Lesson 3









And a new guided meditation, too!


1. When you get stuck.

Why am I stuck?

There are times when I get to a point in my journaling in which I slow down...or stop...and lose my momentum. Sometimes it's a post-release experience. I've expressed myself and now I'm done. The escape valve popped opened and the steam...pfftttt...has escaped. Ok, that's fine. Other times, I get to a certain place in the work and suddenly I look down at my page and ask, "Why did I create this?" Maybe I thought I wanted fairies on my page and then after working on them they just didn't resonate any more. Or maybe I thought someone else thought I should put them on my page. That happens. "Someone thinks fairies are a great addition to an art journal page. I should put them on mine." Yeah, stay away from shoulds!

Whatever the reason, there are definitely moments when we get stuck. So let's look at some of the reasons and how you can deal with those moments.

When you lose your way with a page

As I mentioned above, There have been times I've worked on a page and gotten to a particular point that feels like an energetic dead end. No idea where I want to go with this and no real meaning coming forth. Sometimes I know that if I push it, the only thing that will come of it will feel forced. Sometimes, I actually feel resistant to continuing with the page. It's almost turning me off, my reaction to it is so negative (more on that below). But often, I just feel neutral and lose my interest. 

It's at those times that I decide to put it aside for the time being. I dry my pages and then move on to the next blank canvas and start fresh. I don't paint over the page; no, I leave it for another day.

Why? Well, because often down the road it is just that bit of a beginning of a page...some color and imagery, maybe even a word or a sentence, that is just the thing I need to jumpstart my creativity. Many days I'll open up a journal and flip through until I find a half-started page and find that that's the day I feel inspired to excavate it some more and it turns out to be quite fruitful. 

Here's a quick video showing how I finished a page that I'd started months before, and how it turned out to be the perfect starting point that day.

When you hate your page: The power of discomfort

I admit that I've made pages I hate. HATE. Ugh. Soooo ugly. Soooo superficial. So pointless or trite or too sweet. 

What to do then?

My first advice is DON'T paint over the page. At least not for a while. Allow that icky page to stay there in your journal. And when you see it, ask yourself, "What bugs me so much about this page?" See what answers come up for you.

By all means, don't force yourself to work on the page. Let it go for now. Dry it and turn the page...move on to a new, fresh canvas and a fresh start. But don't tear it out or just gesso over it. There's power in sitting with that discomfort. There's power because it's like an alert signal flashing. Be Aware. This causes you discomfort. Be attentive. Be present. Notice.

For example, how do you handle moments in your life that bring you discomfort? Do you gloss over them? Do you pretend they didn't happen? What about uncomfortable conversations that need to happen? Do you avoid, avoid, avoid them? 

What would happen if you faced that discomfort? What would happen if you practiced facing the discomfort by doing so with the art journal page that causes you discomfort? Just a thought! Maybe it's a place to practice.

What qualities can you bring to that place of discomfort that would help you to transform the experience?

You never know where the mess will take you: Seeing a mistake as an opportunity

I always look at messes, or mistakes, in my art journaling as interesting detours, a rerouting of my art journal journey. I might have had an idea of where I was going with the page, but a mess that I create will undoubtedly take me to a totally different end point. And I welcome that. It's an unexpected change of direction that causes me to stay open to possibility and open to what comes up. Ultimately, a mess is something I need to be flexible about and then hold in gratitude for the new learning that comes from it. 

Sometimes in my studio a student will reach for the gesso when she intended to reach for the Mod Podge. She'll paint over a finished art journal page intending to varnish it with MP, but instead will paint it white with gesso. ACK! I call this a learning experience. I call this an opportunity. It's an opportunity to let go of what was, an opportunity to relax into that place of loss. And it's an opportunity to see what you can construct out of it all. It's not the end of the world, just an art journal page! What can you learn from letting go of your expectations of what would be?

When something feels "precious"

There have been so many times that I've created a page only to find the image or texture so beautiful that I get stopped in my tracks, unable to move beyond it. Sometimes it's an image I've decided to use...a piece from a magazine or a lovely scrap of gorgeous Japanese paper. It's just so pretty or so unusual that I don't want to "wreck" it. So, I glue it down and then...nothing. "What if I ruin it? It'll be lost forevvvveeerrr!"

But what's the use of that? 

Here are some suggestions for dealing with precious pages.

1. Leave it for now. Hopefully in the future you'll feel less protective of it and will be able to move on with the page.

2. Take a photocopy of it so you can use it again or retain it for posterity.


Number 3 is obviously the hardest to do, but I think it's the best idea. Let go of how pretty that image is. It's just an art journal page. It's not meant to go to the Louvre. Let it be the base for some amazing art journaling and just let it go.


Getting words on the page


Words on the page are a big part of art journaling.

Journaling is verbal. It taps into a very different part of your brain and your experience than painting and collaging. Switching to words after working in images, color, and texture OR switching to color, images, and texture after working with words allows different understandings to come to light. New revelations. New insights. New meanings. In general, using different modes to express yourself is powerful stuff and you will find your work goes deeper with each process of expression.

My philosophy about journaling in an art journal (as opposed to journaling in a diary or daily writing journal) is that the words are meant to be a part of the page and a part of the process. I do love to write, I've kept a blog and journals over the years, but my writing in my art journals differs in a big way. I never approach this writing as something I will refer back to to save or work on. This is not writing to be edited. This is not writing to even, necessarily, be reread. It is almost like a mind-dump. I think of my art journal as a good friend. I pour my heart out to her and then I'm done. I feel better after getting thoughts off my chest, but I don't go back to it to reread looking for beautiful nuggets of poetry or prose.

Because of this, the pressure is off. I don't have to worry about it being in any way perfect or polished. It is writing that I don't even need to be legible 5 minutes later. And it's writing that oftentimes, I like to cover up as a part of my process. 


(click on each photo to see it in larger scale)

Use a white gel pen on dark paint and follow the outlines of shapes.

Use a white gel pen on dark paint and follow the outlines of shapes.

Type your journaling out on a piece of paper.

Type your journaling out on a piece of paper.

Alternate white gel pen with black rubber stamping. Alternate big and little writing.

Alternate white gel pen with black rubber stamping. Alternate big and little writing.

Cultivate a messy and loopy script for your journaling.

Cultivate a messy and loopy script for your journaling.

Type your journaling out on strips of paper and then glue it down on the page.

Type your journaling out on strips of paper and then glue it down on the page.

Put some words on fabric with paint and rubber stamps. 

Put some words on fabric with paint and rubber stamps. 

Journal in a circle, and don't worry if things follow or not.

Journal in a circle, and don't worry if things follow or not.

Try out some cool decorative lettering for your writing.

Try out some cool decorative lettering for your writing.

Use magnetic poetry to add to your journaling.

Use magnetic poetry to add to your journaling.


Art journaling in community is a little different from art journaling solo. If you are choosing to participate in our ongoing, online community then it's helpful to consider the following: there are times you may want to make your journaling a little more obscured from the eyes that will land upon your pages. In my art studio, that is definitely the case and I make sure people respect a "don't read the fine print" rule. We can read the large words and titles (because basically if you're looking at it and you can read, it's an immediate thing that you can't even control) but we don't lean over each others' work and parse out the tiny journaling, unless we have permission from the artist.

Here, online, we can click on each others' work in our Facebook group page and read it all, if we choose. So, I'd like to teach you a few ways to keep your journaling private. Having these techniques in your toolbox does two things: 1) Gives you the freedom to journal without a need to censor yourself...thus allowing yourself to really let out all the private thoughts and the nitty gritty, painful and ugly feelings you may have inside, and 2) Gives you some very creative ways to incorporate journaling and words onto your page which will ultimately add visually and metaphorically to your work and experience.

Paint over your journaling. Use a pen that pushes into the paper or leaves raised 3D writing and the paint will catch on it.

Journal first in black. Then journal over it (same words) in white gel pen. Makes it hard to read but really looks interesting.

Glue an envelope to your page for very private journaling. You can put a letter in it, or a bunch of words on strips of paper. You can put anything you want in it. And you can seal it shut, too

Paint over your words first, then paint one big statement or title over the whole page with a paintbrush

Journal one direction, then turn the page 90 degrees and journal over the previous journaling

Use a pen that blends into the background of the page. 

Journal on a separate sheet of paper and then cut up to use on your page. (Here I turned my journaling into speech bubbles.)

Journal on a visually very busy background. (Here I journaled on a background that is collaged and painted.)

Journal one direction in a color that fades into the background. Then journal over it, in an alternate direction, in a color that pops out. Make your journaling more general with the top layer. (Here I wrote: "This is a page about..." over and over.


An art journal is a fantastic place to just make a statement or to use a quote or piece of poetry for inspiration. Sometimes all you need on a page is one word to finish things off. There are lots of ways to highlight words on your pages. Here are some possibilities.



Here are Lesson 3's journaling prompts. Remember, using a prompt is always optional. Coming from a place of "I don't know" is always the first goal of art journaling from the heart!








And here is a new guided meditation to help you drop into the present and let go of those voices!