AJJ: More About The Start


Where I talk about the all the heart stuff that goes into my art journals. Challenges...victories...defeats, insights, learning and laughs along the way. Enjoy!



Recently I talked about the challenges of starting up my arting practice again after stopping. It wasn’t pretty, but I got myself going and I think I’m back in the saddle again.  I created two art journal spreads yesterday that I didn’t hate—yipee!

Today I need to talk about another “start” problem I have (it looks like I have a theme going, here): how to start a new page (spread, canvas, project of any kind).


It seems like there are some people who create like crazy and have no problem deciding what to do next. I was thinking about that the other day as I stared at a blank page. How is it that some creatives seem to make that leap onto a blank page  so easily?

Or do they? Maybe it just seems that way when someone has a large body of work to show for their efforts. Maybe they struggled to start each piece.

From what I can see, though, I don’t think so. I mean, yes, I’m sure everyone who writes/paints/assembles/designs/invents—makes something—faces down the proverbial blank page at one time or another. But when I look at some of the artists I follow online, I do think I’m missing a piece of the creative puzzle that more seasoned creatives put into place.

They impose constraints.

When your field of possibilities is wide open it’s easy to feel, well, blank.  So for me, I turn to the next blank page and I know I can use any medium, any technique, to express any subject (or not). When there’s everything to do, I sometimes feel there’s nothing to do.

To impose some constraints ahead of time on what you can and cannot do limits the field of possibilities to fewer choices. Ronda Palazzari reminded me of this general concept recently when talking about entering art challenges hosted by other bloggers. These challenges require you to work within the constraints of the challenge (with the added benefit of connecting with other artists). Another option, as she points out, is to simply challenge yourself by limiting what supplies you use.

Other kinds of constraints:  I can choose to work off journal prompts, which essentially limits what to express. Or I could take on a project. Artists instantly impose constraints when they take on a project—like a series.  Hmmm, “Twenty felline canvases”...I like it!

One of the best way to constrain choices within some kind of framework is to use an inspiration piece to get started.  This age old method is to start with something that inspires us (which can be anything —in art or nature or anything in your physical world) and incorporate some element of that inspiration into a new work. Here's a great example: Karen Isaacson over at I Am Rushmore got inspired by Rex Ray--and she inspires me (and so does he!)

I know about constraints when it comes to writing. This blog is a project I’ve started that focuses on sharing my story of learning to listen closer to my heart and to do what I love. With this frame, I don’t have to wonder what to talk about here. All I have to ask myself is, what’s going on with my story today?

And my story today? I’m badly in need of constraints.   The problem is I can't decide on which one!  Should I commit to an art challenge? Should I start using journal prompts? Maybe I should focus on inspiration?

Now instead of trying to decide what to create next, I'm trying to decide how to create what next...if that makes sense. Maybe I need some constraints to help me choose constraints...

Or maybe I need to recognize that fear is a wiley beast. All this time I’m feeling overwhelmed by choice, I’m not choosing now, am I?

I’d really like to know. How do you choose?