Journaling with Pen and Paper

Put down the paint–all of it. Acrylics, watercolors, pastels. Lay down your  neon gel pens, distressers, macro- and micro-glitter,  mica shards and flower petals. Put them down. Now. You don’t need them to journal.  Breathe. Clean off your desk.  Breathe again. Just for now, we are going to keep it simple. You can go back to layers-upon-layers tomorrow.

bkgrnd_ifc_p1Just for today, allow your journal to be a quiet discovery of what’s in your heart and soul. It doesn’t need six layers of paint, crayons, punchinella stencils, gloss varnish, sprinkles and hot chocolate sauce. The last dozen journals I’ve seen were heavy and colored and had ephemera stuck all over them, but not a single word that helped the owner make sense of her life.

I believe in slow art. Simple art. Original art. It has your fingerprints in it and your mistakes throughout it. Because it is original and raw. I believe that the original digital art was done by hand–ten digits, including an opposable thumb– with a pencil on paper. After that, pens and maybe watercolor pencils were added. That’s all you need to make meaning. Meaning might not come from words alone, but it doesn’t comes from pressure to buy pounds of tools to create busy, color-laden, thick, but word-empty pages, either.

bkgrnd_p-4-5Try going to spare. Simple. Pen and paper. With words. If you feel that your journal pages have become the boss of you, and meaning has taken the back seat, throw everyone out of the art van and rearrange the seats.

Put creativity and your good common sense in the front seat. Everyone else who is clamoring for attention (“But X puts paint in her hair and puts her journal on her head to get color!” “Be like Y and use that new archival peanut-butter-and-jelly stain to create an inner child page!” ) has to sit in the way-back and be quiet. Give them a coloring book and ketchup packets.

Black Pitt pens work just fine. A touch of color, maybe. But not a lot more.

Black Pitt pens work just fine. A touch of color, maybe. But not a lot more.

Now you are ready to drive. Find your meaning, purpose, and self awareness in simple, direct lines.   Remember when you loved making things? Go back to that time. It was rich in content, satisfying in the doing.

-Quinn McDonald has a Shaker and Bauhaus sensibility today.

Journal Pages: No-Layer Backgrounds

An image becomes recognizable when they eye sees 30 percent of it.

Put down the paint–all of it. Acrylics, watercolors, pastels. Lay down your  sizers, distressers, macro- and micro-glitter,  mica shards and flower petals. Put them down. Now. You don’t need them to journal.  Breathe. Clean off your desk.  Breathe again. Just for now, we are going to keep it simple. You can go back to layers-upon-layers tomorrow.

You don’t need “layers upon layers” in your journal pages. Just for today, allow your journal to be a quiet discovery of what’s in your heart and soul. It doesn’t need six layers of paint, crayons, punchinella stencils, gloss varnish, sprinkles and hot chocolate sauce. The last dozen journals I’ve seen were heavy and colored and had ephemera stuck all over them, but not a single word that helped the owner make sense of her life.

I believe in slow art–and I call it Raw Art. It’s yours. It has your fingerprints in it and your mistakes throughout it. Because it is original and raw. I believe that the original digital art was done by hand–ten digits, including an opposable thumb– with a pencil on paper. After that, pens and maybe watercolor pencils were added. That’s all you need to make meaning. Meaning might not come from words alone, but it doesn’t comes from pressure to buy pounds of tools to create busy, color-laden, thick, but word-empty pages, either.

Below are some pages from a journal I made without a painted background.  Simple. Spare. With words. If you feel that your journal pages have become the boss of you, and meaning has taken the back seat, throw everyone out of the art van and rearrange the seats.

Put creativity and your good common sense in the front seat. Everyone else who is clamoring for attention (“But X puts paint in her hair and puts her journal on her head to get color!” “Be like Y and use that new archival peanut-butter-and-jelly stain to create an inner child page!” ) has to sit in the way-back and be quiet. Give them a coloring book and ketchup packets.

Now you are ready to drive. Here are some pages that use only Pitt pens and watercolor pencils and my own weird handwriting. I loved making every page. Remember when you loved making things? Go back to that time. It was rich in content, satisfying in the doing. Here are 4 examples of raw art.

Use simple lines. Write with your own handwriting. It's yours. That's enough.

Lines make perfectly good backgrounds. And your pen isn't lumping over paint.

Stick with black and white. Or use color. In some places and not in others.

I created these flowing, intersection, organic lines. They leave space for writing divide up the page and let you meditate as you fill a page.

–Quinn McDonald writes and creates journal pages with raw art journaling. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art is now available.

Fear of Art, or, “I CAN’T Draw”

When I begin any of my journaling classes, I explain that we will be doing more than writing. Before I explain what it is we will do, someone will say, “This better not be about drawing. I can’t draw.” There is a lot of fear about drawing. Most people have their creative play driven out of them by fourth grade.

They are told what art is, and lessons are generally about precision and not making a mistake. Instead, art is about seeing and being. And making mistakes so you can fix them and learn to see better.

My big fear is that to be considered acceptable as a teacher, I better have a lot of “stuff.” Stamps and UTEE and templates; cutters and vinyl and foam; printed paper squares and ribbons and stamp pads in pigment and dye and chalk. But I don’t. I don’t have all that stuff. I have colored pencils and inks and some handmade papers and great drawing paper.

I believe you can make art without a lot of stuff. Art comes from within you, not through stencils, transparencies and puffy paints. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, or that creative play should be sparse. I am saying you don’t need to break the bank and become an art-product consumer to be an artist. It’s not what you own, it’s what you do with what you have.

Preternatural Breakup by Justine Ashbee, (c) 2006

Here are two great examples of what I mean. Both of these people can’t NOT make art. They stand in the flow of time and art and the work pours out of them because there is no other choice. They have their own ideas of what art is, and the only tool either one of them uses is a Sharpie pen.

Justine Ashbee uses nothing except Sharpie pens and good paper. Her flowing lines and subtle use of color are incredibly beautiful art. She does it freehand. It comes from within her. It’s the flow of art. You couldn’t stop her creative work because it makes meaning. It doesn’t need to be supported with a million products.

Charlie Kratzer, the other artist, does a totally different kind of work. He decorated his entire basement with a black Sharpie. OK, it was more than one. It was $10 worth. The rest was his creativity, his ideas, his desire to decorate his life.

Kratzer is a lawyer, and started with one line in the basement–a line that began a mural around his basement wall. The mural is not just furniture and columns and wainscoting, although it is all that.

The art spans literature and popular culture, Picasso and Churchill. I could list all the things on the wall, but there is a wonderful video and article that does a much better job.

Being creative is not about owning stuff, buying stuff, or having a fabulous studio to store the stuff. Right now there it’s popular to have artists’ studios in magazines, along with descriptions about how this big, airy, wonderful space is exactly what every artist needs. Yes, it’s nice to have lots of space and storage, but thinking you need 150 square feet with special furniture before you can create is the same as thinking you aren’t an artist until you have six shelves of stuff. Creativity is making meaning in your life. Anyway you can. No excuses. Get busy doing one thing that you love. It’s fine if you think you can’t. Just get into the studio and start. The rest will wash over you and sweep you away in art.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people discover they can make meaning in many ways. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

“She”, a Slow Art Monotype

A monotype is a form of slow art. Each monotype is unique–there are no multiples, no print runs. There is just one.

Printing ink is applied to a plexiglass sheet and then marked or incised to create an image. The plate is place face up on the bed of a rolling press. A piece of heavy print paper (in this case, Arches) is put over the print and sheets of felt are laid over the paper. A rolling press applies pressure to complete the print. Since most of the ink is pressed onto the paper, each one is unique.

Below, “She” in purple, red, and gray. 5-inch x 7-inch image on 11 x 15 sheet.

There are two more prints in this series. See them at QuinnCreative.com (c) Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved

Monotype, “She” by Quinn McDonald

Another Idea About Slow Art

Slow Art: (noun) the visible or auditory result of creativity; the original work of art created by a person without assembling kits through instructions. Kit parts or kits assembled in a way not originally intended (the kind of re-assembly that violates warranties) count as slow art. Used first by Quinn McDonald, who took the idea of Slow Food (the opposite of fast food, and meant to apply to food grown locally, cooked in simple ways that are both nourishing and enjoyable) into the creative world of the imagination.

I’ve written about the value of slow art before. More than once. The idea has moved beyond art and into general creativity. Inspired by Do-It-Yourself channels, the imagination has taken creativity into the most interesting corners.

Perhaps the digital world is not as satisfying as we hoped. In the 1960s, visions of the future included lives with computers that did all the work, while people enjoyed far more leisure. But we don’t have leisure anymore. The 40-hour work week is non-existent; we stay at the office longer and longer to prove our “passion” for our work. When we leave, we beg to have our lives interrupted via phones, beepers, Blackberries, and computer cameras. We love being available at work.

And a certain contingent is rebelling against the organization that everything is virtual. The artists who delight in Slow Art want independence from digital compliance. So they hack and mock their way into a new world of creativity.

Instructables.com defines itself as the “world’s biggest show and tell.” You can learn how to draw (analog or digital), bake bread, get a tree planted on your block in San Francisco, or create a spill-proof tray for your Honda Odyssey. This is original work by people who want to let others know an easier, better, or more interesting way to live their life.

If you are a bit geekier, you can go over to makezine.com, which will show you how to make a Minthesizer– is a low voltage, low power, analog synthesizer. If you are a low-level geek, there is an article for a foolproof way to open a bottle of wine. My favorite is the crossover from PDA to altered art–a hardback book turned into a “laptop PDA” by a combination of art and hack.

Hackzine reclaims the word hacker for the good guys by bringing the technorati together in the blogosphere to improve technological devices. Sure you can run Linnux apps in Windows, but I’m really interested in drawing holograms by hand.

My mood is lifting. Art and the imagination are not dead. It’s simply moved into the streets as a pick-up game of mental play, where mixed media gets a whole new meaning and anything original can be improved on. It’s a wonderful next step into the magical realm of Slow Art where originality counts more than price, and sharing information is part of the joy.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and artist who values Slow Art. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

More on Slow Art

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the huge variety of slow art, and the difference between assembling pre-packaged items and working with simple tools and creating on your own. I’ve had some more random thoughts that haven’t unified themselves, but may if I put them in one place.images-11.jpeg

1. Does the huge variety of pre-designed, cut, colored, pasted, printed and available products for collage, scrapbooking, and altered books encourage creativity or stifle it?

2. There seem to be a lot of specific tools that do one specific task–apply glue, heat objects, flatten clay. It seems to me that they could have designed a multi-purpose machine for a certain art. They invented the fax/phone/copier for communication, why not a die-cutter/color-applier/printer?

images-21.jpeg3. Is the flooding of the choices in paints, embossing tools, glues, fibers really to help artists achieve exact creativity, or it is more to sell product? If the favorite hobby among American women is shopping (according to studies I’ve read), isn’t is a great marketing idea to combine shopping with new craft products? Is the goal simply encouraging more spending, more acquiring?

4. When my son was small, I purchased coloring books for him and fell in love with the wonderfully soothing task of coloring. Then I purchased them for myself. I’d sit there and use new crayons–waxy and smelling of ideas. It was clearly not creative; I was prosaic–blue sky, green grass. I found it calming and soothing, and it was one of the steps that led me to other, more ambitious parts of my life–meditation eventually replaced coloring. So did making my own art. It was a step along the way.

images-4.jpeg5. What is the leading edge of art? What changes make progress and which ones are useless? Is there ever a way to know? When the computer came out, I scorned computer art, but now I use Photoshop to create virtual collages I could not achieve with paper and scissors. And those collages don’t exist anywhere except on my computer. They aren’t “real.” No one can hold them. Does that make them less art?

Just random thoughts from an art retreat. Nice to have time to think.

–Quinn McDonald spends time thinking about art, writing, and the connection the two make between people. See her work at QuinnCreative.com  Images, top to bottom: directomedia.com;  commons.wikimedia.com; creativespirit.com (c) 2007. All rights reserved.