Morning Pages, Dark and Light

Morning pages are the first-thing-in-the-morning writing you do if you have ever read Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. Cameron describes morning pages as “. . . three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”

For years, when I wrote morning pages, I sat, wrote, and shredded them. They were too dismal and painful for anything else. Then I began to keep them and read them every now and then. To my relief, I was getting less angry, bitter, disappointed. To my greater relief, my writing was improving.

Occasionally, I do morning pages in a journal. My goal is to keep my writing unedited, just as it comes out. After trying out some Sakura pens, I discovered the clear gel pen in the Gelly Roll Glaze series was perfect for writing morning pages with. You can’t see what you are writing. I began to play with words–after all, using the clear pen allowed me to be clear. I cleared my head. “Clearly” became the keyword for the result of morning pages. Not looking at my writing made me write more boldly, effortlessly, and soulfully.

Journal page, written on in clear Sakura gel pen, covered with watercolor wash. © Quinn McDonald 2011

Then I decided to cover the whole writing with a watercolor wash. Doing that, I discovered a new keyword–resist. The clear gel pen acted as a resist, drying up through the watercolor wash, allowing me to read what I had written. (The page is more clear than above, I deliberately made some of it unreadable–TMI.)

I resist what I need to know, resist claiming what I need to claim, even resist showing up in the world the way I want to. And the pen showed that. No matter what you wash over yourself, you always show up as yourself.

I love the contrast between “clear” and “resist.” You can have both on one page. It’s taught me to think of my day in terms of “clear” and “resist.”

Dive into your own morning pages–clear pen or not. What do you wish were clear to you? What do you resist, even though you need it? Let me know in the comments–or just in your morning pages.

Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler whose book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be available in July of 2011.

Layered Journal Pages

It’s hard to admit, with the huge popularity of layers upon layers on journal pages, that I’m not a fan of layered journal pages. I think they look heavy, and occasionally just plain overworked. For me, that means I have to try it several times to explore my feelings in depth. See if I really feel that way or just have an opinion.

Over the past several days, I made three layered pages. The first one started out as a collage page with the sentence, “The siblings of the sun emerge from the mirror in the sky.”

Multi-media journal page, "Siblings of the Sun."

The collage didn’t work. It should have, but it didn’t. So I painted over the collage with a mix of Payne’s Gray and Darkest Blue.

I added another layer to make it look like deep-space night. Another layer added the sun petroglyph in the center of the page in gold paint. The figures were added in gold poster paint. The date and spiral were added in graphite, last. Here, I like that I can vary the depth of the ink on the page, so that the collage strip seems to be closer to the reader than the center of the page. I also limited the colors, which I like.

The next page also started with a collage. There were too many different kinds of paper, and the glue wasn’t friendly to them–one set wrinkled. but I liked the watercolor paper on the bottom right-hand corner. I wanted to save that. So, on went the paint. Four colors: burnt orange, burnt sienna, raw umber, titan buff.

Vision Quest. Multi-media art journal page.

I had started to write my thoughts about using vision boards—specifically, the difficulty in making a good vision board, by using images that don’t come easily to mind, but digging harder for images with real meaning. I used some printed words and another layer of paint, to keep them from being too stark. I then used poster paint pens to write around the edge of the page.

For me, this is an example of what doesn’t work in layers. It’s too busy. The colors, while related, both heat up and muddy the page. “Hot mess” comes to mind. There is no cohesion and too many writing styles and sizes. For me, the very thing I wanted to talk about–getting to deep meaning in vision boards–is completely lost. I couldn’t write across the gold circle in the middle–which is no longer a glowing focal spot, it’s just a blob that looks like a mutant button with no holes.

The last one, however, seemed to get moving in the right direction. It’s layered, but the colors work together. A painted background of Titan buff is painted on, then the other colors–burnt orange, burnt sienna, raw umber, deep purple, Payne’s Gray, parchment. Many more colors than the other one, but all in proportion. That’s how come the colors work–proportion.

Your Choice, found poetry, multi-media journal page.

With just a few, related typefaces and sizes, there is more unity. In order to isolate the found poetry on the page, I created a layer of torn artist tape (similar to masking tape, but much thinner and lighter colored). It was in the right color family and added texture without demanding more from the eye. The raw-art sketch of the plant unifies the page without cluttering. Again, I used colors whose relatives were already on the page. The only new color was green, and we expect to see it in plants, and there is very little of it.

My opinion of layered pages? Carefully done, designed with well-chosen colors and not stuck randomly together, they can work beautifully. Just like every other medium–restraint governing the composition. And always, always, powerful meaning making.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and author who is proofing her book galleys. Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light Books in July, 2011. She is currently exploring.


Sharpening the Saw, Dremel Style

Today I’m off to Tucson to take a Dremel tool class. It sounds odd that someone who spends most of her time working with art journaling would need to wield a tool most often known for cutting, sanding, and drilling. But there is the creative curiosity thing–“what happens if?”

Dremel tool and attachments for drilling, sanding, building.Constant learning is a big part of a creative life. The spirit needs to be honed, tempered, and set to rest. This class is the honing part. To stay creative, sharp, alive, I need to learn new things, and how to work out new ideas with old tools.

The Dremel tool class seemed like a wonderful starting place. It will give me new ways to look at journaling, new answers to the question, “What is a journal?” Where are the boundaries of the thing that catches your thoughts and helps you discover yourself? If self-exploration is deep, limitless and expansive, shouldn’t the vessel that holds those thoughts be all those things, too?

Tell me about a journal you used that filled you with joy. I’ll catch up with you when I get back from class. Read the review of Jill Timm’s Dremel class.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.