Friday, February 8, 2013

Tracy MacDonald - Artist, Wife & Mother!

                                                  Soaring to Success
            Interviews of Artists, Writers and Photographers
                    Their work, creative spaces and techniques

                                           Interview with Virginia Artist:
                                      Tracy MacDonald 

1. Tracy, please introduce yourself and describe what you do, what’s your passion? I'm not sure how you juggle all of it.. being a wife, mother, go to your day job and tackle your artwork! But, if you're like me, the artwork keeps you happy, content and fulfilled..and that allows you to be an even better wife, mother, employee, and it's all "better for yourself"!

Hi, Joan! Thank you for celebrating fellow artists and this opportunity to be interviewed on Making Waves “ Soaring to Success!” I’m Tracy MacDonald, and live in Woodbridge, Virginia, south of Washington, D.C in the U.S.

Tracy MacDonald
Mixed-media collage, photography, and journal writing are my creative passions that center me. In fact, as I write this, I am on a weekend retreat as a gift from my husband for my 40th birthday, away from my 8 month-old baby boy for the first time, to have time to create. I go stir crazy when I don’t have time to play with art. I especially need art right now to balance being a new Mama with home and work life.

2. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

About age 9, I received my first “diary” from my mother, who encouraged me to write. It was a small, cobalt-blue journal with flowers on the cover, gilded pages, and a brass lock and key. This new journal felt instantly important, and a little fancy and sacred, all at once. I still get that feeling when I discover a new blank book that I love. It became a passion when I lived overseas to find journals that spoke to me in markets, boutiques, and museum shops… and they’re all little pieces of art that I treasure.  I’m better some years than others about recording thoughts, but I have shelves of beautiful journals filled with writing, sketches, ephemera, and the occasional grocery list or random phone number, as there is always a journal stashed in my purse!

In childhood, I loved exploring with paint, glue, bits of nature, and “secret ingredients.” I called my art “potion-making,” which sometimes involved nail polish, water, flour, my mother’s make-up, bath oil; whatever I could find-to the chagrin of my parents.  And my rectangular Vivitar 110 camera in the 80’s went with me everywhere. I saved my allowance to develop many cartridges of film.

Most of my adult life, art had become a “side” project, but reconnecting with my artist friend, Gail, while on a business trip a few years ago really got me back into creating. She encouraged me to have an “art mail” exchange with her, which became a fountain of inspiration, as there were no rules, except to PLAY! . I found the creative process so therapeutic, I couldn’t not do it. I would race home from work at five to slap some gesso down on a manila envelope, and the next thing I knew, at 11pm, my hands were covered in paint, ink, and glue, the envelope was a finished collage, and I had skipped dinner!  I felt alive and knew I was on to something good.

You can’t believe what the US Postal Service will accept to send. I’ve mailed collaged soup cans, tea boxes, shoe boxes, cosmetic bags… I had no idea they would take these kinds of things. (Here is a picture of an unaddressed “Mail Art” envelope, below).

3. What are your fears? How have you faced them? Or your plans of how you plan to tackle your fears.

Only recently have I started to “put myself out there,” in the form of a blog I created as a result of Kelly Rae Roberts’ Flying Lessons E-Course, where we met!  It’s exciting to have this long-term goal come to fruition, but I do feel vulnerable and exposed by sharing my personal thoughts and images. I’m still finding my voice in my posts. It can be overwhelming, and a bit defeating, to see the abundance of talent out there, so lately, I have tried to keep the art-blog surfing to a minimum.

I keep the fears at bay through positive affirmations, posting more often, and staying connected with fellow artists and creatives.  And art retreats! I’m so excited to attend my very first one this April, the Art and Soul 2013 Retreat (, where I am ecstatic to take workshops with recognized mixed-media artists Misty Mawn and Lisa Kaus, and photographer Catherine Anderson.

4. What makes you different...unique from others?

I am fortunate that my family loves the arts and travel. This gave me an appreciation of aesthetics and a wanderlust at an early age. Daily, I seek beauty around me, and enjoy finding new patterns in nature, architectural details, the colors of textiles, or even the way fruit is displayed at the grocery store. I try to incorporate these elements into my photos and collages. 

I would love readers’ feedback on my new blog, (Starry is my “artist” nickname). Please join me on this new adventure!  Customizing the colors and creating the banner has been so satisfying- almost like decorating a room, but a virtual one!

"Dream Girls" Collages on Mini-Canvases

Series of Note Cards with collages of my own images

5. Any secrets to reveal about the tools you use or your techniques? Tips or tricks? What makes your art (stories, photos) special? Are your supplies unusual?   

When I need to feel centered and “get into the flow” before I begin writing or an art project, I do one of many things, depending on my mood that day.  Perhaps it’s classical music and cooking to start the creative juices flowing, or perusing art and travel magazines, visiting markets and bookstores, a quick nature walk, lighting candles, yoga, or having tea.

It’s fun discovering new supplies. Little spice bags and loose tea bags work well as pockets on collages. Sometimes I insert a few pieces of sea glass, a small shell, dried flower petals, or a leaf on which I’ve written a message with a gold paint pen.  I use ink stamps on coffee filters sometimes.

Tree bark can be peeled apart, wet and flattened and dried for a great writing surface. Pressing a real leaf directly onto the ink pad, rolled with a brayer, makes a great stamp for botanical prints, too.  (The leaf can’t be too dry, or it cracks and breaks off).

6. What are your goals and inspirations? Where will you hope to be in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? 

My ultimate goal is to keep creating and ensure art stays a focal point in my life going forward. (And to let go of housework and stop procrastinating)!  Long-term, I would love for my creative pursuits to be self-sustaining.
I am excited that my spouse will move us for overseas tours in the coming years. This will bring opportunities to work with new mediums and use art as a way to connect with the community, wherever we go.  Art is a wonderful, strong connector!

7. Where is your creative space or studio? (example: At home in an extra bedroom, kitchen table, a rented space for your craft.)

Mostly, I create in our loft, where I have the luxury of leaving happy art-chaos everywhere, without the need to neatly put things away, as this is an area I don’t show to family and friends visiting us at home!  Sometimes, it’s fun to bring lots of supplies downstairs to our dining room table over the weekend as a temporary space.  I dream of one day having a little tree house or nook with gorgeous natural light that affords me total solitude and concentration.

8.How much time do you devote to your work? (Is it at same time everyday? Are you disciplined to go into your studio at 9:00am every morning? Or do you wait until you are in a creative mood?)

Currently, I am working as an associate for a consulting firm (teaching for the military), which means I have to carve out little windows of time here and there when I can.  At home, when the baby sleeps, I try to jump right in, even if it’s just browsing photos and collage images to start a project’s framework. I am a morning person, so on the weekends, my husband is great about helping make creative time happen for me. 

9. What are your “whispers” or callings begging you to do? (Paint, write a book, sell your items on-line) What made you decide to take this e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts? What do you want to achieve?

The whispers have been getting louder this last year, and I kept saying to the universe, “but I can’t do this now! I have a day job, a house to manage, and a baby!” It seems with creating a child, I opened all kinds of other creative channels, because the whispers are almost yelling at times now! 

For a long while, I’ve had an interest in setting up a blog, but didn’t know how or where to start, which is what drew me to KRR’s e-course (which answered so many of my questions).  Left with no excuses, I set up a WordPress account a few months ago and dove in, learning as I go. Blogging has actually been a great way for me to get out of my head and nourish my soul, so I am grateful for the timing. 
Next steps are to set up a Etsy or Shopify account and find the bravery to get my art out there!  I’m also interested in conducting interviews for my blog later on, and perhaps teach a workshop, or assist in running a course with other artists. 

"Dreams and Thoughts"

10. Do you keep a daily journal or sketchbook, or write in a diary?   These are usually very interesting and very charming to share- like a peek into the life of an artist.

I feel better when I can write daily in my journal. If I have ink on my hand from my leaky fountain pen, it’s a good day.   I’ve also started an art journal, which is still in the nascent stages.

11. How do you market yourself? How do you plan to get “the word” out there?? (web-site, blog, etsy, galleries, boutiques, on- line selling, do you advertise?) Is it working? Are you selling?
I’m not good at this, but hoping to market myself primarily through the blog, and a shop account in the future.  Arts and crafts fairs appeals to me, and there are several in DC in the Spring, but I have yet to take the plunge of registering  to be a vendor.  Approaching local boutiques that feature local artists is another potential avenue.

12. What type of music (if any) do you listen to when you create? 
I adore silence, and when the weather is nice and the windows are open, sounds of nature are my favorite soundtrack ( especially hearing birds, the ocean, trees rustling…).  Solo piano, at low volume, helps me to feel calm and get into the flow sometimes, too.

13. Who is your favorite artist, photographer, author? ... In other words, who do you admire, and look up to?

I am drawn to many positive, spiritual authors that fuel me creatively. Particularly, right now: Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist, Marianne Williamson’s A Woman’s Worth, Shakti Gawain’s Living in the Light, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.  Julia Cameron’s saying, “leap and the net will appear,” is one of my favorites.

Stampington andCompany’s Artful Blogging magazine is a source of great inspiration for me. I devour it for the eye candy and to connect with other artists in this space.  Also, Jamie Ridler Studios “Where Creativity Comes to Life” ( has podcasts of artist interviews that I’ve really enjoyed lately. Isn’t it interesting how we can feel a rapport with people we’ve never met, just by understanding their style and approach?

14. Are you encouraged to follow your creative path by your family or friends?

My family is absolutely supportive.  Close friends have been, too, but a few of them don’t quite “get it” when I talk about spending a whole Saturday on a collage!

15. How do come up with titles for your work...whether it be paintings, short stories, a novel, or other artwork?

Titles are an intuitive process for me, and are usually kept fairly simple. 

16. Do you work on one project at a time ..or have several going on at a time?

Oh, my goodness, there are too many projects to count, all vying for my time. I lovingly touch them all a little bit as often as I can, which doesn’t lend itself to a lot of finished products in any short amount of time! 

Tracy, thank you for sharing your lovely artwork, dreams, creations, art space and ideas! You are such an inspiration for the "artist" in all of us.  I wish you the very best in your journey. It was a pleasure to get to know you!   Joan

I owned an art school in Charlotte, NC for 18 years before moving to Jacksonville, FL., so it thrills me when a classroom full of students, given one assignment, produces such a variety of ideas. ...We are all unique, we are all special. We all have a different path, a different way of approaching our art. That is exactly why I want to do these interviews, to celebrate what makes us, US! Thank you for participating : )
Joan Carver (e) 904-230-6155 

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