Art on the Corner

When I first saw the house, I thought a sculpture was in front of it. Nope, the corner was painted. In a really interesting way. Someone had a great idea, and it looked like this:The painting looks almost three-dimensional, and standing on the sidewalk, I could not see the detail. My rule, when I’m out for a walk, is to never step on private property. By staying on public property, I can take photographs without asking for signed permission.

Lucky for me, the other corner of the house was easier to get closer to. What surprised me is the detail and care whoever painted this took to make it work so well.

I often think that when we dig up civilizations, we don’t look for spreadsheets, we look for artifacts. Someday, this will make a wonderful artwork that someone drew on two corners of four apartment buildings.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing as a healing process.

Creative Weekend Boost

Some interesting creative ideas on the intertubes:

Not nearly as weird what you are thinking, it's a colored pencil drawing of chewing gum.

Not nearly as weird what you are thinking, it’s a colored pencil drawing of chewing gum.

Julia Randallis a colored-pencil artist. Having taken colored pencil classes, I think it’s a beautiful medium, but very, very difficult to get right. Randall does. In this beautiful collection, she draws. . . bubble gum. In different colors and at different stages of use. It’s funny and weird and somehow lovely.

Looking closely at the work, the incredible patience needed to be a successful colored pencil artist becomes obvious.

Not into gum? She also has a series called Decoys, on the dangers of genetically modified plants.

Eric Cahan's painting. This is a sunset.

Eric Cahan’s painting. This is a sunset.

David Emitt Adams is a photographer. It’s always fascinating to find someone who has a clear vision of something totally different. Adams does. In Conversations with History, He finds old cans in the Arizona desert, then prints desert photographs on them. “I use these objects to speak of human involvement with this landscape and create images on their surfaces through a labor-intensive 19th century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion,” Adams said on his site.

What? iPhone oil paintings? Not what you think. If you’ve talked on the phone and then discovered oil and makeup on your screen, you are in tune with  JK Keller’s vision. He wipes his face with an iPhone, and then uses them to create screen art. To advance the show, look for the green triangles on the center, outer edges of the page frame.

Eric Cahan is a minimalist. His paintings are all either dawn or sky. He identifies them only with time. Somehow, no more is needed.

Have a creatively exciting weekend!

Saturday Surprises

The winners of the free creativity coaching have been notified. Because of my confidentiality rules, the names won’t appear here. Thanks to all of you for participating!

Skywhale, being inflated.

Skywhale, being inflated.

What’s new for Saturday? For a whole new way of thinking about creativity, visit Patricia Piccinini’s site, and read about her amazing hot-air balloon sculpture. Part pre-historic fish, part breast, it was commissioned for a Canberra Centennial. The photos are amazing, beautiful and funny. Of course, I think flying breasts are funny.

Geraldo Feldstein is an absurd super-realist whose work is both familiar and reminiscent of outsider art. His installation work is startling and humorous, and his paintings are spare but rich in color.

Yep, a record. Of wood.

Yep, a record. Of wood.

Amanda Ghassael combines science and art. In this project, she laser cuts a record. It’s entirely playable, but instead of vinyl, it’s made of wood. She also has one of paper.

The world of creativity is large and interesting and not always about painting or mixed media. Enjoy the weekend and  wherever your creative explorations take you!

Quinn McDonald is looking through books for a project. Uh-oh.



Feathers and Paint

Carmelo Rivas works in a dry climate. The charms of wallpaper are not a good choice in that climate. The wallpaper paste dries out and the paper shrinks and sheds off walls.

CarmeloCarmelo wanted a wallpaper effect on a stucco wall, but wasn’t sure how to achieve it. This was 1994, so Google wasn’t a first choice. Or any choice at all. Carmelo began to talk to people who did renovations and discovered that some people were creating decorative finishes with ostrich feathers. He loved the effect and taught himself how to use a big, curving feather to create an effect that looks a lot like Japanese Unryu paper with grass inclusions.

Over the last 20 years, Carmelo has perfected the technique and gone through a lot of ostrich feathers. The paint can’t soak through the feather, and the finish has to be done with a gentle touch. In order to make the finish look like wallpaper, the pattern has to be evenly spaced, have the same paint distribution and use a blend of colors, and sometimes a glaze.

When I saw Carmelo’s work, I had a lot of questions about techniques. He hasn’t ever been interviewed before, and my questions sounded as if I were trying to pry his secrets out of him. I backed off and just enjoyed the papers.


And here’s a blue wall with cream feathering.


Because I took the photos inside, under fluorescent lights, there was some color distortion, which wasn’t on the wallboard I was holding.

The two more were so subtle that they photograph poorly. Carmelo judges the light in a room and the colors that are outside, but visible from the room and those inside the room before he paints. Sometimes he chooses four of five colors, but the final effect is so well blended that it’s hard to pick out the different colors.


I have a great appreciation for people who choose a creative outlet that inspires them and spend years improving it. If others laugh at them or tell them the work is impossible or silly, they shrug and admit that others have their opinions. But it doesn’t matter as long as their work satisfies  their creative itch and improves with practice.

Quinn McDonald loves discovering people whose creativity is an integral part of their lives.


Art Takes Different Eyes

It seemed like a good idea when I signed up for two art classes this semester. I work at the Mesa Art Center and want to get to know the other instructors. My spouse is 2,500 miles away, and I am setting up a new business–having a built-in art break sounded like a stroke of genius.

watercolor brushesI signed up for watercolor and basic drawing. While I’m an artist, I’m not an illustrator, and wanted to learn some illustration skills for the visual journaling class I teach. There were two different equipments lists, and I ran around two different art supply stores getting what I needed. At least both classes has a drawing board and pencils in common.

That was the last thing they had in common. Drawing is all about seeing the detail and proportion and getting it exactly right. Watercolor is about seeing the heart of the idea and capturing it in the fewest possible lines. My drawing teacher walked past, and showed me how to use a pencil to get the angle between two pieces right. My watercolor instructor walked past, looked at my attempt to get the colors exactly right and said, “So, who’s winning?” Sadly, the answer was “nobody.”images-3.jpeg

Drawing is about watching carefully, seeing exactly so you can get the same thing on paper. Watercolor is about watching carefully, seeing exactly, so you don’t put it on paper, but give the viewer enough hints to get your meaning.

Impossible, I thought. If only things were more like writing, I’d bet better at being an illustrator. But, in fact, drawing is exactly like writing. If you don’t get the dialog down precisely, your story will sound flat and uninteresting.

images-12.jpegIf you spell out every detail you will bore the reader.  Skip an important detail and you will lose the reader. Like a watercolor artist, a good writer will know the bones of the story and get them down. The rest is up to the reader’s imagination. A right balance of imagination and good writing makes a book come alive and echo through the decades as powerful writing.

So I swing back and forth, being exact, being clear, painting, drawing and writing down life to make it come alive for others. And to make some meaning for myself.

–Quinn McDonald is an exhausted art student, writer, and certified creativity coach. She also runs seminars in journal writing, business writing, and presentations. In her spare time, she prays that the mattress for her bed shows up soon, as sleeping on the bed slats does nothing for her sense of perspective. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Image: writing sample:

Blending, Layering, Mixing

My husband is a personal chef–he cooks for people who are too busy to cook. He cooks for us, too, healthy, fresh meals. After a few days of original meals, I tackle leftovers, combining vegetables, starches, and meats into new combinations. They never taste anything like the original, but carry the memory of the original dish into the new one. It doesn’t taste like leftovers.

color wheelWhen I start a collage, I combine paints and glazes into different colors than in the original tube. I use sponges and cheesecloth and tape to create a mix of textures. Collage is a combination of different items to create a whole new piece of art. Words, images, photographs–all transformed into a new look.

Perfumes hold special magic for me. I am a lover of niche fragrances–the scents not found in department stores, and often scents that are unusual, different, and not popular. They are not related to the fragrance fad of the moment (fruity-floral is the current rage), instead they are created by “noses” (a perfume designer) who want to recreate a memory, emotion, or sense of time and place. Even these scents, however, are often not complete. Serge Lutens may have built the perfect winter fragrance in Arabie, but it leans toserge lutens arabie the sweet side, and while I love dates and figs, I wish there were a bit more edge to it. No problem. Simply put on the edgy, gingery body lotion by DSH, Gingember, and there is a perfect blend.

I mix the slightly cloying Honey & Lemon by L’Occitane with a spritz of Jo Malone’s Verbena de Provence. The dry verbena chased with a breath of lavender cools down the honey and sweet lemon and creates summer on your wrist. While I love using richer, spicier scents, like Caravelle Epicee, in the winter, I can bring back a whole summer’s day by the Honey, Lemon and Verbena combination.

It’s not that one thing isn’t enough, it is the joy of something new, something beyond what is offered, something that you create yourself. Whether it is art, food, or fragrance, the joy of layering, blending and mixing is a delightful alchemy to be tried and enjoyed.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She can be swept away on a fragrance.  Image of color wheel:  Serge Lutens Arabie:   (c) 2007 All rights reserved.