Let Go of Fear and Control with Art Journaling

On Facebook, recently, one of my friends posed this prompt: If you could go back and give your 20-year-old self two words of advice based on what you know now, what would those words be?

mixed media art journal page
My “main” art journal page with layers of paint, ink,
stenciling, stamping, and collage.

Without hesitation I wrote: “Let go.”

I mean that in so many ways: Let go of the edge of the pool, let go of pre-suppositions and “shoulds,” let go of people who are gone or aren’t meant to be with you. And the big one: let go of control.

Over the years, I’ve loosened my grip on control, and sometimes I can even let go completely and just let things develop, but it’s scary.

This fear of somehow “doing it wrong” or getting a bad result extends to my art life. I have bins full of yummy art supplies, many of which languish while I decide on how best to use them without using them up on the wrong project.

Bah! This is what art journaling is for. An art journal is a place to just mess around with stuff and see what happens. No one has to see. No one will judge. If it all goes wrong-no big deal. You learned something. You played. Not every art experiment has to be frame-worthy.

So, presented with a bag full of goodies from Art Journaling Live 2013 and my mantra for 2014, “explore,” I opened a new journal and started to play, with no preconceptions and no goal in mind.

I started with 2 spray inks, 3 stencils, 4 acrylic paints, paintbrushes, and a pad of paper. Plus, a lovely rose stamp I made by cutting across a celery root.

I opened a spread, working on the right-hand page and using the left-hand page as a substrate for excess paint, ink, etc.

First, I painted a light covering of acrylic paints, using mixtures of red, yellow, and white. That dried quickly, and I covered the page with a sheet of plastic mesh and sprayed green alcohol ink over it creating a fine grid pattern. (I then laid the wet side of the screen down onto the left-hand page and printed the excess on the paper).

Next, I spread a thin layer of black acrylic paint on my palette and pressed my stamp onto it, then here and there onto my journal page (and the facing page). Mmmm. I liked the graphic black contrast.

But this is where I started to feel anxious: if I kept going, I might ruin what I had already done. But then I remembered what I learned from the artists who taught Art Journaling Live: You can’t ruin it. You’re just playing, exploring, messing about.

art journal page
The left-hand page made from “excess”
ink and paint.

I took a deep breath and dripped some very wet paint onto the pages letting the drips run where they may. Then I masked off a few areas and sprayed magenta alcohol ink over a stencil with a zigzag pattern. After that, I decided some collage was in order and applied some tissue paper with decoupage medium.

Oops, I hated it. Now what? I took a break to let it dry and clear my mind. When I came back about 30 minutes later, I was all prepared to cover up the “mistake,” or possibly cry. But now that the paper had dried, it actually looked pretty cool. So I kept going, adding writing, more stenciling, another grid layer, and so on. Each time I felt myself getting nervous about where I’d placed a stamp or concerned that I’d used the wrong color, I just took a breath, let it out, and let go of the fear and need for control.

On the one hand, I feel silly white-knuckling it through making an art journal page. On the other hand, I know I’m not completely alone. Many of you, too, freeze up when faced with a blank page or fret about making a “mistake” that might “ruin” what you’ve already done.

Daily or weekly art journal practice can help you push through those fears and let go of control, opening up more possibilities for learning and mixing techniques and taking your art to new heights.

It also helps to have someone guiding you through the process. Art journaling superstars Dina Wakley, Traci Bautista, Pam Carriker, and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer each walk you through art journaling techniques on the Art Journaling Live video. They will encourage you step outside your comfort zone and create without hesitation or fear, using their tips and techniques.


P.S. Do you have art anxieties? How do you handle them? Please leave a comment below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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