Saturday Creative Do It!

Every Saturday for a while, you’ve seen artists and their interesting work here. This week, it might be interesting if you wrapped yourself in some creative work yourself. Not sure of what you want to do? Here are some suggestions;

Lili's great paste paper design.

Lili’s great paste paper design.

1. Try paste paper. A lot of fun for very little money. Use your fingers, you don’t need to buy anything to have fun with making marks. Lili’s Bookbinding Blog has a great tutorial. Lili also marbles paper in the traditional way. Don’t miss the eye candy surface decoration.

2. Have fun with acetate. Mel shows you how to emboss inexpensive acetate and make a 3-D flower with only one layer of acetate.

3. DIY: pumpkin with book pages. Couldn’t be easier if you want to scare kids out of reading. No, no, just kidding. I’d love to see that pumpkin done in torn-up maps, too.

4. Make a book the old-fashioned, real-book-bookbinding way. Worth a look, but not a project you are going to whip out in a day or so.

Have a creative weekend!

–Quinn McDonald is having her own fun in the studio this weekend. It involves Quinacricone Azo Gold.



Meaning-Making Like the Little Red Hen

Making Meaning through your creative work takes courage.
It’s an intensely private work, which in our culture is always slightly suspect. When you see the serial killer being led away from the crime scene, you always hear, “He kept to himself,” or “He was a loner,” as if those things are somehow intrinsically bad and wrong. Yet that’s where a lot of creative work is done–by yourself. Alone.

One person's chicken is another's Little Red Hen

Making Meaning starts from scratch.
Sure, you may have played with kits. And you may well be using many leftovers from various kits to make your own stuff. But you are working with your idea. You aren’t assembling anything, and you aren’t using directions supplied with a kit. You are moving into uncharted territory, and you are alone. And you love it.

Making Meaning means you write the rules.
The way you make meaning is your way. Not your neighbor’s, not the rich and successful writer, musician, dancer, or gardener you admire. You get to fail, try again, and then succeed. And that trip is what makes it so very satisfying. Because it involves creative play, messing up, and fixing it all by yourself. Making meaning brings satisfaction because it involves triumph over obstacles. The major obstacle is often your own thinking.

Making Meaning is not a consumer activity.
You can buy a kit and make something, but it doesn’t make meaning. You can buy paint-by-numbers, scrapbooking kits and cards, you can complete step-by-step wire-wrapping jewelry and wind up with a product without one scrap of meaning making. You may feel empty after such an activity, even if you have completed a gift-quality product.

Making Meaning is a Little Red Hen project.
You remember the story of the Little Red Hen. Her friends–the cat, dog, mouse, chick (it varies from story to story) don’t help her plant the wheat, cut the wheat, take it to the mill, or bake the bread. But they all show up to eat the bread. And after all that work, she doesn’t share the bread. She eats it by herself. Is she selfish? No, in this story the other animals aren’t starving, they are hoping to share in her success without having done the work. The Little Red Hen has made meaning in the bread and is eating the joy of her work.

Making Meaning is a goal in itself.
You’ve written a book? That made meaning. Publishing it is another story. The joy you feel in writing is the success. Publishing is an administrative task that will make you feel proud, inadequate, fill you with “shoulds” and bring out detractors, admirers, and hangers-on. That’s a step beyond making meaning. Making meaning is a journey.   It can have many goals that don’t make meaning. Make sure you notice when meaning-making stops, you don’t want to confuse the journey with reaching a destination.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She is believer in doing it yourself–from the work to the meaning.

DIY: Brush Cleaner

If you use brushes in art journaling, you probably hold them in your mouth, your other hand, or put them in a container filled with water. (ARGHH! SO bad for the brush!)  If you’ve painted a lot of pages you have also pulled over the container you use to rinse your brushes because you are using a yogurt container and forget there is water in it. Yogurt containers also tip over easily when you put a long-handled brush into them.

Conveniently empty container, waiting to be recycled.

There’s an easier way. I happen to have  an empty finished eating the dark chocolate ginger pieces from Trader Joe’s and loved the squat, clear container. I can see if there is water in it and how dirty it is from the paint.

Two Vs are marked. Cut 4 in total: 2 on one side, 2 on the opposite side.

Using a sharpie, I marked two Vs into one side. That shape is easy to cut, and it will hold any size brush snugly.

Using a sharp pair of scissors (not your best sewing scissors) or a pair of plant pruners, cut the Vs out of one side, then cut them out of the opposite side. I cut one side slightly smaller than the other.

Your brushes are handy, and don't get damaged from sitting in water.

Place your brushes in the Vs. You can see that by cutting one side smaller than the other, The brushes point down slightly. This keeps the water from running into the ferrule and rotting the end of the brush near the shaft.

You do have to be careful to pick the brushes UP, not grab them and drag them across the top. The shape of the container is sturdy, you can see when you need to change the water, and you’ve kept one plastic container out of the landfill! If you put the lid under the container, you also catch stray drips and keep your desktop dry.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach and artist. She is teaching at Art Unraveled in Phoenix in August, 2010.

Tips and Shortcuts for an Easier Life

Some tips to make your life easier:

1. If you are starting a do-it yourself project that involves taking something apart–anything from freeing a paper jam in your printer to taking the toilet apart–take snapshots at each step. If you use your phone camera, you can easily click through the sequence to put it back together in the right order and you won’t have pieces left over.

Before you take it apart, photograph it

Before you take it apart, photograph it

2.  If your checks have duplicates and you are forever losing the separator, simply write the checks from the back to the front of the checkbook. You won’t need a separator, and it doesn’t matter how the numbers run, as long as they are in order.

3.  Flattening chicken or pork reduces cooking time and makes it really tender; but I hate those hammer-like implements that also give meat a weird, felt-like texture. Put the meat in a big ziplock bag and pound it with a heavy bottle, like a wine bottle. Works just fine, and a lot less mess.

4. If you love onions, but they don’t love you, use leeks instead. Cheap, but with a wonderfully mild onion flavor, they work in soups and as a side dish. Cut them length-wise to wash the sand out of them.

5. Wear a lot of wash-and-wear black? Hate the way it fades? Pour a quarter cup of vinegar into the washing machine to set the color. Do it the first three times and the outfit will stay dark for much longer.

6. And while you have the vinegar out, pour a cupful into your coffee carafe, fill it up with water and pour it into your coffee machine. Turn on the machine. Follow with a rinse of plain water. Your coffee will taste a lot better.

7. Like the tube-size facial cleanser and shampoo in the shower, but the cheaper size comes in a big bottle? When the tube is almost empty, take off the lid, squeeze the air out of the tube, then press the mouth of the tube to the mouth of the bottle, which you have turned upside down over the tube. Release the pressure on the tube and it will suck out the contents of the bottle, neatly re-filling itself.

Have fun–add your own favorite tip in a comment.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at and

Another Idea About Slow Art

Slow Art: (noun) the visible or auditory result of creativity; the original work of art created by a person without assembling kits through instructions. Kit parts or kits assembled in a way not originally intended (the kind of re-assembly that violates warranties) count as slow art. Used first by Quinn McDonald, who took the idea of Slow Food (the opposite of fast food, and meant to apply to food grown locally, cooked in simple ways that are both nourishing and enjoyable) into the creative world of the imagination.

I’ve written about the value of slow art before. More than once. The idea has moved beyond art and into general creativity. Inspired by Do-It-Yourself channels, the imagination has taken creativity into the most interesting corners.

Perhaps the digital world is not as satisfying as we hoped. In the 1960s, visions of the future included lives with computers that did all the work, while people enjoyed far more leisure. But we don’t have leisure anymore. The 40-hour work week is non-existent; we stay at the office longer and longer to prove our “passion” for our work. When we leave, we beg to have our lives interrupted via phones, beepers, Blackberries, and computer cameras. We love being available at work.

And a certain contingent is rebelling against the organization that everything is virtual. The artists who delight in Slow Art want independence from digital compliance. So they hack and mock their way into a new world of creativity. defines itself as the “world’s biggest show and tell.” You can learn how to draw (analog or digital), bake bread, get a tree planted on your block in San Francisco, or create a spill-proof tray for your Honda Odyssey. This is original work by people who want to let others know an easier, better, or more interesting way to live their life.

If you are a bit geekier, you can go over to, which will show you how to make a Minthesizer– is a low voltage, low power, analog synthesizer. If you are a low-level geek, there is an article for a foolproof way to open a bottle of wine. My favorite is the crossover from PDA to altered art–a hardback book turned into a “laptop PDA” by a combination of art and hack.

Hackzine reclaims the word hacker for the good guys by bringing the technorati together in the blogosphere to improve technological devices. Sure you can run Linnux apps in Windows, but I’m really interested in drawing holograms by hand.

My mood is lifting. Art and the imagination are not dead. It’s simply moved into the streets as a pick-up game of mental play, where mixed media gets a whole new meaning and anything original can be improved on. It’s a wonderful next step into the magical realm of Slow Art where originality counts more than price, and sharing information is part of the joy.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and artist who values Slow Art. See her work at