Loose-Leaf Journal Pages (Again)

The idea behind loose-leaf journal pages is simple–you can create a group of pages. If you like them, they go into the book. If not, they can be reworked without slowing down the creative process. Some other good reasons:

1. I can keep sample pages in one section. Here is a page that shows Twinkling H20 colors on one side, and some Tombow water-soluble pens on the other. I always keep samples in my journal, but now I can keep them all in one place, instead of shuffling through journals searching for that second set of Inktense samples.

2. I can remove pages that are too personal to show to a class. This means I can carry samples that are ready to show and take out pages that aren’t the right sample for the class, or ones not meant for anyone but me. The pages are easy to remove.

3. Loose-leaf pages can remind me of an idea I had and what it meant. I can group similar ideas or series that I make weeks apart. It’s a great idea for teaching and planning. This one shows a group of alchemy symbols. On the back I have notes on how creativity is like alchemy.

Loose-leaf journals don’t have to be your only journal, but they can be a very useful one if you have a lot of ideas, a lot of plans, or teach a lot.

-Quinn McDonald is a keeper of journals and a maker of Monsoon Papers, a technique she created and will teach in Valley Ridge, Wisconsin, May 5 and 6.

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Public Journaling: Content and Context

Although it’s meant as personal art, raw art journaling also has practical purposes. It can be used in keeping notes so people understand what happened in a meeting, what ideas were represented, and what the outcome of the meeting was.  The business  name for this is visual facilitation.  Here’s an example of visual facilitation. It’s a lot easier to look at images and words because together, they create ideas.

Visual facilitators combine content and context. Image: http://avrilorloff.com/

The reason raw art works–both personally and professionally–is that we process and understand ideas using our left brains, and understand emotionally using our right brain. Judgment is performed on the right brain–along with emotions. To get someone to understand and agree with you, you have to engage both sides of their brain.

You can write in your journal and persuade yourself because you are talking just to you in a journal. In a group, you have to make your thinking understandable to many different kinds of people. In this way, visual facilitation is like journaling in front of a crowd–and it’s their journal.

Full brain understanding happens through content and context. PowerPoint, originally designed to allow engineers to talk to marketing, is an example of the result of increasing content and reduced context. Endless bullet points instead of simple images is death by PowerPoint.

No one feels inspired by the "bean people" anymore.

Add emotional understanding through images and you not only “get it,” you keep it gotten. As it were. If you just heard this as a presentation, you’d still be guessing. But add context with vivid images, and. . . .you understand it.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She trains people in improving their PowerPoint presentations by using visuals that clarify content.

Journal Your Way into 2011

Happy New Year! Which custom are you bringing in the New Year with? Black-Eyed Peas? Entering the house on the right foot? Starting  a squeaky new journal?

For the last several years, it’s been very trendy to create journals with no writing–just lots and lots of thick, layered, colorful pages. I’m a fan of thick pages, but I must admit that a journal with no words is, well, empty for me. I understand their value as art pieces, but I’m a writer, so I want those meaning-making words. It doesn’t have to be page after manuscript page, but words are art, and my journals need words to be complete.

Top: pamphlet journal, Coptic journal (flowered cover), Rescued book journal, everyday journal (open), Japanese stab-bind journal (dark blue cover)

Putting my blog post where my heart is, here are some ways to keep your journal working for you this year:

1. Filling that empty first page. Don’t let it scare you. Here’s are five ideas for filling that first page. While I put those two arrows going in different directions on my first page, I also enjoy creasing the page in random places without tearing out the page, using washi tape to make a random design, or cutting a hole in the first page to peek through to the second page.

2. What should you write in your journal? Don’t feel you have to write every day. Write when you have something to say–but don’t be shy about what you have to say. Keep lists to get you started. Sure, you can keep a list of books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen, but it might be far more interesting to keep a list of what people do to annoy you, the most outrageous outfit you see each day,  (where is the fashion police when you need them?), types of people you really don’t like, things you stopped to look at and loved, people you’ve kissed or hugged. Add a list of food you’d like to eat and one of food you actually eat. You might discover that you are an interesting landscape worth exploring.

3. What kind of journal? You have a lot of choices–explore them. Journals that look like books, journals in loose-leaf binders or spiral-bound composition books. Accordion-fold journals, open-spine journals that lie flat, like coptic journals. Fold-up journals that look like maps. Maybe they are maps. Make your own journal. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. Design your journal to fit what you are going to put in it. Saving menus, movie tickets (what day did you see Tron? (The 1982 original.) You might need an envelope journal. Which brings up (but doesn’t beg) another question:

4. One journal or many? It doesn’t have to be either/or. I have one journal for ideas, notes, comments. It’s messy and not at all “pretty.” But it’s useful and used. From that I make other journals with more limited uses. For example, this year I want to keep a nature journal–an odd thing in Arizona, right? Not at all. We have four distinct seasons in Arizona, even on the desert floor, but they don’t look at all like the seasons in Connecticut or Washington, D.C. I want to know if the figs are early this year, and if what I remember about last year is true.

I live in one of the most beautiful states in the country–the vacation destination of many, but I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. I’d like to do short trips this year, the kind loved by those who own their business. Not gone too long, but enough to relax. So I’ll keep a map journal. I love maps, all kinds of maps, and I want more of them. You can keep an index card journal and take it with you.

You can keep journals of what you wore to all the weddings or baby showers you went to, what you were wearing when you heard good (or bad) news, what you were wearing on everyone’s birthday. You can keep journals just for yoga, just for hiking, just for keeping track of your music and what you listen to when you are in a certain mood. You can keep a journal of food you love to eat and food you hate, how many miles you put on your car and where you went, how long it takes to wear out a pair of sneakers and how you did it. There is no shortage of how you spend your time. In fact, that’s another journal. And don’t forget a journal about your favorite words. Or a one-sentence journal. That’s a start. You can keep going from there.

5. The point of journaling is to explore. You can do it everywhere and any time. The only thing holding you back is not doing it. Enjoy 2011 and take notes so you can remember the good parts.

–Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler who makes and keeps journals, teaches other people the joys of journaling and wrote a book about it. Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art comes out in July.

Page from a Raw-Art Journal

One of my favorite quotes is from Dogen, about enlightenment being like the moon reflected in water. The moon and sky can be reflected in a tiny drop of water and hold the whole reflection, without getting the moon wet and without disturbing the reflection.
If I were a calligrapher, I would spend hours playing with this quote.
But I’m not a calligrapher, so I created several pages in my journal of how I see and feel the quote.
That’s the joy of a raw-art journal–you don’t have to be an illustrator. You simply let the quote move onto the page in its own way.

Dogen enlightenment In the first page, the words are important, and the image adds movement, although it doesn’t illustrate what the words say. Nor does it need to. The curvature of the path of the moon and the increasing size stir memories of seeing big pale moons rise into the sky on a fragile spring night.
In the next one, the quote is not used at all, only the words “enlightenment” and “satori” (Japanese for ‘englightenment’) are used. One is bold and graphic, the other is a reflection of enlightenment in it’s absence of form. It shows the power of the quote, without ever referring to it specifically.Satori

A raw-art journal can let you explore your intellect and emotions without entangling either one.



–Images: journal pages by Quinn McDonald. (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer. She teaches workshops on raw-art journal writing. For more information, see her website, raw-art-journals.com

Adjusting to a New Location the Artist’s Way

You move someplace new. How do you make yourself feel at home? What does it take to get used to athin seen pod location that is different in many ways to the home you left behind? If you work, you meet new people right away, and they will point out their favorites stores, theaters, restaurants, activities. You work with new people, you adjust.

color pencil aloe seedpodYou’ll notice the differences first. The things that are the same don’t stand out, but the differences do. So when I landed in a place 2,500 miles from my starting location, I had the same experience, but through the eyes of an artist. One of the first things I did was buy a handful of different colored pencils–I had plenty of greens from the East Coast landscape, but I needed purples, grays, tans, and yellows for the desert.

Looking around, I noticed that the trees were different. A lot different. Most of them didn’t have big leaves, there was one that had a green trunk and no leaves. I discovered it was the Palo Verde, a tree that sheds its leaves in summer to protect itself from the heat. The green trunk does the work of photosynthesis.

What fascinated me was the seed pods. Trees in a searing climate protect their seeds in hard-cased podspalo_verde_seed_pod that twist open in the rain, or look delicious to birds, who carry the seeds away and plant them with a dollop of fertilizer. I’d gather up seed pods during walks, put them on the drawing table, only to discover that the next morning, they had twisted open enough to shoot seeds across the room. Some of them have thorns to hitch a ride. I discovered those as I walked barefoot across the carpet. Others have sails on them to carry them on the wind.

The desert is an amazing place of great beauty and amazing variety. If you visit it, bring a camera. It changes every day, and everything is worth photographing.

–Images: color pencil on 100-lb Bristol board by Quinn McDonald

–Quinn McDonald is an artist who is endlessly fascinated at how plants, animals and people adjust to their environments. She is a certified creativity coach and a life coach specializing in transitions. See more at QuinnCreative.com