The Courage to Start

This article was written by Martice Smith II

The Courage to Start 

It’s something we all experience: the crippling plague of self-doubt and anxiety. (And, of course, it comes in varying degrees of intensity.) When starting a new illustration or painting, even I have caught myself saying “What if I mess up” or “How can I do that when I can’t even do this?!”

It’s easy to run away from what threatens us but at some point, we must push ourselves forward and beyond this low-level of self-criticism. It does not serve our higher purpose of becoming the artist we envision ourselves to be.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I’d love to share with you. These tips have helped me tremendously in times where that nasty inner critic pops up and tries to flip every positive thing upside down.

1. First, we must allow ourselves to become immersed in positive thinking and effective affirmations.

Instead of saying “I’ll never be that good. I should stop right now and try something else”, elevate your thinking by saying this instead, “I can do anything I put my mind to…watch me!”.

Set your intention, empower your thinking, and express your thoughts into SPOKEN words. Yes, go ahead and say them out loud, so that you can hear them yourself. Listen to the way you speak to YOU. Are you gentle? Do you smile when you hear your words?

"Never Compromise", illustration by artist Martice Smith II

“Never Compromise”, mixed media illustration by artist Martice Smith II

Repeat your words until you are fully confident in them. It is YOUR belief in them that makes them come alive.

Now, as you build your courage on stable ground, remember to:

2. Allow yourself time to develop.

It takes time to learn and experiment with new techniques. Set aside, at least 15 minutes a day for creative exploration.

Break things down into manageable chunks and celebrate the small things, too. Show your enthusiasm and others will catch on and celebrate with you!

Every time you draw something, know that you will get better. You’re making progress and that surely puts those negative thoughts in their place, right?

You have to be willing to put the work in to get the results you’re looking for. Your first drawing may not look all that great to you; maybe the eyes are crooked, the composition doesn’t feel intentional, or there’s an unsightly knot in the middle row of your hand-woven basket…all of these “mess ups” can stop us in our tracks. Defy the urge to quit!

detail of "Never Compromise", illustration by artist Martice Smith II

3. Ask for help.

You are not on this great art journey all by yourself. There is always someone else you can reach out to. Be brave and write down a list of people you admire and reach out to, at least, one of them.

You can also participate in online art groups and connect with many individuals who are more than happy to give advice and share resources with you.

detail of "Never Compromise", illustration by artist Martice Smith II

Supplies used for the illustration: 

  • Large envelope – Size 12.5 x 9.5 inches (I used one from my local Postal Service)
  • collection of image transfers (from magazines)
  • Graphite
  • White ink pen (Uni-ball Signo)
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Spray varnish (matte finish)

DecoArt Products:

  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics, Americana and Fluorescent Acrylics
  • Decou-Page – Napkin sealer
  • 3D Gloss Enamels Transparent Glass Writer – Yellow
  • Liquid Glass

Using acrylic paints, paint directly onto the large envelope with bold, expressive strokes. Let paint drip and splatter!

Create dots with the handle end of a paintbrush. Determine where your image transfers will go. Cut out words and letters and arrange them into graphic elements that make bold statements. Embellish with collage and mark-making techniques, your personal symbology, patterns and doodles. Spray entire surface with a light coating of matte varnish.

Now, you can bravely and confidently declare that you have the courage to start.

Cheers to your success!

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Photo of artist Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II is creative director of Martice Smith II – Illustration & Design Studio, based in Missouri and owner of Uneek Art Boutique. She established herself as a freelance Illustrator and graphic designer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree. Her stunning illustrations reveals her love for fashion, typography and wildlife- using a combination of traditional and digital techniques.

You can see more of her work via her Facebook page or The Uneek Art blog.

Be sure to join the Uneek Art Letter, -Martice’s monthly newsletter- that offers art biz tips, advice and more digital goodness that will keep you inspired to be the artist you envision yourself to be!

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Artistic Healing Anyone Can Do

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This article is written by Laura Shelton Thykeson

art journals as healing art

Anyone who knows me hardly at all knows that I have spent a LOT of time in the hospital, having heart attacks, surgeries, tests, observations, etc…now, make no mistake – I am so definitely not here to whine. I am here to encourage others, faced with similar and worse circumstances, learn to channel that pain, frustration, and sometimes even depression into something clean and pure and healing-Art! It is such a simple concept, yet so many shy away from it because they “don’t have the supplies”,  “have no talent” (that’s the one that drives me crazy, lol!),  “don’t feel like it” and any other excuse the human brain can conjure up to stop us from having fun. Just because we are ill doesn’t mean we stop being human. This is actually the time of your life when you are the MOST human! All of those emotions, right there on the surface, just screaming to be expressed and gotten out in some constructive, healthy way. Well, here is my best suggestion, and I only push this because it has gotten me through so much and made everything so much easier in the process. I honestly feel this process has helped to save my life and helped keep me alive so far

art journals as healing art

What I am suggesting is SIMPLE, Expressive Art Journaling. Not in a fancy expensive journal, or with expensive, professional art supplies, and it doesn’t matter if you have “talent” or not, because this type of art journal is not for “show and tell” unless you want it to be…this is a place for you to escape to when the going gets tough, the pain won’t stop, and you are so tired and exhausted and weak that you can barely hold a marker, but still can’t sleep and can‘t lay there another minute.

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

Picture this scenario: You are laying in your hospital bed, or at home. You have some sort of medical procedure scheduled for tomorrow. Do YOU think you are going to be able to sleep? Then why not take that time you would have spent worrying, and spend it playing with vibrant colors, various shapes, blobs and drips and splatters of paints or inks, scribbling with pens and markers, and whatever else you decide to use.

Don’t worry, you will soon find your own way, your own path through the pain and insanity that has seemingly taken over everything in your life, and suddenly-YOU are back in control of your life again! You will lose track of time, maybe just a few moments, any is a relief, and that means you aren’t experiencing the pains of being ill during that time! Worth a shot, now isn’t it?

Maybe you just scribble with a set of colored felt tip markers…maybe splash around some children’s watercolors. What you use and how “artistically” that you do it DOES NOT MATTER. What matters is you got through it again, and now, each time it happens, you have a refuge to go to, always waiting for you to begin. And while some of my pages look more complicated, that is just because it is my style…I haI would sit in my hospital bed for hours, just swishing paint, sometimes making designs, sometimes just watching the color spill across the pages, and rarely did I ever actually “journal” on these pages. No words could explain, so I let the colors and the shapes do the talking for me. Plus I had some pre-printed Scripture cards that I added to most of the pages and they worked perfectly for what I wanted.. Some of the pages are just paint, or just napkins decopauged on, or collage from magazines or colored Sharpies

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

Now, here is the easy part…here is a suggested list of basic supplies to get you started, and you can get them all at the Dollar Store!

Some type of tote bag to hold everything and tote back and forth to hospital and doctors appointments.

Sewn Spine Composition Notebook to use as journal – (stock up during back to school sales!)

Set of children’s pan watercolors

Set of colored felt tip markers (optional)

School glue

Glue stick

Small set scissors

Pencil and eraser

Black marker and black ink pen

Couple old magazines for collage (optional)

Maybe some cheap craft paint (optional)

Couple of decent paintbrushes

This is more than enough to get you started, and believe me, as you go, you are going to start accumulating more and more supplies and odds and ends for your journal pages…glue in snips of papers, hospital bracelets, discharge papers, anything that was a part of your day. It all matters…I can’t really explain why, but somehow it validates that you were there, you struggled through it, and you survived it all! When looking back months or years later, these things will touch you deeply in ways only you can understand. We enter those surgical rooms and go through those tests ALONE, and ALONE we find the courage to come back out, face the future and begin the sometimes long and painful journey toward being as healthy as we can be again. Oh yes…those little snippets you stuck in that journal that day are gonna mean more and more to you as time passes

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

One last note I would like to add:

Take the time to decorate, paint, collage or otherwise embellish your composition notebook/art journal and give it a name. Something that means something to you personally. It makes that book really “belong” to you, and it becomes a part of you in the process. Whether fancy or plain, it is no longer “just” a notebook. It is your story, and it is just waiting to be told by the only one who truly can – YOU!

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Laura Thykeson has been totally immersed in mixed media art for many years. She discovered altered books and art journals about a year ago and have been hooked ever since! She has always loved mixed media art because of the variety and the “no rules” aspect! Laura lives in Granbury, Texas USA.

You can see more of Laura’s work at Taz’s Corner

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A Healing Art

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Article written by Melanie Statnick

Five years ago I was faced with a difficult life altering situation. My world was about to be spin 360. There was heart ache and silent suffering.  First time mom being faced with having to venture on her own. It took a lot of will and strength to rise from the situation and keep going. I thought about the woman before me. My past of strong women in my family who immigrated to Canada from countries of war. They came on boats with what they could carry, which was very little.

I treasure the photos, stories and memories of my paternal grandmother. She in many ways has become my heroine. One item I had rediscovered as I was packing to move out of my home was my grandmother’s watercolor tins and brushes. I had also found a sketch book with a very tiny piece of charcoal.  The tins where rusted, the watercolor cubes were coming loose from each section. Her brushes had frayed and the painted handles began to chip. In my dramatic depression I related to the tins and brushes. The hard watercolors that had been mudded from use and mixing. Like the brushes I too felt frayed, chipped and used.

Use your art to reconnect with your past and find your hidden strengths

Use your art to reconnect with your past and find your hidden strengths

That afternoon I sat in the silent emptiness of my home, poured a small bowl of water and began to paint with her watercolors. I felt connected to family, to the memories of my childhood with her, playing cards, making pasta from a hand cranked pasta machine, picking grapes from her vines in the garden and staring at these exact paint supplies on her kitchen table wondering what she was painting in her pages. Every night after work I painted and drew and replaced the brushes and watercolors here and there when I could afford it. With every stroke of the brush I was healing, I was letting go. When I saw how the beautiful colors bled into each other there was more healing.

I started as a self-taught artist and I still use art as therapy. Organizations have been studying and using art to heal. Studies show how it works for PTSD, Physical and mental illness, rehabilitation, also with children and adults in domestic abuse. It can also be used for fostering self-awareness, and personal growth. To experience healing from art you do not have to be “going through” something. We all experience stress and tension on a daily basis and art is a healthy alternative to self-expression and a release of repression.

Use your art to reconnect with your past and find your hidden strengths

It’s a journey and there are tools, teachers and students at our access. Writing in journals, keeping an art journal, free style painting on canvas or paper, and even experimenting with a new medium can help you relax and focus. I no longer use my grandmother’s tins and brushes. I keep them on a shelf as a reminder of how far I have reached, how strong I’ve become. I quote “I stood yesterday, I can stand today.”  -Dorothy Dix either you’re in a challenging situation in your life, or not; Art is there, it’s there for you to use, use it well and use it often.

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Melanie Statnick is a Canadian Mixed Media & Collage artist out of North Carolina. Melanie creates art daily from her private studio. Her style is eclectic and often whimsy. She is also an Art Instructor at local venues and in the community colleges to all ages. Her artwork can be found in galleries and shops extensively throughout North Carolina.

You can see more of Melanie’s work at Mixed Media Art or at www.melaniestatnickart.com

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