Summer Classes

Summer is a wonderful time to take classes. Even with kids out of school, there are fewer stresses in life, and the urge to create is strong.

I’m teaching two classes this summer, and would like to see you at either one.

July 19, 2014. Blue Twig Studio, Colorado Springs.

Monsoon Papers: Ink, Water, Words.

You’ll create two sheets of Monsoon Papers, then use them to build an accordion folder or a stitched pamphlet (your choice) of pockets, fold-outs, faux stitching,FolderInside-300x169 and scraps of wisdom—small designed pieces of paper on which you’ll write favorite quotes–and tuck into place. You can also add quotes directly on the folder or flaps. At the end of the day you will have a journal packed with quotes and cleverly designed, tucked-away notes!

When: July 19, 2014

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monsoon Papers

Monsoon Papers

Where: Blue Twig Studio Classes   5039 N. Academy Blvd. Colorado Spring, CO 80918

Register: At Blue Twig Shop website or call 719-266-1866.

Blue Twig Studio will send you a supply list. If you do not receive one, please contact me at QuinnCreative AT Yahoo DOT com

August 9, 2014 Frenzy Stamper, Scottsdale, AZ

Easy Does It: The Shipping Tag Journal

Date: August 9 (Saturday) 2014

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Location: Frenzy Stamper. 7064 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

To register: Call Frenzy Stamper (480) 946-0007

Supply list: Frenzy Stamper will supply a list. Or, contact me at QuinnCreative AT yahoo DOT com


tagbookDescription: Create a useful, flexible journal using shipping tags. How flexible? It can be a travel journal or mail art. Postcards or bookmarks. Create separate tags and then sort them by date, by color, by theme.

You’ll spend the morning learning techniques to use with the shipping tags–painting, collage, choosing a theme, using ephemera you have. Knowing what to keep and what to discard.

During the afternoon, you’ll make as many pages as you want. You’ll do some writing exercises and have fun creating new ways of exploring journaling.

You’ll create some mail art for yourself and for others, and when you leave, you’ll have learned a new way to journal that is so flexible, fun, and fast you will never be without shipping tags again!

–Quinn McDonald is an outsider artist and a certified creativity coach. She is teaching only two classes this summer, and would love to meet you at one of them.

The Travel Journal

Travel journals are a great way to remember the details about your trip. To go to Madeline Island, I wanted to take something flexible so I could draw or paint in addition to writing. Because I was teaching, I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of time to create a journal. So I chose a Stonehenge 90-lb paper pad, wire bound. Easy to carry, because both covers are heavy chipboard.

The front cover was plain, so the tags from my suitcase and the name tag for the first evening’s welcome event made a good graphic design. The colorful spot indicates that my suitcase was searched, tested for explosives, and approved for travel.

Book1All my journals start the same way–the crossed arrows that indicate flexibility and love of change. In this case, it also showed the two destinations–Phoenix, where I live and Madeline Island, an incredible retreat location.


On the first spread, I always draw a map of the area I visited along with the sights that made the trip unique. In this case, I saw lots of corn fields, roads edged in cord grass, and a huge eagle sitting on a small tree, bending it over at the tip. The first night, I stayed on the mainland, and had a great coffee at the Black Cat coffee house in Ashland.


The way I decided to use the journal was to remember what we did in class each day. The first day we made Monsoon Papers, and we hung them on the clothes line to dry. It was a trip from the second floor studio, across the balcony and into the field. The weather was sunny and mild, and as long as we remembered the clothes pins, the trip was a plus for the view. There are two samples of Monsoon Papers, and of course, the clothespin.


One of the most amazing experiences was seeing the moon rise over Lake Superior. The lake and sky were shades of blue and the moon rose in a salmon slice of color, reflecting in the water. I had to remember it as we did tissue collage the next day.


On one day, we made mosaics from photographs. I used pieces of Monsoon Papers, some other paper pieces other people used, and the stamps that were used to ship the boxes back home.


There were other pages, including a map of the island and some other class projects, but these pages brought me back to that wonderful classroom overlooking the farm fields and the prairie.

A travel journal doesn’t have to be a detailed schedule or a report of each move. When I finished paging through the book, I was smiling and remembering a special week. For me, that’s what a travel journal should be!

–Quinn McDonald is packing for a different trips–in the next few weeks, she’ll be criss-crossing the U.S. to teach business writing courses.

Saturday Link Hop

How did Saturday come around so fast again? It’s time to announce the winner for the Featuring magazine: Kristin Freeman is the winner–Congratulations and thanks for reading my blog!

San Francisco may be the City by the Bay, but it is also the city of almost daily fog. When I lived there, I rarely thought of the fog as romantic or beautiful. Simon Christen filmed the fog for two yeas, then edited the flowing, rolling, blowing clouds into a video. Jimmy LaValle composed the music, Adrift, for this piece.

The filming was done in seconds-long segments, and the result is the flowing, rolling ocean of fog enveloping the landscape and landmarks.

Stuart Haygarth is a lighting designer. He collects found objects and recycles them into functional objects–often lighting fixtures. He collects a lot of one object–eyeglass frames, bottles, and then uses one object type to create his work.

He uses only one type of object per sculpture.

haygarthsculpture5On the right is a collection of found objects, sorted by color.

And below  is a chandelier made entirely of eyeglass frames.  The chandelier is made from 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses. There is an interesting metaphor in using eyeglasses to create a light that illuminates the dark.

Chandelier made of spectacles by Stuart Haygarth.

Chandelier made of spectacles by Stuart Haygarth.

Alana Dee Haynes has taken ordinary doodling into the art world. And she does it in the simplest way–she takes fashion magazines and doodles on the photographs, altering them substantially.

The next step was interesting–the magazines asked her to doodle on photographs they supplied. She creates beautiful and mysterious art that combines photography and simple repetitive artwork. She has a wide selection of work, from designed “gloves” to entire color collages on her tumblr site.

tumblr_mmqy46dKSg1qdot10o1_1280The obscuring veil is beautifully done, and the cigarette adds an odd juxtaposition of humor.

Have a wonderfully creative weekend, whatever you do.

–Quinn McDonald is spending her weekend proofing the galleys of her book. Nothing could be better in the heat than an excuse to be inside.

Quinn will be demonstrating Splash Inks at Arisona Art Supply in Phoenix this morning at 10 a.m. Her next class, on Monsoon Papers,  is also at Arizona Art Supply, on July 13. See the details and register on her site. Arizona Art Supply’s Phoenix store is on the Southeast corner of Indian School and 16th Street in Phoenix.

Catching Up on News

Instead of a thoughtful, long post on a deeply meaningful topic, I’m catching up with news. I’ve done two thoughtful articles in two days, and I couldn’t make it three for three.


Sycamore bark, gel medium and ink on Monsoon Papers.

Sycamore bark, gel medium and ink on Monsoon Papers.

The newsletter: It’s going to happen–soon!  I’m going to use Mail Chimp, which will allow you to subscribe and unsubscribe without my having to do the administrative work. And it will look like a designed newsletter, not like every other email you receive. But yes, it will be email. I’ll announce it on the blog with a link to my website, where the sign-up page will live. If everything works well, it will happen in the next 10 days.

The poetry class: Will start in early August. I know a lot of people go on vacation in August, but that may be the best time to start a poetry class. It will be six weeks long. We will not focus on traditional poetry forms (sonnets, epic poems, elegy, renga) except as definitions. We will explore shorter forms, like haiku, quatrains and quintains. We will practice imagery, metaphor, personification, allusion, rhyme schemes, line length, and punctuation. We’ll write poems and pieces of poems. Like collage, pieces of poems are scraps that can be combined to form surprising word images.

Registration will open on my website on July 1, with payment though PayPal or check. There will be a notice on the blog.

Using Yahoo Groups. The poetry class will be run on a Yahoo Group. After looking at many ways to do it, the Yahoo Group is a place that is private, has no ads, allows for each person to post, comment, and participate at the level they want. It makes sense for a writing class.

Paying it Forward: I haven’t taught an online class in a long time, but always  donate part of the price of the class to a charity. This time, the donation will be to Heat Relief, a group of City employes who use donations to supply the homeless with fresh drinking water in our broiling summer. The city has turned off most of the public drinking fountains, and many homeless adults and children die of heat stroke and lack of water. This is a grass-roots organization, so I will use the money to buy the water and deliver it to one of the locations. (Yes, it will be plastic bottles, and yes, the bottles are picked up by other volunteers for recycling.)

Madeline Island Class: I’m doing some give-aways to people who attend the class in Madeline Island, Wisconsin on July 22-26. I know it is expensive, so there will be four prizes, drawn throughout the week:

1. A month of free creativity coaching. Once you experience it in class (each person will experience at least one session that week), you will fall in love with the process that helps you free yourself from your sticky story and live the live you want. (A $324 value)

2. Two $50 gift cards; one each to Dick Blick and Daniel Smith.   That should help you continue working on what you started at the retreat.

3. Three packs of Strathmore Ready-Cut paper, the kind we will use in class. There are 25 sheets in a pack, so three people will be able to create a lot of inner hero pages when they get back home.

The combined value is just over the price of the class, and while i could not afford to give a scholarship, I think this will be a nice way to thank people for coming. You can read about the class here. You can register here.

Upcoming in-Person Classes: I’ll be teaching these three classes at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix. It’s at the Southeast corner of Indian School and 16th Street. Each class is divided into two sections. The morning section explores the technique, the afternoon is spent making projects with the technique. Register for both morning and afternoon and get a discount.

Saturday, July 13: Monsoon Papers  10:00 am – 4:30 pm.  Make colorful  Monsoon Papers in the morning. Use them for art journaling, folders, photo mats, or envelopes. Then make two accordion folders with your paper in the afternoon.  Read about details or register. Class size is limited to 12 people.

Saturday, August 10: Paste Papers 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.  Learn an easy and beautiful surface-decoration technique using colorful art paste. Then collage postcards with your paper. Registration will be available on my website after July 15.

Saturday, September 7: Loose-Leaf Journaling 10:00 am – 4:30 pm. Create your personal 3-ring binder, then fill it with art journal pages, using different kinds and sizes of paper. I’m very excited about this class–loose-leaf journaling is an exciting new approach. And of course you can keep your poetry in this journal. Registration will be available after August 10.

Remember the tree bark? I pressed it and used it in a collage made with ink, gel medium and Monsoon Papers. That’s the illustration for today. The bark worked particularly well. I have also pressed eucalyptus tree bark, and it presses well, also.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and teacher. She loves doing both.


Loose-Leaf Journal Pages Holder

The idea of what constitutes a book has always fascinated me. Now that I’m doing loose-leaf journal pages, the ease of work has made me think of books in a new way. For a long time, I had trouble thinking of wire-bound journals as real books. Then I realized that wire-bound books allowed for more freedom than bound books, and did both.

Earth-rise from Mars. Poured acrylic on Archest Cover and watercolor pencils on  watercolor paper

Earth-rise from Mars. Poured acrylic on Arches Cover and watercolor pencils on watercolor paper

Working on loose-leaf pages allows you to work on several at once, without having to put wax paper between bound pages. You can also turn the page to keep the angle right, without working on a pile of other pages. And the binding becomes a metaphor for the attachment you have to the pages and how much you use them. You bind the books with attention.

Yes, loose-leaf pages could go out of order, but that’s why you put dates on them. And then you can put them in any order–all your red pages, all the collages, in date order, just happy pages, just serious ones. It’s a wonderful freedom.

So this weekend, I indulged in two of my favorite studio pursuits: poured acrylics and making covers for journal page collections. I’d already made the Monsoon Papers last week, conveniently enough. You’d almost think I planned these things.

Poured acrylic and paper mosaic. © Quinn McDonald, 2013. All rights reserved.

Poured acrylic and paper mosaic. © Quinn McDonald, 2013. All rights reserved.

Poured acrylics are simple. Or complicated if you want. I push mine a little harder. First I put down some PVA glue  (on deli or freezer paper) that dries clear, then instead of acrlyics, I use inks and acrylic glaze, stir them with the back of a paintbrush (or Starbucks stirrer, being careful not to lick the stirrer, again), and let it dry. Here in Phoenix that takes a day or so. Your results may well take a week. Once dry, you peel them off and put them on journal pages.

I like the effect of a paper mosaic with its rigid edges softened by a poured acrylic in the same colors.

Then, the folder to keep them in. Monsoon Papers, again, because it can look like leather or vintage metal. I’ve been pleased with the new technique that gives really deep, rich colors.

Here’s the folder front. I decided to sew this one and use variegated thread.

Monsoon papers, machine sewing. Folder,  © Quinn McDonald

Monsoon papers, machine sewing. Folder, © Quinn McDonald

Here’s the folder open:

Folder, open showing loose-leaf journal pages.

Folder, open showing loose-leaf journal pages.

The folder holds about a dozen loose-leaf pages sewn this way. It can easily be made to hold more by adding a gusset.

And finally, the back:

Back of folder

Back of folder

I made another one with hand-stitching, and a slightly different closure. I love the effect of a group of them. And the fact that I can use them to carry the pages around without bending the corners.

-Quinn McDonald is working on upcoming workshops. She’s solving problems as she goes along.

Saturday Creative Round-Up

Cooking Man and I have started to make our own yogurt. It’s way easy, a yogurt yogurtmakermaker is cheap, and the resulting yogurt is exactly what you want. We add vanilla, lemon or orange zest (from our own trees!) or nutmeg. There are eight cups, so we can get a variety of flavors. It’s about half the cost of store-bought yogurt, and carb-friendly and tasty. Proving once more that mixed-media can include the art of cooking and the joy of eating.

Urban Sketchers are on Spring Break, but still posting, and I love to see their page layouts and sketches.

Diane Becka takes a photo a day, and this one, about creating natural art with what you find while you are out on a walk, is both inspiring and satisfying. The post on creation and destruction both puzzled me and didn’t surprise me. But the boy’s action does make you think about what you would have done in the same circumstances–as an onlooker, as a parent.

sithappenssite_01I’m a fan of Buddhist Boot Camp, because of the incongruous name as well as the inspiration that works for me. Here’s one I liked this week: “Find something worth dying for, then live for it!” And no, I’m still not religious. So I love this quote from the site: “As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Don’t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.’”  When people ask me about religion, sometimes I say, “I’m Buddish”

It took me a long time to start sketching. Because, you know, I was chicken. (Image: ink on watercolor paper, inked papers. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012.

It took me a long time to start sketching. Because, you know, I was chicken. (Image: ink on watercolor paper, inked papers. © Quinn McDonald, all rights reserved, 2012.

I’ve narrowed down my art choices so I can get better at fewer things. I’ve chosen pen and ink sketching (OK, and hand lettering, using the same pen nibs) and collage (which includes found poetry.) See how it gets out of hand quickly? But if you are a pen and ink sketcher, here’s a good site for choosing nibs for your art.

Today is the deadline  to get the download on stenciling tips from Glenda Waterworth’s site, Chocolate Baroque. The offer ends on March 17, 2013. Get the code and link to her site here.

Yesterday, I spent the day re-vamping the way I make Monsoon Papers. I’d wanted to get richer colors faster, and decided that I liked to have the front and back look different. The same color family, but different looks. I spent an entire day doing it, and of course, the Inner Critic showed up to comment and tell me how I was wasting time. But it turns out, he was wrong. I got some great results, was smart enough to take notes. Which means I can teach it. And I will be MonsoonPapersDeepteaching it in Mid-May in Minneapolis. The link isn’t up yet, but as soon as it is, I’ll give you more details. But meanwhile, save the date for May 18-19, 2013. (There’s more to the class than Monsoon Papers, but all that information will be up in about 10 days or so.)

Having updated the technique, I’ll also be teaching the new technique at the five-day  art and writinf retreat at Madeline Island this July 22 to 26, 2013. (Wonder why I keep adding the year? Because I’ve had people try to register for classes I taught four years ago. Once you’ve got more than 1,600 blog posts, it can be hard to demand people check the dates of the post.)

That’s it for the weekend! See you on Monday!

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach, writer, and artist who is creating new classes combining all three and having an excellent time doing it.







Totally Different Valentine’s Card

After making a mosaic Valentine’s Day card several years ago, and a Valentine Tree card with heart-shaped leaves, I decided to go in a completely different direction this year. With chocolates being out of the picture this year, I thought it would be fun to make an unusual card–no red, no heart shapes, and a card that might hang around after Valentine’s Day.

Heart card tied with a ribbon to hold it closed.

Heart card tied with a ribbon to hold it closed.

Several months ago, I found a heart-shaped rock on my walk. I took it home, scrubbed it, and kept it for future use.

My biggest accomplishment was remembering where I put it so I could use it for Valentines.

I decided to make a round-ish pocket for the stone, add a sweet saying and hide the stone in the pocket.

Here’s how I made it:

1. I chose a piece of Monsoon Paper I made–using a blue / gold/ silver / purple color scheme to avoid the standard red. I folded the piece into thirds, using an accordion fold.  The final measurement is about 5 x 6 inches.

The insert is both colorful and sentimental.

The insert is both colorful and sentimental.

2. I cut a  rough circle pattern so that two pieces would create a pocket and the third fold creates the flap. The pocket pieces are joined at the bottom, creating a pocket that I can glue only around the edges.

Using a gel pen, I drew “stitching” around the edge of the pocket and the edge of the flap.

3. Taking the rock, I painted it with gold ink and then put plain water on it to cause the ink to run off unevenly. I wanted a rock with gold highlights, not a uniformly gold rock.

4. Using another piece of Monsoon Paper, I cut an oval out of a section with good color contrast. Using a gold sparkly gel pen (it is Valentine’s Day, after all), I wrote a line from Neil Young’s  Heart of Gold on it– “I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.” On the back I wrote something sentimental and signed it.

HeartCard35. I tucked the oval into the pocket, so the edge of the paper just peeks out. I tucked the rock in with it, and tied it all with a ribbon that picked up the purple in the paper. A totally different, but loving Valentine’s card.

And the rock will be a nice lasting reminder of the heart of gold that I found when I found Cooking Man all those years ago.

I’m not big on commercial holidays, but it’s nice to surprise someone you love with a reminder of that love every now and then.

Quinn McDonald is a romantic at heart, even if Valentine’s Day doesn’t have any chocolate in it anymore.

Monsoon Paper Day at the Photo Shoot

MonsoonToday is Monsoon Paper day. I’m not teaching it, I just get to make it so it can be photographed, step by step. I’m so excited, because Monsoon Papers have come a long way since I started making them in the thrashing summer rains in Phoenix. Now I can make them indoors, in any weather, add glitz, glitter and glaze, and even fix the occasional tears in the papers. So it’s going into the book! (And yes, that is a Monsoon Paper towel in the photo)

The photo shoot has been great so far. Lots of laughing and story telling (you already knew I was a yakker, right?)

But today, book contributor Liz Crain has a great blog on creative ideas. It’s a mash up of great tips, links, and ideas about life in your paracosm. What’s a paracosm? Liz will explain. It’s worth stopping over there and getting inspired.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist who is writing a book on your inner heroes confronting your inner critic.

Hidden Stories

Monsoon Papers hold endless fascination for me because I can’t control them. I think I am going to make a largely blue one, and then one corner, with a yellow flash, holds all the interest. I begin to think of the background of the page, and think of it like tea leaves–that the random patterns hold the story of the past and future.

The detail above looks to me like an exploding sun at the time of creation. It spins off a world into the shadowy ocean. People are born and live on that world, which is not of their choosing. Some thrive, others ache for what they don’t have on this undersea, mysterious world.

When I make them, my hands and arms are covered in ink that takes days to wear off. I don’t get tired of looking at the accidental details in the papers. In this one the sun is back and the gold shows the track of the sun as it crosses the sky in a different path through the seasons. The years behind the gold tracks layer into the colors. There is history on this page.

This looks like an ancient map, on ancient papers, with shadows hiding the parts of the past we want to forget.

My biggest delight today is that I discovered how to make Monsoon Papers in a room with one sink. Without a hose and with rich, deep colors. That means that I have inks, will travel. I no longer need good weather and outdoor space to make Monsoon Papers. And best of all, these new ones also tell me stories about places I’ve never seen.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist who works at the intersection of stories and color. She teaches what she knows.

Monsoon Papers: Learning from Class

I’ve taught in a lot of places, and I’ve had a lot of experiences. Right up there at the top of my “Wow!” list is the class I just taught at Valley Ridge in Muscoda, Wisconsin. Katherine Engen, the owner-artist of Valley Ridge has the genius gift of treating both participants and instructors as very special people. She values creativity, and she honors it. Instructors are treasured and class participants are honored for their enthusiasm, skill and adventurous spirit.

I taught a class this weekend that included Monsoon Papers. On Saturday night, Katherine invited us all into her house for dinner. We cooked together–always a wonderful experience, but the conversation that flowed through the meal was as nurturing as anything we ate. When you teach a class and you learn as much as you teach, it’s a privilege.

Some photos:

Monsoon papers and ink-as-color postcard.

No one in this class was afraid of color!

It was wonderful to see people make different papers with completely different color ways.

Shy people can turn bold with gold!

Maroon asparagus reflected in the granite kitchen counter. Looks like they are in a stream. Katherine tried this technique and I was happy to learn from her.

One of four amazing chandeliers in the great room. Even the lighting is art at Valley Ridge.

Monsoon Papers work best when the creator doesn’t try to control the result.

Monet-like colors started as an experiment and worked beautifully.

These aren’t the only photos, just ones I could put up quickly.

I don’t work on art when I teach, because then I stop being available for questions and discoveries. When I’m very fortunate, participants become explorers of their own creativity and take me on an incredible journey with them–over the landscape of their creative process. That’s what made this weekend so special.

-Quinn McDonald teaches art and writing classes and loves it best when they come together.