Collage by Numbers

Words and letters are important to me. They shape my world, they help me see what others feel. And I almost always use some version of words in my art.

When I combine the love of collage with the love of letters, I got an interesting result. A collage made entirely of letters. OK, a few numbers, too.


It was in interesting experiment. It was fun to find the small and bold letters and figure out how to use them for detail and shadow.

I don’t want to continue this type of collage, because, odd as it sounds from someone who loves monochromatic work as much as I do, I would miss the color after a while. But meanwhile, I have another pear to add to the collection!

Here are a few other pears I’ve done:

Journal page with Maya Angelou's pear recipe

Journal page with Maya Angelou’s pear recipe

Pears, watercolor pencil on journal page

Pears, watercolor pencil on journal page

Pear on free-standing journal page.

Pear on free-standing journal page.

Pear mosaic on free-standing journal page

Pear mosaic on free-standing journal page

-Quinn McDonald does not feel compelled to move on to apples. Yet.

Quinn’s Ink Technique

For the last four years or so, starting with Monsoon Papers, I’ve been working with ink, using it instead of paint. Then I developed this fun ink drop technique for backgrounds for found poetry or as part of a collage. This is what the completed piece looks like:

Quinn's ink technique in three colors.

Quinn’s ink technique in three colors.

Part of the thrill of making these pieces is seeing the ink move. And the only way to show you that is with a video:

I can spend an inordinate amount of time developing these. And yes, they are in the upcoming book.

Quinn McDonald is actually starting to do videos. And liking them.

Looking Back. . .

In May of 2009, I bought four red journals and joined the 1001 Journal Project. It was an extension of the fascinating 1000 journal project done by Someguy. You can see the fascinating documentary by Andrea Kreuzhage on Netflix. Being just a teensy bit controlling at the time, I created a spreadsheet of people who wanted to work in the themed journals (travel, dreams, summer in Phoenix, and general) and sent them out, asking each person to return it in two weeks.

At first, it worked fairly well. But within a month, I had requests for journals from schools and church groups who were only together for a limited time, asking if they could have it next, so they could work on it together. I began sending out loose pages of heavy art paper, figuring I’d bind them together when they came back.

And suddenly, instead of participating in an interesting art project, I became an administrator and the book police. The books came back, and I’d send them to the next person, but first, I’d have to make sure they were actually at the address they had sent me. I had no idea people moved so much. Or were so scheduled. People asked if, instead of today, I could send it in 10 days, but ask first. Or in a month, but to a different address.

An illustration from one of the journals.

One email read, “I’m on the list, don’t know when, but send it to first address, not second.”  Of course, I hadn’t kept the first address, because it wasn’t going to be used. I began to spend two to three hours a day in administrative work, separate from my business and artwork. It wasn’t art, and it gave me a huge understanding why Someguy, the originator of the project, abandoned his 1,000 journals in public places, with no expectations of ever getting them back. It all made so much more sense.

And then the first book disappeared. I wrote the last person who had it and she swore she had sent it back. Another person said he’d sent it to the next person on the list, and since I kept the list, that couldn’t have been one of my red journals. I sent out over 200 cut-to-size pieces of paper. After six months, I had back about a dozen. People are busy.

After I got emails from people telling me they didn’t have the money to send the book back and I should have provided postage, I drove to pick up one of the books. At the house, I was rebuffed and told that there never was a book. Defeated and having learned a great lesson about control and art, I let the project go.

Two of the books found their way back about a year later. I shelved them, guilty about my poor art organization skills.

And then yesterday a padded envelope arrived in the mail, self addressed. I recognized it although it has been three years since I sent one of them out. No return address. No note. But it was the third journal. No worse for wear. It had the illustrations I still remembered and loved.

I pulled out the other two and looked at the three journals. Wondered what i should do with them. And then I had a great idea. It made sense, it closed the circle, and it is so about letting go of control. Tomorrow, Monday, September 3, 2012, I’ll explain the next adventures the journals will take.

Quinn McDonald is building on what she learned.

A Year Ago Today. . . (and a giveaway)

Note: The winners have been chosen! Congratulations Melydia on winning the book! Laurie Morris and Lisa from Artist Cellar have won the paper. Thanks to all for participating!

It’s been a year since Raw Art Journaling was launched. A year ago tonight I stood at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe and did what I had wanted to do since I was eight years old–introduced a book I hoped would help people try out their creativity.

Pinna Joseph, from Changing Hands, introducing Raw Art Journaling a year ago.

What I loved most of all was all of the loving and generous people who decided not to stay home, but to show up and smile and celebrate the book with me. Tonia Davenport (now Jenny), who edited the book and encouraged me to be unconventional; Lynn Trochelman, an incredible cheerleader and art instigator; Rosaland Hannibal, a spiritual and creative powerhouse and explorer who experimented fearlessly. Bonnie Barnard, whose brainchild Creative Mastermind group introduced me to an incredible group of women who became friends. I’m grateful to everyone who showed up, stood in line, purchased a book and shared encouraging and loving wishes. Particularly the Arizona Calligraphers and Maverick Quilters.

The books at Changing Hands bookstore

Some of the contributors to the book came, too. Journey Cole, Barbara Hagerty, Rita Ackerman.

Pinna Joseph, marketing director at Changing Hands, and one of the first friends I made in Phoenix, introduced the book. Cooking Man made food for the party.

In the past year, I have heard from so many people who purchased the book, tried the exercises, and fell in love with meaning making. Wonderful emails that proved that art transforms and mends. I also received a few emails from cranky people who didn’t like the book. That’s OK. It was not ever meant to please everyone. I’m so pleased the book did so well,  is still doing well, and I’d like to thank everyone who bought the book and discovered a part of themselves that made meaning and had fun.

Samples of Monsoon Papers in a variety of colors

To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of Raw Art Journaling and, for those of you who own it, a chance at one of two pieces of Monsoon Paper. Just leave a comment and let me know if you want the book (signed), or a piece of Monsoon Paper (let me know if you want it in tones of blue or brown.) Each sheet of paper is about 12″ x 24″ and can be used for journaling, card making or other paper art projects.

The drawing will happen on Saturday evening, July 28, 2012 at midnight Eastern Daylight Time.

Thanks again for an incredible experience!

—Quinn McDonald is working on her next book, The Hero’s Art Journal: Mixed Media Conversations with the Inner Critic. She hopes to be doing giveaways, classes, and an incredible book launch sometime late next year. She hopes to meet more of you then.

Journal, Journey

The words “journal” and “journey” have their roots in the same Latin word-–diurnus,  “of the day.” Each day we travel along our life, and yes, inevitably toward our death. I know that’s unpopular to say, but it’s what makes paying attention important.

Storm cloud, seen from airplane. © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. 2012

Each day is a series of moments, and then the sun sets, and the day is over. We can’t get it back. We can’t live it over. It is written in permanent ink. Each day molds us, changes us, makes us more experienced and older. Each day we become stronger in some ways, weaker in others. It’s never the same day.

So when someone asks me if I write in my journal every single day, with a slight hint of fear over the chore and obligation,  I reply, “Yes, if I’m lucky.”

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach. She is a journalist of her own journey.


Journaling Tips: When You Run Out of Words

Note: Please join me at Barnes + Noble at Desert Ridge (Tatum and the 101, Phoenix, AZ) October 6, 2011 (Thursday) at 7 p.m. to try this technique–and to get your book signed.)
* * *
There are days when even the most fearless and constant journaler runs out of words. No problem, skip a day. But what if you want to spend time with your journal but still have run out of words?

My favorite laptop file is one of quotes and clever sayings. It started innocently enough, with a quote I liked. I typed it in, added the name of the person who said it and the source (the permalink url where I had found it). Done.  One day, when I had a design in mind, I reached for a quote to complete the design. It was easy and fun.

Many of the quotes come from friends or witty class participants.  I add it to the file along with the name of person who said it and the date and place of the class I was teaching.

From p.84 of "Raw Art Journaling", ©Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

Some quotes require research to figure out who said it first. Google is not a research tool, it’s a popularity engine, so Anais Nin often gets the attribution for “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” Occasionally Steven Covey gets the attribution because he used it (unattributed, I think) in one of his Seven Attributes books. About 1,500 years before either Nin or Covey were around, the phrase was in the Talmud, the volumes of Jewish customs, philosophy, and commentary. Using quotes can be more than a page filler. It can be a study of positive and negative space. I used this small quote to define a whole page that has been sprayed with ink. The quote is a translation of what’s on the red chop (Chinese stone carving).

It says, “Do not become complacent in victory. Do not become frustrated by defeat.” It’s a quote I need to read again and again, both when the class has been wonderful and when it has been less than wonderful. It allows for growth and improvement without a lot of ego getting in the way.

Filling a small negative space is just one way to handle a quote. You can also use

From p 84 of "Raw Art Journaling", ©Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

words as the edges of your page, to frame a photo, a design, a doodle.The one at the right is the same quote as above, but it looks completely different when used as a frame.

This is that intersection of words and design that so intrigues me. You can see the frame as a simple space demarcation, or you can see it as a design, or you can begin to connect the frame with whatever you put inside. In this case, it’s still blank, because it is part of the instructions in my book.

Using quotes can free you from having to come up with a lot of words. Keeping them in a file allow you to sort through the exact match for your emotions, and that’s the heart of happy journaling.

For another design to go with the quote idea, see tomorrow’s blog:

–Quinn McDonald’s book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art is available at your local bookstore, or on her website, with free shipping till December 31, 2011.

Zipper Fascination

There is something about zippers that fascinates me. I don’t sew, so it’s not the idea of clothing. In fact, it’s the idea of not clothing. I want to use zippers in journals, to connect pages, to close a journal, to make a box that zips shut.

I love the way zippers close, one tooth at a time. I love unusual zippers, like the one below that shuts by lining up rhinestones and linking them together like a connect-the-dots puzzle.

The other day, I went to SAS Fabrics–the fabric superstore warehouse on Indian School Road in Phoenix. You don’t go to SAS to enjoy luxury, you go to SAS to get inspired. If you are looking for something very specific, you might not find it. But if you are going to see what they have today, you’ll be happy.

Three-foot high boxes of bandanas in blue, yellow, red, pink and white, fabrics in colors that make your heart beat faster. . . and your eyes water. Stacked next to each other. A soft apricot with yellow highlights next to a ultra-violet so bright and shimmery it must have been made on another planet. Buttons, belts, straps with snaps in every color and material. Piles of lace, trim, braid, and bias tape. Rick-rack so big it looks like a silhouette of a mountain range.

And zippers. Boxes of them. The longest and shortest zippers I’ve ever seen. Metal and fabric, colors from faded to saturated, teeth big enough to close a dinosaur’s mouth and another one so tiny it could zip up a mouse’s lips. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my treasure, but I have enough to experiment. Because zippers also represent what’s hidden and what shows and the temptation in between.

What’s your fabric-store weakness? Variegated threads? Batik fabric? Netting? I bought two yards of sage green burlap with no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it seemed like something to own. I’m open to suggestions.

-Quinn McDonald doesn’t limit art journaling to paper. There are buttons, zippers, and papers waiting to be connected with stitching, sewing, and fusible webbing.

Tucson Book Signing and more . . .

Raw Art Journaling in the window of Antigone Books.

Antigone Books in Tucson, AZ is a great bookstore with a good selection of books, interesting location on the 4th Ave. corridor of cool, eclectic shops and a staff that’s friendly and helpful. That was all true even  before they invited me to do a book signing there. I’d spoken to Debbie Cross several times, and she recognized me when I came into the store–probably because I was squealing at the stack of books displayed right by the front door. Or maybe it was because I was carrying a canvas bag stuffed with materials to do the permission slips. Luckily, Cooking Man came along as an art roadie, and helped with set up and clean up. I’m always grateful to have help so the bookstore can close on time, and Cooking Man can stack chairs and pack art supplies with amazing speed.

Close up of another announcement in the window. Yes, I was squealing on the street.

Book signings are fun, but I thought it might be more fun if we also made permission slips–giving people permission to do art, make mistakes, not clean the house right now. And while some people are making permission slips, others are getting their books signed, eating the yummy cream puffs and drinking the punch Debbie put out.  She’d even saved up cardboard pieces to let people work on their laps. What a kind touch!

A cheerful crowd asked good questions. It was nice to see PaperWorks people show up, as well as members of the Tucson Handspinners and Weavers Guild.

As always, I offered to mail the permission slips back to the people who wanted to get mail art and a surprise permission boost. In the selection I’ve shown, I’ve Photoshopped out any names to guarantee privacy.

Here’s a close-up of the borders on some of the cards.

After the signing, we went out to dinner at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. Excellent service, an mouthwatering menu descriptions that perfectly matched the plate bought out hot and delicious. When something didn’t work out quite right, the staff apologized and immediately made it right, with a smile. I assured them they didn’t have to do anything, but they insisted that they had to not only for my expectations, but for theirs. What an nice customer service surprise. The menu was interesting and varied enough so we’re planning another visit. And because we weren’t on the bikes, we could take home a box for later.

Tucson is a charming town, here are some of the sites we wandered by:

A mosaic in a pocket park, showing two bike riders, birds and fish.

The park had a tarp, and I took an accidental shot of it, too:

Yellow tarp angled in the fence. The shot was accidental, but worth keeping.

This window caused me to do a double-take. Oh, it’s the Church of SATIN.

Sky reflected in the Church of Satin.

And finally, the House of Medusa. Well, sure she was Greek. But she also had snakes for hair, and turned people to stone when they looked at her.

Is this really the best name for a restaurant? I finally decided that they meant “Mediterranean and USA” so I didn’t go in to find out.

Thanks again to Antigone Books, it was an evening to remember!

-Quinn McDonald is always surprised when she signs books. It’s still a little shocking to be signing a book she wrote. And fun.


Working the Line

For the next few days, I want to try some line work. Very simple, no color. I admire Elizabeth Perry’s simple, direct (and daily!) work. I thought I’d try practicing some more realistic work, just as a step into something different.

The instant I drew it, I began to wonder who this person was and what his backstory was. Where is he heading? Is he heading into the mountains or coming from them? What has he seen? Why did he choose to wander to begin with? When I looked at it again, it reminded me of the Little Prince. It’s interesting where a simple sketch leads.

Update: After I journaled about who this figure is, I decided to see what happens when I add color. It creates a completely different result.

This is ink wash,  watercolor pencils, Pitt Pen and Sakura gel pens on watercolor paper.

–Quinn McDonald is an explorer of words, ideas, and dreams.

Sakura Postcards: Off to Japan

Today was the day–after many posts, and many trips to the post office, the Sakura children are just a week away from getting their postcards. Today they went in the mail. Postponing seemed reasonable as long as the cards kept arriving.  No card-maker should feel left out. Finally the cards slowed down. I had three pounds of post cards. That’s a lot.

The first cards got a card and a hand-written thank you note. When I couldn’t keep up, I sent emails when I knew who sent them. I piled all the envelopes and cards into a box, and one day, I dropped the box, and the slip that kept the thanked cards from the unthanked cards floated across the room.

To all of you who remain unthanked, please accept my gratitude now. Your cards are amazing works of art, of kindness, of generosity, of giving.

To those of you who sent money, thank you so much. After three trips to the post office, and three different suggestions of how to send them, with three different prices, they fit, so they shipped. It cost just under $45 in postage, and I’m grateful for the help.

While I am sorry I did not send individual thank you cards, I’m hoping that seeing a display here (and many more here, and many more on my Flickr site, here) will convey some idea of how grateful I am.

Thank you for sharing your art for no more than a request. It will be a story the children long remember, and I hope someday an adult in Japan, who still has her postcard, will do what I did–and repeat the cycle.

–Quinn McDonald still has the postcard sent to her to make her feel welcome.