Loves Learning

But there is value in complicated. Struggle with something and conquer it and you have two valuable outcomes–you’ve learned something new and you have learned that you are strong enough to stick with something worthwhile.

Sadly, challenges are getting a bad name. If something is hard, it is the teacher’s perceived job is to make it easy. I’ve seen the title workshop become “playshop” because, you know, work is hard.

Teachers are not meant to hand people pre-digested solutions to solve problems or to complete a project. Part of  personal growth is in the struggle, is in finding solutions, is in completing the work. No one loves failure, but it can be part of a larger success. A life that has no challenges, whose answers come supplied by others does not add any significant learning or meaning.

Struggle for the sake of struggle is not useful. But working hard for what you want brings rewards independent of winning. And rewards are worth working for.

Quinn McDonald draws out the brave in people. She admires the brave meaning-makers far more than winners.


Art At the Speed of Life. Book Giveaway

creating-art-at-the-speed-of-lifePam Carriker is more than busy, she is a force of creativity. And her new book, Creating Art at the Speed of Life, leads you in 30 days of mixed media exploration and experimentation.

It’s a workshop in a book. There are not only exercises, there are worksheets that help you stay focused and on course. The book has 172 pages and is divided into seven chapters covering:

  • color
  • texture
  • shape
  • visual perspective
  • form
  • line
  • light and dark

CarrikerWhen describing the reason she wrote the book, Pam writes, “Assessing your own work is something that can be learned and is an invaluable tool to move yourself further down your creative path. The 30 lessons in this book are grouped into chapters that each focus on a different element of art.”

The art is designed to be kept in a journal you assemble yourself. The lessons are laid out in class fashion, each with a syllabus called a “Quick Look.” At the end of each chapter there is an “Open Studio” section where you can see artwork from contributors, including Seth Apter, Jill K. Berry, Chris Cozen, Jane LaFazio, and Joanne Sharpe.

There are tips throughout, everything from keeping your painted pages flat to making easy transfers. Throughout the book, you get Pam’s help, advice, and instructions. The purpose of the book is to create confident artists, and Pam does a great job by keeping the steps small enough to ensure success while still being interesting and experimental. There is plenty of room to grow in your own direction.

Giveaway: leave a comment if you’d like to win the book. The winner will be announced in Sunday’s blog. Be sure to check back on Sunday to see if you won–the winner will need to send me a shipping address.  Have fun!

Note: Congratulations to Anne Cross, who is the winner of the giveaway of Pam Carriker’s Creating Art at the Speed of Life. Contact me (right above the color header) and send me your mailing address, and the book will be on the way!

Disclaimer: Pam Carriker sent me the book as a gift. I couldn’t help sharing it for the great projects and wonderful inspiration of the contributors.

-Quinn McDonald loves creative ideas–other’s as well as her own. She is also a book junky.

Castle Journal Page

When my son was small, I lectured him on using items for the purpose they had been designed. Umbrellas weren’t parachutes, and  forks weren’t garden tools. I often think of those lectures when I re-purpose one item as an art tool.

I purchased a chipboard book–one that had a number of  thick cardboard pages shaped like a castle. Instead of attaching the pages with binder rings and making a book, I coated the pages with gesso, then matte medium, to protect and make them water-resistant.  When dry, they became stencils.  In this long journal, put three castle pieces high on the page, coverthe rest of the page with a blank piece of paper to protect it, and spray ink on the journal page.

castle-allTo create spray ink, I used Adirondack re-inkers, bottles of concentrated ink used to refill stamp pads. This brand is from Ranger, the company most people associate with Tim Holtz. I used two drops of denim and one drop of eggplant in a Mini-Mister,  added 10 drops of water, and sprayed across the top. You can mix re-inker colors quite nicely. (These aren’t alcohol inks). If you do this, use distilled water to dilute so the mini-mister doesn’t clog.

After waiting about a minute for the ink to dry,  carefully pick up the first layer and rearranged a second layer, using some of the pages used before as well as some new ones. This time, spray the left side with  a different color than the right, allowing the colors to blend or overlap in the middle. You can see the piece with two towers and the gate on the right repeated again on the far left. Repositioning the pieces makes the piece more interesting without looking repetitive.

castle21The spaces you cover the most often and consistently  are white, which will let you write on the page and make the most of the white space.

Inventing your own stencil is fun, often more fun than purchasing expensive ones.  A lot of every day items can be turned into stencils (or the opposite, masking pieces).

If you are fussy about the ring-holes showing, you can cover the book holes with tape. Or you can incorporate the pattern into the finished page.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler who works at the intersection of words and images. She teaches one-sentence journaling, inner hero journaling, and on Friday,  April 25, will teach a journaling class at the Minneapolis Book Arts Center.

Facing Change

Hear the word “change” and you are likely to break out in a sweat. We like things the way they are. Even if we don’t like the way things are, it’s better than what we don’t know.

change-4-1imepycWhat makes change so awful?  One answer is that we are not up to the task of facing change. Feeling not ready is the inevitable companion to change. So is feeling awkward, ungainly, not suited for the task. What makes change so awful is the lack of adjustment time. . No chance to look chic and unsurprised. Change catches you by surprise, with your shoes untied.

Change throws us into a formal party while we are still wearing our emotional play clothes. Suddenly, what seemed appropriate for the emotional playground doesn’t fit into the serious polished-shoe environment we wake up in. We are caught off-guard. And off-guard,  without time to plan, we go back to old emotions, old ways of behavior.

My coaching practice is rooted in helping people survive change. Then thrive with it. But it’s not easy, and there can be a lot of tears first. Change is not always a friend.

When change whips around us, it’s a windstorm of confusion, decisions, and often paperwork—all within a tight deadline. You get laid off, and must choose a generous package with a non-disclosure signature or no package and a sense of righteousness. A loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the kind that destroys plans, futures, whole families. What decisions are right? What decisions are right now?

The second part of change we hate is the strong belief that everyone’s life should be easy and steady. A change that isn’t pleasant is a threat to security. We are rooted in the belief that life needs to be the same every day. And by “same” I mean sunny, emotionally fun, and upbeat. That’s an unrealistic expectation of any life. A big part of life is making it through rough spots and building up experiences.

Change doesn’t always mean bad news, but even good change can look like bad news. Teaching clients to deal with change often starts with learning how to stay calm. Harder than it sounds. But once you’ve learned that, you can see change as a tool, not as a result. And that gives you the power to build.

–Quinn McDonald likes change. And that explains a lot.

Saturday Creative Stroll 3.22.14

Bricks are tough and have a lot of right angles. We think of them as ship ballast, East Coast buildings (from the ship ballast), and severe schools. Brad Spencer thinks of them as sculpting material.

spencersculptureAnd all of his sculptures are sinuous, rounded and three-dimensional in a way that makes your eyes blink. He starts with unfired clay, sculpts the brick sculpture in pieces and then assembles in it place on the day of an exhibit. Time, brick, and perceived movement–imagination at play.

Jane Perkins is a multi-media artist. That’s just the beginning. Perkins re-creates well known artworks in found objects–beads, plastic figures,

Most-Iconic-Nat-Geo2This is the iconic National Geographic photograph that Steve McCurry took of a young Afghan woman.

famous-portraits-recreated-from-recycled-materials-and-found-objects-by-jane-perkins-4And this is the artwork that Jane Perkins made, using the photograph as inspiration. You can see more on Perkins’ website, including the girl with the pearl earring and Albert Einstein.

The Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition created some extraordinary photos of things we see every day. Sometimes they are made very big, sometimes just noticed.

2013-3-siwanowicz-desmids-mandalaA single-cell algae, called desmids. Image by Igor Siwanowicz.

2013-4-walker-lily-bud-large-fileAnd this is a cross-section of a lilly bud by Spike Walker.

Have a wonderful weekend seeing things in a new way!

-Quinn McDonald is amazed at how other people see the same world.

The Changing Measure of Paper

If you have purchased paper in the last five years, you’ve noticed more and more manufacturers are using gsm (grams per square meter) instead of weight in pounds. I’ve seen a lot of conversion scales, and I became curious how the conversion is made.

Then I became curious how we measure the pound weight of paper anyway. Here’s what I found (and why gsm is the more accurate way to know how heavy paper stock is.

Papers come in different weights–letter weight, cover stock, card stock. But there is more than use that describes paper–there is weight.  You’ve seen paper stock printed in three ways–in pounds (60-lb. or 60#),  grams per square meter (g/m2 or gsm), or points (pts).  There seems to be a big difference. There is. Even if you don’t love the metric system, you’ll find the gsm method more reliable.

Image from BartCop

Image from BartCop

Pounds measure weight, no matter what the size. The pound weight of paper is set by the weight (in pounds) of a ream of paper–500 sheets. It doesn’t matter how big the paper is– cover stock is cut from a “standard” size sheet that measures 20″ x 26.” Text stock is cut from a “standard” size sheet  that 25″ x 38″–considerably bigger. But a ream of 500 sheets, regardless of size, is put on a scale and weighed.  That measurement is accurate, but very variable.

Points measure height, no matter what the size. The point size is a bit more reliable.  It measures the height of a ream of paper. A 10-pt card stock means a ream of paper (500 sheets)  measures 10 inches. In this case, the flat size of the sheet doesn’t matter.

Strathmore drawing paper: 24 sheets, 80-lb or 130 gsm.

Strathmore drawing paper: 24 sheets, 80-lb or 130 gsm.

To get a feel for the difference: Most business cards are 10-pt or 15-pt stock, the post office’s minimum measurement for a post card is 7-point stock. A point is 0.007″ or one-one-thousandths of an inch.  This is a better measurement for comparison, but it still doesn’t sort out heavy-bulk differences for paper that’s been compressed more.

Gsm measures the weight of a standard size paper.  Gsm is the reliable because it is standard across all papers. It measures the weight of a square meter of paper. That sets the size as the constant, and allows the weight to vary by heaviness of paper stock.  A square meter of  a light stock might be 90 gsm, and a square meter of heavier stock might be 140 gsm. In each case, the size is the same–a square meter.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who loves paper.

Being Enough

If you have friends, you have been sent one of the TED Talks of Brené Brown, the story-teller researcher who works on slippery topics–vulnerability, shame, being enough.

Here’s what I learned when I explored Brown’s ideas of being enough.

enough_1When my coaching clients tell me they have no dreams, no goals, no ambitions they often present it as a fact that has always been true and will always remain true. When I peg that as the “I’m enough” baseline, they get nervous. Unhappy. Because they often feel they aren’t enough. What would it take to be enough?

enoug_2We often allow other people to determine who we are.  Among our friends, winning is getting the envious looks at the size 4 figure, the Prada bag, the BMW, the wealthy spouse. We define ourselves in the eyes of others. Nothing wrong with the Prada and the BMW, as long as you know they aren’t you, and that if you lost them, you would still have the essential you. (Reality check: if you lost the Prada, the spouse, the BMW, would your friends stay?)

enough_31It’s easy to lose sight of, then forget, our own values, our own dreams, our own goals. We replace what our heart yearns for with the prize we want right now.

enough_51The harder truth to cope with is that we are enough every day. Everyone fails, everyone does dumb things, everyone wishes they could take something back. The real success stories belong to the people who brush off their values and won’t allow rationalization to tarnish them. Who push themselves to grow every day. To be enough every day.

enough_6Your “enough” can grow. That’s the point. A real trick is to allow your friends to be Enough today and grow to be Enough tomorrow, too. Not your Enough, their Enough.  If last week’s Enough feels tight, you have outgrown it. Luckily, Enough can grow with self-awareness.

Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach who helps people deal with change and re-invention. In other words, who helps people grow into their personal “Enough.”