After Class

What does an instructor do after a long day of teaching? Don’t know what every instructor does, and I’m pretty sure at least some of us head for bars. Now that I no longer drink, I’ve found other things to do. Last week I was in southeastern Arizona, in a high-desert town flanked by mountains on two sides and rolling hills into the New Mexico desert on a third.

cotton1What surprised me is the amount of cotton. Pima cotton, the beautiful, long-fiber cotton much sought after for the textile it produces, is named after both the Pima Indians who brought it from Peru and for Pima County, where a lot of it is grown.

November is cotton-picking season, and the ginning machines run long into the night, the fields lit by the headlights of the huge machines.

The machines munch up the cotton plants–dry and prickly, studded with longcotton2 shreds of cotton. And they bale them in huge round cylinders or neatly packed into tight units that fit into the containers moved by train.

There were fields of sorghum, which from a distance looks like corn, but with a fat seed head. Corn fields are being cut, and every field that is threshed leaves food for sandhill cranes, which are now arriving. They are a little late this year, but they are arriving in long strands of 50 or 60.  The cranes feed in threshed fields during the day and then group and settle near water as it gets dark. Protection in numbers.

cotton3Driving past the cotton fields, I felt I was driving into the past. The road I was on has been used for hundreds of years–for the mail stagecoach, for the Conestoga wagons, for gold-seekers, miners,  and army deserters who moved West to hide, to start over, to leave their past someplace along the trail.

Duncan is a small town that still has old street lights, the gas mantles replaced by bulbs. The shops were made of stones, two stories with wood roofs. I turned North, then East, and drove into the farmland beyond. I saw the first birds lift out of the field and head toward a riparian area of cottonwood trees.

This is not my photo, but it is sandhill cranes. The photo is © carol parafenko and you can see more of her photography at:

This is not my photo, but it is sandhill cranes. The photo is © carol parafenko and you can see more of her photography at:

In the next half hour, I saw four more small groups. And then the sun began to turn the sky salmon and pink, and the road turned West, and rose up 600 feet. The top of the crest showed  the mountains looming on the horizon and I saw the skein of birds, making that warbling, running-water sound that catches your breath and speeds up your heart. I pulled the car over, already in shadow, and looked up at the graceful, long-legged, long-winged birds find shelter for the night. I did not want to see  if my camera could catch the birds at sunset. I did not want to take my eyes off them. I listened and waited and they flew overhead, and they and I were the only thing from horizon to horizon.

They settled past me, along the Gila River in New Mexico, leaving me to drive back, smiling, into the dark. And that’s what I did after class one day last week.

Note: Congratulations to Carol Michaud, of Soul Stories by Carol, who is the winner of David Maisel’s Life Purpose Boot Camp. Drop me an email with your physical address, and I’ll send out the book!

—Quinn McDonald is a naturalist, writer, and creativity coach who will drive 87 miles to see a flock of migrating birds.

Making The Commonplace Journaling

We’ve talked a lot about Commonplace Journals, and I thought it might be a good idea to show you mine. The purpose of a Commonplace Journal is to record items you need to remember, everything from the name of a book to an idea for a future art project. It’s not formal, it’s not meant to show to others or as a brag book. It’s your memory, your imagination, and the garden of your muse.

To hold my Commonplace ideas, I bought a hand-made journal from Val Bembenek. She makes wonderful, traditional Japanese-bound journals, about 8-1/2 inches  x 5-1/2 inches, with horizontal orientation. Val ties non traditional buttons on the front as decoration. She also uses paper bags as covers.  (You can buy them from her via email, too.) This one has a wine bag front cover and a bread bag back cover. Perfect combination!


I’m not showing you the front page, which is the same in all my books–the two crossed, curved arrows, and my email address so I can get the book back if I lose it. Because I travel with my Commonplace Journal, it has to fit in my bag. I generally put items in with a glue stick (which I normally hate, but hey, when you are on the road, you have to use what you have).


On the left side is the map to the hotel I was staying in. The hotel was great, with a fridge and microwave, but the complex was, well, complex. Thank goodness for the map. On the right side is information about the kinds of paper we made ad two samples. The page is dated, so I know when I made the papers.



While I was in Tucson taking the class, I stopped by an art store and bought some Neocolor II watercolor crayons by Caran D’Ache. On this page I rubbed the crayons and then showed the color and texture, both wet and dry and wrote the name and number next to it. If I buy some more (I may not be able to resist), I’ll have the number of the ones I already have, and I’ll add the new ones to this page.


When I went to Las Cruces, someone was handing out flyers for Earth Day. This was a good way to get the date right and remind me of the activities I participated in–including a film festival.

DemoPageThe ticket for the film festival is on the left, and a bit about the interesting documentaries about life along the backbone of travel (the Camino Real) in early New Mexico. On the right are the parking lot tickets for the days I was demonstrating at The Women’s Expo in Phoenix. I created marbled papers for Arizona Art Supply (and I’ll be doing local demos in June and July and teaching there in July, August and September!) More about that later this week.

You can see that this is a notebook is the real sense of the world. There is nothing beautiful about it, but it is practical and useful.

newpaperPageOne of my big rants is young girls dressed up to be sexy. I found a great quote in the paper from a mother who addresses her daughter’s threat that she will just change to the clothes she wants to wear after she arrives at school. That’s on the left, with some marbled paper. On the right is a quick collage I put together with some phrases about the underwear women wear as outerwear and the stiletto with the phrase “it pays” as part of the image. It was satisfying to make the collage, although the composition is not excellent design.  The pages can be cut up to use in another collage. Great way to store pre-made design elements.

KettleSTitchHave you ever tried to remember where you saw that article you need now? You can remember the side of the page it was on, but not the book or magazine. I’ve lost hours thumbing through my iPad, books and magazine stash, looking for that phrase, reference, or stitch. I’m working on a book of handmade papers, but it’s number four on my to-do list. I’ll need that kettle stitch to hold the signatures together. So I drew out the part of the stitch I forget, then added the page number and name of the book so I can find it when I need it.

BackcoverThe back cover of the book. I have many pages to write on before it’s done, but when it’s filled, it will be a useful reference book as well as reminder of when I did what.

If you are keeping a Commonplace Journal, leave a link in the comments, so we can visit others as well!

-Quinn McDonald is enjoying Memorial Day weekend in art projects. But she’s getting back to work on Monday. She’s a ghost writer for several blogs, and they are due this week.

The Next Book

On Friday, I heard from North Light Books (a division of F+W Media) , the publisher of my book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art, with the good news. My book proposal was accepted and I’ll be writing another book!

Yes, I am excited beyond belief!

What’s the book about? The inner critic and you. Most of us face the inner critic, and know the constant message of lack and attack: “You aren’t good enough,” “You don’t know enough,” and “Other people will take what you have.” That inner critic.

Most people talk about ignoring the inner critic, throwing him/her out of the studio, or ignoring all the demolishing talk.

After doing a lot of research, I thought there might be a better way to deal with the draining emotions, the disappointment, the self-doubt.

If you have an inner critic, you also have inner strengths--maybe you are a great problem solver, or you can pull good ideas out of a hat like a magician pulls scarves. Maybe you have sharp critical thinking skills or can find your way out of your mental maze. All those strengths can be used to confront your inner critic.

Each one of those skills belongs to one of your inner heroes–and each one of us has different heroes. We don’t often use them, because we struggle so hard to get rid of the critic. Or distract, evade, or ignore the critic. No more.

Here’s a question to see if you access your inner hero: You take a test. You get a 98 percent. You immediately check to see what you got wrong, rather than spend a few seconds enjoying how many you got right. That’s you, feeding the ego of the inner critic.

The book will help you finding that inner hero who can confront the inner critic. And you are going to use intuitive art and deep writing skills to get there. The book will show you how. With lots of different techniques.

There are writing techniques and art techniques. None of them require special skills–that’s why it’s a how-to book. You already have enough and know enough–but the book will make it interesting to talk to your inner critic seriously.

I’ve been teaching classes already, and I’ll be teaching more classes, looking for your techniques and your art for the book. And yes, I’ll come teach your group if you want me to. Find between five and ten people, and we can probably make it work out. I’ll also be posting upcoming classes in a few days.

The working title? The Inner Hero Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Your Inner Critic. I hope you’ll join me in developing and trying out the book. Either in classes or here on the blog.

–Quinn McDonald is now officially working on her next book!

Combining Websites

It’s finally complete–I’ve merged my two websites into one, using my company name, QuinnCreative. The former Raw Art Journaling forwards viewers to the new site. There were practical reasons to do it–keeping up two websites and a blog didn’t make much sense anymore. And while I love having the website just for the book, it quickly became my art site, leaving the business site static, never a good thing for any website.

A few interesting changes about the new website:

–It’s totally green. Not the color, but the impact. All the servers used to create and run the website are 100 percent wind powered. Not such a big deal, but small contributions add up.

–The slider on the front page highlights the different divisions of QuinnCreative. It’s hard to explain to people that I both write and deliver training programs and do raw art journaling. Having a moving slide show does a good job of it–and you can click on the text box (or the dot below the slider images) to stop the movement and read the whole box.

–The book page links to the amazon site for the book, but also has a link for a Flickr Group so people can post their own raw art journaling examples. I thought that added a nice touch. Eventually, I’ll sell signed copies of the book on that page, too.

–Events, Workshops and Tutorials are not separate header tabs. They are grouped under What’s New and appear on every page of the website.  Putting them on every page makes them easy to find.

Jen Wolfe of Wolfe Creative did the design work and WebWorksandDesign is the host. In addition to the green site, I like the prices for hosting. Without the separate price for the web-design tool, I save a good deal of money.

I hope you take a peek at the new site and enjoy it. I’m sure there are some hidden typos and errors there, but I’m pleased with the new design and the slimmed-down look.

QuinnCreative: Changes Coming in July

Usually when I say “changes” people cringe. I’m going to do something different. It may be hard. What if you hate the change? Upcoming changes will make sense to you, because they are, well, sensible.

1. One website. When I began to write the book, I opened a website, to talk about he book. Then I moved all the creative work over to that site. I had a business website, which covered my training, writing, business coaching. The time has come to combine the websites.

2. What are you going to call it? My business name is QuinnCreative. My one site will be at (There’s no link now, so I can put in the new link when the site debuts).

3. Are you designing it? No. I’m not an expert in web design, so I hired Jen Wolfe, who created my logo, is designing the site. Target date for the new site to open is July 15.

4. One person, one site. For a long time, I thought my business clients would run if they knew I was an artist. Turns out, I show up as a creative all the time, and the clients who appreciate creativity want to bring that part to their business as well.  The clients who don’t want a creative approach discover my type withing two minutes of talking. If they don’t want a creative approach, they will be unhappy working with me.

5. Say goodbye to the newsletter. For years, I’ve had a newsletter. With social media taking the place of newsletters, I’m depending more and more on my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to keep in touch. With the book coming out, I need more time to concentrate on creative work. I want to develop more classes, both online and in person. That requires time, and a way to get back some of that time, is to discontinue the newsletter. I’d suggest subscribing to the blog, either via RSS feed or email.  There will also be a “what’s new” page on my website, allowing you to check in and see updates. More convenient all the way around.

6. Coaching prices are going up, and two gifts. As a gift to current clients, I will keep my coaching prices where they are for now. Coaching prices for new clients will rise (to $350 for 3 sessions a month and $150 for a one-time occasional coach) when the new website opens.

Second gift: To celebrate change, I will hold the old prices ($275 for 3X a month and $100 for a one-time occasional coach) until the end of July for anyone who mentions the blog. The old prices will stay in effect until the end of 2011 for anyone who begins coaching by the end of July.

I hope to see many of you at the new website as well as continuing on with me here. This blog will not move. It’s been here for almost five years and 1,500 blog posts, and it will stay right here.

Creative Play: Theme Thursday 5/14/09

Thursdays are good play days. Especially creative play. So here is a round-up of ideas, how-tos, and other creative play.

I’ve started QuinnCreative’s end of the 1001 Journals Project. I’ve registered four red journals, and they are starting to circulate. Themes are:

  • Travel (real and imagined)
  • Dreams (Daydreams count)
  • Summer in Phoenix
  • Unthemed for people who have their own ideas.

I’ll be posting who has the journals and updates of where they are as well as images. A full first posting will be up on this blog on Monday, May 18. Yes, you can participate.

Wonder how all that color gets swirled onto shibori silk? Sue Bleiweiss demos on this video. Watch, and you’ll want to do it, too. Best of all, at the end, you see the finished product. Nice touch!

I often wonder how other people do raw art, or doodling. Is it planned? Here’s an interesting step-by-step from Joyfuldia.

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a constant doodler; she says it helps her concentrate. She’s a science report for NPR, and this video shows her doing some fast abstract work. You’ll have to click on the blue/white/black video on the left side, halfway down the page. It won’t let me copy it. Which is fine, because then you can read “Oodles of Doodles” on the same page, it discusses the benefits of doodling.

Modern Gypsy has a great art journal, the link goes to a page of type and navigation tips. If you are in a hurry, just click the butterfly on the bottom right corner.

Gustav Klimt was a dreaming raw-art painter. I love looking at his work for a long time, seeing the colors first, the shapes next, the whole effect washing over me. Here is the picture of the month, but I prefer the whole gallery, where you can choose to enlarge images.

Pete’s Pond is in Botswana, Africa. You can be there, too, and watch what’s happening at the pond day and night. You can see interesting things at night, too. The camera zooms in, centers zebras, owls, and occasional food-chain incidents.

If you enjoyed these, and missed last week’s, enjoy it, too.


One-Sentence Journaling

Keeping a journal is a way to provide a map of your journey. It can be as private as you want it to be–from a public blog to a journal kept in a locked box.

Handmade journals, (c) Quinn McDonald

Handmade journals, (c) Quinn McDonald

Journal writing is not complicated. While I know journalers who prefer to keep detailed accounts of book plots, movie summaries, menus and restaurant reviews, I also know journalers who keep a bare-bones journal. A few details of the day, and they are done.

Some years ago, I introduced a new journaling experience– a course called “Once Sentence Journaling.” It was meant for busy people, those who collapsed into bed each night, with no hope of creating a deep interior dialogue with themselves.

Interestingly enough, other people came to the workshops, too. Poets who wanted to encapsulate worlds of emotions into a few words, parents who wanted to slow down the race of childhood, people who thought they couldn’t write. The classes filled up with people who had no time, people who never kept a journal, but thought this sounded easy enough, people who had a dozen journals, but never filled any of them.

The classes grew and the content changed constantly. I now teach the class in person, online, and in phone-in workshops. Every time I teach it, the mix of students changes, and we discover new exercises, new words, and new sentences.

Because one-sentence journaling is a door to experiencing your life in small pieces and making meaning of it.

Follow Quinn on Twitter.

-Quinn McDonald teaches a variety of journaling courses, including one-sentence journaling, journaling for perfectionists, and wabi sabi journaling. For more information, contact Quinn at

Wabi Sabi Journaling in Tempe, AZ

March 12: Wabi Sabi Journaling In-Person at
Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ

Wabi sabi, a Japanese aesthetic, honors the old, the incomplete and the unfinished. It’s an interesting topic for journal writing, because a study of the aesthetic leads to choosing the real over the artificial; simple over fussy; handmade over mass produced.

I’m running a seminar at Changing Hands this Wednesday, March 12, 2008. You’ll get an idea of what creativity coaching looks like as well as learn more about Wabi Sabi. Bring a journal for maximum fun.

It should be an interesting evening at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, at the Southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe. The class runs from 6:30 pm to 8:30pm. Bring a journal! The class is $20 and you can register, by calling the store at 480-730-0205.

Art on a Budget (tutorial)

A few days ago, I spent $50 on art supplies so I could get back to making art. I discovered that the only paper I had was my journal, so that meant small format art. I also discovered that I had to make my own decorative papers, since I don’t have access to it.

decorative paperTo create decorative papers, I painted a journal page with gel medium. Using a colorful catalog, I ripped thin strips (grain long works best) from the catalog, staying in one color family. Using more gel medium, I glued the strips so they overlapped. The white edges were fine. When the gel medium was dry, I used the water-color crayons and paint to cover the gaps that showed the journal pages. Another color of gel medium (semi-gloss) and I have decorative paper to cut up and use in projects.

My next project was one of the word/image pieces I do. I opened a new journal page, and painted the entire double-truck in Titan Buff (Golden acrylic) thinned with semi-gloss gel medium. This gave me a uniform background. Because the back of the page was the decorative paper experiment, the page soaked up a good deal of paper, and the paint absorbed differently on one page than the next. That happened to be fine with me, it gave it a more interesting effect.

I added another layer of paint, this time creating background. I kept it simple because I had only a few colors. For the rest of the image, I used torn paper. I used ink pen and acrylic on a small brush for the tree. For the writing I used a brush pen in brown. I’d drawn in guidelines to keep the writing straight, but the ink of the brush pen didn’t dry after three hours, so when I went to erase the guidelines, the ink smeared. Good lesson to learn.collage mountains

When you experiment, don’t expect everything to work out perfectly. What you learn on the trial run will come in hand later. This is similar to painters doing studies of their subjects before working on the final piece.

raven call

Arizona is filled with ravens and crows.  They both mate for life and form family groups, which can be great fun.  Ravens and crows both have a long history of trickster and magical stories attached to them, and while I am not an illustrator, I find drawing them a good way to learn how to look at objects.  Here I used graphite pencil to create a sketch, not erasing mistakes and not abandoning the drawing. Harder than it sounds, but a good drawing exercies.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach. See more information at (c) 2007. All rights reserved. Images: Quinn McDonald.