Living a Portfolio Life

Writing a blog is fun, inventive, a chore, impossible, and, well, just like real life–a mixed bag.

Lots of ideas can fit together like a mosaic.

Lots of ideas can fit together like a mosaic.

Smart people, who care about Search Engine Optimization and marketing businesses like mine, keep telling me to pick ONE audience–art journalers, writers, life coaches, training developers, instructors, workshop leaders–and write only to them. “It will focus your energy and give you a better audience,” they explain.

Perhaps. But I don’t DO one thing–I live a portfolio life. I do several things, all of which I love, and all of which connect through my heart and soul. They don’t need separate websites any more than I need separate desks.

Seven years ago, I vowed not to make my art pay the mortgage so I could do the

Creating your own reality happens only when you take the time to do it.

Creating your own reality happens only when you take the time to do it.

art I wanted, not just what sold well. That gave me huge creative freedom,  less creative discipline that I needed (another whole blog post), and a lot of work in different areas.

Corporate clients who were bothered that I was also an artist expressed concern. I told them that if I was not meeting their expectations as a corporate trainer, we should speak to that point so I could create better results. No one spoke up. But I know that in the corporate culture, creativity is called “disruption” and that the name itself doesn’t sound great, even if the effect often is.

So the blog continues to jump from topic to topic–training, art journaling, workshops, demos, ideas, life problems, coaching issues–just like real life.

But I’m open to different ideas, and if you have one, let’s hear it in the comments section. Or tell me how you decided to limit your blog (or not). To check out different ideas:

  • Julie Fei-Fan Balzer posts photos of her creative adventures every day on her blog.
  • iHanna takes us on visual journeys through her daily life on her blog.
  • Seth Apter often talks about other people’s art on his blog, The Altered Page.
  • Tammy Garcia is a peripatetic artist whose website (Daisy Yellow) covers a vast variety of art topics

Meanwhile, I’m getting comfy with the different kinds of work. I’m re-doing my website (every website needs an update every 18 months or so) and am open to new ideas.

–Quinn McDonald has opened the window of her mind. She’s got a head cold and is hoping for a drying breeze up there.

Workshop, Playshop, Passion

More and more artists aren’t teaching “workshops” anymore, they are teaching “playshops,” because work is so odious that we don’t want to be involved with it in our free time.

I love play. It feels freeing and effortless. I also love work. Work results in some sort of good, or change, or results, often interesting or at least useful. Calling a day of learning “play” instead of “work” seems to diminish both terms.

“Set a table in your garden,” Quinn McDonald © 2012, watercolor pencils on paper, collage.

Work is honorable and doesn’t have to mean suffering. Work indicates that the results are not gained in a way that is fast, fun, or free. Work is best done deliberately, with full concentration and effort. It requires an investment of energy and time. That’s what makes it satisfying.

We often say our work is our passion. And while we think of passion as unchecked emotion, the Latin root word of passion is pati, which means suffering.

Sometimes work is hard, sometimes it causes us to suffer. But that doesn’t make it bad. Some of the hardest times of life finish up with some of the best learning, best results, and best ideas. Hard work, both physical and mental, can feel painful while it feels like growth.

So I’m going to continue teaching workshops. Where people show courage by working intuitively, writing deeply, and speaking their truth. We’ll also laugh and be astonished at the results, because hard work feels good.

-Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who loves her work.

New Class Samples in Progress

Studio time lately means developing samples pages for the class I’m co-teaching with Rosaland Hannibal. The Arizona Maverick Quilters are a fun group who are open to a big world of experiences. Rosaland and I developed a class using both paper and fabric techniques to create a journal.

We decided an interesting way to show the techniques is for each of us to develop a sample book for the class. Rosaland is an art quilter and I’m an art journaler, so our approaches are different. Which makes for a lot of fun.

Here are some snapshots of pages I’m working on. They are all in progress, but the combination of materials and techniques lead down some interesting rabbit holes of exploration.

Cheesecloth makes interesting textures on paper. It can look thin and frail, or like a sturdy net.

Cheesecloth can be dyed in a variety of ways. As I don’t have to worry about wearability, I can use fabric paint, rinse to get the shade I want, and let the cheesecloth dry.

Paper towels take on color beautifully. I noticed that the ones I use to clean up while I’m working often look wonderful–the random colors mix effortlessly, largely because I’m not controlling the outcome. In order to make them sturdy enough for journal pages, I iron them onto fusible webbing. Once they are stable, I write on them with colored pencil.

Dryer sheets are a versatile non-woven material. They are coated with a fragrance and a fabric softener, so after I pull them from the dryer, I save them. When I have a dozen or so, I run them through the washing machine with the towels. That gets the residue out of them. The page background above was made by spritzing the dryer sheet with pearlescent paint and using fusible webbing to attach the sheet smoothly. The sheets take gel pens, poster pens or Pitt pens easily. This one will actually be used in a more complex page design.

I have a fascination with sheer fabrics, particularly if they have some sparkle. I found a gray fabric stamped with holographic sequins. Of course, it’s neither heavy enough nor stable enough to make a journal page. My surprise of the evening is that I discovered how to attach the fabric to a sheet of transparency film so I can either attach pieces to a journal page, or write directly on the transparency film. I’m excited about this new technique and will be doing a lot more work to refine it.

Rosaland and I will adapt the class for non-quilters, and be ready to teach it at the end of May. Art journalers, start your creative engines!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler, whose book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art will be available on July 20, 2011. © Quinn McDonald.

Train Fast, Learn Fast, Forget Fast

One of the facts I face as a trainer is that no one wants a training class to last two days. One day is a chore, half a day is best. I understand we are all under time constraints, but you really can’t learn writing, a software program, or much of anything else with four hours of training. The idea of “learn, do, teach” is not reassuring to me.

Adults, in general, will forget a little over half of what they learn in a training class within 12 hours. That means they have less than half the knowledge they received, which is often about a quarter of what they need. Using their class workbooks, they put their knowledge to use for a few days, then “train” the next person, who will also forget half of what they learn.

In about a month’s time, we have people passing on tiny bits of information, often with a shrug and “That’s all there was in the four-hour course.”

What to do? With shrinking budgets, I’m pretty sure that the answer is not “more time for training.” Here’s what I think will work.

1. Insist on exercises. When you show an outline of the class to the client, the first thing to go (to save time) are the exercises. That’s where you (as a trainer or training developer) want to put your foot down. The exercises set the information. They slow down forgetting. Struggle to keep those.

Piles of binders courtesy

Piles of binders courtesy

2. Reduce the information to a minimum. You are helping no one, least of all the class participants, by piling a lot of information into a short time. I made this mistake often, because it sounds like a better deal to cram two days of information into four hours, but it’s not. I often ask clients for three things they would like the class to know.

3. Teach through stories, examples and exercises. It’s better to do two exercises on one concept than gloss over it because the class is staring at you blankly. Repeat with different examples. Do more than one exercise. In other words, go deep instead of wide. It works better.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer. She develops and runs seminars and workshops through her company, QuinnCreative.