lesson 6





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.