Before we dive in for the day, and by popular request, I’ve started a Facebook Group for this blog along in the hopes that it will keep us all blogging long after the challenge is over. The premise is simple. Share your blog post, then visit and leave comments on three blogs. Join us here!

One of the things I love about art journaling is the freedom it gives me to express myself without worrying about outcomes. I have a thing I say pretty much every time I sit down to journal, and if you’ve been in a class with me, you’ll recognize this:

“It’s not like it’s going to hang in the Louvre!”

This one little phrase is so soothing, so immediately calming, because it reminds me what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I’m *expressing myself* and I’m doing it *for myself*. This is my permission slip, my green light. It reminds me that I can make a holy mess and no one is going to care. In fact, holy messes are part of the fun, and who knows where they’ll lead?

This is a background I created for a lesson in Mixed Tape II. It started with two markers, one in each hand, a red one and a yellow one, and I spent about fifteen minutes making marks on the page in time to a song that’s really resonating with me right now. In time, when it felt like it was time, I moved on to two new things. Same technique – something in each hand – blue ink droppers, paint brushes loaded with paint, and I danced on the page until I felt as though the emotional charge that the song stirred up in me was released. I spent about a minute or two adding some doodles with black and white paint pens, and then calming things down with a glaze of a favourite colour.

And then? I *walked away from it*. I just left it sitting there. Looking like *that*.

I couldn’t do that when I first started my journal. If I’d made something that looked like this, I had to move swiftly into the part where I ‘fixed’ it or made it ‘pretty’. I would look upon something like this with a bit of horror, a dose of shame. My inner critic was very easily activated back then. Very, very easily activated. Especially since I came into art journaling at a time when everyone was making whimsical, pretty, perfect looking pages, and only showing their final results.

These days, I can make a mess like this, and walk away from it, just leave it sitting there on the painty table. I could easily slap some writing on this and call it done because it does *perfectly express* the emotional charge I experienced when I was working with the song I was working with. It isn’t pretty, but it is real, and like I said, it’s not like it’s going to hang in the Louvre!

More importantly, though, I can walk away because I trust myself. I trust my mastery of the techniques and mediums that I use. I know that when I return to this background, this ‘holy mess’, I will know what to do with it. I will know how to work with it so that it both expresses what I was feeling AND so that it doesn’t look like baby poo smeared with grass stains. I know how to do that because I have a *practice*, and that practice includes *failure* as an option.

Failure Is Always An Option

Maybe you were lucky and you were raised with the message that trying is winning and failure is just a part of that process, but I can tell you – that’s not how I was raised. I was raised & socialized to believe that failure *isn’t* an option. The worst possible thing I could do was fail. But with this attitude firmly ingrained within me, learning became very difficult, because I approached every experiment, every new thing I wanted to try, with a dread of failure. I expected (because I was expected) to get it right the first time, and if I didn’t, I had failed. Oh, the shame.

Thankfully, I was born with a healthy dose of audacity, and I went on in my adulthood to test all of the erroneous messages I’d grown up with, including the ones about failure. I learned, through trial and error, that failure is just a part of the process. Failure is inevitable as we are learning, and even long after we’re learning, and all it is, really, is a nudge in the direction of trying again.

I love failure. Failure is exciting. It keep me on my growing edge, and at the very least, it means I’m trying.

Trying is winning.

This is where this spread ended up, by the way.

And it’s not like it’s going to hang in the Louvre, but isn’t it lovely all the same?


Today’s Nudge: Write about something you used to believe that you no longer believe and how that shift in belief has changed things for you. 

There’s a bunch of us blogging along in September. Find out more here, or pop your email address in the box below, and I’ll send you a nudge to blog every day along with a link to my daily writings.

Looking for accountability partners, other blogs to read, or eyes on your work? How about all three? Join us today in the Artfully Wild Blogalong Facebook Group.

Oh, hey! While I have you!

Mixed Tape II is in full swing, and Sarah Trumpp, Cristin Stevenson and I are deeply enjoying bringing you all the ways we know of to use music as a portal to self-expression in our art journals. You can join in any time because the class comes with forever access! You can read more about it here. Use coupon code wildvip for a discount!

The class is eight weeks long – just long enough to develop a practice – but we will all be playing in our Mixed Tape journals long after the class has wrapped up! I hope you’ll join us.

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