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how to trick your inner perfectionist {and become an art journalist}

"If you’re going to be a writer,
the first essential is just to write.
Do not wait for an idea.
Start writing something
and the ideas will come.
You have to turn the faucet on
before the water starts to flow."
Louis L’Amour

5x8" moleskine, watercolor, pitt pen

[originally posted january 2010] 

A variety of wicked tricks to psych out your inner perfectionist so you can spend more time creating art. Trust that with practice and experimentation you will become more confident and comfy about your art journal work.

Try one or more of these ideas to break through the fear of the blank page.

  1. Start with a simple, inexpensive journal rather than the gorgeous leather-bound, monogrammed italian journal you received as a gift.
  2. Get out some acrylic paint, smear some on the page and doodle in the paint by scraping lines with a dull pencil, palette knife or edge of an old credit card. Just play.
  3. Consider your journal a place for experimentation. Call it a test or practice journal.
  4. Mix your mediums. Draw circles in ink and paint over them with watercolor and watch the ink run. Stitch a photograph to your page. Finger paint plaid stripes on your page with heavy body acrylics. 
  5. Find inspiration in your day-to-day world. Draw a backgammon board with neocolors. 
  6. Print a quote or lyrics and staple them to your page. Draw a frame around your words with a Sharpie.
  7. Hide a page you want to destroy. Revisit your decision in a week.
  8. Instead of a bound "art journal" use loose sheets of watercolor paper or heavy white card stock. You can face a single page even if you get wound up about "ruining" a pristine journal.
  9. Use a kick-start prompt to get started. Let this be a constraint that you must work within.
  10. Use your art journal to document your art materials. Paint a sample of each color of paint and label with the name or code number and brand. You can do this with colored pencils, neocolor wax crayons, pastels, watercolors and even fonts!
  11. Take the next index-card-a-day challenge starting June 1st.
  12. Get started at Art Journaling 101 {free}.

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Reader Comments (20)

These are great ideas! Have you ever seen Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal? A group of friends tried it out for a while, and it was great fun. It definitely forced some of us out of our comfort zones.

01.19.2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Patten

Very helpful! I especially like the idea of a test journal. Thanks for all the inspiration!

01.19.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

Great ideas, as always, and thanks for the mention.

I also thought my week of ugly art journal pages might be of interest: as another viewpoint.

01.19.2010 | Unregistered CommenterZom

great post! I'm a Studio Mothers contributor! :-)

01.20.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Love these ideas. I have been dying to start an art journal and honestly haven't been brave enough to start. Thinking maybe I may try now. Thanks.

01.20.2010 | Unregistered CommenterToni

*diana, it's nice to meet you and yes, I'm familiar with WTJ but hadn't considered it as a way to ease into art journaling! I saw it as just a fun art project, so thanks!

*theresa, i've had a lot of positive feedback about the concept of a test journal. it's not only non-confronting, but it's quite useful! hope the sun comes out in Sitka soon!

*zom, definitely your ugly journal pages fit into this concept of finding a way to just push through the self-conciousness and get going on art, thx for adding this.

*kelly, thank you for visiting, and it's nice to meet you! i was laughing at your blog post about sewing being *sew stressful* because I cannot use my machine without crying... finally gave it away!
*toni, i hope that you will try whatever idea strikes you, just dive in, trust your creative instincts. i am so much happier since i started doing art for me. nice to meet you.

~ tammy

01.21.2010 | Registered Commentergypsy

Hi Tammy, came to your blog via artiste nouveau. Your post " how to trick the inner perfectionist" is wonderful, just what I needed. Have printed it off and pasted it inside the front cover of my current journal, just in case I slip. point 9 is wonderful, just what I've come to realise. Now I buy books from charity shops with hard covers and thick paper (like design books) , gesso them and use as journals.

thanks for your words.

ps my blog is at though it says unrecognised when I entered it.

Hi I'm from the Uk - loving your website as i'm exploring it...more every day! Block printing sounds very similar to some monoprinting I have been doing for an art course - using a rubber roller and acrylic paints....

01.30.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaki

Thanks! My background is photorealistic painting and I am trying (so hard!) to be spontaneous and un-perfectionist-y. Thanks for the helpful words. I "started" an art journal by prepping several pages of a re-purposed book with gesso, then thought about prepping more until I was ready to actually make a journal page. I loved one so much - with a map on it. I had great aspirations for how perfect that page would be. After reading this post (and drinking a glass of wine) I wrote across the page in big letters "I am Tricking My Inner Perfectionist!" It felt good. I will continue to create art on these pages instead of JUST prepping them with gesso :)

Great ideas, thanks for sharing them with us. :)

12.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

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