As a creative person, you are familiar with the inner critic–that nagging presence in your head that is always trying to point out your shortcomings. But there is hope: Your inner heroes are also always with you at your worktable. Through the creation of your personal Inner Hero Creative Art Journal (a series of loose-leaf cards, each with a new mixed-media technique), you will invite an inner conversation that will illuminate your best self.
In this demonstration, Quinn McDonald shows you how to create a paper collage that’s full of meaning and memories, plus she offers Wise Advice journaling prompts to tie the whole card together.
(The following technique was previously published in Inner Hero Creative Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald, copyright 2013. It is republished here courtesy of CreateMixedMedia.com and North Light Books.)
Lines and Stitches
Knowing how to draw isn’t a requirement for most of the techniques in this book. If you like to draw, you can always add illustrations, but ideas that use abstract art to create ideas, emotions and meaning free you from the inner critic’s evaluation of your perspective or subject matter.
There is also a deep connection to using what is already in your studio. This project depends entirely on color and the motion of stitching to create a sense of calm and transition.
This collage page is made from pieces of paper that carry memories—gift bags, magazine pages, pieces of artwork that weren’t used in a project, handmade paper and book pages. It tells a private story the creator alone can remember and understand.
What You Need
- paper (or fabric) in one color family, a range of light to dark, several pieces
- 5″ x 7″ (13cm x 18cm) 140-lb. (300gsm) cold-pressed watercolor paper (Strathmore Ready-Cut)
- sketching paper, 80- or 90-lb. (170gsm or 190gsm), as a base for the strips
- glue or glue stick
- thread for sewing machine in coordinating color or a variegated thread
- sewing machine
- optional: contrasting color for bobbin thread
- optional: fusible interfacing for stiffening (if using fabric)
- optional: quilter’s fabric (goes through a printer and is on paper backing)
1. Choose papers you want to include in your project. Cut the sheets into irregular, wavy pieces using scissors. If you are using book pages, consider cutting them along the length to show random letters rather than readable sentences. You are creating an imaginary landscape and don’t want to encourage deciphering visible sentences.
2. Glue the strips onto the watercolor page, overlapping the papers so no background shows through.
3. To create an imaginary landscape, arrange a dark (mountain) side and a pale (sky or sand) side and glue them in place. Let dry completely before sewing. If the page warps, put it under a weight for a day or two.
4. Choose a thread that complements rather than matches the papers. A variegated thread works well. You can use a contrasting bobbin thread for an interesting effect. Sew wavy lines along the length of the page. Do not overlap the rows of stitches. You may want to create a layer of stitches the same shape as the pieces you cut and pasted down.
5. Glue the top and bottom threads to the edge by touching a brush loaded with glue at the beginning and end of each row of stitching. Trim the threads so no loose ends show.
6. Use the wavy stitching lines as guidelines for your writing. Color in some of the spaces to coordinate the back and the front. Try using different styles of hand lettering for interesting effects.
Note: Your imaginary landscapes can be any color and represent your world as you experience it. If you are going to create your collage on a separate sheet and glue it onto your freestanding page, you can cross some of your stitching lines, as you won’t be writing on them when you create the back of the page.
If you are cutting fabric, use a rotary cutter to create the wavy pieces, cutting in the direction you are most comfortable using. The lines can be gently wavy or more distinctly wavy. For this piece, the gentle waves will overlap better, but you can easily mix the widths or overlap them to keep the background from showing.
The Wise Woman’s Writing Technique: Revisiting Wise Words
Journaling has many results. It can help you think through a problem or develop an idea. It can help you choose from a number of good ideas; it can help you heal. You write down your heart and feed your soul. Some of the words you write will comfort or inspire you long after you have written them. They are the words of your inner hero, and they can be lifted out of the journal and put on the back of your inner-hero pages. Your own words are filled with wisdom; don’t leave them buried in a journal from years ago.
If you’ve been keeping journals throughout your life—consistently or not—it’s time to revisit these treasures for the Wise Woman’s words of advice. Go through your journals, and when you find a phrase that speaks to you, write it down. You can keep a quote journal, or you can store them on your computer. Traci Paxton Johnson, who did the artwork at the beginning of the Gardener chapter, keeps quotes indexed by topic: Acceptance, Accomplishments, Aging, Ambition, Art, Attitude, Balance, Be, Beauty, Beginnings, Believe, Blessings, Challenges, Change, Character, Choices, Compassion, Courage, Creativity, Direction, Discovery and on through the alphabet. I once made a Scribe page using just her topic titles. The topics aren’t on a spreadsheet; they are just in alphabetical order in a document.
You may think this is fussy until you have accumulated a dozen pages of quotes and know you saw the one you want on one of those pages but can’t remember which one.
Cross-reference your quotes by putting the same quote under different categories. Your changing emotions will recall different words or references in the quote, and cross-referencing will make the right quote easier to find.
Using the Wisdom of Others
You’ll also find great quotes by other people, not just reposted on Facebook, but in the articles you read, in books and magazines, and listening to other people. I’m a fan of audio books for my morning walking meditation, and sometimes a sentence is so powerful, it makes me stop walking. I have a message-notes app on my phone, and I’ll record the sentence along with the book title and author so I can add it to my list later.
Always keep track of who said or wrote the quote. Write the name down as the author until you do a bit of research. Along with the quote and author’s name, keep the name of the book, article, magazine or blog where you found it.
Why is it important to know who said the quote? Lots of reasons. Attribution is important: You want to know who said that brilliant sentence, and you want to let other people know. Smart quotes lead you to good books and interesting thoughts. If you liked what someone said, you might want to read the whole article from which it was taken.
Attributing your quotes to the people who said them, even if it was your friend (or you!), reminds you of the time and place you heard it, too.
Quotes make the most of every word. A short quote can go a long way to help you solve a problem or pull up your socks and get back to work. Finding a quote that speaks to you is a treasure, but sometimes you derive several meanings from one quote, depending upon the emotional place you are in when you read it or reflect on it.
For example, the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
You might want to think about that quote in light of what you have gone through in relationships, in creating difficult pieces, in working through fears to overcome them. You might also be caught up in the idea that no feeling is final—that you can have many emotions about events or people, that you can feel contentment about a decision you made one day and anger the next.
A choice of meanings is a good thing. You can use the quote several different times on different pages, each time creating a different meaning and a different piece of wise advice.
Putting Words in Your
Inner Hero’s Mouth
Now that you’ve had some time to explore quotes of your own as well as from others, it’s time to give this chapter’s writing technique a try.
Before You Start:
Write a quote you like on a fresh journal page. Underneath it, write two different pieces of wisdom you gleaned from the quote. This can be an inspiration or a lesson. In the Rilke quote, for example, you might write these different interpretations:
• Don’t avoid emotional pain; it has a lesson to teach.
• Look at beauty carefully and do more than admire it. What lesson does it have to teach?
• What emotion would I like to reconsider?
Wise Advice to Yourself
Use the freewriting technique in the Scribe & Free Writing chapter to freewrite about these questions. You will be surprised where your heart takes you and what you discover about yourself. Underline the sentences that bring powerful reactions from you. The reaction can be emotional, thoughtful or profound. Rewrite it as a piece of advice for yourself and then write that piece of advice on the back of your Wise Woman journal page.
(This tutorial was previously published in Inner Hero Creative Art Journal by Quinn McDonald, copyright 2013. It is republished here courtesy of CreateMixedMedia.com and North Light Books.)
Be sure to check out Quinn’s first book, Raw Art Journaling.