Neocolor II Backgrounds

Simple book. Monsoon Paper cover, neocolor II surface decoration on the inside pages. © Quinn McDonald 2017.

For years, I made books in acceptable ways. Cut the paper, fold it, carefully stitch it into the cover. There you are–a nice blank book. But I didn’t like blank books. And I wasn’t into slathering paint or color onto a page and then coming back and writing on it. But it was the “right” way to create a book.

So I stopped making books. In fact, I stopped doing any kind of art. It stopped being fun.

Recently, I’ve decided to just experiment. Play. I want to make a book that has poems in it that I like. Something to take with me on a trip to read if I wake up at 3 a.m. (You can read more about my dreaming the lives of others here.) Something that isn’t for anyone else, something that is easy to tuck in a carry on.  The cover paper (above) was a piece of Monsoon Paper. (A surface decoration technique I created about 10 years ago.)

What if I completed all the pages first, then chose the ones I liked best and bound those into a  book? No pages I didn’t like, none that didn’t work out. Much more freedom.

My first step was to create a background in the book, something with color. I decided to use neocolor II crayons, because acrylic paint, which is plastic, is hard to write on without special tools. I wanted something that didn’t stiffen the paper.

First, I scribbled some Neocolor II onto a vinyl file folder. It has a slight texture and is waterproof.

Next, I sprayed the surface of the folder with distilled water. (The water in Arizona contains a lot of minerals, and I didn’t want them to discolor the paper.)

Using Arches Text Wove (also called Arches Velin), a 100-percent cotton paper, I pressed it onto the wet surface. Without moving the paper, I rubbed the facing-up side with my hands. Then I slowly peeled the paper off the folder. The wetter areas blended, the dryer ones were more textural.

I printed another page with a slightly less spray, so it was dryer than the first. You can see the texture in parts of this page. I also dipped a brush in the yellow section and dragged it across the page.

Putting aside the wet sheets, I went for one more really dry print. The colors are all pale enough to write over, particularly if I choose to write in the places with less color. The first result was a bit granular, so I sprayed the paper directly with a bit more water.

The experimental pages are fun, don’t come with a big burden of perfection, and are pure self-expression, rather than bound by rules. If the book turns out, I’ll show you the completed project!

Quinn McDonald is an everyday creative who writes, creates collage, and is a certified creativity coach.

 

 

Working With What You Have

Not all creative projects work out as you thought. Not what you wanted. Still, if you translate that into everyday language,  you are practicing. We need to practice art as much as we need to practice all skills, and for the same reason: to get better.

A Neocolor experiment page. Good for using as background, or for adding something more to it.

When you were first learning to walk, you fell a lot. But you got up every time. That’s the reason you can walk so well today–you didn’t think failing defined you. It was part of learning. Somehow, we start to discount that idea as we get older. We think we “should” know how to art techniques  the first time, or much faster than others. Not true. Real experts spend lots of time doing the same thing over and over to gain skill.

After being away from art for a while, I plugged back in again. Collage and found poetry are two ideas I love to dive into, so I thought I’d combine them. After not doing them for a while, I knew the results wouldn’t be stunning. Maybe even amateurish. Who cares? It’s exercise and growth.

Collage experiment, made from an old retail catalog, Neocolor II and found poetry.

I decided to work with what I had at hand–no buying supplies, no updating what I had. In fact, I limited myself to the experimental journal, glue, an old Barney’s catalog (printed on matte paper), and a black waterproof extra fine marker.

Experimenting is freeing. I’m not developing a project for a show. I have a journal in which I work only on experiments. Only experiments. Paper is cheap. Even good watercolor paper is relatively cheap.

Found poetry always looks rustic. Found poetry it cut from print pages, so no matter how carefully you glue it down, it looks like a ransom note, except not as exotic. You can’t really work found poetry into an Old Master’s oil painting and have it work. That gives me permission to work on content, on the creativity of bringing content out with shapes and color.

Detail of the collage, showing the found poetry made only of retail advertising copy, re-assembled.

I started by using the page I’d made using Caran D’Ache Neocolors II. (It’s up there on the left side of the page.) I cut varying circles from the catalog and pasted them onto the experimental page. I then chose a page from the catalog (randomly) and began to cut out words and phrases that, disconnected from their sales background, tell a different story.  I finished by creating a brief emotion caught withing words. (Detail, above).  Satisfying. Creative work, driven by curiosity.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who teaches both.

Fun with Neocolor II

Neocolor II come in various sizes: 10, 15, 30, and more. They come in a lovely tin.

Neocolor II is a wax crayon that is water soluble and can be used like watercolor or gouache. Because I am stuck creatively, I bought a set of Caran D’Ache Neocolor II to play with. Having no expectation of outcome helps build creative curiosity. Here’s how I experimented.

(No one asked me to write about Neocolors, and I am not getting paid to write this post. )

If you wonder what a creative drought looks like, you can read about it in the post called In Search of Lost Creativity.

First, in order to see how these colors work, I used them dry in a watercolor journal. Once I scribbled some dry crayon on the page, I used a brush dipped in water to blend and pull the color down.

Neocolors used on Yupo.

The colors are beautifully transparent and they do blend quite well. I could see these being used as travel paints without the mess.

Because I work with alcohol inks, I thought it might be interesting to try out Neocolors on Yupo, the plastic substrate so perfect for alcohol inks.

The results are really interesting.  Each color wets well and can be dragged. Blending colors works well, too. More water means lighter color. But you can add color in with a wet crayon as well.

The only drawback is that Yupo is a sealed surface, and the colors will smear and pick up, even days later. But if you frame a piece, the problem is solved.

Next, I ripped a piece of deli paper into a jagged, long piece.

I scribbled color along the edge, being careful not to smear it over the edge.

The colored edge is placed in a journal page. Using a damp makeup sponge, I brushed up, from the edge of the color onto the page, creating a landscape look. This has a lot of possibilities.

Please note that this is an experiment of a product, not a finished piece of art. Before I get serious about anything, I experiment. A lot. I encourage it to avoid disappointment and predicted failure.

The sky was made by dabbing the makeup sponge, which had been used to create the mountain range, across the sky. The dots appeared because the makeup sponge was thin and I applied a lot of finger pressure.

Neocolors are rich and apply easily. I’m still awkward with them, but I already know they are going to come with me on my next trip instead of a watercolor set. I can take a few and blend colors as needed.

I could see people using them in coloring books and to make cards. There is a lot of experimenting ahead!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and collage artist.

 

Stress and Fear Relief in Your Inbox

An example of the poem-by-email you’ll get. © Laurie Blackwell, 2017

Been stewing in fear and stress for a while? Scared to go online for fear of what you will find? Need some good news? My friend Laurie, who runs LoneBlackBird, is starting a month of daily mail that will relieve your stress and put a smile on your face. And yes, this is a giveaway post!

Laurie is a teacher who helps kids who have difficulty learning how to read. Now she’s helping anyone who wants to open their email anticipating good news.

Every day in April, Laurie is sending out a hand-drawn email with a short, encouraging poem from well-known and lesser-known writers. April is National Poetry Month, and Laurie wants to introduce people to poetry who have never thought about it, those who don’t know what to think about poetry, and those who love poetry.

There will be a link to the entire poem, or the poem in an anthology of similar poems. Best of all, you can print out the entire image.

What can you do with the printed piece?

These poems beg to be colored and put into your journal. © Laurie Blackwell, 2017.

Well, if you are among the huge group of coloring fans, you can print out the pieces, color them, and create a journal with them.

Or you can simply print them out and put them in your journal the way they are.

You can share them with your kids and have a real conversation about what the words mean, who the poet was (or is), and, if you are home schooling parent or teacher, use them as a prompt for poetry writing.

There is a perfectly good reason to open your email every day in April and know there is a smile waiting for you.  It’s an excellent way to anticipate the best every morning and be rewarded for it!

What a way to start your morning–coffee and coloring! © Laurie Blackwell, 2017

How to win a month worth of smiles: Laurie is giving away three free subscriptions to the poem-a-day for the month of April. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and keep your fingers crossed.

Three winners will be drawn at random on Wednesday, April 5, after 6 p.m. in Phoenix and announced on Thursday’s blog.

You can also follow Laurie on Instagram and see what she is up to. She teaches online and in-person courses that are kind, gentle, and a welcome relief from our frenetic world.

Quinn McDonald is a poet and non-fiction writer who is delighted to support the positive poetry posting.

 

 

Light and Dark: Notan

Notan is a Japanese paper art that plays with light and dark.  “Notan” means “light-dark harmony” in Japanese. There are guidelines, of course, and as I usually do, I stuck with them for the first go-around. After this, I may bend the strict rules a bit.

I used a square about 5 inches (13 c.) on a side. I used black art paper because construction paper is too soft and tears too easily. Canson makes a good black paper. So does Arches.

Notan 1. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Notan 1. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

The idea of playing with balance, with light and dark, is intriguing. We all have a dark side, which means we all have a light side, as well. Art imitates life, again.

Here is a video for complex shapes.

Here’s another one with more explanation of symmetry and positive and negative space.

I started simple, because I have some spatial relationship problems. And I like understanding where I’m going.

Some tips:

  • Keep the cut-out portions limited to the side of the paper you are working on. Don’t go beyond the middle of the square.
  • Don’t cut off the corners of the square. Because this art requires dark and light to mirror each other, your eye needs to “see” the line completed.
  • You can use scissors, but a craft knife will be easier once you get better.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, a poetic medicine practitioner, and a creativity coach.

Notes on Survival (Poem)

Milkweed pod, Montana.

Milkweed pod, Montana. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

When my parents arrived in this country, they had been allowed to bring three crates of items. Those crates contained their entire life–for two adults and two children. Bedding, clothing, pots and pans, dishes, important papers, books, photos, toys. Three crates. Although I was born later, the impossibility of the decisions of what to pack stuck with me.

As a child, I played a game– what I would pack if I had to leave quickly and go to a new place? This poem is rooted in that memory.

 

 

Seed Pod: Notes for Survival
I left dawn behind, but took the last star in the sky
I left the sun behind, but took the ragged fringe of shade
I left the fragrant, blooming tree,
but stole the hanging seed and packed it.

The smooth seedpod holds the wisdom
of casting shade and woven nests,
Going back ten thousand years
Folded in its traveler’s shell.

Still willing, when it hits the ground
(at last)
To send out an exploratory root,
To test the ground for possible survival.
It has one chance to birth a branch
Fed by a dream of stars held in its crown
A filigree of shade laid on the ground
And then, to birth another seed to pack.
© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved. No use without express written permission.

The Night Balcony

Inside my house,
Inside my mind
the lights are on.
The books shift, wanting to be read.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

My to-do list stretches, reaching for another ream of paper.
My phone buzzes, chirps, and rattles with impatience.
My cat sinks his claws into my thigh, hungry for attention.

Dear God, it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.
All this quiet, so I can work.

I push the heavy slider wide,
and step onto the night balcony.
The light rail leaves a station, clanging on its way.
Cars honk, people laughing, cursing, singing, 14 floors below.
Lights shimmer, blink and fuss, directing traffic,
calling for attention.

On the night balcony
all that noise is someone else’s
And I can fade into the stillness,
and be gone.

—Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic healing.