Collage Background

Backgrounds for your collages are all around–you can use ripped up magazines, paints, books, or. . .your own photographs printed on unusual papers or exaggerated in size. Train your eyes to see backgrounds, photograph them, and the world will fill up your journal.

rock wall with vineTake photographs to save the idea, and then print them on a variety of papers–photographic papers will give you a stiff, glossy surface.

Printing them on copy paper will give you a softer look, but be careful–ink jet ink will run with glue. Spray it with several light layers of fixative first.

Print them on Lazertran or transparency paper. Print them on heavier paper and paint ink over them.letter

Or just leave them alone and use them as the beautiful backgrounds they are.

From top to bottom, the images are:

1. Rock wall with a dried vine, taken at the Washington Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

2. Close up of a letter stained with tea and printed on Lazertran.

shadow on sidewalk

3. Close up of a sidewalk stained by grass fertilizer and very hard water, Mesa, AZ.

4. Close up of salt-stained staircase in Washington, D.C.salt-stained wall





Quinn McDonald is a collage artist and a certified creativity coach who teaches collage art and visual journaling. See her work at


Choosing by Picture

Facebook does it. So does My Space. In fact, almost every website does it–post pictures of people who are in the company or in the public eye. We do it for recognition, and because people look at other people–even if it’s just in a photograph. In fact, eye-tracking studies have shown that people will look at the photograph of another person, particularly at the eyes, before they read copy.

images-2.jpegI’ve become uncomfortable with the fact that organizations I belong to ask me to post my picture in my listing or on the page they provide me with. One of the facts that has come out in research on hiring practices is that we are drawn to people who look like we do, and who are similar to us. So a blond hiring manager is likely to offer the job to another blond, although the reason given is “the applicant is a good fit.”

So I did a small experiment. I took a picture of a much younger, thinner me and posted it on two listing sites for one month. I then removed it and put up an unfortunate picture taken of me squinting into the sun, with strong shadows under my eyes. I left it up for the same amount of time. While it’s not a scientific survey, the results were not surprising: the month the younger me was representing my company, I got almost twice as many requests for information.

I think that in listings that include photos, we unconsciously (or perhaps deliberately) choose the person who is attractive–young, slim, fit, good-looking. We don’t look at the qualifications first. We go for the glamor. So I’m beginning to wonder if it might not be a good idea to not post photos on the Web. I don’t want to go as far as to post someone else’s picture, but I’d rather not be eliminated for race, gender, age, weight, hairstyle, or the amount of shine on my teeth.

What do you think? Is it important to have up a good-looking photo on your website or listing? And if you aren’t good-looking, what’s an honest alternative?

–Quinn McDonald is a trainer in business writing and speaking. She also gives workshops in journal writing.  (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved.

Image: 1912 class of Corsicana High School on

Control and Change

Most people hate change. It makes them rethink their lives, their choices and maybe even start off in a whole new direction. Some change is bigger than others, of course, but all change creates a reaction. We can’t control change, but we can choose our reaction. The important part of change is that it is inevitable. We can’t control it, the more we struggle, the more we notice our own futility. I’ve seen people fight change as if it were a mugger. Change usually wins.

morning agaveThis morning I saw a great example of the inevitability of change. It helped a lot as a way of seeing how change works and what to look for.

On my morning walk, I noticed a house with a big blue agave surrounded by flowers. I don’t know the local flowers yet, but they look a lot like Greek Windflowers, or anemones. Because it was early morning, the yellow and orange flowers were closed like a fist. The area around the agave looked polka dotted.

Time passed, shadows shifted and change came. I drove by again at noon, and the flowers glowed from a block away. Fully open, they made the agave look smaller. The flowers opening is change, and inevitable. I could have yelled at them, but they would have still opened. I could have threatened them, could have said I’d bang my head on the sidewalk, blamed them for opening, but they would have opened anyway. They are plants and obey their nature.agave at noon

The gift of change is that we can see things from a new perspective. The cost of change is that it demands attention, and maybe more change. If we see the grass is too high, it has changed, and we may decide to mow the lawn, another change.

Change is a link in a chain of events. We may not control the links or the length, but we control the materials the links are made of. Choose your materials well.

–Images/Story: Quinn McDonald (c) 2008 All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a writer and trainer in communication topics. She is also a certified creativity coach.