The Rules We Make Up In Our Heads About Art Journals [and Life]

I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say that they are “tired of stressing out about making a pretty art journal page“.

And yet, I can’t recall a single time where I have heard an art journal instructor state that “you must make pretty pages“.

In fact, for every art journal instructor I have had the opportunity to learn from or encounter online or in books, every single one of them has admitted to making ugly pages. To making pages just because they wanted to express something. And that it isn’t about ‘being perfect’.

Most every art journal teacher I know will tell you the opposite. We advocate embracing the imperfect bits of your art practice. And we generally believe that those bits, the imperfect ones, are what shine.


Back when I first started keeping a designated art journal [2008] the big trend was to ‘be authentic’ to ‘be real’ and to ‘be unique’. We were collectively looking to express what made us, well, us.

Is there no better way to do those things than self expression? And if your version of self expression is perfect then who is to say that is right or wrong? Or, what if it is the beauty of imperfect things? Isn’t that just as authentic, to you, if it is what you want to express?


A few months ago I had one of those epiphanies of thought. I realized rather unexpectedly, that I had been making up ‘rules of conduct’ for myself where my online relationships were concerned.

A bit off topic, but humor me for just a minute here.

When I realized that my stress, and my duress, were all coming from those ‘rules’ I had to stop. And take stock of ‘who, what, where, and when’. And that was when I came to the realization that what I tell my art journal students about creating is what I should be telling myself. And if those rules of mine were hindering me, why live by them? Why not toss them out and just do what felt right and authentic to me.

Why not just be me instead?


I guess what I really want to impart is that if you are feeling this way… feeling stressed about making pretty pages, or confined by what others are doing, or feel like you have to conform to a preconceived version of art… take a moment.

Because you probably made those rules up. Which means you can definitely unmake them right now. You can choose to stop setting rules for yourself and your creativity if they make you uncomfortable.

In fact, why not try this… make a new rule.

One that says ‘the only rules you will have are the ones that make you feel happy and free and creative and inspired’. Then you can stop blaming others for rules you do not want to live by. And instead you can begin celebrating yourself for making awesome rules that you do want to live by!

Happy Creating!

~ Christy

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

  5 comments for “The Rules We Make Up In Our Heads About Art Journals [and Life]

  1. July 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

    This is so right on the money. Over the last year I actually got brave enough to make an art journal devoted to my chronic self-hatred and it was ugly and terrifyiing and beautiful and half way through morphed into a transformation for me of letting go of some of that and reclaiming bits of myself. It is very precious to me, and was SUCH a powerful way to intervene in an old, poisonous habit of thought. While it is a private art journal, it is one of the most transformative I have done. I was just desperate to “evoke” on the page what was eating away at me iside. God bless ugly, terrifying, messy, playful, mistaken-ridden art journal pages!!! Thanks for putting this in words.

  2. July 6, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Oh yes Christy, I do the same.

  3. July 6, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Great article Christy!
    Perfection is over rated & takes all the FUN out of things!
    Art Journaling should be about enjoying your time doing it!

  4. July 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I agree…sometimes doing what everyone else is doing can be depressing if I can’t keep up…so I do my scrapbooking….I feel overwhelmed and then nothing gets done if I cant get to my art pages…oh well try to deal with it all

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *