Creative Link Hop (Feb. 14, ’15)

Normally, I post links to paintings, photography, or street art on Saturday. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and you may be writing cards, so here are some lovely people doing caligraphy and hand-lettering.

Joanne Sharpe is a delightful teacher of hand-lettering. She never runs out of ideas. You can see her demonstrating hand-lettering here:

And here is one of her colorful journal pages:

© Joanne Z Sharpe

© Joanne Z Sharpe

Joanne Fink also does wonderful lettering. Here’s a video of her using Koi (watercolor) pens, making it look easy:

Here’s a series of hearts in her loose, doodling style.

© Joanne Finnk

© Joanne Finnk

My friend, Michael Noyes, is an amazing calligrapher. He did my first logo:

Design by Michael Noyes

Design by Michael Noyes

And he does amazing work with images combined with calligraphy.


I love this quote he illustrated by Henry David Thoreau. And yes, he sells his work.

The late Lisa Engelbrecht made wonderful art and was a kind and inspiring teacher.

© Lisa Engelbrecht

© Lisa Engelbrecht

She called herself a Letterista, because much of her work was new, inventive and got her in trouble with traditional calligraphers.

Laurie Doctor is a calligrapher whose work is both powerful and gentle. She’s an inspiring teacher, too. She has a series, Another Night in the Ruins, a response to a poem by Galway Kinnell.

© Laurie Doctor

© Laurie Doctor

Above is Night Vigil, a combination of writing and figurative work. She will be coming to Madeline Island School of the Arts in September (2015), but she does many workshops each year.

Go have a wonderful weekend writing wonderfully.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves hand-lettering.

Sink Your Teeth into that Art Journal Page

One page was drying, another three were still not ready. So I went to the bathroom to free a piece of almond wedged between my teeth. Not a friend of floss, I use pieces of pointed wood to chase plaque.

Lines1These piece of wood come in groups that are stuck together. They are called Stimudent, and they have been around for many, many years.

The almond piece was successfully freed, and I looked at the row of wood sticks, pointed like. . .pen nibs. I had to find out if it would work.

Breaking off five of the ‘dents, I noticed they were a little shaky on their own. They needed to be stabilized on something a littler firmer. That would help me write with them, too.

Using masking tape, I taped them to a clothespin. A tongue depressor would have been a better idea, but I was out of them and Popsicles.


You can see the Stimudents on the left, upper side of the clothespin. Supporting most of the ‘dents helps them work more evenly.

Lines2This is what the pens looked like in working position. Because they are wood, the ink soaks into them quickly. You might want to spray them with a little water first. I used Dr. P.h. Martin’s Diamond Black ink, and soaked some ink up.

This will take some practice to get right, and I’m sharing the first pieces I made because I had to get back to the book. But since I can’t show you the book, I can at least share this fun with you.

Here’s the word “joy”

A. Joy

Yes, it’s a little shaky, but there is plenty of time to practice. It lacked color, so I tried the next one, “light” and colored in between the lines:

AlightThe color was done with Pitt pen brushes and works really well. The lines have to be drawn with a steady hand, but you get the idea. The idea works pretty well for making corner and edge designs, too.

Art supplies don’t have to be expensive, and you don’t need much more than curiosity and paper to try out new ideas.

Now I have to get back to the book.

-Quinn McDonald has to find time to wrap presents sometime in the next 24 hours, but she’s writing a book.

Book Review: True Nature by Barbara Bash

Day 11: Several people have noticed there dreams becoming more colorful and memorable. Have you noticed a change? Tomorrow we’ll talk about setting a ritual and intention for your journaling. What’s this sentence doing here?

*      *     *    *
Nature journals make me swoon with joy. I know they aren’t wildly popular, and I don’t care. I collect them, I make them, I love them. They capture the essence of life and time in one book. For me, it’s what art journaling is about.

Cover of True Nature by Barbara Bash

I also admire artists who create from the heart. Creating from the heart is the bravest work, because you have to trust yourself. Listen to your intuition. Choose with your soul. That’s a big risk. Particularly in a world of commerce and retail therapy, many artists feel pressure to make creative decisions through their bank account. “How much can I cut back and still have enough quality to sell well?” It’s a real question asked by many artists. It’s a realistic question to ask.

Loose wash drawing on pg. 45 in the "Summer" section

And then there are the artists who say, “I have a question in my heart that needs answering. That’s where I’ll be for the next while. Working. Making meaning.”

From the "Autumn" section. Bash asks, "Where does pressure come from?"

Barbara Bash has done both a nature journal and a work of the heart. She kept a nature journal for a year while doing a series of solitary, contemplative retreats. Her watercolors, pen and ink drawings and meditations are gathered in her book, True Nature. It’s a book of inspiration, of small, measured steps, of awe and wonder.

Bash's calligraphy, emphasizing her heart-felt questions of meditation.

It’s hand-written, with quotes and thoughts scattered throughout. Bash “enters the drawing world of endless time and curiosity” and, with meditation, “everything becomes worthy of study and affection.”

This gentle book would make a lovely gift for a meditator, an artist, a writer, or a naturalist. Almost everyone on your gift list. It’s a holding book, a page-turning book, not for the e-reader.  Oh, and don’t forget a copy for your bedside table.

Quinn McDonald is a naturalist and the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. The book is available on Quinn’s website with a code for free shipping. The code will expire in 10 days, so don’t wait.

Practice: Choose Fun, Not Tedium

I’m so glad I went to Journal Fest this year. Teesha Moore announced it would be the last one, and I’m glad I had the chance to take classes from people I admire.

One of the classes I took was from Lisa Engelbrecht, a talented, warm, and funny calligrapher. Any teacher just starts you up in class. Doing the real work–the steady practice–is up to each person.

Different letter styles that are fun to practice with.

Practice is generally considered boring, tedious, and annoying. I’ve thought all those things. I’d like to know everything I learn right away and perfectly right from the beginning. I’d also like to weigh 125 pounds, be able to wear 5-inch heels and dance the Samba. With Sean Penn. None of these are likely.

So I have to figure out how to practice. Making myself do something is possible, but it works better on laundry than on hand-lettering. Forcing doesn’t work well.

Here’s what worked: instead of starting with Gothic or Italic, I started with something I found appealing. (See Sean Penn, above). The practice process works the same way–look at the letter, see where the connections are, how tall the letters are in relationship to their width. I can do that for a fun style as well as for a tedious one.

Alchemy symbols are great for practice.

After several alphabets, I began to tire. So I switched to alchemy symbols. They are shapes, like letters, just a bit more complicated. More interesting. They added a lot to the page.

By working with fun styles and alchemy symbols, I’m getting the practice without the tedium.

Next, I used Spanish words. Any language will do, as long as you don’t speak it. When you look at your hand lettering, you not only criticize your ability, but the content, and how each word looks. That’s a lot to practice. Using another language helps you give up the content and practice on the lettering–which is the whole point.

Colored backgrounds help with size and scale practice.

Finally, I used fun backgrounds that I made first. It helps keep the interest going more than plain or lined white paper. Feels less like practice and more like fun.

A lot goes into practice–left brain repetition, steadiness, learning as you go. All important. But to keep your interest going, you also have to add right brain creativity, fun and judgment. (Yep, judgment is on the emotional right side of the brain).

Once you are having fun, you automatically begin to improve, because you relax and enjoy what you are doing. Try it, you’ll like it!

Quinn McDonald is slowly learning hand-lettering, she is becoming the pen, being the pen, being the ink. You’ll recognize Quinn anywhere–her fingers are smeared with inks.


Hand Lettering for Your Journals

Of course there is nothing wrong with your handwriting. In fact, if you know cursive, you may have a valuable and rare skill in a few years. Many schools aren’t teaching cursive anymore.

Lynn did the artwork on the shoes–and she’s adding purple laces, too.

But just like you don’t want to wear the same shoes everyday, you may want to switch up your handwriting–using a different stye adds a different vibe to your art journal. Lynn Trochelman is a hand-letterer after my own heart. (Those are her shoes over on the left). She is funny, easy, generous, and invited me over to get over my non-calligrapher status. She let me use her parallel pens and we explored different papers.

Finally, I settled on using a sheet of super shiny and polished cast coated stock. I tried my Copic markers and discovered the perfect combination–the Copic markers glided over the stock, creating interesting marks.

The lettering in Marci Donley’s and DeAnnSingh’s book, Hand-Lettering was tempting. There are a large variety of hand lettering exemplars in the book.

There are standard calligraphy hands, but there was also a set of letters made with plant stems. As a naturalist, I couldn’t resist trying it out.

A series makes a good border or page divider.

I warmed up by drawing the big blue agave we see around us in the desert. These are simply lines, drawn from the center of the plant to the top in a pulling motion, using the brush-end tip of the Copic marker.

Next, a few Palo Verde leaf stems–in pink and orange instead of green. They make nice corner decorations, or a substitute for a drop cap. Draw the center stem first. Then, using the brush tip of the Copic, turn the pen so the brush tip points away from you. Push down, rolling from the wide end to tip of the brush tip, in one smooth motion. You can see the ink is heavier at the tip than at the base. That’s what you want.

Now it was time to try out the letters. Each letter is formed by making smooth, swooping motions for part of the letter and making stems and leaves for the rest of the letter.

That’s just the beginning. Once you’ve worked with one color, you can add a flower top (now it look like an ocotillo), and some shading as well as some decorative marks around the letters.

Lynn suggested I try Pitt Pens to add yellow shading. Pitts won’t smear or blend with the Copic, so you get good color separation. For these leaves, I turned the pen so the point went down first, creating rounded-end leaves.

Finally, I worked the whole alphabet in a monochromatic scheme–blues, blue-grays, purples. Here is a sample:

I also used a fine-point Pitt pen to add a few lines, as the book had shown. I was pleased for the result, considering this was my first try. With some practice and repetition, I should be able to use these comfortably in my journal as well as on a handmade card.

Go ahead and try these–they are fun!

Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach, and raw-art journaler. Please join her for a webinar on October 20, 2011, hosted by her publisher, F+W Media. If you look at the right hand column, you’ll see the sign-up notice. It’s free, but you do have to reserve a space. Details when you click on the announcement. Or here.

Repurposing the Scrap Book

After using the scrap book I made (from scrap paper and corrugated cardboard) as a calligraphy practice book, I realized that it wasn’t the right use for the book. The paper was too dark for subtle inks to show. The paper was also soft, and wasn’t right for pointed pens, fountain pens, or anything else except markers.

Time to re-purpose the scrap book. It seemed OK for a nature journal. Before you laugh, we have more than one kind of weather in Phoenix. We do have four seasons–often very subtle changes. The times of the seasons are different than the East Coast, and how people react is different.

The scrap book is converted to a nature journal by adding leaves, petals and a feather on the front page. The initial postcards is from A, B, Seas.

For example, in February in New England, if the dog wants out, you crack open the door and encourage the dog to get out. You may keep an eye on the dog to make sure it’s not too cold for him. The equivalent happens here in July. You let the dog out, but keep an eye on him. The heat can overwhelm a dog in a few minutes.

The nature journal I have in mind is not an exact scientific study piece. I’m less interested in subtleties in barometric pressure. I’m very interested in knowing when the temperature at night will drop below 80 degrees F. Once the night time temperature drops, even 100-degree temperatures in the day won’t be so bad.

It's OK not to be serious, even in a nature journal.

Once the humidity ebbs, the temperatures are not so serious. But I don’t know when that will happen. I don’t remember from last year. So using a heat map and decorating it in hot, fluorescent colors seemed like a good way to cover some of the previous exercises on this page.

Red beet paper makes a bright contrast to the dull grayish-brown scrap book journal.

To cover the last of the calligraphy marks, I wanted to use something bright, but natural. When I cooked the beets for the beet and chocolate cake, I used some of the beet puree to dye some washi paper. I glued the paper into the book, although I don’t know what I’ll put on that page yet. I covered some of the other pages in a woven map, gesso and paint and newspaper clippings. It’s casual, but so is the whole scrap journal. I think this is a better use for the book.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach. She engages in creative projects not just because she loves to, but because it is important in knowing what her creative clients experience.

Hand Lettering–DevelopYour Own

Hand-lettering is a personal way to use writing other than your regular handwriting to create design on a page. You don’t have to be a calligrapher to create hand lettering. The key is practice, and willingness to try something new.

Practice letters, leads to development.

Here’s one I tried recently: a scribble letter. Each side of the letter has three lines. They are unevenly spaced and not the same length. I like the random, impermanent look.

The straight-sided letters are easier than the rounded letters. I’m not satisfied with the B, S, C, and G yet. But that’s fine. That’s what practice is for. I’m trying a few techniques to develop those letters–writing faster, writing slower, going in between the first and second lines.

After I developed the alphabet and practiced a bit, I wrote down a sentence I thought of a few weeks ago.

When I had it written down, I filled in some of the spaces between the line with a Spica marker. I like the result. I find the saying matches the stark, uneven lines. The reality of the tough answer works with the rough lines.

Try your own ideas in hand lettering. It doesn’t have to be copperplate or italic, it can be what you want to do.

Note: I purchased the turquoise Spica pen used in this illustration.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. The book is about art journaling for those who don’t know how to draw. I wrote the book because everyone who longs to be creative is enough. Has enough.

Theme Thursday: 7/16/09

Here’s how it works: you pick a topic you know something about and share three links on your blog about that topic. Or you can leave a comment with a good link.

My theme is creative play. You’ll find links to prior Theme Thursdays at the bottom of this post.

If you love typefaces and the subtleties of serifs and sans-serifs, visit the periodic table of typefaces. Nicely designed, too.

Some wonderful, imaginative and different calligraphy on Calligraphia, an Australian site. Look through the site for your own discoveries.

Ready to try something new? Watch this fast-paced, but well-organized video on gelatin print-making and you’ll be running out to buy gelatin and make your own prints.

Less really is more. Here’s why paring down is better than bulking up.

Don’t miss BlueRoofDesigns great article on stick painting with Andie Thrams. “The longer the stick, the grander the gesture.”


Prior Theme Thursdays:

Creative Play 7/2/09 * * *  Creative Play 6/25/09 * * *    Creative Play 6/18/09 ***   Creative Play 6/11/09 ***   Creative Play 6/4/09 *** CreativePlay 5/21/09 ***   Creative Play 5/14/09, ***     Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Writing and Calligraphy: Related

There is something elegant and deeply artistic about calligraphy. It’s a demanding art–patience, practice, an eye for detail–are all part of learning to be a good calligrapher.

I’ve always wanted to be a calligrapher, but it’s been daunting to me. In my first calligraphy class the instructor told me that I was already too old–that there were not enough years left in my life to practice enough to become really good. I felt crushed. And old.

The second time around, Laurie Doctor, the calligrapher and writer, encouraged me to do anything that engages my interest.Because enjoying art is the beginning of learning art.

Sherri Kiesel's Pressure-release Roman Capitals

Sherri Kiesel's Pressure-release Roman Capitals

Yesterday, Anne Law taught a class at the Arizona Calligraphy Society. It always surprises me how warmly they welcome me, knowing I am a writer and not a calligrapher. Anne had a folder for everyone, and the folder contained everything you needed for the class–practice

and R.B. Rives paper, two special pencils, frosted mylar, and a nametag done in the technique we were going to learn.

The technique, “pressure and release Roman Capitals” is one that Anne learned from Sherri Kiesel. Sherri’s example is shown on the left, above.

The pressure and release technique adds depth. The contemporary look is sleek and nuanced.

The technique Anne Law taught is far more than lettering. First, we used suminagashi marbeling on the heavy R. B. Rives paper. Sumi-e ink is used in this simple technique.

The writing could be done on the mylar, with bright pastel stencils applied on the Rives paper. When the mylar is attached to the paper, you get a layered look of nuanced color and delicate, yet powerful writing.

Some of us decided to work first on the paper. Anne demonstrated the formal technique, then several changes that made the writing dance across the page.

The class participants were generous in letting me take a look at their samples. They were incredible, delicate and easy. My own effort showed all the beginners effort–big letters, slightly wobbly, not quite lined up. I can’t make the letters small because the technique–pressure, release, pressure–requires space for me to master. My letters had a slightly

My first try and pressure-release

My first try and pressure-release

Hebrew look to them, because the pressure also varied the thickness.

Why was I pleased with my result? Because I did not expect perfection. I expected the suminagashi to be provide a beautiful background–which it did, and the stencil work to add a different element, whic is also did. My work that showed effort, and an improvement over my first effort. And that happened. Practice will make it better. That made the class successful for me.

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches business communication and personal journaling.

Visit my other website: Raw Art Journaling.

I’m Still Not a Calligrapher, But I Can Write

Today was the second day of the class in Scottsdale taught by Laurie Doctor.  (Read about the first day.) When you work in her class, time drops away. You go to places you’ve never been before, and you go with curiosity, not fear.

I’m not a calligrapher. I actually don’t want to be, simply because I don’t have the give of endless patience and the sharp, demanding precision that the art demands.  Having been born with the gift of words instead of letters, I’ve always itched for something more. I thought that was calligraphy, but after three classes, I knew I didn’t have the gift. My teachers knew it, too. One of them told me over and over that calligraphy takes more practice than I had time left in my life. While I was saddened, I knew the instructor was right.

Blind contour writing, written upside down

Blind contour writing, written upside down

The class this weekend was the approach I was hoping for. It was about seeing, about careful watching, about that journey to the interior we take, where the self skids, straightens out and moves deeper into the journey.

The class allowed for curiosity and experimentation. My favorite kind of class. We did many exercises, but two were especially useful and creative for my kind of art, and both of them enormously satisfying.

In one, we received an example of incredible calligraphy. We were to look at it carefully, note the turns and grace. To make this easier, the example was in another language, and we looked at it upside down. We then copied phrases from it without looking at the paper we were working on (blind contour writing.) All we did was look at the writing. It sharpens observation and lets you let go of judgment.

The second exercise was to use what we learned from this alphabet and write down an English poem. But this time we wrote it in white ink on black paper. The contrast made a visual imprint, rather than a line of calligraphy. I could let go of the fact that I’m not a calligrapher and deal with beautiful language in an experimental style of writing. The result was not calligraphy, but a wonderful flow of language in a

Writing fragment, Antonio Machado poem

Writing fragment, Antonio Machado poem

powerful expression of positive and negative space.

I no longer have to be a calligrapher, because I can make my words take on meaning in many ways–through color, weight, height and strength.

It was a journey that allowed for not knowing and knowing, for writing and feeling, for giving the words a form and shape that gives them meaning and strength. It is a powerful art that leads through many open doors.

–Quinn McDonald is the owner of QuinnCreative. She is a writer and creativity coach. She teaches workshops in business communication and ideaglyphs–journal writing using personal symbols, dreams, and the power of the imagination.