Above: Last page spread in my last journal, a lined notebook (I'll write more of this another day in a "real" post), the drawing, a mugshot, spans the last page and inside back cover. Fine-tipped pigment filled Pentel Brush Pen with dye-filled Sepia Pentel Colorbrush. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Back in January or earlier I heard from a blog reader that she was taking some of my blog post advice and starting to build her journaling habit. She wrote back that she'd committed to drawing every day and stated she'd made friends with her internal critic. She was also following my advice to not show her early journaling efforts to others until she got her 28-days of habit under her belt.
Left: Detail from the above image showing paper towel swipes and ink lines and washes. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I suggest this to people to help them insulate themselves not only from the internal critic, but also from the well-meaning folks who surround us in life and might not think carefully before blurting out a reaction to our fresh work. It's one thing to know that their comments often rise out of their own issues and frustrations, but it's quite another for new journal keepers to stand fast under a barrage of even helpful comments.
Forming a tough skin is an essential part of being an artist. Why crack the egg open too early?
My correspondent also told me she was risking more and having much more fun.
This was great to hear. We have to keep risking if we are to grow.
I wrote back the following to reinforce her commitment:
So glad to hear that things are going well. Keep to your plan, keep taking risks. Build your habit. Expect that there will be some blips on the progress, days when things don't seem to go right, when you even seem to go backwards. But by being prepared you can be ready with positive ways to keep the internal critic at bay and keep going.
One of the best things to do is accept a drawing that isn't quite what you wanted and find the points and places in that drawing that really do work. (There are always some points and places that work, even if the only point working in the drawing is simply, "wow, I got the pressure on the brush pen absolutely right just there!")
Use those types of positive comments to battle off your critic. And most of all remind yourself you are where you are on your journey, for now, and "now" will change tomorrow and tomorrow, so enjoy the now. This will help if you feel the urge to compare your work with someone else's. They are where they are in their journey, you are where you are.
If you stop to think about it you really wouldn't want it any other way.
As you may realize if you've read my blog at all or met me in person, I'm a fast talker. My internal critic has long ago given up trying to get a word in edgewise. I'm comfortable looking at work and saying to myself how this part here or there doesn't work, not because I'm throwing in the towel, but because I'm looking at where I can make it better—and this speeds me on to the next drawing rather than impedes me. (That's the test—if you draw more, you're having healthy dialogs.)
I put up this final sketch from a current journal because while this prostitute from the 1940s didn't have quite this oddly shaped a face, it was oddly shaped, and I can be happy with it—joyous in fact because of the fun of execution. I had a new Sepia pen. I'd longed for a new one for two weeks!
And when I look at the areas rich in layering, all the obvious "errors" or departures from my vision don't matter at all to me because there was so much enjoyment to be had, so much trying this and then that (risking), and so much fun in the discovery (yes this does that on this paper!). I was propelled, by the knowledge that this is where I am now and I can see where I want to go next—right to the new journal and the next drawing.
You can enjoy where you are now. It's the opposite of being complacent. It's diametrically opposed to accepting defeat. Instead, it's about accepting challenges and going forward; with a high level of enjoyment into the bargain.
Look for that "something that works" to embrace in your next sketch. Even if it is a little something, something no more than one stroke. You are the only judge of what works. How does that spatter of paint or arc of line or layer of wash make you feel? How did it make you feel when you did it?
Let that "something" make you hungry for more, so that you can build a strong journaling practice.