Art Journaling and the Courage to Draw

We all experience self-doubt at some point, and even I have been guilty of saying “I can’t (fill-in-the-blank)” early in my personal journey. Changing “can’t” to a more proactive and empowering verb makes a world of difference. Practice doing this in your own speech, writing, and just as important, in your own thoughts. You’ll soon see new patterns develop, and realize you can because you have removed the negative thinking. With this being the beginning of a new year, now is the perfect time to start, and your art journal is the perfect place to do it.

Mixed-media artist Dina Wakley is an advocate of this type of introspective change, and in her art journaling books (such as Art Journal Courage), you’ll find plenty of information and inspiration for tapping into your own source of courage and exploration. In addition, Dina provides proven techniques for art journaling success. The following is about a voice in her head that held her back–until she proved it wrong.

Listening (mixed media, 8.25×11.5) by Dina Wakley

Courage to Draw from Art Journal Courage by Dina Wakley

“I can’t draw.” I can hear you saying it now. I know you think you can’t do it, because that’s what I used to say. In fact, in the first online art journaling class I ever taught, I told everyone that I used stamps and stencils because I couldn’t draw.

Years went by, and I enjoyed stamps and stencils, and I made lots of cool art. I would see journals with drawing in them, and I would think, “Too bad I can’t draw.”

One year, sick of the lack of artistic progress I was making, I changed my thought process. Instead of saying, “I can’t draw,” I said, “Why can’t I?” Guess what I found out? I can draw. And so can you.

A few years ago there was a reality television show called Work of Art. The show was canceled after two seasons, unfortunately, but I loved watching it because it showed me how “real” artists make art. I learned two very important lessons from this show.

First, I learned that artists use references. I had always assumed that artists pull ideas for their artwork out of their brains. And yes, some do. But as I watched the reality show, I realized that almost all of the artists used references to help them create. By references, I mean photographs and other source materials from which they derived or were inspired to create their artwork. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It is not cheating to use a reference. In fact, you make better art when you use a reference.

Second, I learned that artists trace. Yep, trace. Not all the time, not for every piece, but artists trace sometimes to get proper line and proportion. There’s even a machine you can buy that will project an image up on the wall for you. You simply tape up your paper and trace the projected image. This was another lightbulb moment. It is not cheating to trace. In fact, tracing can help you train your hand so you draw better when you don’t trace.

Later I learned a third lesson about drawing. Every drawing you do makes you better. I was thrilled with the first face I ever drew, because I had never done it before. But now, a few years later, my drawing has improved immensely and that first face doesn’t look so great. I still love it, though, because it’s my “I can do this!” face. To get better at drawing, you have to draw. You have to be devoted to it. You don’t learn to draw in a day. You learn as you devote time to practicing. I feel like I am still constantly learning ways to improve, ways to draw better. Drawing is a journey, and you have to be willing to put the work in to get good results. You also need to be gentle with yourself, to recognize small improvements and to banish the self-critic. ~D.W.

I challenge you to take heed of Dina’s advice. If you catch yourself saying, “I can’t,” turn it around and show that phrase who’s boss. Find even more inspiration and Dina’s step-by-step lessons within Art Journal Courage.

Believing in you,


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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