Creative Hop (May 31, 2014)

Note: Congratulations to Penny Arrowood who won Finding What You Didn’t Lose in the drawing! Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for sharing who you are, Penny! Send me your address [ to QuinnCreative at Yahoo dot com] and the book will be on the way.

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MTO (tag for Mateo) is a street artist whose graffiti is realistic art. He has lived in France, but has no current address that he publicizes. MTO does have an Instagram account.

street-art-graffiti-by-mto-2His artwork is almost always black and white with a pop of color somewhere. I have a thing for aerosol art, and MTO’s work, which may be scrubbed off in a week, is a sign of courage and dedication to art (at least for me).

DALeast is a different kind of street artist. He creates large metal sculptures attached to buildings.

"Abscission" © DALeast, 2014. Photo: Brandon Shigeta

“Abscission” © DALeast, 2014. Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Originally born in China, he left to study art and to make art all over the world.

"Adrenalin" © DALeast, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa

“Adrenalin” © DALeast, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa

While the metal is in fragments, the finished piece reads easily as a whole, complete with movement and life.

Jon Shireman helps us think about flowers differently. Flowers are soft, bendable, fragile. Shireman dips flowers in liquid nitrogen, quickly freezing them.

© Jon Shireman

© Jon Shireman

He then throws them on a white background, where they shatter. Then he photographs them. Flowers are not new to Shireman as subjects. He’s photographed them in vases, decaying, but this is the first time he photographed them frozen and splintered.

Have a creative weekend!

–Quinn McDonald admires art where she finds it.


Poetry and Your Life


Pond at Night, Gold ink on black Arches Cover.

Sometimes poems say everything that needs to be said.  Most of what I do today didn’t exist when I was in school.  What I still use today is the problem solving I learned. How to think, not what to think. And, of course, that art is the heartbeat of a culture. Everything I learned was by feeling my way along in the dark.


You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

—William Stafford, from You Must Revise Your Life

–Quinn McDonald is giving away a poetry book. You still have time to sign up for the giveaway.

Fun With Visuals

Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow has a lot of fun with Index Cards. She’s about to begin her Index Card A Day (ICAD) challenge again, and asked me to contribute a card. How could I not want to do that?

I’ve been experimenting with visual literacy lately–how we understand image-only messages, from icon-signs in airports to how we express ourselves with shapes and colors.

I made a card using basic shapes–a rectangle, a circle, a triangle, and a square–all in different colors (printed with a Gelli plate).


Seems simple enough. Almost like a shape-identifier in a children’s book.
But look what happens when you turn the card upside down:

You can immediately interpret the shapes to spell the word “love.”

ICADTammyGInterestingly enough, this works not because we can recognize letters from their general shapes, but because the word Love has a unique progression of letters that translate into basic shapes.

I made a similar card to spell “Book.” Rectangle, circle, circle, rectangle. No recognition at all. Because it could have also spelled Tool, Fool, Pool, or Cook, Rook, Look, Hook. (There are more).

There is a certain amount of visual- and life experience necessary to “get” the Love card. And there is a certain amount of cultural literacy involved too.images

Which makes the icon on the left  funny–in two years, when the bacon craze is over, it won’t seem funny anymore.


–Quinn McDonald is curious about almost anything to do with words and what they mean.




Writing Poetry (and a Giveaway)

Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox is a book of poetry and a book about writing poetry. Best of all, it is a book about healing through writing your personal story in poetry form.

864099The book is beautifully written and designed, with wide scholar’s margins containing comments on poetry from Ginsburg to Pascal. You could just read the comments in the margins and learn a lot about poetry writing and yourself.

Fox starts the book by encouraging a practice of breathing, stillness, and listening. It’s the best way I know how to write anything.

The book is 300 pages of examples, exercises, suggestions, and encouragement:

Our soul responds with energy to our desire to grow–and create poetry. Poetry says things in ways that no other kind of communication can. When we write poetry, it is possible to not only “heal the wounds of the heart,” but liberate our imagination. Reading and writing poetry is a secret bridge to a part of ourselves that is sacred.

I have two copies of this book, because I thought I’d lost it and then, of course, found it because I found what I hadn’t lost. It has some writing in the margins, but nothing that would detract from enjoying the book.

Leave a comment if you would like to own the book. I’ll draw a winner and announce it on Saturday, May 31.  Check back and see if you were the winner!

-Quinn McDonald reads poetry and learns about life by writing poetry.


Choices, Choices

Three-day weekends are always a treat. Even if I have to catch up on some work, there is a day of no phone calls and no appointments. This three-day weekend turned out a little differently.

Heart in the desert.

Heart in the desert.

When you own the business, you don’t want to give up too many opportunities. You don’t know when the next one will be along. As all of you promised, when I fired the client last week, something else would fill the space.

It was wrapped in bad news, too. I almost missed it. But I am the eternal optimist. Standing in a stable full of horse poop, I am always happy to start shoveling because I believe there is a unicorn in there someplace.

There may well be. But I had to write a 50-page workbook for a class. In a hurry. It’s due today. So, no weekend. I made the decision, I stuck with it, but now I want my weekend, too. Sorry, no whining.

The hard part in this, as it always is when it’s your choice, is that it is your choice.65542 No one else to blame. No one else to grumble at.  I chose to spend the weekend on my butt in front of a keyboard with no guarantees.

Still, I want to believe all of you were right. This will work, and the universe will tilt toward moral justice. (There’s a lot of the story untold, and it will stay that way.)

Another of my inner heroes is the Little Red Hen. She did the work. No one helped. And then, when it came time, she reaped the benefits. Too early to tell yet, but for all that I missed this weekend, I’d take the gamble again.

So, Little Red Hen or unicorn in the horse poop, we’ll see how it plays out. Now if only I can remember that it’s Tuesday and not Monday.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. A lot more of it, and soon, she hopes.


View from the Window Seat

To get from Phoenix anywhere, you fly over so much open country. First the mountains that ring The Valley, then the desert floor. Later, you come to the edge of a mountain range, or a river, and it’s as if someone has put down a line and a sign, “Build here.”

TownedgeHouses start, not gradually, but crammed together. You don’t know the town, you don’t know why it was a good place to build. First there is nothing, then a town, then nothing again.

Suddenly, below, there is a bald spot scraped onto the ground. The earth is gone, but not replaced with anything. Then there is a big hole. Being from the desert you think, “kiva?”, but the echo is more likely “copper mine.”


A pool of water too turquoise to be real, or even a pool, shows up. Don’t swim in it, your bones will dissolve and sink. Once the shaft mine gives out, there’s still copper to be had in strip mining. Mining might bring jobs, but it doesn’t bring life. With it, a rectangle of land that looks like a white and black backgammon board. Sludge fields, geometrically precise.

Someone has to do this digging, scratching, leaching. So there are homes. Build together, as if for comfort.

townThen comes the lace of roads meant to be another town, before the copper gave out. The trace of where roads might have been, where houses aren’t. What you see is a tattooed earth, scarified without meaning and abandoned.

There is not enough rain to start the grass growing over this. It will take years till the dust blows over it and we forget the dream of copper.

–Quinn McDonald wonders what she’s looking at, in an airplane and on the ground.



Creativity Hop: May 24, 2014

Note: Kaisa  Mäki-Petäjä is part of a blog hop I mentioned on last Monday.  She is a natural historian, and has posted the answers to the blog hop questions.Take a peek at her blog as the blog hop passes through Finland.

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There are many ways to be an artist. Today’s selection includes unusual sculptor and two (very different) photographers.

John Lopez is a bronze sculptor; when his aunt died, he took a break to help his uncle find balance. John decided to build a cemetery near his uncle’s house in Western South Dakota.

artist John Lopez South DakotaHe started on the fence, and before he was through, he was out of supplies. His uncle was a welder, so John began looking through the scrap pile. By the time he finished the fence and gate, he had created a new art form: scrap-metal welding combined with custom bronze cast pieces. A whole new twist on mixed media.

Peacock made entirely of silverware. © John Lopez Photo credit: Markus Erk.

Seven-foot Peacock made entirely of silverware. © John Lopez                              Photo credit: Markus Erk.

From John Lopez’s bio:

Sometimes the young artist is asked what he imagines his grandfather, the pioneer stockman, Albert Lopez, would have thought of his scrap-iron sculpture. Perhaps the best answer was given by another old-timer, who came to one of his exhibits. The old gentleman spent considerable time peering intently at a scrap metal saddle. After long study, he announced, “Now that’s art!”

Detail of flatware peacock.

Detail of flatware peacock.

Spanish artist García de Marina recreates ordinary objects into other ordinary objects; it’s the sense of humor that creates his story.

garcia_de_Marina_02-565x403de Marina says, “They are very simple images. I try to create images that are easy to understand-and that hopefully don’t need any kind of explanations. I want to make an impact, give my viewers a little surprise. I hope that they will inquire more, and do further examinations.”

Garcia_de_Marina_01-565x790The juxtaposition of familiar objects into different context is both interesting and clever.

Steve Axford is an Australian artists who photographs the tiny–fungus. The delicate detail shows the beauty we miss when we wrinkle up our noses and classify all fungus as “eww.”

axford-5In his bio, Axford writes, “My photography has been my avenue into this world as it slows me down and allows me to look at things more closely.  Most of my photography is still pictures, as you will mostly see on this site.

Lichen, photograph by Steve Axford.

Lichen, photograph by Steve Axford.

“I try to combine the beauty I see with some scientific accuracy, so most of my photos could be used to identify things and will show the fine detail.  Recently I have started to take time lapse videos of mushrooms, and other things, growing.  This adds another dimension to an already fascination world and sometimes allows a glimpse into the world of interactions between different life forms.




Necessity of Sleep

When I”m overloaded with work, the first thing I do is cut short my sleep. Waking doesn’t require an alarm clock, I have cats who believe that first light means food.  The earlier the sun comes up, the earlier I get up.

6a0120a55c9cd1970c015436657463970c-320wiTrouble is, I’m a night person. I can easily work till past midnight, but not if I am up at first light, now happening around 5 a.m.

I cannot burn the candle at both ends any more. Sure, it makes a lovely light, but a lovely light is no longer enough. I need combustion to fuel the day. So, I’m forcing the discipline of an earlier bed time. It’s much harder then I imagined, but it’s necessary.

Self-discipline is rarely amusing or fun. But it is the heart of success, whatever your success might be. Without a good rest, without rich and complex dreams, we become sleep-starved and snappish. It’s harder to think, to plan, to appreciate, to imagine the future. It’s impossible to concentrate, or do good work.

Unfortunately, I simply can’t live on five hours of sleep. I need seven, and eight is welcome.

Knowing what you need and giving it to yourself is not self-indulgence. It is a discipline. And it sounds strange to give yourself what you need and call it discipline. Discipline sounds like denying your self something you want.

What discipline do you need to nurture yourself with?

—Quinn McDonald is deeply glad it’s Friday. It’s been a long, tough week.

Know Your Limits

“Plant in full sun,” the tag on the plant said. It added that I could trellis it, but keep the trellis in the sun. The plant was a Manzanita, purchased it at a local big-box hardware store two years ago.

arctostaphylos_d_howard_mcminnBecause it was its first year, I didn’t plant it in full sun. I planted the Manzanita in a big pot with a small trellis and put it where it got the morning sun and was shaded from the harsher sun of the afternoon.

During May and early June, the Manzanita bloomed constantly. By the end of June, the edges of the leaves were beginning to turn brown. Too much sun. I pulled the pot under the patio overhang.

Through July, the plant slowly died, from the branch tips in. It was simply too hot. Not just too much sun, but too much heat. For all the years I lived in Connecticut, there was no such thing as too much sun, but in the Southwest, too much sun and too much heat is what we call June, July and August.  As far as plants go, there can be too much of a good thing.

It turns out that Manzanitas grow at 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet, which was not mentioned on the label.  (Phoenix is about 1,000 feet) The big-box store probably should not have sold the plant; I think few people buy them here and then drive them North to plant. But big box stores don’t focus on regional products, I’m surprised at how many plants I see that won’t survive our summer or our winter.

Any living thing can suffer from too much of a good thing–too much sun for plants, or too much water. For people, we can suffer from too much free time, too much work, too much anger, too much stimulation.

It’s not just a matter of balance, it’s a matter of knowing what, exactly, it takes to let you thrive. Even if others around you are thriving, they may be the high-altitude types and you aren’t. Demanding the flexibility to thrive under every condition is more than most people can deliver. But it’s up to you to figure that out, the people who surround you will assume if they find you in their lives, you will be able to thrive.

You will need to establish your own limits, and then let others know. “Grow where you are planted” might be a great proverb, but it may be wiser to plant yourself where you can thrive.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who helps people become brave enough to know what it takes to thrive.

Numbers of the Heart

Note: Continuing from yesterday’s creativity blog hop,  Hanna Andersson, or iHanna, carries the blog hop to Europe (she’s in Sweden) next Monday.

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The first time I saw a FitBit, I was intrigued with the idea. How nice, a device that kept track of my heart rate, steps, and, if I logged on, how many calories I consumed. Clever. All that technology in a little bitty bracelet.

Spreadsheets are useful, but they lack emotional content.

Spreadsheets are useful, but they lack emotional content.

Then I started seeing people’s numbers showing up on Facebook. Similar to the “why do I need to know this?” software that tells Facebook where you are every time you change locations in your car, I didn’t really need to know that someone I knew has taken 1,000 steps that day.

Numbers are my friends, but too many numbers and I can stop worrying about Big Brother, I can start worrying about me. Or my bracelet. It broadcasts more information that a parolee’s ankle monitor.

Happy as I am to check numbers–diabetics willingly stab themselves several times a day–I’ve also gotten really good at checking in with how I feel to monitor my numbers. We’re losing a lot of feeling to numbers. After monitoring my blood sugar, I realized that often I didn’t feel well if I ate something that had too many carbs. That rarely happens now because I notice my body and verify with my meter.

I know how I feel after a good workout or a five-mile walk. I know (without Fun+and+Fitness+Comprehensive+DVD+and+Jump+Ropechecking my computer) if I got a good night’s sleep. I know which Hogwarts dorm I want to be assigned to, not because I took the Facebook “quiz,” but because I read the books.

I love math, I am rooted in science, but let’s not throw out intuition and poetry because it’s not an infogram.

Quinn McDonald is a geek, but it’s probably  word geekishness that makes her happy.