Go With the Flow–Literally

Flow is a magazine I never heard of, and now that I’ve read one, I can’t stop loving it. Halfway through, I realized it was created in the Netherlands, but it is in English and is filled with ideas, stories, articles, photography, sketches, and poems. It is also printed on different kinds of paper, which brings joy to those who love the feel and touch of paper.

The magazine is divided into two content sections: “Feel Connected,” and “Live Mindfully.” The Connected section includes an article in which a designer, celebrity chef, and illustrator are interviewed about current projects and how they fell in love with their work.

There is a full-length article on Julia Cameron and what she is doing today. It’s not a puff-piece (which it could be, considering she’s the author of The Artist’s Way), but a harder look at how Cameron got her start as a writer (Washington Post and Rolling Stone, plus a lot of drinking and drug-taking) and how she grew into the creativity unblocker she is today, 40 books later.

“Meanwhile in New Zealand” is an article about an unconventional couple who live in a wilderness home and are content. (Not a minor thing in today’s world.)

On the Mindfulness side, there is an article about emotional confidence. Not an easy read, but an important one.

The complimentary journal tipped into the magazine is a big plus. And the tip paper used to hold it in place can be recycled in collage.

My favorite article was on my favorite topic–drawing in your journal when you don’t know how to draw.

I caught a fair amount of criticism in both my books on that topic because I am not an illustrator and dared to write about creative expression.

This article is real encouragement about the benefits of private art to capture memories. One of the ideas is that photography lessens our memory retention and blurs details. Drawing, even if we are not illustrators, helps memory recall of details that happened around the time of the drawing.

In this issue, there is a tip in–of a journal. Yep, a five-inch by eight-inch journal with  sturdy, white, unlined paper. And the paper used as the carrier (with removable glue) can be used in collage or card-making. The entire magazine can be recycled, cut up, used over again or kept and well-loved.

The issue shown is one of six published a year.  The Flow website has a subscription rate on it, or you can get it through Amazon. I received a copy of the magazine as a gift from a family member; I received no payment or incentive to write this article.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She is also a creativity instigator.

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White Pens and Graphite Review

 Sakura Gelly pens have been popular for a long time (they were invented in 1984), but it was not until about five years ago that the quality of the white pens were reliable. The earlier white pens blobbed and wrote unevenly, particularly if you tried to write fast or stored them standing upright. No more. These pens are wonderful.

The paper is a firm-surface black sheet with a hint of shimmer in it. As a result, it doesn’t show up as deep black in the photos. You can see the difference in the pen widths.

My most recent discovery was the 3-pack of fine, medium, and broad-writing white pens that look crisp and snowy on black paper. The pens come in 0.5mm, 0.8mm, and 1.0mm and write easily and smoothly. No blogs, no skips. Changing widths helps you create emphasis and details at will.

At $8.74 for the pack of three (prices may vary), the price is well worth the quality of the pens.

My next discovery was the white graphite by ArtGraf. The piece is the size of tailor’s chalk, about 02.25 inches square. ArtGraf has already made many graphite products–sticks, kneadable graphite, graphite powder, and other colors of graphite (red, blue, yellow) as well as metallics. The white is new. And quite wonderful.

You can write with the edge of the square, scribble, or, (sigh!) use a wet brush and write or draw with it. It dries either opaque or translucent, depending on how much water you carry on the brush.

The graphite is true white. In the photo, it shows as blue, which is another trick of the lighting and my camera. But it has not a bit of blue in it when used, it’s a beautiful, rich white.

Interestingly enough, it also works on alcohol ink drawings . . .for a while. Below, you can see a fresh application of three faux letters looking rich and thick. Which it is. I used a generous amount of graphite and loaded the brush with water. (This is an experimental sheet, so there is writing with various black markers on it as well.)

Ten minutes later, when the water evaporated, most of the graphite vanished along with the water.

You can still see the writing, but it is so faded that I put a yellow arrow on the demo piece so you can see it.

If you want to write on alcohol ink art, your best bet are markers like Micron, Pitt Pens (Faber Castell), or, yes, the white Sakura Gelly Roll pens. If the ink is totally dry, the white stays crisp and bright. If the alcohol ink is less than 24 hours old, a tiny bit of the color leaches into the white gel pen, softening the color. Experimentation is worth the work.

I purchased these products myself. No one paid me to give an opinion.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who enjoys creative self-expression.

Ballpoint for Travel and Office

Maybe you don’t care what you write with–anything at all will do. Chewed wood pencil, give-away ballpoint. If you aren’t fussy, you probably always have a pen with you. I’m fussy.  Fountain pen? Perfect for note-taking and some sketching, but not always good on airplanes. (Yes, I have a ballpoint with a valve for air travel.)

Ballpoint? Reliable and easy. Except I’m not a gel pen fan, want a fine point that doesn’t skid across the page, can cross-hatch without creating a mess, and doesn’t glob and smear.

What I was looking for (this time; I am a pen hoarder collector.) What I really wanted was one pen that worked in the office, and can be tossed in my bag and travel with me. It needs to be light, dependable, easy to use and have refills. Because I am a collector, it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing and feel good while writing.

On Jetpens (an addictive site I will choose over Pinterest any day), I found a Midori ballpoint.

It has a brass cover, a stainless steel end that allows you to post the top of the pen, and a place for a keyring or a lanyard, if you like to wear your pen.

On the aesthetic side, the pen itself is wood, which will darken with age. It’s small, but light, which makes it comfortable to write with. And yes, it is refillable. The refill comes in fine (only, so far) and in black (only, so far.)

The clip holds it in my Travelers Notebook, so it doesn’t get lost in my bag, and the quality of both the pen and the ink is wonderful. No smearing, no globbing.

It’s an inexpensive pen ($19.90) with an inexpensive refill ($1.60). How does it write?

It puts down a smooth, even line and can be used for cross-hatching and tiny lettering. It’s a crisp ink and holds up well. You can see the sample that shows other pens and a pencil for comparison.

Are you a Travelers’ Notebook fan? So are millions of others. I’ll write about that in a separate post.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, writing program developer, and creativity coach

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.

 

The DVDs Are Here!

monsoon2Last March, I filmed two DVDs to go with my books. One of the DVDs shows how to make Monsoon Papers, and the other shows several different projects that show how to store and carry your unbound journal pages.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors, the mixed-media magazine covered a Monsoon Paper project in their online magazine. It ran last week while I was in Houston teaching business writing, and I was surprised to see the link in my mailbox as I headed off to class. It took all my strength not to tell the participants to check out the DVD!

Here’s a preview:

You can purchase the Monsoon Paper  DVD here.

T3492You can see a preview of the projects in the second DVD, Art Journals Unbound on the Cloth, Paper, Scissors website. And you can purchase the Art Journals Unbound DVD here.

I am not super willing to be photographed, much less video’d, but I knew that it would be good to support the book. And to bring projects to people who can’t come to classes. It took a lot of discussing the project with my inner hero to get me to decide to do these projects. But one of my most vibrant inner heroes, The Risk Taker, finally broke down my barriers. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who encourages others to take ambitious steps for creativity’s sake. She could hardly do less.

 

Art Supplies Worth Having

Super-specialized art supplies are fun and can ease the tedious part of creative work. What makes special supplies most useful is combining them with the basics you love and use every day.

Here are my four new favorites for everyday journaling use.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Open notebook showing yellow first page (others are white) and pocket insert that does NOT come with the notebook.

Notebook: Mnemosyne 183. Unlined, 70 sheets (140 pages). Now that I’ve abandoned six journals for one–the Commonplace Journal, I needed something practical. So it has to:

  • fit in a purse (or carry-on)
  • fold over on itself
  • have paper that’s thick enough for sketching and writing
  • have paper that doesn’t have severe show-through
  • have pages that can be removed (and leave as a note for someone)

I’ve loved the Strathmore Mixed-Media journal, but the wire binding is just too bulky, and the paper seemed a waste for client notes, which go into the Commonplace Journal most.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Showing double-truck spread of Maruman Mnemosyne notebook. Right page has been deliberately blurred.

Maruman is a Japanese company that makes notebooks for writers. Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of memory. The notebooks are made with meticulous care. For example, the small-diameter wire binding is “short”–doesn’t go to the very top or bottom of the page. So you can easily hold the gutter side of the page when you tear out the perf’d page cleanly.

I got the notebook at JetPens, which has a huge variety of sizes, lined- graphed- and blank notebooks. Here’s what they say:

The way a paper interacts with a specific ink is as unique as a snowflake. Fountain pen users will prefer paper that produces the perfect inkblot levels, paper that absorbs too much ink would not be good. On the other hand, a ballpoint pen user might seek a paper that allows their pen to guide more smoothly across the page. Japanese paper manufacturers pay attention to these preferences by tweaking numerical values ever so slightly during the manufacturing process to create the perfect page for their customers.

Very little show-through on this book.

Very little show-through on this book.

It’s true–the pages are thin, and have an almost smooth, fabric feel to them. It has a black plastic front cover, and a chipboard back cover, which makes writing easy, even when folded over to save space.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Pack of 5 x 8 inch Post-It Pockets. A must-have for every journal-keeper.

Post-It Pockets. There are items I like to carry in my Commonplace Journal–the gift certificate to an art store, the business card I just got, a postcard (with stamp) to send to someone on the spur of the moment, the names and phone numbers of doctors and emergency contacts.

These plastic pockets work like Post-It Notes--they attach to the inside front cover of your notebook and peel off when you need to move it. A flap is held shut with velcro, so you have easy access to the contents.  These fit in a 5 x 8-inch notebook perfectly, and they do come in different sizes.

Pentel Hybrid Technica ballpoint, extra fine (size 04). I’m not a gel pen fan. I like Pentelpen1ballpoints. And this gel pen is perfect is you like extra fine pens. It’s crisp, black script is perfect for detail. It does what most gel pens don’t–it dries as soon as it’s on the page.

It’s a great sketching pen, too. Smooth, even, no blurring when you cross-hatch. Archival, acid free. Writes when you touch it to paper, so no “scribble start” with this pen.  If you draw and write in your journal, take sketchnotes, or doodle, (and like a superfine pen), this is perfect.

Drawing in a 9 x 12-inch wire-bound notebook is a nice way to create and keep your pieces the same size and together. It’s also hard, because you work consecutively, but not emotionally sequentially.

notebook1You also have to put the book aside to dry if you are doing something messy and wet. Patience is not always my strong suit.

Canson has solved your problem–they make a wireboound book with repositionable pages. (The link takes you to Dick Blick art supply.)

You carefully peel out a page, top to bottom, and let it dry or decide where you want to put it. Then you put it back in, carefully “clicking” the pages back into place.

Notebook2It works along the same lines as Circa, which uses removable disks to hold notebooks together.

This makes the book doubly useful. You can arrange the pages by date, media, technique, color, emotional content. You can rearrange them to your heart’s content, as long as you are careful.

Note: I paid for each of these products. I am not being compensated in any way by any company for the content of this blog.

Warning: Rollabind also makes those disks, but I can’t recommend them after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

Quinn McDonald loves basic art and writing tools.

 

 

 

Tip: Use Highlighter tape

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Sure, you can use it in your art journal, or your plain journal, but highlighter tape is saving the training side of my business this week.

Earlier this week, I was teaching a business writing class. There were students of different levels, and more material in the book than I could cover sensibly. On Day2 of the class, I had to choose what had to be covered, what could be covered if I had enough time, and what I could skip.

The instructor’s manual is heavily written in, and one more insert or note was going to get lost. How to make the material sound smooth and well prepared? Highlighter tape to the rescue.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that's not the workbook, it's a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that’s not the workbook, it’s a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

I purchased the tape from The Container Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. It comes in a small square case containing three transparent colors–green, yellow, orange, so I can color coordinate– green for items I must cover, yellow for items I can mention if I have time, but can also skip if a discussion or exercise runs long, and red for portions that can be skipped entirely if time doesn’t allow for a closer look.

The tape sticks to a page, but can be lifted off cleanly, without a residue. It’s as wide as a line of type, so I can pinpoint material. Each tiny roll has a cutter in the box, so I can tear off as much as I need.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

It’s brightly fluorescent so I can find it easily. It doesn’t damage coated or uncoated pages and won’t peel off color or ink. It’s a great tool. All I have to do is make sure I peel off all the evidence before I return the instructor’s manual.

The tape has no manufacturer’s name on it, other than highlighter tape, and the item number 128.

I recommend it highly for other uses as well–cookbooks, sewing/knitting/crocheting patterns, weaving instructions, sheet music (to mark your part), library reference books, as well as design elements on cards and gift wrap.

If you want to use it in art journaling, I’d suggest putting it down, rubbing it with a bone folder, then covering it with matte medium, so it doesn’t curl up over time.

The tape was an impulse purchase, but every time I use it, I save time. When you don’t know how many questions are going to be asked, it’s also great for speeches that have a time limit.

–Quinn McDonald is an instructor who always wants to add just one more idea. Sometimes that impulse needs to be stopped.