painting faces
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So you’ve decided to start art journaling. You’ve read our Introduction to Art Journaling. You’ve gathered your supplies and materials.

And now, with paint brush in hand and notebook or paper in front of you, you’re not sure what to create. Maybe you paint something, but aren’t happy with it.  

Or maybe you’re doodling with a pen or a marker and it seems like your lines are all crooked, your handwriting is horrible, and you wonder if you even have any creativity or enough artistic talent to get started.

If you’ve ever been frozen like this when creating, you’re not alone. Maybe negative self talk phrases start going through your head:

I’m not artistic enough. I don’t have any creativity. My pages never turn out how I envision them! I can’t find my style. I don’t know what to art journal about. I can’t do this by myself. What will others think of my work?

It’s easy to worry that your page won’t turn out the way you envision or that you’ll make a mistake.

Well, today I am going to help you overcome that fear and tell your inner perfectionist and procrastinator goodbye.

How to Overcome Fear & Perfectionism in Creativity

Let’s address the common beliefs we have when we get frozen one at a time.

I’m not artistic enough. I don’t have any creativity.

 It’s easy to be constantly told by others how creative and talented we might be – yet it’s hard to believe. But I don’t let that stop me.

Remember, art journaling is not about creating a final piece that is supposed to be an artistic masterpiece – it is supposed to be a means of expressing yourself. Talent and creativity are NOT required!

My pages never turn out how I envision them!

I have hundreds of art journal pages that didn’t turn out anything like I had planned for them to. See my blog post on art journal fails for some examples. They might not be totally horrible, but they still aren’t what I was trying to make!

That’s just how it goes sometimes. Maybe I drew my lines crooked, maybe the paint splattered in the wrong spot, maybe my handwriting turned out terrible…you get the idea.

So what? It’s okay. If anyone asks, tell them you intended it to look that way 🙂

You’re going to make mistakes on your pages. One of the reasons I love gesso is because if I’m truly unhappy with how something turns out you can always paint over it and start fresh!

I can’t find my style.

This is another one I hear again and again. Sometimes I’ve even been guilty of thinking this myself.

But, seriously, who said you needed to have one consistent style through all your pages?

Art journaling is about creating, and creating means experimenting. Try every style you can think of and can find on the internet and you feel inspired by!

I don’t know what to art journal about.

This is one I get stuck on sometimes when I have a brand new fresh blank book in front of me. That’s one of the reasons I created all of the art journaling prompts we have on this site!

There are so many things you can art journal about…and sometimes that is the hardest part – deciding on just one thing at a time!

Don’t worry about keeping a specific theme in your altered book – if you have one you like great, but if not, randomness is okay too.

I can’t do this by myself.

You don’t have to! We created our Facebook Community so you can ask any questions you have along the way anytime.

I am also always adding new art journaling tips that will walk you through step by step some of my favorite art journaling techniques.

What will others think of my work? 

Well, you only have to share what you feel comfortable with sharing! You don’t have to share your pages unless you want to.

Some people will love your work and others may criticize it. I know not everyone loves the pages I make, some may find them too messy, unorganized, not artistic enough, etc. etc.

The good news is it really doesn’t matter. For every person you meet who hates what you make, there’s somebody out there who will love it.

make art and write

What matters most is how do you feel when you are making it? Are you happy? That really is all that matters.

It doesn’t matter what others think – what matters is you found a way to express yourself and your thoughts! In fact, the worse you feel you are at art journaling, the more I encourage you to share your work, as it will only help you learn and grow as an art journalist!

That’s All Good and All, But I’m Still Stuck

Still stuck, eh? That’s okay! Here are some things you can do right now to get past those negative self talkers in your head:

Free Write: Write down anything in Your Head for 5 minutes, Then Cover With Marker, Paint or Gesso

Try to Make a Bad Page on Purpose – yeah, see how terrible you can make it! See my art journal fails for some inspiration!

Follow an art journaling prompt to create a page – it will help fuel your creativity.

Make a Junk Journal – One of the best things about a junk journal? No drawing or painting skills required!

You can find thousands of public domain images to print and include in your journal, or cut up photos from magazines to create collage pages. You can always doodle or write in the junk journal later!

If all else fails, think of this quote by Robert Schuller:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.

Robert Schuller

Do you ever get stuck in creating art journal projects? Do you have any advice for someone just getting started who may be battling their inner critic?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

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  1. Thanks for the tips. I struggle with the style think a lot. I am drawn to so many artists who are vastly different from one another. I find that I do a lot of different things in my journal. Thanks for the validation that I am not an artist because I try different things.

  2. Thanks for your contribution to art journalists. I am enjoying your page very much. I am a fine arts photographer, artist and writer. Your courses and ideas are helping me to incorporate all three interests. I am just starting my own web page, and you are encouraging me to continue. ( Thank you.

  3. I read this blog post this morning and it so screamed, “ME”!!! I get hung up on the perfectionism and don’t allow myself to be free. Even as a little girl, I had to make sure my coloring pages were perfect, yet always found fault in them. Thank you for posting these tips for people like myself, who are just now (at age 55) being able to think outside my box!

    1. I agree with you whole heartly, at 54 I am in the same boat, always felt that things had to be prefect, could not think or see outside the box. Nice to finally find others that think and feel the same.

    2. I also felt like you were talking about me. I have been my own harsh critic for way too long and have used each one of these excuses. Thanks for the tips. I am happy I stumbled upon your post.

  4. Oh wow!!!! Thank you so much for the inspiring words..I sooo relate to all that you saying! !! I constantly say to myself..” be freeeeeee.. it is only a piece of paper” !!! But the perfectionist in me always tries to take over and spoil things for me! !

  5. Thanks for the great tips–I want to go start right now! Before I do, however, I’ll offer a tip of my own that I came up with while staring at blank ATC bases with all of the above worries in my head. I would pick somebody else’s card to copy. Wait, wait-Stay with me! The chances that I would have THAT SAME stamp, or THAT clipping or even THAT type of ink were slim, so I’m already putting my own spin on it. I would go from there, mostly just copying a layout or a palette, always changing things to fit my supplies or abilities. By the time I finished, my card was MY card and you might not have been able to guess what other card was my inspiration. I plan on doing the same with my journal pages sometimes when I’m stuck.

    1. DawnieRamone, I really like how you put that. I really get hung up on perfectionism but mostly only with my art. I am really enjoying this site. I just started art journaling not long ago though I have always been into fine arts and crafting my entire life. For along time I was only really making art or hand crafted items for other people and not for myself. So for a time I stopped creating all together. I started art journaling because I love the idea of doing art that isn’t necessarily for anyone elses eyes but mine, however like the rest of you sometimes I get verbally abused by my inner critic. I recently got a few books that have been helping me get back to the skill level I used to be, but without being stuffy technique manuals. They focus more on exploration and fun. Going back to when you were a child and didn’t judge everything you did so harshly. They are: Drawing lab for mixed media artists, by Carla Sonhiem ; Mixed media techniques for art journaling a work book of collage transfers and more, edited by Kristy Conlin ; Creative Doodling and Beyond, by Stephanie Corfee. It’s likely you could take some of these out at your public libirary, but I took the Drawing lab out of my libirary so many times I finally broke down and bought it. The other two are work books so it would be more fun to buy them so you can work right in them. The mixed media technquies one actually incourages you to eventually alter the entire book into an art journal, which I really dig. I hope that helps some of you. Thanks for being my artistic community! and thank you Chelle for putting this wonderful site together!

  6. Great Tips! It´s like You were reading my mind… answer all the questions and doubts. Thanks for Sharing and Posting. 🙂

  7. I just saw this through a Pinterest post and wanted to add a suggestion. I did an Art Journal..bought a Moleskine and tried things from books and my own ideas and DVDs…but I found it awakened in me that old desire to be an “artist” and of course, I’m not…or so I told myself. After all, I can’t draw… So I signed up to take an online class in Sketching and Watercolor (Journal Style) by Jane LaFazio…5 weeks into it, I know I CAN draw, and I have tons more confidence in my ability to do art! And the voices in my head are a lot quieter about defining who I am and what I can do.

  8. What a great idea….I’ve done it myself a few times, and you’re absolutely right. By the time you adapt it to what you have on hand , your own supplies, and make changes that occur to you while you work, it’s totally your own by the time you’re done. Great way to get UNSTUCK!

  9. Maybe a little tip for those who get stuck: when i have that horrible moment i just scroll down on pinterest , sometimes several hours a day, just to see what other people do. It really opens your eyes and many possibilities! and when you see something interesting at pinterest, just try it!

  10. Thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful article! I read every word you wrote and every comment that you got. Lots of terrific advice!

  11. Kind of relieved to see that I am not the only one who feels the same fear; yet can’t wait to create. I have all the supplies, yet I can’t seem to get started. I have “pinned” lots of prompts but am still “stuck”. Thanks for reading my mind!! C

  12. I’m just beginning to dabble into the Art Journaling world. It’s so intimidating to see all the wonderful pages out there. But I will keep at it because it is so important for personal development as an Art teacher.

    These tips are great! Thank you!

  13. I’m a struggling design student, and THIS POST was my LIFESAVER!
    Many thanks for the wonderfully versatile tips 🙂
    Good luck in future endeavours!

  14. I once painted something that I was not proud of, but it turns out everyone had chosen that one as their favorite. Just because it’s not up to your standards doesn’t mean that it doesn’t match up to others.

  15. thanks for taking your time to share this info for those of us who need help with finding a starting point. i have a couple different journals i want to start and keep forever, but i cant find my starting point in different journals and haven’t completed a page yet because i like for everything to coordinated and matching and to go together. im OCD and also suffer depression and anxiety and ptsd. anytime i want to start a page my anxiety kicks in and my mind goes blank. ive watched every video on youtube for daily creative memory journaling (hobonichi journaling)ive also watched some junk journals and bujos for the most part all i find is junk journals, bujo journals and other journals that really arent what im looking for for ideas. my fav youtuber to watch is emme lou arts, i would like to do spreads in my journal like heres but i always have that little voice in my head that says i could never create anything like that, im not creative enough, i dont have the imagination, all the supplies they have even though i have a craft room with lots of stuff i still cant come up ideas for my page and i really dont have much going on in my day to really document. im lost when it comes to coming up with ideas for my pages. every time i go to journal i end up setting it down and watching videos on YouTube for hours looking for inspiration because i have no one to ask for reassurance and then another day goes by and im still in the same place i was before in my journal just string at a blank white piece of paper…. its the same thing every time i attempt to start these journals. i like the junk journals but i don’t like that most of them are vintage theme theres really no modern style junk journals. i like more clean, color coronated, mixed media style with scrapbook/memory keeping twist. i would love to use stickers, magazine cut outs, pictures, ephemera, clip art, poems, quotes and my circuit maker in my creative daily journal, i just dont know where to start… ive covered my books and made them cute and that as far as i gotten. i havent done any pages and completed it. i am a bit of a perfectionists and my biggest fear is failin. the fear of failure is holding me back in not only journaling but everything in life. i really dont have friends other than my husband and hes no help with helping me come up with creative journaling. i though maybe opening up and pen paling or joining a group with people who fear not being good enough or the fear of starting somethig new and failing. i also have a huge fear of the unknown. starting new things. im not like this with just journaling, im like this with many different things in life and i feel its held me back from doing alot of things in life. im married but have no friends at all. I HAvE A a have a huge fear of failure and dont know how to shake it. anyone with any info or anyone who would like to be friend or who has been through this please feel free to contact me. plzz any advice helps

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