13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Art Journaling

4:21 PM

They say experience is the best teacher, but I think mistakes are a top contender for the best teacher spot, and maybe, when you get down to it, they're the same thing.

Still, it can help to know, to be warned, ahead of time about some of the things you're going to come up against when you start on this artistic journey known as Art Journaling.

The following items are the things that immediately bubbled up when I started thinking about what I've learned on my journey.

13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Art Journaling

1. Begin. Today. Now.
All you really need to begin is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. An open mind is very helpful as well as an eagerness to learn. Do not over think. Do not make this complicated. It's not.

What are you waiting for? Go! Get busy!

2. The more you sketch the more you'll learn, the faster you'll sketch, the less fearful you'll become and the result of this continued practice will be a much more enjoyable experience.
Bottom line—you have to learn the skills first and the only way to do that is to begin and to keep pushing through every so-called failure. Perhaps you're the rare individual who enjoys the learning process. Most of us don't. We want to be an expert the first time we make a mark on the page.

3. A blank page isn't something to fear.
Chances are good you have at least 25 more chances. These chances are known as pages. If you don't get it right on the first one, you still have 24 more chances.

Bengal tiger on the loose, a rabid raccoon, now those are something to fear!

4. Accept that you will make mistakes.
It's how we learn and usually, it's the lessons we make from mistakes that stick with us far longer than the lessons we learn from succeeding.

And the good news? Journaling mistakes are seldom fatal!

5. Don't let the fear of making mistakes paralyze you.
Everybody makes mistakes, even so called experts or pros. No matter how long you sketch, no matter how many journals you fill, no matter how good you get, there will be mistakes. Rather than fear them, embrace mistakes for the learning opportunities they are.

Don't sulk about making them either. It's not pretty.

6. It's okay to turn the page and holler out, "Next!" when the page has gone south.
It happens to all of us. There are gonna be days when every line goes wonky, every pigment turns to mud, perspective leaves the building and proportions just don't work. Finish the page anyway (you might just surprise yourself!) and then begin again. See number 4.

7. Make art journaling fun. 
If it's not fun, why would we continue doing it? Art journaling is suppose to be fun and if it's not, evaluate why it's not. Chances are good it will have something to do with unrealistic expectations. Hmmm, what could those be? See Number 11. Remember, we learn quicker when it's fun.

As my brother says, "If it ain't fun, we ain't doing it!"

8. Never, ever, Ever, EVER, NEVER compare your work to someone else's work!
This is a biggie. There are few things more demotivating than comparing your work to someone else's and to think your work coming up lacking. And no matter how long you sketch, if you look around long enough you will always be able to find someone else with work you like better than your own.

9. If you must compare, compare the sketch you created today with the one you did yesterday, last week or last month. 
Use comparison to see how much you've grown, how your skills have strengthened, and what still needs strengthening.

10. Everyone started at the same place—the beginning. 
No one got a free pass from learning the skills and techniques of how to sketch. No one came out of the womb with a pencil in one hand and paper in the other. So every time you're tempted to use the excuse, "I'll never be as good as so-and-so," sit yourself back down and start sketching again.

11. Sketching is an evolution of skills but seldom a revolution.
Yes, I know, you want to know how to do it TODAY and you want to do it PERFECTLY. Ain't gonna happen. This is another biggie—give yourself permission to make mistakes, learn, fail, and to not like every page. We create so-so sketches. Sometimes, they're down right awful (to us). It's okay, that's what the next page is for. And the one after that.

12. Not every page is gonna be "all that." They can't all be masterpieces.
Is every endeavor you undertake marvelously, brilliantly done? No? Mine either. Don't put this kind of pressure on yourself, it will kill the fun. See number 7. And if your inner critic opens his or her mouth, kindly tell them it's not their day to complain and next month's not looking good either.

It's okay to have an off day...or month. See number 6 and 11.

13. Challenge yourself…to sketch something you think is beyond your current skills.
Even if you think you can't, you may just surprise yourself. And it's how we learn, how we get better. And if you fail (gasp!), count it as a success anyway—because you had the courage to try.

This is in no way an exhaustive list so I'd like to know what you would tell yourself if you could travel back in time…please leave your thoughts in the comments and I'll add them to the list!

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10 Creative Thought(s)

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for sharing these thought. Just so you know... You've helped me do in part or completely each of these. I have gained more confidence in my journaling because I found your friendship and your classes. Thank you for that.

  3. Having a bit of technical difficulties tonight. If I could travel back in time, I would NOT listen to anyone who told me that I was wasting my time by coloring (think kindergarten and the rest of my school years), that if you are going to color you must stay within the lines and certain things can only be done one way. If I could travel back in time I would just draw, paint, make art, and have fun!

    Laure, have you heard the song by Harry Chapin 'Flowers Are Red"? If not you should listen to it. My collage Elementary art teacher use to play it for our Teaching Elementary School Art methods class. https://vimeo.com/16812570 If that doesn't work search YouTube for it.

  4. I wish I'd started sooner! Thank goodness for the internet because it doesn't leave people isolated wondering what to do to learn how. I wish I'd done those baby books for my kids but didn't think it would matter. It does so if anyone is reading this that has little kids, start drawing them. So what if you are bad at it, do it anyway because they are only going to grow up and you will have missed the chance. And if you just can't draw them, then draw their blankies, their toys and their dishes and so on.

  5. Your post was just what I needed to get me back on the road to sketching in the lovely Moleskin I treated myself too but as yet haven't plucked up courage to put pencil to paper yet. After reading No 3 I laughed & thought she's so right what does it matter if I don't get the 1st page perfect, as you said there are another 24 to use. Thanks a lot, I will start it today ,

  6. Thank you for this post. I just says everything that has to be said. Please keep on your inspirational writing!
    Gabi from Vienna, Austria

  7. Laure - your post is so inspirational...especially great wisdom in not comparing your art to someone else's. Sometimes that is easier said than done when one sees gorgeous art pages. Great reminder too that no one was born holding a pencil or pen and paper when they arrived. So enjoyed your great tips - definitely very encouraging to us sketchers who are always wanting the perfect page. Have a great day.

  8. Great list of wise points! I think I'll come back when I can think of something to add to your list. Keep your wisdom coming!

  9. Excellent list of points and they can be applied to most creative endeavors.

    I used to be terrified of making mistakes because I'd be 'wasting' materials. After decades of not doing much of anything I realized that there was nothing positive in this approach ~ because you can't take those materials with you when you die, so all I was really doing was sabotaging my own joy and potential growth. They're just materials. They are meant to be used.


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