Tutorial: Found Poetry, Raw Art

Found poetry is the discovery of hidden words and phrases in text that was written for another purpose entirely–a catalog or magazine article, for example. The poem is not found all together, you’ll find a word here, a few more six lines down.

I find this accidental discovery a perfect match for raw art--which is drawing abstract patterns that are pleasing, exciting, soothing, or engaging. Both are a discovery and both result in the creation of something new.

You can make up a variety of rules to make found poetry more challenging–mine are simple: You choose a set number of pages from a catalog, book, or magazine and find words or phrases that, when cut out and placed next to each other, make poetry. No fair using song lyrics or pieces that are already poetry.

Be careful to cut out words that are grammatically correct in the place you want to use them. That might mean cutting out extra letters. Because you are creating a collage  the words can be different typefaces, sizes or colors.

Then you add raw art–in this case a repetitive topographical pattern, with a suggestion of plant life, to match the seasonal theme of the poetry and to emphasize the word “freedom” and the tribal feel.

Horizon Dust

Time around us moves faster.
The seed that was sown 20 years ago
sweeps into the season raw-edged and tribal.
New growth, striped in rich autumnal hues,
moving to a new feeling and a new freedom
blossoming forth.

Found poetry with raw-art © Quinn McDonald 2009 All rights reserved

All the words in “Horizon Dust” comes from a variety of clothing descriptions in two pages of the Sundance fall catalog.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who stands in the middle ground between words and illustrations, believing they both make meaning and create art. © Quinn McDonald, 2009 All rights reserved

The “Perfect” Journal May Be A Mess

“What does your journal look like?” one of my class participants asked. She was putting away her own carefully crafted art journal filled with delightful patterns and colors that she had copied from magazines.

“What do you think it would look like?” I asked, knowing where this conversation would lead.

Thinking in circles © Q. McDonald

Thinking in circles © Q. McDonald

“Your journal would have exquisite artwork on every page, with beautiful handwriting in lovely colors. And the whole book would be perfect–no mistakes. You’ve been journaling a long time,” the participant said with the joy that comes right before the bubble pops.

Silently, I handed her my journal. It has a water-stained front cover and the elastic is over-stretched. She opened it, and gasped, involuntarily. She had opened it on a page in pencil, with an ugly sketch of a thing that might be a butterfly followed by several swashes in pencil. She looked at me in real doubt. I was the teacher here? She flipped to another page. A drawing done diagonally across two pages, with a not particularly good illustration of a hand reaching up to find a pen on a table.

The participant looked at me with pity. “This is yours? Is it recent?” She was horrified. How could the instructor in a class have a journal that was so. . . ugly?

The class had gathered and I held up the ugly butterfly page. “When I saw this butterfly done in repoussé  and chased on a pendant, I loved the Asian feel it had. When I drew it, as an illustration, it was flat, missing the raised element of the repoussé and the deep outlining of chasing. The Asian influence came from the technique, not the illustration, and I didn’t understand that until I did the drawing. Had I added shading and definition, added a framed,  it would have looked like the pendant.

“Why didn’t you?” Another participant asked.

“I learned all I need to learn from what I had drawn,” I said. “Having learned it, I noted it on the page and then could move on.”

“And the . . .hand?” another participant asked.

“Hands are hard to draw, but this was not about the hand. This was about breaking the page–creating an artificial edge with a diagonal line across the page. Elizabeth Perry is an expert at it. I was not, so I practiced, and gave myself a chance to copy my own hand at the same time.”

My journals are not little artworks ready for framing. My journals are explorations on translating what I see into a flat surface. My journal is about experimenting and failing, and knowing why I failed. My journals are about experimenting and succeeding and knowing why it worked this time. Some pages have instructions for an idea, some a diagram that makes sense only to me. Some pages are beautiful, some are not. My journals are my work, my thoughts, my ideas, and they are not perfect. They can be a mess on the way to pretty good. And that’s why my journals make me indescribably happy.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and recovering perfectionist.  Quinn is also a life- and creativity coach who helps people through change. She teaches people who can’t draw how to keep art journals.

Theme Thursday #12 Falls on Saturday This Week

Last Thursday I was distracted by personal scheduling issues, so the Creative Play of Theme Thursday appears on Saturday this week.

The lead article today is about Linked-In–the professional equivalent of FaceBook. Neal Schaffer is a smart

Raven Coil journal by Amanobooks, listed below

Raven Coil journal by Amanobooks, listed below

marketer, good writer, and sharer of solid information. So you can ignore his uber-busy website with zillions of distracting typefaces, sizes, colors and feed links and focus on the article on how to avoid big mistakes on Linked-In, you’ll find Linked-In a useful tool.

Gabi Campanario used to live in Spain. Now he lives in Seattle and does amazing illustrations. He just started using Issuu, a website that lets you turn PDFs into books. He has an example of some sketches he turned into a video book for his son. Clever idea, well executed!

Gabriel is the one who started Urban Sketchers, which you’ve seen in Theme Thursday more than once. Urban Sketchers is an invitation-only blog of people who sketch scenes of where they live or travel. On this page is the report of a great event called “Shut Up and Write,” originally organized by Mary Ann deStefano, who runs Mad About Words. Writing with a friend is easier than writing all by yourself.

Amanobooks is amano my own heart. He makes interesting, functional journals for a variety of uses. His website opens your head to what can be created creatively and used practically.

You can join in on Theme Thursday: post three links to sites you love or blogs you follow. You can do it on your site or in comments here.

Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays:  Creative Play 8/6/09 * * * Creative Play 7/30/09 ***Creative Play 7/23/09 * * *Creative Play 7/16/09 * * * Creative Play 7/2/09 * * *

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Traveling Journals: Update 7.10.09

The travel journal came back from California. Jeannine Jourdan did two pages in it, and as usual, I’m amazed. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and when it’s combined with a great sense of design and color, it’s breath-taking. I had no idea when she signed up that she was an artist, and opening the book was a complete surprise.

Jeannine Jourdan for the Traveling Journals © 2009

Jeannine Jourdan for the Traveling Journals © 2009

Because of the color on both pages, she created a separator page of vellum. The image below shows the page in place, covering the beautiful gold writing on the page with the fish. Below, you can see the fish page without the vellum covering. The gold is now more reflective and doesn’t photograph as well.

Jeannine Jourdan, © 2009

Jeannine Jourdan, © 2009

I didn’t ask Jeannine what the writing meant, I’ll have to do that. Right now, I’m just in delight at these colors and images.

–Quinn McDonald is circulating both journals and loose pages for strangers to create art, write, and make meaning in any way they want.

To participate–to write or draw in one of the journals or on loose pages, send an email to rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com

Traveling Journals Update: Loose Pages.6.26.09

More loose pages are coming in–these are from Theresa Hall.

The traveling journal project is getting a lot of attention from artists and journalers alike. Absolute strangers are contributing to four traveling journals and to loose pages of art paper I send them.

You can joint the project. Send me an email at rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me which journal you want to contribute to, or if you prefer loose pages. You can read more details.

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

This around-the-world project allows people to express themselves in any meaningful way. For the loose pages, I’ll bind them when I have enough. For the journals, they will be a part of a large, traveling art and journaling project which I hope to circulate through libraries and museums.

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Traveling Journals: Changing the Rules

When I decided to create four traveling journals, I kept the idea pretty close to the 1000 Journals Project because that was a good model. As the journal entries unfolded, several interesting events took place:

Red traveling journals

Red traveling journals

1. Creative Insecurity. The person who started one of the journals has a great deal of art talent. In a class, one of the participants said, “I’m glad I’m not following her.” I didn’t understand, so she explained, “Well, if I saw this great art, I’d feel bad. What could I do that would be as great?” I had never thought of the journaling experience as being competitive, I had thought of each person contributing something new and different, a new perspective. But I’m sure that competitive perspective is not unique.

2. Not enough journals. With four journals, I can’t have a class work on them. If a class has a dozen people, no one will have enough time, and keeping the ones not working on the journal busy will short-change the one who is working on it.

3. Time constraints. Each person keeps the journal about 10 days. Mailing takes about three days. I have people from Australia, Bosnia, the Phillipeans and other countries signed up. The waiting list for one journal is already four months. A long waiting list was one of the problems that people told me about with the plan.

4. Lack of meaning-making in the concept. Circulating the journals is an administrative task that I don’t find compelling or packed with meaning-making.  I have to ask people not to create pages that are too thick to keep the book from closing comfortably. I hate restricting imagination and creativity.

What to do? I asked participants in the creativity incubator, I thought it over, and came up with some great alternatives. If I circulated loose pages, most of the above problems would be solved. If I circulated loose pages to create on while people were waiting for the books, and encouraged people to do both, the resulting creative rush could be exciting and fulfilling.

If I gathered the loose pages and created inventive ways to bind them, well, then, I could also have a creative experience. This sounded like a workable idea. It also changed the art experience to a completely different journaling experience than the one created by Someguy, the person who ran the 1000 Journal project as an art experiment.

Solution that re-tooled the project:

  • You can still sign up for the red traveling journals. You sign up for them, and I
    Re-purposed book

    Re-purposed book

    manage them, scanning and posting the pages as they come in and sending them out again to the next person on the list. You can see the list of where the books are, and who will have it next here. You can sign up for more than one journal.

  • You can also sign up for loose pages. You won’t have to wait for them, because I have them pre-cut and ready to go. You can create FAT pages (layer papers, add photographs, use multi-media techniques) or FLAT pages (writing, drawing, watercolor, thin collage) depending on your style, art, ideas, and imagination. You can use one of the themes from the red traveling journals (travel, dreams,  or Summer in the Sonoran) or make up your own.
  • There is only one rule: Because I will use different binding methods, some of which I haven’t invented yet, you will need to leave a half-inch margin all around the edge of each page. You can run color or collage up to the edge, just keep words and important image parts one-half inch aways from the edge.
  • The re-purposed book. One idea I have is to re-purpose books. I’ve snagged some books from a future in the landfill. I’ll cut out the pages, leaving a margin. I’ll send you a few pages along with some art paper. You can choose to use some, all, or none of the existing book pages. When you send it back, I’ll re-attach it to the pages I cut out. A re-purposed book!
  • Re-inventing the book. Another idea is that I will choose pages that relate to each other and find inventive ways to bind, stitch, rivet, or otherwise attach them to each other. This gives you the joy of creation and it gives me the chance to explore the meaning of “book” and play with the form. Everyone is happy.

I’m excited and eager to see how this adventure unfolds! I plan to continue this program as my main creative work for the foreseeable future, so if you are reading this and wonder if I’m still running the program, ask.

Sign up. You do not have to be able to draw to participate. The only requirement is a hunger to communicate with people from around the world in a culturally interesting project. You can read more about raw art journaling on my website.

You can sign up for the red journals, fat or flat pages, or both by sending me an email: rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com. Or use the link at the bottom of the left column or top of the right column on this page.

—Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. She is managing this project our of her own funds and hopes to take the completed books on tour to museums and libraries. You can contribute to the project by using the button at the bottom of the page, here.

Product Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

After reviewing the Derwent Graphitint Pencils, I had to review Derwent’s Inktense pencils. OK, I didn’t have to, but it gave me a great excuse to buy and try a new set of pencils.

The two sets are both watercolor pencils, but very different. Inktense colors are a lot brighter, which is to be expected. Graphitint’s (graphite pencils) description is that they have a “hint of color,” which they do, when put on dry. They develop considerably more when you wet them. But Graphitint are all muted graphite tones—wines, rather than reds. Barks, rather than earth browns.

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Inktense is a different story. The pencils are a bit harder, but not scratchy. These are bright colors, but very transparent. When washed over with a wet brush, they look exactly as if they had been made with an ink wash. The transparency really surprised me. Ink washes have always been a bit tricky, they required putting ink into cups, adding water, then trying them out first. Here, they don’t. I apply the dry pencil to paper, then add the amount of water that makes the right tone for the wash.

Best of all, they can be used by brushing a wet brush directly against the pencil, then applying the brush to paper. That makes ink washes portable.

The combination of Graphitint and Inktense makes a wonderful combination set to travel with. I’ll probably add a few colors to the Inktense to give it the wider range I need for the desert, but the blending ability–and yes, they blend with each other, gives a wide range.

Note: if you blend the Graphitint with Inktense, you won’t get the beautiful transparency of Inktense alone.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach and a writer who teaches art journaling for people who can’t draw.

Journaling With Strangers and Friends

NOTE:  This project has been completed, please do not join. Every artist needs to tackle a big creative project and jump into it without a safety net, at least once in life. My time is now. I’m leaping into a journaling project with no idea where it will go, what will happen, or what the result will be. I have a teeny, tiny need for control (OK, a semi-Prussian control ideal) and it is hard to let that go. But I’m doing it. I’m journaling with strangers, all over the world. In a standard journal.

Here’s the project: I took four red, unlined, Handbook journals, and am sending

The red journals before they hit the trail.

The red journals before they hit the trail.

them into the world, to perfect strangers, to let them do what they want with the journals. Write in them, draw in them, paint, collage. Anyplace in the world that can be reached by mail. And then return them to me.

Three of the four have themes, one is unthemed. Some people are happier if they have an idea to work with, some have an authority neurosis and don’t want to be hemmed in.
Here are the themes:

  • Travel, real or imagined
  • Dreams, daydreams, night dreams and wishes
  • Summer in Phoenix (You have to live in the Sonoran desert for this one, the entire Valley counts)
  • Unthemed for free spirits or writers or artists with creative claustrophobia.

What happens to the journals? This is the great part. I belong to the 1001 Journals Project. Each time the journals come back to me, I scan the pages and post them on the 1001 Journal Project site, as well as the What’s New page on my own Raw-Art-Journals site.

Eventually, the journals will be full. If I’m lucky, and there is a good response, I’ll add journals and themes.

At least three libraries are working with me to create a class, and then have people check out the books using the information/reserved book desk for about a month or so.

Once the books are complete, they will go on tour to libraries and possibly museums.

Leave your mark by journaling

Leave your mark by journaling

There are more ideas, all still in development. For example, in some classes, rather than hand around the book, which would require people to draw under pressure, I’m handing out individual pieces of paper. The person draws on both sides and returns it to me. I’ll bind these into a book, creating a new journal in an unusual way.

Where are the books? Right now the books are in their second round of journalers. One is in Maryland, and the others in Sedona, Mesa, and Goodyear, AZ. All of this will be tracked on the What’s New  page of the Raw-Art-Journal website. There will be a list of the people waiting for the journals (first name, last initial to protect privacy), so journalers will know when to expect the books.

What’s in it for me? The immense joy of knowing that writing or drawing in a book is still valued and important enough for people to wait, write, draw, send back a real-book journal. Acknowledging our culture in ways history books do not and cannot.

I’ve read hundreds of journals written by immigrant women and women who crossed the country in covered wagons. Overwhelmingly common to their books were tales of birth and death, food and fashion, all starting with “this is just a day to day track of my life and not important.” Their stories are detailed and fascinating, and I want to help that happen in our time.

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

I have computer diskettes in every size that I can’t open because I didn’t update the storage and retrieval system on my computer, but my father’s first art journal from the beginning of the last century is still in my bookcase, paper and drawings intact, ready and available. For me, that’s worth it.

Where’s the money coming from? For right now, I’m funding the project. I bought the journals and the pieces of loose paper and envelopes. I’m mailing them out at my own expense, and asking participants to pay the postage back to me. I purchased the domain and built the raw-art-journals website.

And yes, you can help. I’m hoping that there will be organizations who pay me to talk about journaling, teach raw-art journaling (for people who want to keep an art journal but can’t draw), bring the journals and create classes. I’ll look for grants. I do know that I can’t support the project forever, or even for a long time. I’ve got about $400 of my own money into it, and for me that’s a lot. I believe in journaling, I believe in this project, and I believe in its success. People will contribute (there’s a button on the website for donations), doors will open, opportunities will arise.

You can read about the updates of the journal’s travels on the What’s New page of the website.

You can join the list of journalers and  sign up to write in the journal of your choice.

You can leave ideas and suggestion by leaving a comment to this post.

If you prefer to email me, you can do that by sending an email to: rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com. Writing it out like that slows down spammers and phishers, so it’s not a direct link.

I’ve always admired people who believed in art and took part in something meaningful, and then do it. For me, this is more important than the 15 years I spent selling my art work at art festivals. Because it is not a marketing tool or an income producer. It’s simply art for art’s sake. And for me, that’s making meaning in life.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal keeper. © Quinn McDonald, 2009. All rights reserved.

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.


Use Symbols in Your Journal

Symbols are important to us–as people who want to say something, as artists, as creatives.  You already know a lot of symbols–letters and numbers for starters, but also everyday symbols–traffic lights, the signs for men’s and ladies’ rooms, interstate signs for food, gas, lodging. Until you begin to notice it, you don’t realize how many symbols you do know.

Creating symbols of your own, that are meaningful to you (and not necessarily to anyone else) is a part of  making raw art journals.  With just a few lines there are many symbols for communicating, for expressing, for creating your vision to be shared.

The clip below was originally sent to me by Andrea Kreuzhage, documentary filmmaker of The 1000 Journal Project. Andrea knows a thing or two about symbols. Below the clip is more information on Kirsten Murray, who created the clip. Music by Four Tet.

Vodpod videos no longer available.