Daily Practice

Practice is necessary to learn anything. Practicing art is another word for getting better.

Practice can take a lot of different shapes. Right now, I’m working on minimalist collage. I was finding it difficult to be as minimal as I wanted to be, so I gave myself permission to do a very busy, color-jammed collage.

When you give yourself permission, your inner critic will show up and tell you that you’ll never sell this “trial and error” pieces. That’s right. You won’t. But I’m not experimenting to sell, I’m experimenting to get better. And unless I try one thing, I won’t know if it works, if I want to do more, or where I need to do some more work.

Here’s the busy piece I did, using a lot of color and largely rectangular or square shapes. Of course, there was a piece of map that didn’t “belong.”


And here’s the piece I did after that. I found three pieces of paper buried at the bottom of my stash–a highly textured blue and green and a sheet printed with stars. I decided to add a fourth color–the orange Monsoon Paper piece. The moon is cut out of the same Monsoon Paper piece, but flipped over, so the color blending on the back shows up.


Both pieces are very different. And because I gave myself permission to play with the first piece and was very strict with myself that I had to “get some minimal work done” with the second piece, it turns out that I like the first piece better.

Sometimes, in our need for perfection, we forget to play. When we allow ourselves to play, our creative work is better, looser, and more free than the one we put all the constrictions on.

Play is a part of getting better at what you do. Don’t push it out of your life.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves collage.

21 thoughts on “Daily Practice

  1. Hello dear Quinn,

    I love the first piece – wonderful colors and shapes – of course you will sell it.

    Best regards, Ilsa Wolfe

  2. I think the map piece does fit…the little orange blocks make me think of footsteps from the map piece through the collage as if you are at the starting point (the map piece) and taking a little tour through the collage.

  3. I am truly learning to play again. Yesterday I finished a kete/basket and I could see where I didn’t have my tension right in a small section . . . what to do? I didn’t chastise myself for not being good enough for a moment! Later today, your tomorrow, I’ll blog about what I did instead.

    I love that my today is your yesterday and that my tonight is your tomorrow. Years ago when I flew to Phoenix I got there before I left. It’s like time travel magic!

    I put that last paragraph in brackets and a voice from about 50-um years ago echoed in my head “if it’s important enough to write it, don’t use brackets. If it isn’t that important, don’t write it!” Right or wrong I still recall it.

    And I like the first one better too. Perhaps it’s that it isn’t as representative . . . I can see my own story there even if you have one intended for me. I know you wrote about seeing what the artist intends, their narrative . . . can’t recall the word you gave to it sorry, but I can recall the nonsense about brackets.

    • The brackets didn’t show up in your post (for some reason they don’t in this design). I’m a fan of asides (and parentheses), so go ahead and use them. The word you are looking for (that allows others to apply their own meanings to art or writing) is objective correlative. In this collage, I was going for color movement and large and small pieces. And then I wanted color on the top, from dark to light, to show movement. That’s as far as my thinking went. Although give me a minute, and I’ll make up something complex!

  4. I’ve been struggling all my life with ‘play’ because it’s been drilled into me that I must be ‘productive’. Making for fun has not been in my vocabulary. I’m working on that this summer with mixed results but I am trying to shut down the inner critic. Thanks for the affirmation

  5. Both pieces are lovely & in the right spot a collector might take both. One is tranquil while the other is busy/active to my eye. Perhaps because it’s early in thd day I prefer the first piece. I can see the second piece in a meditation type area. Thx for sharing.

  6. Your papers are exquisite Quinn! I have finally gotten into the practice of doing a 5 minute sketch every day, got involved with the ICAD project and MMSA. Doing small quick things totally helped me learn to play. It’s an index card – have fun, it’s a 5 minute sketch, when they are awful I have a good laugh. Over all it’s really helped me get so much better when I do “real” artwork. More than anything it makes me really happy! Now I consider myself a recovering botanical artist and throw all the rules out the window! Art should be fun!

  7. I do find lately that when I just make something with no outcome in mind, that I like it better than the piece where I thought about where each thing was to go. As you did here. I still do love the landscape though but I totally get it……

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