Work of Quinn McDonald

Radish Bird

Quinn McDonald wanted to be an obedient, dutiful wife and patient mother, but she was born at the wrong time. She became a writer—in ad agencies, in corporations, at a newspaper. Traveled all over the world. Took notes. There was always that restlessness, that raised eyebrow that wouldn’t behave. Then one day, during a performance review, her boss said, "You are different, and seem to enjoy it.” It was not a compliment. The clock on Quinn’s job security ticked to an end. From that day on, Quinn listened to her intuition, quit looking for meaning in life and began making meaning. She creates art, writes, teaches and rides her motorcycle in the amazing landscape of the Sonoran Desert.

Quinn's Blog


6.Take a bottle and explain how you could use this to make Raw Art. Then offer some suggestions about how the maker might build on the Raw Art and offer fresh work within the marketplace.

Each person who has the bottle sees something else, and would make art with it in a different way. One person may use the top and bottom of the bottle to dip in paint and print circles with the bottle. Another person may paint the bottle with watercolor ground and paint a story on the bottle, fill it with sand, and use it as a paperweight or doorstop, because their idea of art is functional. A third person might sterilize the bottle and fill it with homemade limoncello or beer. A fourth might blow across the top opening and turn the bottle to a wind instrument while clacking on the side with their ring or a spoon, making the bottle a percussion instrument.

Me? I’d use dried pale beans and write a word on each bean—words I like the sound of, or words that have powerful meaning. I’d fill the bottle with beans, adding to them over time. Each time I wanted to write in my journal but felt stuck, I’d pour out five beans and use the words as prompts. Or write a haiku including the words.

Then I’d round up all the people and bottles and have them trade the altered bottles and discover another use. This would be a good exercise as a school project as well as a family project.

Meet Quinn McDonald
author of Raw Art Journaling

Raw Art

1. Pablo Neruda talks about 'words coming in search' of him. How did Raw Art find you? Share some of the steps of your personal journey with Raw Art

----Some years ago, I was sitting in a cafe, enjoying a perfect iced coffee and an equally perfect pastry. The day was sunny and mild, and the setting beautiful. An interesting gate in the wall across the street caught my attention. The gate was ornate, the wall plain, the flowers around it lovely. A woman at a table close to mine was doing a watercolor sketch in her journal. Perfect! I grabbed my journal and began to sketch.

I’m not an illustrator. The gate I drew was crooked and looked odd. The plants looked sad and weird. I was embarrassed and got up to leave. As I walked past the watercolorist, I saw her lovely work and felt ashamed. The day was no longer beautiful.

Although that day was many years ago, and I've since taken classes and can draw competently, I have never forgotten that experience--of not being good enough. I could have taken a photo of the gate, but I wanted to have art come from my hands.

It was not the fact that I could not draw, it was a bigger lack I felt that day. I wanted to make something meaningful. I wanted to make meaning. The truth that struck me was that we do not FIND meaning, we MAKE meaning in our lives. Once that realization slid into my soul, I realized that making meaning was not necessarily done by being an illustrator.

You could make meaning in many ways--and I discovered two of them. First--if we try to draw what is in front of us, and the result is not the same as the object in front of us, we think we've failed. If, instead, we draw something in our imagination, something that doesn't exist in the real world, well, then, it can't be wrong. 

Second, if we draw easy sweeps of lines, the rhythm alone is calming and beautiful. If we draw easily and with rhythm, we can capture the feeling of creative satisfaction. That was the beginning of raw art.

 The next step was to bring this creative process into a journal. I wanted to develop a way for people who can’t draw (and don’t want to write 500 words a day) to be able to create a beautiful, meaningful journal. Thats how Raw Art Journaling found me.

2. Mentally design the doorway that leads to the kingdom of your imagination. Tell us about door and the kingdom of your imagination in either words, a piece Raw Art or both

The doorway to my imagination has no lock on it. It's almost always open at least a crack. Even when I'm working on very left-brain issues, it's imagination that allows me to build good solutions. I'll admit that my writing is non-fiction, so I use my imagination in different ways than fiction writers.


3. What does the mirror of a Raw Art journal reveal about the maker? Share what Raw Art has taught you about yourself.

Raw Art journaling taught me that we do indeed make meaning in life. Not find it, but make it. Doing these journals is a reminder that I am enough. I have enough. As a recovering perfectionist, I can be very hard on myself. But when I'm hard on myself, I focus on what's lacking, what's missing, how I am incomplete. When I sit down with a raw art journal and sink into it, I discover connections. Small ones between one part of my life and another. Big ones between something I thought this week and something I've always known. In other words, raw art starts with acceptance and the feeling of exploration.

A few months ago, I was teaching a journaling class and I said, casually, "Free-hand a rectangle at the bottom of the page, about two inches long, anywhere on the bottom third of the page. Several heads came up and fixed anxious eyes on me. "Do you have a template?" one of the women asked.

"No," I said, still casually, "just freehand it."
More heads came up.
"How big is two inches?"
"How tall should it be?"
"Do you have a template or example?"
In what felt like slow motion, I said, "The exact dimension is not important, you need some space to write in."
"Do you have a template?" The first woman asked. There were tears in her eyes.
I held up my sample and hands reached out for it, measured the rectangle, and drew the exact rectangle in the exact place I had drawn mine.
We have become so dependent on kits, we are so afraid of failing, we are so convinced that we must get it right the first time, that my request to do something spontaneous filled these women with fear. That's the fear of not enough, of lack. That is not the environment for art. That is not the playground of innovation.

Raw art journaling helps get over that fear. And it's fun. In its best form, you will forget what time it is and fill a page with your own idea of raw art--writing, drawing, painting. It's a rich field to work in.


4. To what extent has Raw Art taken possession of your life?

“Taken possession” is a good term. Raw art as personal meaning making has been my way of creating for years. I think that giving what I was doing a name has made me more comfortable with what I do. And once I’m comfortable with what I do, I can reach out to other artists who feel unsure that their work is legitimate or even acceptable. We live in a competitive society, particularly because so much art is driven by our consumer-centric way of thinking. “I have to have this kit!” “If I buy this tool, it will make me the artist I want to me.” “To be a real artist, I have to have licensing agreements.” There is a lot of pressure to be a celebrity, it’s hard to be satisfied with “just” making meaning. Allowing art as part of an exploration of life seems “not enough.” Letting your art be raw art is a conscious decision that takes over your art life.

5. "Often what happens with gifted women is that they do a lot of things very well, and their essential self, what I call the daimon, the essence of who and what they are, gets lost in the process," Jean Houston

How does Raw art help the maker embrace what Houston calls the daimon?

This struggle—to retain the essential self—is one I fought about five years ago. It started with my belief that to be a “real artist” I had to support myself only through selling my art. It ended with a meltdown in a diner in Tarrytown, N.Y. when I realized that I was making creative decisions through my marketing plan. If it wasn’t profitable, why do it? To keep a roof over my head, the decisions I made had to be those that had the best profit margin. It was a serious moment of existential doubt. I quit doing art festivals after that while I allowed myself space to think. I created a different division of my business to support myself while I thought about who I was as an artist, what I wanted as an artist, what creating meant to me.

Now, I support myself through creative work of several kinds. I design and run training programs for businesses. I teach writing, speaking—essential communication. I design and teach art workshops. My art informs my life in important ways, but I no longer sell the art I make. It is allowed to make meaning, but not have to keep a roof over my head.