Newsletters: Worth Considering? (Plus Giveaway)

Yes, I’ve had a newsletter. Twice. Each time, it became too unwieldy to manage. Too much content. When I switched from newsletter to blog (which seemed sensible at the time), I deleted the newsletter address list, after I invited everyone over to the blog.

That left me with, umm, no announcement or contact list. Sure, the blog mentions my classes, but if you ask “Really? Where? ” you aren’t alone. The Workshops page on this blog is often overlooked. And updating it often happens only after I announce something on the blog. (See my upcoming demos at Arizona Art Supply).

newspaper-stackI can’t really expect people who are waiting for me to announce the poetry-writing class to read the blog every day to see when it will run (Late July, early August start) or to check the Workshop page. A newsletter would be a great way to do that.  I am grateful to everyone who is signed up to the blog, and to everyone who tells me they start their day reading the blog. Realistically, though, a lot of people check in once a week, Or once a month.

So here is the question: Should I start a once-every-two-week newsletter? Or are newsletters passe? (I don’t want to create a business Facebook page. Yet)

More information:

  • The newsletter would list my classes and demos, in person and online, local to me or local to you.
  • It could contain a few other items not in this blog–a link to a clever tutorial (not necessarily mine), a book suggestion (creativity-related, including books I quit reading or didn’t enjoy), or a creative-life tip or quote from my reading.  It would be short (not like my blogs, I know).
  • You’d be able to subscribe and unsubscribe anytime you wanted (you’ll have to unsubscribe from the same email you subscribed with). No questions asked.
  • I’ll start small, just an email list I handle myself. No cookies, no tracking, no selling or renting your name. I have enough trouble managing my time.

Leave a comment if you have ideas, suggestions, or thoughts about a newsletter.


Oh, and of course there will be a drawing for leaving a comment and taking the poll:  a copy of Creating Time, by Marney  Makridakis. The subtitle is “Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life.” You can read my earlier review here.

Note: Thanks for the 76 percent of readers who would read a newsletter. Another 11 percent said “It depends if I like it.”  So, it looks like I’ll be starting a newsletter soon. Stay tuned–I have to create a space to sign up and get the first copy together. Thanks for voting!  Barbara I is the winner of Marney’s book!

Quinn McDonald is curious, again.


Making The Commonplace Journaling

We’ve talked a lot about Commonplace Journals, and I thought it might be a good idea to show you mine. The purpose of a Commonplace Journal is to record items you need to remember, everything from the name of a book to an idea for a future art project. It’s not formal, it’s not meant to show to others or as a brag book. It’s your memory, your imagination, and the garden of your muse.

To hold my Commonplace ideas, I bought a hand-made journal from Val Bembenek. She makes wonderful, traditional Japanese-bound journals, about 8-1/2 inches  x 5-1/2 inches, with horizontal orientation. Val ties non traditional buttons on the front as decoration. She also uses paper bags as covers.  (You can buy them from her via email, too.) This one has a wine bag front cover and a bread bag back cover. Perfect combination!


I’m not showing you the front page, which is the same in all my books–the two crossed, curved arrows, and my email address so I can get the book back if I lose it. Because I travel with my Commonplace Journal, it has to fit in my bag. I generally put items in with a glue stick (which I normally hate, but hey, when you are on the road, you have to use what you have).


On the left side is the map to the hotel I was staying in. The hotel was great, with a fridge and microwave, but the complex was, well, complex. Thank goodness for the map. On the right side is information about the kinds of paper we made ad two samples. The page is dated, so I know when I made the papers.



While I was in Tucson taking the class, I stopped by an art store and bought some Neocolor II watercolor crayons by Caran D’Ache. On this page I rubbed the crayons and then showed the color and texture, both wet and dry and wrote the name and number next to it. If I buy some more (I may not be able to resist), I’ll have the number of the ones I already have, and I’ll add the new ones to this page.


When I went to Las Cruces, someone was handing out flyers for Earth Day. This was a good way to get the date right and remind me of the activities I participated in–including a film festival.

DemoPageThe ticket for the film festival is on the left, and a bit about the interesting documentaries about life along the backbone of travel (the Camino Real) in early New Mexico. On the right are the parking lot tickets for the days I was demonstrating at The Women’s Expo in Phoenix. I created marbled papers for Arizona Art Supply (and I’ll be doing local demos in June and July and teaching there in July, August and September!) More about that later this week.

You can see that this is a notebook is the real sense of the world. There is nothing beautiful about it, but it is practical and useful.

newpaperPageOne of my big rants is young girls dressed up to be sexy. I found a great quote in the paper from a mother who addresses her daughter’s threat that she will just change to the clothes she wants to wear after she arrives at school. That’s on the left, with some marbled paper. On the right is a quick collage I put together with some phrases about the underwear women wear as outerwear and the stiletto with the phrase “it pays” as part of the image. It was satisfying to make the collage, although the composition is not excellent design.  The pages can be cut up to use in another collage. Great way to store pre-made design elements.

KettleSTitchHave you ever tried to remember where you saw that article you need now? You can remember the side of the page it was on, but not the book or magazine. I’ve lost hours thumbing through my iPad, books and magazine stash, looking for that phrase, reference, or stitch. I’m working on a book of handmade papers, but it’s number four on my to-do list. I’ll need that kettle stitch to hold the signatures together. So I drew out the part of the stitch I forget, then added the page number and name of the book so I can find it when I need it.

BackcoverThe back cover of the book. I have many pages to write on before it’s done, but when it’s filled, it will be a useful reference book as well as reminder of when I did what.

If you are keeping a Commonplace Journal, leave a link in the comments, so we can visit others as well!

-Quinn McDonald is enjoying Memorial Day weekend in art projects. But she’s getting back to work on Monday. She’s a ghost writer for several blogs, and they are due this week.

Collage by Numbers

Words and letters are important to me. They shape my world, they help me see what others feel. And I almost always use some version of words in my art.

When I combine the love of collage with the love of letters, I got an interesting result. A collage made entirely of letters. OK, a few numbers, too.


It was in interesting experiment. It was fun to find the small and bold letters and figure out how to use them for detail and shadow.

I don’t want to continue this type of collage, because, odd as it sounds from someone who loves monochromatic work as much as I do, I would miss the color after a while. But meanwhile, I have another pear to add to the collection!

Here are a few other pears I’ve done:

Journal page with Maya Angelou's pear recipe

Journal page with Maya Angelou’s pear recipe

Pears, watercolor pencil on journal page

Pears, watercolor pencil on journal page

Pear on free-standing journal page.

Pear on free-standing journal page.

Pear mosaic on free-standing journal page

Pear mosaic on free-standing journal page

-Quinn McDonald does not feel compelled to move on to apples. Yet.

Stenciling Art Journal Pages

Stencils have never really thrilled me; I’ve never believed I knew how to use them. While experimenting this weekend, I discovered what I’d missed–a simple, effective stencil technique that makes great art journal pages or, trimmed down and layered on decorative paper, beautiful cards.

I am a fan of white-on-white or monochrome compositions, so I kept the early design simple:

stencilcurlyWhat you’ll need:

  • Stencil
  • Painter tape (See below)
  • Heavy paper (see below)
  • Palette knife
  • Regular gel (I use Golden’s Satin)
  • Bucket of water
  • Paper towels

1. Use heavy, slightly-sized paper. Print paper (not photocopy paper, but paper you would use for making letterpress or monoprints–at least 100 lbs), hot-press watercolor paper or smooth watercolor cards work well for this.

2. Position the stencil where you want it. Tape it down securely with blue painter tape or, even better, Frog Tape. Test the tape on a piece of paper to see that it doesn’t pull up paper when you remove it.

3. Using a palette knife, spread a thin, even coat of Golden Regular Gel (that’s exactly what it says on the label) across the stencil, working from left to right and top to bottom.

Close up of gel detail

Close up of gel detail

4. As soon as you have an even coat across the entire stencil area, check to make sure there are no gaps or bubbles, then remove the tape and the stencil. Pull the stencil straight up from a corner to avoid smearing.

5. Toss the stencil in a bucket of water until you can clean it. Once the gel sets, it’s hard to scrub off. Allow the card to dry completely before you cut it or trim it.

Once you get tired of the plain gel, you can add interference colors to the gel. (About 1 color to 4 gel). Interference colors give the image a sheen of color at certain angles.

Here are trees so you can’t see the interference in the gel


And here it is tilted so you can see the blue/green shimmer.


Want more choices? Try adding Pearl Ex pigment or gold acrylic paint to the gel.


You can also add silver acrylic paint.


If you want more color, you can use watercolors or pale acrylic to create a color background. But that’s another post!

–Quinn McDonald is glad she has a stash of stencils to play with. There is writing that needs doing on these pages.

Fun With Splash Inks (Part 2)

Splash Inks are acrylic inks invented by Karen Elaine and made by Yasutomo. I’ve posted on Splash inks previously. Today, Arizona Art Supply had a class in learning how to use the inks. Kari Foteff

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff, from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff (L) from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

from Strathmore Papers (L) and Karen Elaine were there and they taught a wicked good class. Strathmore papers were the first papers I loved when I was a papermaker, and it was great meeting someone who gets to work with Strathmore papers much of the time.

It’s fun meeting an inventor, particularly one who is modest and never mentioned her time on the Carol Duvall show. ( A popular show on the DIY Network several years ago) or the process of invention, just what the inks can do.

There are four inks, and they follow the CMYK colors: Cyan (blue) Magenta, Yellow and Black. You can mix them into over a hundred different colors.


We mixed several colors, and Kay, next to me, did a whole sampler of colors.


We then masked off a card and, using a stencil, scraped Golden’s regular gel (gloss) over the stencil and allowed the gel to dry, creating a resist.  We then mixed colors and applied them over the card. Kay did an attractive multi-colored card:


And I tried for a batik effect:


I’ll be demonstrating the inks at Arizona Art Supply’s booth the Women’s Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center April 27 and 28, 2013.

Karen Elaine helped me learn how to do some paper marbling with the basic colors. I have some more work to do (mixing new colors), but I’m really pleased with the basic marbling which is super easy:


And works with more complicated combing patterns, too.


Even the second pick-up works well:


I made these on cardstock, but you can also make them on sized watercolor paper. You can use them as art journal backgrounds, or just write in the lighter areas. You can use Golden’s regular gel as a resist and then write on it with a sharpie. Lots of experimentation still to go, but I’m having a lot of fun with Splash Inks.

–Quinn McDonald has inky fingers again.

Disclaimer: I purchased the inks myself. I am receiving no compensation to blog about them.

Journal Page: Inventing an Alphabet

OK, I’m a writer, so I like different alphabets and codes. They also make great additions to a journal page. A new alphabet, a code–it’s a clever journaling piece that adds an easy design element through writing.

Could be someone cheering.

This morning on my walk, I saw interesting writing on the street. My mind went to an interesting story line–what if visitors from another planet came down and took notes on the street on what they saw and learned? What I saw on the street would be a kind of alien journal, written in code. That idea appealed to me, and I took some photos of the “writing.”

Looks like it could be a back-to-back letter.

That idea led to another one: why just use the regular alphabet in your journal? Why not add some new ones? New letter shapes, new designs are all around you. You can use alchemy symbols,  the Greek alphabet, numerical symbols.

A really interesting one is the Mormon Deseret alphabet (below). When you use shapes from an alphabet, you can invent what they mean to you–what the letter shapes are going to mean in your world. You can translate interesting letters into whole words if you like.


My favorite of the street was the one below–this is definitely the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything:

I made a journal page with a new alphabet. First I collaged various shades of white and cream on the page, then I used a brush and wrote quickly, without hesitation, inventing as I went along. And here is what the journal page looks like with a new alphabet:


And if you want to check out a few more different alphabets, this page should get you started.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, and artist who makes things up as she goes along.

Mind Over Chatter: On the Road to Minneapolis

Minneapolis has an incredible resource called the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. It teaches book structure, printing, marbling, and other book arts skills. And best of all, I’ll be there on the weekend of May 18 and 19, teaching Mind Over Chatter: Confronting Your Inner Critic Through Deep Writing and Mixed Media Journaling.  There is also a round-table discussion on Inner Critics on May 17 (Friday) evening.

Loose leaf journal page: gilded, dried leaves, double-exposure film photograph, on painted and stained watercolor paper.

Loose leaf journal page: gilded, dried leaves, double-exposure film photograph, on painted and stained watercolor paper.

What will the participants do in two days? Deep writing and art journaling–a combination I love teaching because of the incredible results that come from giving yourself time to write what you feel.

Art journaling is often more about art and less about journaling. But deep writing as an intuitive and creative tool transforms your art journals into rich explorations instead of a collection of completed pages. Come explore and experiment with both writing and art techniques and then combine both on loose leaf journal pages. Students will make “Monsoon Papers” — a surface design technique that requires giving up control with astonishing results — and a folio for completed pages.

There will be a good deal of experimentation, and because the pages are loose-leaf, they can be re-worked and then selected and sequenced in various orders with different results.

Folder for loose-leaf journal pages. Monsoon papers, stitched.

Folder for loose-leaf journal pages. Monsoon papers, stitched.

I don’t teach often in the Midwest, and I’m already looking forward to meeting book contributor T.J. Goerlitz, whose enthusiasm for the Center made the connection for me. What a find! (Both TJ and the Book Arts Center).

You can register on this page, scroll down as the workshops are listed by date, and May 18-19 is closer to the bottom than the top.

There is early-bird pricing and joining the Center will give you a break in the price as well.

I’m so excited about this class.Deep writing, Monsoon Papers and loose-leaf journal pages all in two days–explore your journey, art journaling, and discover yourself in deep writing. I hope to see you in May in Minneapolis!

Quinn McDonald will be doing a lot of traveling starting in May. There will be more announcements as the workshops develop.