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.

Saturday Creative Roll

Giveaway: The three people who won Dina’s book from the March 27 blog post are Shannon Ganshorn, Annettte Geistfeld, and Ann M. Philli. Congratulations to all of you!

6a00d8341c766153ef017ee9cbb131970d-500wiJulie Fei-Fan Balzer is a multi-talented multi-media artist. I love her lettering and the design of her journal pages. I never draw faces–not in my journal, not in anything. So it’s time I gave you a link to someone who does.  Sharon Evans is doing a guest post about faces. The whole idea is interesting, 29 days of face drawing, on Ayala’s blog post. Whew, three amazing artists in one paragraph.  A good beginning, for sure.

Joanne Sharpe is a Journal Artist and knows how to produce a huge variety of lettering. Here’s some eye candy of Joanne’s lettering on Pinterest. And here is Joanne’s blog.

Donna Downey fills journal pages with bright, easy colors. Her busy website has a great inspirational blog and video to enjoy.

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

Pocket magnifier as art, the joy of an MP3 player

One of my favorite art journaling blogs is John a-Lookin’ Around. John P. is an engineer who lives in Kansas, and he doesn’t post as often as he used to, but the archives are just sitting there, waiting to be drooled over. I love his elegantly simple page design.

Have a great creative Saturday!

Quinn McDonald just got a delivery from JetPens. She also has to do her taxes. This is harder than she thought.

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.

Saturday Hop

Take a walk to clear your mind this weekend, then do some wicked good creative work!

It’s been a busy week. Time for creativity and comfort.

Want to do some hand-lettering? Some ideas, a book suggestion, and a hand-designed sneaker by my friend Lynn.

Tired of all those layer-on-layer journal pages? Keep it simple with these easy no-background journal pages.

Journal getting too fat? Two ways to help your journal lose extra pages.

Diana Adams has an interesting collection of photography through a microscope. Don’t miss the fly with a mohawk!

Have a fun weekend!

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and art journaler.

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.