Ice Bridge to Magic

Jenna Erickson is the program director of the Madeline Island School of Arts. Madeline Island is in Lake Superior, which at the moment, is largely frozen. Jenna’s commute includes the ice road between Bayfield, WI and Madeline Island. It looks like this:

ar123446568432946In a few weeks, when the ice road gets melty, slushy and more suitable for a Margarita than transportation,  Jenna will go to work on the wind sled. It’s a boat that can travel on ice or water and looks like this:

ar120491287446552That must take a lot of dedication. It must also give Jenna a lot of time to think about things other than if the ice road will hold up until she gets to work. One of the ideas that Jenna came up with is to give the people who are registering for my class a discount.

This is my second year teaching at Madeline Island. I’m teaching a 5-day mixed media workshop on June 2-6, 2014.  By that time, the view out the classroom window will look like this:


It looks like a painting, but I took this photo and it feels as good to be there as this looks.

So, I wanted to let you know about the special Jenna came up with for my blog readers called “The Red Barn Special.” This is specifically for my workshop at MISA. It’s simple. Save $85 on your on-site lodging reservation when you register for my workshop by April 15, 2014.

It’s called the Red Barn Special because the classroom I taught in last year looks like this:

IMG_3910That balcony was the place I stood to take the photo of the prairie and trees.

The class is going to be an incredible exploration of writing and mixed media techniques, and each participant will leave with a journal stuffed with work you didn’t know you could create.

Now is your chance to get first pick at the cozy on-campus rooms in their Mission Cottages. The great thing about spending a week on Madeline Island is that the time there is magic. You can work in the classroom any time, day or night. You will get a free session of creativity coaching with me. The breakfast is delicious and gives you lots of choices. You will be surprised at your intuitive writing and art skills. And you will have plenty of time on our own, for journaling or exploring.

A 25 percent deposit is all you need to hold your place in my workshop. Check out the class details of my class, and then call the Registrar, Anne Leafblad, at 715.747.2054, or email

You’ll want to see the moon rise over Lake Superior one night:


Madeline Island is an amazing get-away that keeps out the world so you can  find yourself and your creativity all over again. Please join me in this very special place. Oh, and Jenna? She looks like this:

0But you never see her at Madeline Island. She’s always a step ahead of you, making sure everything is working and taken care of so you can dedicate your time to exploring your creativity, your energy, and the island.

-Quinn McDonald is planning some special surprises for her class at Madeline Island. She hopes she gets to stay in the farmhouse again.

Dreaming of June

MISA1June seems like a long time away-but like the seed catalog that reaches you just as you had given up all hope for Spring, I want to whisper some green hope in your ear. Polar vortices, sleet, shoveling snow–leave them behind for a minute. Tuck yourself into a cozy place in your house and imagine June on an island that is a green prairie. It has rocky and sandy beaches, rivers tucked into coves. This place is not just imaginary, it’s Madeline Island in Lake Superior. And you can restore your soul and learn to laugh again this summer.

thumb_seed-packets-wedding-favourFrom June 2 to 6, I will be teaching Jungle Gym for Monkey Mind at Madeline Island School of ArtsThe class is based on the Inner Hero book, and we’ll learn something new every day. You’ll try your hand at writing poetry, surface decorating papers, using the papers to make seed packets for those tiny beginning ideas you want to grow into big, sturdy plans.

You’ll discover your inner heroes and what you have in common with them. You’ll make friends and have time to visit art galleries and restaurants. If you like a noisier time, you’ll find bars and restaurants to keep you up all night.

MISA2If you are ready to retrieve your soul from where it has drifted, this class is the one for you. Every participant will receive a free creativity coaching session to help them explore the inner landscape that is so often neglected. The island is a perfect setting for coming back into who you want to be.

MISA3We’ll learn specifics every morning and you can explore how to use them in the afternoon. The classroom is also open all night. No locks, just space and time. You can work any time. Just turn out the light if you are the last to leave.

You’ll create monoprints and gather your results into a book, a journal of memories and encouragement to take back into your changed life. It’s time to restore that part of you that has to be strong and give all year.

Think about it. And begin to plan it. It’s an experience like no other. No art or writing experience necessary. Just a sense of adventure.

Quinn McDonald taught at Madeline Island last summer and is dreaming about returning. She welcomes you to join her in a remarkable experience.

Looks like a painting, but it's the view from the classroom at Madeline Island School of Arts

Looks like a painting, but it’s the view from the classroom at Madeline Island School of Arts

Good News Round Up

During all that travel I’ve been doing, good news has been rolling in. While I’ve tried to keep up, I thought I’d share it all in one post.

Ghost print, "Three houses in another city," acrylic monoprint on mixed media paper.

Ghost print, “Three houses in another city,” acrylic monoprint on mixed media paper.

1. Inner Hero Art Journal is coming out on December 13. It was printed in the U.S., at some expense to my publisher, who thought it was worth it to print it locally to get it out earlier. You can now look inside the book on amazon. The book launch will be at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, in January, to combine a new year with a new way of handling your inner critic!

2. I’ve been invited to go to CHA–the Craft and Hobby Association, January 10-14 in Anaheim. I’ll be doing signings and maybe a demo from the book! If you are in the area, please come visit the North Light booth!

"Old Moon, New Sky,' Monoprint, acrylic paint on scapbooking paper.

“Old Moon, New Sky,’ Monoprint, acrylic paint on scapbooking paper.

3. Madeline Island School of the Arts has officially invited me back for 2014–this coming summer. I’ll be at MISA the week of June 2 through 6. We are going to experiment and explore writing, poetry, monoprinting and journaling. Then, we’ll pick the pages we like the most and create a book of memories for the week. Last year, I started marketing this way too late. It’s time to start saving your pennies, ask for a holiday gift, and checking out the air fares for deals. Help fill up this class with YOU!

4. I’ll be at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts April 25-27 for a class. The class description will be up in about 10 days, but this is another opportunity to start asking for a class for a holiday gift or to save your change to travel to Minneapolis. We’ll be doing magical things with Gelli plates and gathering our pages and binding them into a cool book. And for fun, I’ll be giving away a Gelli plate in class!

It will be a busy year, and with the new book, I’d love to come visit some places where you are and teach in your city!

–Quinn McDonald is looking ahead to a busy year!


A New Kind of Class

This past Saturday, I stepped into a new kind of class–one I’ve wanted to teach for a long time. Immediate disclaimer: you may not want to teach this kind of class or take it. That’s fine. I’m not trying to persuade anyone; I’m just happy I found the way I want to teach.

monotreeConcept:    I want to teach explorers and experimenters. People who want to try, discover, mess up and learn, without needing to walk away with a finished project.

Instead of:  Many classes today are based on the American business model of “follow an example, do it just like the sample, and do it before close of business.” in other words, emphasis on perfection and speed.

There are advantages to doing this–the instructor brings in a kit or pieces already cut out and bagged. Participants follow instructions and walk away with a piece they can give as a gift.

The problem with this is that it has nothing to do with creativity. It has to do with following instructions and small motor control in assembly. The other problem, of course, is that when the confused student, thinking the project is original art, submits it to a show. The instructor is angry. After all, it’s the instructor’s design, concept, and “all the student did was put it together.” I’ve seen that complaint on many instructors’ websites.

Nothing of that is interesting to me. And I know most classes today are taught that way. And many people enjoy it.

Advantage of Experimental Classes: Participants have permission to play, to create (in the best sense of the world) and to really learn. Because I’m there to demo techniques, make suggestions, and help on the discovery step when something goes wrong, the participants learns a skill, along with problem solving and self-confidence. The resulting curiosity and joy in discovery is the basis of a living a creative life.

Disadvantages of Experimental Classes: Participants don’t walk away with a completed project. Participants have to ask for help; I don’t pace the classroom looking to give advice.

Why It’s Important: I believe in creativity and living a creative life. I don’t believe in fixing people or giving advice. I think the joy of discovery is a vital part of creativity, and the accidental discovery is magical. I want to create a classroom where that is possible. And probable.

The risk: It’s not for everyone. It’s for people who are curious about living a creative life as a soul growing processes. My classes may not make, I may teach a lot of small classes. And discovery classes are harder to prepare for. I have to bring a lot more equipment, tools, and paper to share. It is easier to bring a sample and kits, which is why so many people default to a project class.

As a creativity coach, I believe that everything in life is connected in some way, and that a big part of creativity is pattern recognition that helps us change our life and re-invent ourselves. Through creative exploration. In order to be authentically me–coach, writer, instructor, creative soul–I’m best suited to teach the way I live.

The class I taught this past weekend really fueled my delight in this way of teaching. Experiments were inventive, a few mistakes taught something more important (paper is cheap!), and anyone who asked a question got an answer. A participant was also a teacher and artist, and did an inventive demo I described. Everyone learned as much as they wanted. I think everyone left excited to try out more.

My wish is that the creative soul and exploration movement is just beginning. I’m ready for it. Want to join in?

Quinn McDonald is teaching experimental classes in Tucson (November 17), at the Minnealpolis Book Arts Center (April 2014) and at Madeline Island (June, 2014) Her book comes out in December. It’s going to be a busy 2014!





Gelli Plate Round

The round Gelli plate showed up a few days ago, and I happily started using it for prints. A friend wryly remarked that it looked like a breast implant after the mammogram. Yes, yes, it does.


The first print, round like the world, made me want to create biospheres and gardens in the round.

Gelli4This one, with the turquoise and gold,  looks like a design on ancient jewelry, or a vase.


And after a while, I thought how much fun it would be to do a series on the seven days of creation.


This piece, a work in progress, would make a great base for a collage with plants and animals. It has the making of a wild prairie.

Gelli2And OK, round isn’t the only shape. This one is a bird at dawn. The tree, on the right, still needs some work, probably with oil pastels to show up on the acrylics.

What I love about these Gelli plates is not that they can make journal page backgrounds, but that they can do monoprints, blending new techniques with old techniques of printing.

I’ll be teaching Gelli plate 101 on this coming Saturday, November 2, at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix. You can read details and register, on my website.

–Quinn McDonald has turquoise paint under her fingernails. She hopes it wears off in time to teach Business Writing tomorrow.


Gelli Plate Collage

Note: I’ll be teaching Gelli Plates 101: Make A Book of Monoplates at Arizona Art Supply (Phoenix) on November 2. Details and registration.

Gelli plates are gelatin-like plastic that you coat with paint and use as a printing plate. You apply the paint with a brayer, but the printing press is your hand. Once the paper is down, you smooth it over with your hand and lift off the impression.

Here is a collage I made using Gelli prints


First, I tried to make the poppies an underlayer, but they came out too uniformly red, so then I printed a sheet of mixed reds and used it to create the poppies separately and collage them over the stems.

BranchesOn this one, I wanted to mix unusual colors, giving it a worn feel. Not sure I love the colors, but I got the effect I was looking for. I cut the masks myself, using old overhead projector plastic. It makes them reusable.


I love the teabag print. This is a journal page I will write on with a Sharpie.

And yes, I have two teaching locations where I’ll be teaching how to use these for journal pages. Minneapolis and yes, Madeline Island. Stay tune for details!

–Quinn McDonald has fallend paint over fingers for Gelli Arts plates.

What I Learned at Design Your Life Camp

This past week, at Lake Lanier (north of Atlanta) about 150 people gathered for Patti Digh’s Design Your Life Camp. The theme was Creativity, Courage and Community. There were many presenters and speakers, musicians and a talent show. I led one of the workshops for the Creativity section. But best  of all, I got to attend as well. Here are some things I learned:

1. Some women can be strong and brave, even if they are wearing a tutu over stretch pants and a fuchsia boa.

postcard12. It is amazing to see women get in touch with their inner hero, name them, and do colorful work to call forth their magic. Often while crying as they struggle to admit they are creative, resourceful and whole.

3. I may have to revise my idea that women don’t support each other and will judge each other at the drop of a feather. I can point to about 150 women that will applaud when they hear a story of bravery and strength.

postcard24. If you are an introvert, it is very lovely to sit on your private balcony at dawn and under the stars and meditate and journal.

5. Life is about content and how that content makes meaning.  We don’t find meaning in life, we make meaning.  Andrea Gibson is a spoken word artist, who changes the world one story at a time. She reads her life for the world to feel.

6. Being silent in your misery is as foolish as being silent in your triumph. Spoken word poet Glenis Redmond knows why poetry heals. And she told us why life wounds, as well.

7. No one over the age of 16 is undamaged. It’s how you hold yourself together that makes a life. The glue you use is creativity and courage and community. Which is what this camp was about.

gI_67544_DYLC-SMICON-3wPatti Digh and Dave Harkins and all the women and men who were there created an amazing experience. At the end of each day I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep from the power of the stories I heard.

For some years, I owned my own event management business, so I know what goes into running an event this size and complexity. And I also know that when people say something, they complain but they rarely thank the people behind the curtain. So I”m saying it for everyone who might have forgotten: Thank you Patti, David, and all the people behind the scenes, for your hard, long, and consistent work. Well done!

The best part is that Design Your Life Camp will happen again in 2014. In San Francisco, starting on September 19 – 21. Save the date, registration starts in January.  I’d love to see you there. (Hint, hint, Patti–Ask me!)

–Quinn McDonald presided at two workshops at the Design Your Life Camp. Half your postcards went out today. The rest will go out tomorrow.

Design Your Life Camp with Patti Digh

Patti Digh and I lived in Washington, D.C. at the same time, but didn’t know her

Patti Digh, designer and creator of Design Your Life Camp.

Patti Digh, designer and creator of Design Your Life Camp.

then. I knew about her husband’s interest in books, old, interesting and science-based, but I didn’t know the guy was Patti Digh’s husband. It took Patti’s book (Life is a Verb) her book signing at Changing Hands in Tempe (AZ) and Facebook to connect us.

And connect we did. Patti is the inspiration behind the blog 37 Days. In 2003, her  stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty-seven days later, he died. Patti began to live her life asking a transformational question: “What would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?

Legacy Lake at Lake Lanier Island Resort.

Legacy Lake at Lake Lanier Island Resort.

The answer right now is “creating and breathing life into the Design Your Life Camp,” a three-day sleep over camp for adults. No tents. It’s being held at Lake Lanier Island Resorts, outside of Atlanta, and no one is sleeping rough.

I asked Patti if she had ever been to sleep-over camp. “Yes! I still have the photo of me leaving for camp, sitting on my duffle bag, which was my father’s duffle bag in the Navy. We slept in tents on wooden platforms and rose with the sun.”  What made her want to run a camp for adults? “When we took our oldest daughter, Emma, to camp for the first time, I turned to John and said, ‘There should be camps for adults.’ The freedom! The spacious feeling of camp! And so, years later, I posted on Facebook one evening, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have a ‘summer camp’ for adults?’ and the response was overwhelming.”

On October 4 through 6, Patti’s summer camp for adults will become a reality. 882x491_5_0be5e280cc0ce5eec69daeda2021ca77The camp is for adults who want to regain their courage, reignite their creativity and reconnect with their tribe–a community of like-minded people. It kicks off with a writing workshop and has three days of creativity, inspiration and even a talent show! When Patti asked me if I wanted to do a creativity workshop, there was no hesitation. Absolutely! And because the Inner Critic shows up at summer camp too, I’m presenting Mind Over Chatter on both Saturday and Sunday. (You can register for the sessions here.)

_l3_island_viewsIf you are an introvert and think that all this summer camping isn’t for you, well, Patti has a message for you: “First of all, don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. You’re at a different place in your life now–and whether you are an introvert like I am, or an extrovert, you’ll find connections at camp. This is the most supportive group of people you’ll ever find–come to camp as you are, not as you think others want you to be. You’ll be accepted, appreciated, and included.”

If you haven’t heard about the camp, find out. Register. I am participating, not just running a workshop. Because I need my tribe. Because I want community, and because, as Patti says, “That the energy of the space we will create will be created by all of us–it is a co-creation, a community making strong offers and participating whole-heartedly, and those strong offers will look different for all of us. I would ask them to think beyond ‘what will I get from this?’ to ‘what am I bringing to this?'”

I’m bringing my best workshop, the one my new book (The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal)  is built on. But I want to meet other people who are on a journey of creativity and transformation. Summer camp in October? Irresistable!–I hope to see you there!

Quinn McDonald is excited to be offering a workshop at the Design Your Life Camp ’13. She’s even more excited to participate in the rest of the activities.


The Brain-Eating Zombie of Shutting Up

Yes, I have complained about how much people reveal about themselves on Facebook. Yes, I have been shocked by how thin (or non-existent) is the filter between brain and mouth.

Now, to the exceptions. Sometimes, keeping quiet does not serve your creativity. Or your peace of mind. Yesterday, I posted about the amazing shrinking class–the registration was full, but only two people showed up. It was hard for me to admit it out loud. How humiliating it felt to admit that the class was not full. And for all the readers on this blog to see! And my competitors to chortle about! Surely, I should shut up about this. No, that is not a good idea. It helps nothing.

Not shutting up is exactly what Brené Brown means when she talks about being vulnerable. It wasn’t about me. I wrote that blog for three reasons:

1. I learned an important business lesson.

2. Other instructors, who had not learned the lesson yet, could learn it without being humiliated.

3. Other instructors could also save themselves a loss of income.

The simple solution to the problem is to get paid before class. Not to punish people, but to create an accurate count for materials, and to judge the pace of the class.

When I create the class (and later, the flyer)  I  plan for a certain number of people, and then plan the pace and scope of the class. I can make small adjustments, but if extra people show up, I might not have enough supplies, and I will have to shorten what I teach to plan for keeping everyone in the class on target and able to complete the project.

If too few people show up, the class might drag, and I’ll have to fill in projects to keep them busy enough. No one wants to pay for a class and then finish two hours early. The participants might feel that they deserve a refund if the time wasn’t filled.

This is a teaching fact–there is a lot of work a teacher does that participants never see. And that is the whole point of  my speaking out. It’s not about being humiliated–there was nothing to be humiliated about. People who don’t show up after saying they will aren’t humiliating me, they are embarrassing themselves.

Competitors who snicker when I didn’t fill a class are doing so because they have experienced it themselves and still feel the pain. And every instructor has felt that pain. How they deal with it is up to them, and doesn’t affect me.

There is no bitterness in asking people to pay ahead of time. It simply is a good teaching practice. And my feeling humiliated? It’s an Inner Critic move to diminish my attention to class success and crank up creative insecurity.

Tending to boundaries is an important practice. On Wednesday, there will be more about the importance of boundaries and establishing and tending them.

-Quinn McDonald teaches much more than art projects.

Showing Up

If you are involved in a wedding, you know how hard it is to get people to RSVP. I’m not sure why–are they holding out for a better date, a more exciting plan? For some reason, people who know how important it is to respond, don’t.

RSVPIn the case of the class today, I had a full class signed up. Then two people dropped out. They told me, and I adjusted. Last night I packed and loaded papers, inks, gloves, brushes, glues, gesso–enough for all the people who signed up. It filled a Rubbermaid container big enough so I needed a hand-truck to roll it into the store.

And then, to my surprise and disappointment, only two people showed up. They were the nicest, smartest, and most delightful people any instructor could ask for, but the rest of the people didn’t show up, didn’t call, and didn’t notify the store.

To make matters worse, I had not asked them to pay ahead of time. And I always do that. This time, I had some trouble getting the PayPal button to stick on my website, so I just asked for checks. Each person said they would pay at the class.

That’s a red flag right there. I like trusting people and believing the best will happen. In this case, it didn’t. And I own the responsibility for making a basic business mistake–not getting paid up front.

thousands-of-fast-food-workers-walked-out-of-work-to-protest-low-payA fast calculation shows me I earned about $7.00 an hour creating and presenting this class. That alone is incentive enough to remind me to insist on payment up front. Having paid, participants remember better, don’t look for other things to do, and, in a time when it’s not something people do easily, they commit to showing up.

Showing up is important. It’s a sign of character,  credibility, reliability, and responsibility. It’s who you want to be. It also keeps the balance of trust and easy-going behavior alive. People who don’t show up create instructors who tighten up their rules and hone an edge of protection onto their attitude.

We show up in the world with our character showing. Make yours something people talk about behind your back with admiration.

Quinn McDonald learns something every time she runs a class.