Mixed and Stitched: A Giveaway

Time for a giveaway! This time it is Jen Osborn’s wonderful book, Mixed and Stitched: Fabric Inspiration and How-to’s for the Mixed Media Artist.

mixed___stitched1You have to love a book that starts with a whole chapter on forgetting the rules. It starts with tips for the beginner on setting up your space, fabric, stove-top dying, and using bleach to remove color (but not all the way) from fabric.

Information on stitching is covered in the next section–from sewing machine to sketching with stitches to embroidery and faux felting.

If you aren’t excited by now, consider the projects done by painting on fabric–an inspiration board, a sketchbook, bunting, trinket box, and jelly picnic blanket. There are a lot more projects, too.

It’s published by North Light (who is the publisher of two of my books, too), so

"Out and About Purse"  © Jen Osborn

“Out and About Purse” © Jen Osborn

there are plenty of how-to photographs, tips, templates and an inspiration gallery.

Whether you love machine stitching or hand stitching, embroidery or just love fabric, this is a wonderful book to keep you busy and inspired.

Leave a comment if you want to win the book. I’ll choose a winner and announce it on Saturday, July 5th. Check in then to see if you’ve won!

Note: I purchased the book and an giving it away to make someone happy.

-Quinn McDonald can’t sew, but loves playing with fabric.


Creative Hop: May 3, 2014

Federico Uribe creates color-pencil art. Sure, he might use the color pencils to put down color, but mostly, he uses the whole pencil as part of the artwork. Uribe, a Miami-based artist, uses found objects in his sculptures and his artwork, integrating them so carefully, they look as if they belonged exactly where he put them. Because they do.

uribemixed3Uribe says that using found objects is like interpreting the shape of clouds. He says that each object is like a word, providing context as well as content.

In the top artwork, you’ll see the background is a long line of yellow #2 pencils.

*    *     *     *   *   *

Andy Ellison is an MRI technician. He takes scans of people’s brains to earn a living. One day, in order to check the settings on the machine, he scanned an orange. He was amazed at the detail, the shape, and the movement.  It’s the movement that mesmerized me. Below is an artichoke, and it doesn’t move. Click on the link below to see the magical moving scans.

MRI of artichoke by Andy Ellison.

MRI of artichoke by Andy Ellison.

In Ellison’s blog, Inside Insides, he has a series of animations that seem to grow, shrink, multiply. Art and nature makes a great combination.

*   *   *   *

Ron Isaacs delicate vintage clothing is certainly art. It gets more amazing when you realize it’s not fabric, it’s wood. Finnish birch plywood, to be exact.

isaacs-2Isaacs sees his work as a combination of painting and sculpture. Of his subjects, he says, “My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. ”

Have a creative weekend!

—Quinn McDonald is constantly amazed at the creativity of people who make art.


Saturday Creative Stroll 3.22.14

Bricks are tough and have a lot of right angles. We think of them as ship ballast, East Coast buildings (from the ship ballast), and severe schools. Brad Spencer thinks of them as sculpting material.

spencersculptureAnd all of his sculptures are sinuous, rounded and three-dimensional in a way that makes your eyes blink. He starts with unfired clay, sculpts the brick sculpture in pieces and then assembles in it place on the day of an exhibit. Time, brick, and perceived movement–imagination at play.

Jane Perkins is a multi-media artist. That’s just the beginning. Perkins re-creates well known artworks in found objects–beads, plastic figures,

Most-Iconic-Nat-Geo2This is the iconic National Geographic photograph that Steve McCurry took of a young Afghan woman.

famous-portraits-recreated-from-recycled-materials-and-found-objects-by-jane-perkins-4And this is the artwork that Jane Perkins made, using the photograph as inspiration. You can see more on Perkins’ website, including the girl with the pearl earring and Albert Einstein.

The Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition created some extraordinary photos of things we see every day. Sometimes they are made very big, sometimes just noticed.

2013-3-siwanowicz-desmids-mandalaA single-cell algae, called desmids. Image by Igor Siwanowicz.

2013-4-walker-lily-bud-large-fileAnd this is a cross-section of a lilly bud by Spike Walker.

Have a wonderful weekend seeing things in a new way!

-Quinn McDonald is amazed at how other people see the same world.

Saturday Creative Links

Transitory space photograph by Leah Oates.

Transitory space photograph by Leah Oates.

Leah Oates is a Brooklyn (NY) photographer who thinks about transitory spaces, and how they appear and disappear, unnoticed. So, being a photographer she noticed and memorialized them. Here’s Leah Oates’s  artist statement explaing the exhibition:

The work I create first originates as a response to space that is in a continual state of change. In everyone there is a sense of flux and a familiarity with this type of space.

Transitory spaces have a messy human energy that is always in the present yet constantly changing. I find them endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of existence.

Finding entropy in photography is interesting. It reminds me of the accidental double-exposures we used to do with film, when they were lovelier than either of the originals.

Another photographer, Lisa Rienermann, has a show called Type the Sky, a playful and clever combination of negative space and alphabet forms. She photographs the sky from ground level, allowing the rise of the buildings to hape the sky into letterforms. It sounds contrived, but the photographs are interesting before you notice that the sky is a recognizable shape.

She keeps a visual journal, too.


Mlle A by Fabienne Rivory

Mlle A by Fabienne Rivory

Fabienne Rivory is a mixed media artist who combines photography with painting–she uses ink or gouache and combines it digitally with photography. She begins by blending two photographs, often landscapes, then adding the color. The startling contrast of the color and the black-and-white photograph adds more to each part of the media.  Her “Saison Grise” (literally, Gray Season) is a barely colored landscape that is both evocative and almost sad.

Evelin Kasikov is a graphic designer who lives and works in London. She  embroider in CMYK colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the colors in a printer that combine to make thousands of colors). She uses strict grid systems and embroiders in them to form letters and patterns that look both like old comic books and messages from another universe. Her webpage Stitched Colors makes you aware how printing combines color by looking at cross-stitch embroidery.

Have a delightfully creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald is always amazed at other artist’s ideas.

Replacing Google Reader

Google Reader is going away on July 1.  Sigh. Worse, my Google Reader page already vanished.  OK, I had too many blogs, and not enough of the blogs I really wanted to read, but it seemed harsh when it suddenly quit working on me.

It's all in here. © Quinn McDonald, 2013. Ink and collage on etching paper.

It’s all in here. © Quinn McDonald, 2013. Ink and collage on etching paper.

I looked at several other platforms to read blogs, and I am the wrong demographic for them. I don’t want to share blogs I’m looking at on Facebook, and I don’t want to Tweet my comments to bloggers. So I found a site called, appropriately enough,  The Old Reader, which I like. It allows you to scan the images on blogs, rather than have to open each blog in a separate window.

So I’m starting over again, finding new blogs and trying to remember old favorites.  But first, I have that workbook to write and then. . .be still my beating heart, the extra poetry books I ordered arrived today! And the combination of the love of books and the loss of the poetry book seemed to spur the letter collage for today.

Wow, came in under 200 words!

-Quinn McDonald loves making collages out of typography. Among other things.

Art Journaling Ideas

Yes, I was supposed to finish my taxes, no I didn’t . Instead, I spent a lot of time in the studio, working on art journal pages.

Splash Inks are really very interesting. There are just four of them: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. By mixing various amounts of them, you can create thousand of colors, hues, shades, and tints. Here’s a journal page I did with just yellow, blue and black. True, the background used a tiny drop of magenta, too.

Page. succulent

All those green colors just from mixing and adding water for transparency. You can layer really well with this ink. This is a larger image of a succulent I planted this morning–the repetitive leaf shape just charms me.

Most of my journal pages are now free-standing pages with an image on one side and a piece of writing distilled from my journal on the other. It expands the meaning to have the side relate to each other. (I’ve been using this with my coaching clients with some delightful results.)

The front of this page (a 5 x 7-inch Strathmore Ready Cut) is colored with Ranger dauber paint in Distressed Wood (light gray) and Vintage Photo (brown), a clock stencil and a piece of paper printed with rulers. Of course, I had to finish it with found poetry.


The found poetry reads:

Traveler’s timekeeping

Nearly 200 years earlier, another man
on the deck of another ship
had a radically different sort
of awakening about the stars.
The whales chanted the songs back and forth
for hours at a time.
The wisdom of thousands of years flows
through their lips.
Then you come to me like the progress of a shadow on a sundial.
We lived by the stars. The stars told us when to go fishing.
We had a name for every star.
You gave us calendars and clocks and schedules and we forgot the stars.
We don’t read them anymore.

The back of the page has a background of Ranger dauber stain in Moss which I  immediately spread with a wet watercolor brush. When it was damp-dry, I sprayed it with purple ink and let it dry. Then I stamped it with a compass, added gold to the compass rose (hard to see, I know) and then wrote on the back.


Next, a journal page with two kinds of fabric, stitching, and torn marbled paper. First, the red and orange swirl fabric was ironed on  Strathmore Ready-Cut with Pellon fusible webbing. Then the sheer fabric with spangles was put on with MistyFuse (you can see it through the fabric on the scan, less so in real life). I love that the fabric is visible through the sheer fabric.


I then cut the top of the mountain shape and tore along the bottom and glued the mountains onto the fabric. When it was dry, I wrote in the lines of the mountain with one of my new JetPens fountain pens with an extra-fine nib. This is refillable and writes with a thinnest line–the same as an 03 Rapidograph.

Next, I stitched my signature waves over the land portion of the page and then zig-zagged all around the edge to finish the fabric and hold it in place.

OK, now I really have to do my taxes.

Disclaimer: I purchased all the products myself and did not receive any compensation for mentioning the product names.

-Quinn McDonald  is taking mixed-media waaay multi.

Book Review: Flavor for Mixed Media (+Giveaway)

BookCoverNote: Ms. Lillypads is the winner of Mary Beth Shaw’s book.Congratulations! Send me your address and the book will be on its way!

Mary Beth Shaw‘s book, Flavor for Mixed Media, caught my attention because it used food as a metaphor for art. Two favorites in one book! The book expands the meaning of mixed media by including favorite recipes from contributors. That made it interesting to Kent, who is a personal chef, and loves a good recipe. We both decided to try projects from Mary Beth’s book–I’d try an art project, Kent would cook one of the recipes.

Paper Mosaic is one of my favorite collage approaches, and Mary Beth’s book has a section on using a color theory exercise to help expand your use of color. I built on that technique to create one of my free-standing journal pages. Here’s the video–about 6 minutes long, and a project from start to finish.

Artists mix colors, but we often mix our favorite colors over and over and don’t expand to different hues, tints, and values. The chapter’s guest artist is Sarah Ahearn Bellemare, and her color triad theory helps you mix and keep information on colors you love and that work together.

Page 26 and 27 of Mary Beth Shaw's book shows color triad theory.

Page 26 and 27 of Mary Beth Shaw’s book shows color triad theory.

The book is full of projects and ideas, but be sure to check out Mary Beth Shaw‘s website, too.

Painting Without Paint, guest artist Misty Mawn
Triad Color Theory, guest artist Sarah Ahearn Bellemare
Organic Abstract Painting, guest artist Elizabeth MacCrellish
Clayboard Book, guest artist Shari Beaubien
Texture Sampler, guest artist Susan Tuttle
Candle Shade, guest artist Laura Lein-Svencner
Collagraph Plate, guest artist Julie Snidle
Plexi Squared, guest artist Tonia Jenny
Three-Dimensional Painting, guest artist Dolan Geiman

Project from page 112.

Project from page 112.

Icing Panels, guest artist Heather Haymart
Taste of Klimt, guest artist Deb Trotter
Collage Painting, guest artist Claudine Hellmuth
Cardboard Collage, guest artist Katie Kendrick
Abstract Letter Forms, guest artist John Hammons
Abstract With Discarded Material, guest artist Judy Wise

Don’t take that “discarded material” too seriously. These are ideas for recycling materials and keep your art supply costs down.  I’m all for seeing materials in a new way, particularly if I don’t have to create a shopping list for them.

Project from page 77

Project from page 77

The eye candy in the links alone is richly satisfying–but what I really like is the variety of the projects. You get enough help to make the project through the step-by-steps, and the luscious photos of finished projects encourage you to keep going.

One of the joys of mixed media is choosing what you are interested in and exploring it. No problem veering into the kitchen for some of the guest authors’ recipes, either. I asked Kent to make Katie Kendrick’s  coconut lentil soup because I like lentil soup, it freezes well, and it’s satisfying without damaging my diet. But you can also make your own tortillas,  sugar cookies from a recipe that’s as versatile as the artwork, and Mary Beth’s own secret Brownies. (Yum!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a how-to book that you can take to the grocery store with the same great results as if you take it to the studio!

Front of art journal page I made from instructions on pgs. 24-27.

Front of art journal page I made from instructions on pgs. 24-27.

Giveaway: Mary Beth generously donated a signed copy of the book to my blog readers. Leave a comment that you’d like the book, and your name goes in the drawing that will be held on Wednesday evening, Phoenix time.  The winner (international entries are fine) will be announced on Thursday’s blog and at the top of this blog post.

—Quinn McDonald is learning how to shoot and edit videos to teach online classes. She wishes she had another four hands and a side porch on her brain to provide more room for learning new skills.

Weed Barrier Art Journal Background

When the temperature drops in the winter, “cold” is a relative term. In the Sonoran desert, if it drops to freezing, our vegetation starts to die. Some succulents suffer below 40 degrees F, but when it gets below freezing, things get serious. Tonight will dip into the low- to mid-20s, and if that happens, I will lose most of the cactus, succulents, natal plums, Red Honeysuckle, desert bird of paradise, blue agave and aloes. The citrus trees and fig may survive. Last time it was 29 degrees, I lost chunks of cactus and shrubs.

weedblockIn search of freeze cloth, I went to several places but no luck. Stores don’t stock a lot of it, so it sells out quickly when it gets cold. Since I couldn’t find any, I settled for weed barrier. It was a non-woven fiber, allows some sun to penetrate (great since I have to leave it up for the next four days), and I spent most of the afternoon wrapping cactus and shrubs.

After I was done, I brought the end of the 50-ft roll of weed barrier inside. I cut off a piece and took a look at it. Light cool-gray, light weight, hmmm. it would make a good background for a journal page. Glue will glop it up, so I decided to use fusible webbing to attach it to a free-standing journal page of 140-lb watercolor paper.

Tomorrow, I’m getting some black Misty-Fuse for decoration, but for tonight, I was happy with the result. I’ll also check to see what it takes to write on it. It’s pretty smooth, but it will need a brush or heavy pen to deal with the fibers.

Stay tuned for step two!

–Quinn McDonald has completed the first five chapters of the inner hero book. Three more to go!

Using Gesso

Ask an art journaler how they start a page, and you are likely to hear, “First I put on a coat of gesso.” [JESS-oh]. Ask them why and you may get a blank look or shrug. Gesso is a current fad; let’s take a look and decide if it’s the best first layer.

Gesso, in its first incarnation was a mix of rabbit-skin glue, chalk, gypsum, and perhaps some fiber or calcium carbonate. Gesso is Italian for gypsum. Today, gesso is a mix of acrylic ground, glue, and calcium carbonate. The purpose remains the same: to provide a flexible ground for acrylic paints. What most people don’t know about gesso is that the tooth has a sandpapery feel and makes it hard to write on.

Because it has a tooth, it adheres to smooth surfaces and fills in small gaps in wood, canvas and other rough substrates. It was also meant to be sanded before use.

Black gesso on the left, clear on the right. Notice how the clear darkens the background.

Gesso comes in black, white, neutral gray and clear. People have told me it also comes in beige, but I’ve never seen it. (That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that I’ve never seen it.)  It’s the same thickness as heavy-bodied acrylics.

On the left, you can see a matte black gesso. On the right is a clear gesso. You can see that it makes the background a bit darker and more distinct.

I smoothed the gesso with 600-grit sandpaper so I could write on it. Otherwise, it feels like writing on unglazed, baked clay or 400-grit sandpaper.

When applying gesso, you can use a brush, palette knife or credit card. A bush will leave brush strokes in the gesso, so I prefer a palette knife or credit card to apply it. In the sample below, you can see the brush marks on the left and the smoother application on the right. The paper I applied it on is slightly buckled because the gesso is still wet.

The other advantage of gesso is its density, making it useful to cover writing, collage, and creating a new surface from the old. It’s a way of recycling your canvases, cradle boards, or painting panels. Don’t forget to sand it, even if you are going to paint over it.

Collage using inked papers, gesso (black and clear) and gel transfer.

Do you need to use gesso on an art journal? Not if you have a good paper journal. If you want to cover the bare look, it’s easier to use a thinly-applied layer of acrylic paint in a neutral like Titan Buff or Parchment. No sanding necessary, and heavy-body acrylics will cover as well as gesso.

If you use fluid acrylics, thinner than heavy-bodied, you may have to use two coats.

Gesso is not a glue, because it contains an opaque color. You can use it to adhere paper to wood or a substrate, but the color will remain when it dries.

If you don’t like the slightly rough feel of cold-press watercolor paper, instead of coating it with gesso, use hot-press. It’s much smoother. If you want a background, use a neutral acrylic or watercolor first instead of gesso.

If you are using wood or unknown cardboard for your journal, then gesso makes sense. It works as a sealant and as a base coat. Just remember to sand it before you start painting.

Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and creativiy coach who experiments with sacred cow materials.

Ice-dying on Paper

Yes, I remember that I promised a column on black and clear gesso today. Our humidity is high and nothing dried enough to scan it. So instead, I got tempted by art instigator Diane Becka, who sent me a link on snow dying fabric. I decided to adapt the technique to dying paper. In July. In Phoenix. Instead of snow, I used my blender to crush ice.

Here’s the step-by-step if you want to try it. It includes the mistakes I made, which you can now avoid.

In an aluminum or glass pan, place racks to keep the paper out of the melting ice/ink mixture.  I used two sheets of watercolor paper and two sheets of Arches Text Wove (now called Arches Velin). They were dry when I put them on the rack.

Use snow in winter, but lacking that, I crushed ice in my blender and heaped it on the dry paper in uneven piles.

I put blue, purple and teal inks on the Arches Velin. The blue was a dye ink, the teal and purple were pigment inks.

I sprinkled walnut ink (dry crystals) on one of the watercolor papers. On the other one, I dripped brown and black pigment and dye inks.

This looked promising. But you don’t know until all the ice is melted and runs off the paper.

The only thing interesting about this result is that the lines of the rack showed as colors. (It looks like ridges, but it was color). The brown was not any more interesting.

I decided to use the existing papers and do it differently.

I crumpled the papers, dripped ink directly on it, crushed more ice and wrapped the paper around the ice. Then I let it all melt.

The watercolor paper was too stiff to bend or crumple, so I dripped ink on the paper and placed an ice cube on each drip spot.

Results of the brown ink. Interesting effect, with some nice detail work. The other sheet simply rinsed off the ink. Unlike fabric, the pigment ink is the one to use here, rather than the dye.

Blue/purple ink and crumpling gave interesting results, as well.

If I were to do this again, I’d ink the papers fully first in one color, then drop ink in another color on it and use the ice wrapped in paper. I’d also try some different dyes and pigment inks, and write down which colors were used where, so I’d know which ink brand works with this technique.

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, a book for experimenters and explorers. No drawing ability necessary.