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!


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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