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5 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Art Journal Pages

photo credit: Broken Flowers via photopin (license)

I know very well what it’s like to want to do art, but every time you sit down and do it, you’re feeling crappy about the result. It’s really inhibiting and it might even stop you from creating next time. I don’t want that for you (or for myself)! So here are some insights that might help you understand why this happens and what you can do to change it.

1. You need practice

There is no way around it: practice makes progress. There are no shortcuts and you have to put in the time. Imagine you’re going to learn a language, it will take some weeks to grasp the basics, quite a few more to be semi-proficient and several years to be fluent. The more you practice making art, the more fluent you become and the easier it will be for you to create things you like, simply because of your skill level.

I love this quote:

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
-Jon Acuff

Another awesome resource is this video with words from Ira Glass. It’s called ‘The Gap’ and is about that ‘gap’ that exists between knowing what art you find beautiful and actually being able to achieve it yourself.

2. You are attached to the outcome

Leading on from the concept of ‘the gap’ explained above, it’s very frustrating if you have something specific in mind and aren’t quite able to execute it as nicely as you see it in your imagination. This partly comes back to practice, but another thing that you can try which to me absolutely transforms the process of art making is: to let go of the outcome.

Art is weird and wonderful, it’s a process, not just paint by numbers. Try and place yourself firmly in the current moment, rather than in the future where this finished (perfect) artwork exists. What can you do now that you enjoy, that is an expression of yourself? Let the art emerge from moment to moment, rather than working towards a fixed outcome.

An example of this might be that you are going to paint a portrait. But instead of trying to make it picture perfect or photo realistic, let it come alive through your personal filter of your mind, hands & body. This is actually where the most original art comes from in my opinion!

3. You need to add more detail

One of the things I notice a lot in the art of beginners is that it somehow looks unfinished or unrefined. It’s not necessarily a lack of technical skill (I think beginner’s art can have a great sense of freedom! As well as art made by kids) but a lack of going back in and making things look complete. It’s probably also to do with confidence. I see this in how people shade faces, they know where to put the shadows and the highlights but they’re not confident enough to make it BOLD. Make the darks really dark and let the highlights pop out!

You’ll be surprised at how a painting can transform by just paying a bit more attention to the details and finishing touches. Pay attention to shadows/highlights, use outlines and shading, create halos around people/objects, add little doodles or dots.

4. You’re working against your supplies

There are no rules about how you must use your art supplies (or which specific supplies to use), but there are definitely ways in which to use them effectively and ways in which to use them that make you want to scream and tear your hair out!

You’ll have to experiment yourself with specific things that feel frustrating that might be solved by a different technique (try Googling or a search on YouTube!), but here are some things that I’ve found frustrating and ideas on how to make them better.

Paper pilling (rubbing off / forming little balls):

-Use gesso first or a layer of acrylics. Make sure this layer is thoroughly dry before continuing

Paint not applying smoothly:
-Dilute slightly with water or matte medium/PVA glue
-Work BIGGER! Tiny fiddly work is especially hard when you’re a beginner. Scale up and then when you’ve gained experience, scale down again
-Use different or better quality brushes

Backgrounds look muddy or brown instead of vibrant (also especially applicable while Gelli printing):
-Try not to mix complementary colours (blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green)
-Only apply either cool colours (blues/greens/cool purple) or warm colours (red, yellow, orange) together.
-Dry thoroughly in between layers.

5. You’re doing the wrong thing

Why are you doing this? Whose art are you making? I often fall into the trap of seeing other people’s art and admiring it so much that I want to recreate it or I want my art to look like that. So off I go on a very results orientated journey, which I often find very frustrating and unfulfilling. So ask yourself what your goal is. How do you want to feel? What do you really want to make? How do you like using your supplies? Why do you want to create art in the first place?

There are no right answers to these questions, just your answers that will give you an insight into your personal whys and hows.

If you’ve got any tips to share, please post them below in the comments! Can’t wait to hear what your favourite methods are for enjoying making art.

By Iris

Hi I'm Iris! I'm a mixed media artist from London, UK. I want to inspire everyone with a creative heart to make and do what they love!

6 replies on “5 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Art Journal Pages”

Dear Iris, hi! I loved this blog post of yours as I am one of those people that really want to make art but feel VERY VERY frustrating with it and about it! The reason why I feel frustrated is mainly because I’m committed to the result. And the reason why I’m committed to the result is because I want to create beautiful things. This is why I’m trying to make “art”, I want to make beautiful creations to watch them and feel nice about them! Crappy reason to make art, isn’t it? Or not? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I also have a HUGE inner critic and sometimes it is so unbearable that it even holds me from making any art at all! And this makes me sad. I even have some quite long periods that I can’t make any art at all. BUT I’m fighting it! And what I have found to be helpful for me so far is firstly reading articles that are encouraging and soothing for art beginners, in order to calm down my inner critic. Your posts have helped me a lot and I really thank you for that! It also helps me when I express my sad feelings to other artists that could understand me and maybe help me, like I do now! Secondly, I’m trying to learn from artists whose art I admire, by taking some art lessons. I take my time to learn from them and practice and lately I feel that I’ve made some little progress and that I’m slowly starting to make art that I like somehow. I strongly believe that I still have a looooong way to go, I haven’t even find my personal art style yet (and I have no idea about it!) but I think I have taken some small steps, like an art-toddler! My tip, if I could give one(!), is that if you REALLY feel inside that you want to make art, just don’t stop and keep going! Search for things that could help you learn and become better and practice against all odds, practice even against your inner critic! And things will go better, they have to!

Thank you for your wonderfully honest and vulnerable comment Melfina. I sooo know where you’re coming from. I struggled (and still do) with so many of the things you write about.

I LOVE pretty things too, and it’s been a really difficult thing to embrace the ‘non pretty’ in my art. I have two types of art that I create (generally), one is a very pretty polished type, which I LOVE the result, but I often don’t feel free or joyful when I create, and the other type I create is much more messy/quick/emotional which I love creating in the moment, but it’s often not as pretty and neat.

I wholeheartedly agree with your advice.

Yes this is very true! This is me all the time. I have been journaling for almost a year and I’m still trying to find “my style”. I have been really wanting to put some of my art on to canvases but that is really scary because it seems so much more real I guess, if that makes any sense?

Working on canvas can be really intimidating indeed Ashlee! I find it hard too, I love the safe space of my art journal. I’ve actually got a blog article planned about how to find your own style! Check back next week on Thursday afternoon and it’ll be up!

WOW, I can relate to every single ITEM!!!! I generally have a lot of projects going on at the same time, I know many of us do, and then I get frustrated because I don’t finish a project and want to get back to it but lost the feeling I had when working on it because now I’m working on something entirely different. I’m still trying to find “MY” form of art. I wonder if I’ll ever find it. I guess I just need to practice #1!!! Thank you for a wonderful post!!!!

So glad this resonated with you Marsha! I really relate to what you’re saying about ‘my’ form of art, it’s kind of like a continual search because you’re trying to uncover something about yourself that you may not quite know or grasp just yet. I love it when I discover something and I’m like ‘YESSSS that’s so me!’

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