Sandy Allnock, author of Bible Journaling Made Simple and the Bible Journaling Made Simple Creative Workbook, introduced us to bible journaling and how this creative expression of worship can be an enriching and powerfully inspiring. Now Sandy discusses what every artist encounters — the fear of actually embarking on the creative process — with tips on how to overcome your fears as you go!
Creative Tips to Light Your Way
One of the drawbacks of bible journaling as an art form is that it comes with a double-whammy of fear: it comes with the normal nerves that every artist in every medium deals with, but working in a Bible journal also involves steps of faith! We treasure and revere our Bible, and we worry that our uncertainty when making marks in it could carry spiritual implications.
Pull up your Bible and a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and we’ll consider some of the most common fears — along with tips and exercises to overcome them.
“I’m terrified of simply starting!”
A frightened pencil, pen, or brush hovering over a blank page is nothing new; you join every artist throughout history in experiencing heart-wrenching nerves during the creative process! Over time, with practice, fear decreases, but even experienced artists have the blank page taunt them from time to time. Consider that the other side of the coin of your feelings might just be excitement. Fear may be trying to jockey for position—but focus on the joy ahead of you as you begin this journey. Pray for that fear to be cast aside in God’s perfect love. (1 John 4:18)
TIP: Baptize one page of your Bible journal with a little color. Open your Bible to the page in the front with the version information on it. Decorate that page with hearts, stars, flowers — anything that makes your heart happy and reflects the perfect love of God. Write a prayer on it asking for the courage to keep going. That intro page is less daunting than one with Scriptures on it, and may shake loose the cobwebs.
“I can’t draw; I’m afraid I’ll ruin my Bible.”
Remember that the goal of Bible journaling is spending time with God—it’s not about the art! If your Grandmother had drawn a stick-figure family in her old Bible, then written down the testimony about your uncle surviving a childhood illness, would you care about the quality of her little stick figures? They would be precious representations of that story! Marks you make in the margins of your Bible are not there to be Da Vinci’s masterpiece: they are there to document what God taught you, how He rescued you, or what He promised you. (Psalm 77:11)
TIP: Start with the most important pages. In a notebook, jot down the most precious moments you’ve experienced with God. What do you want to remember most? When did the Lord speak really clearly? When was His rescue so tangible that it’s an anchor for your faith? Create a page for one of them with perhaps a small drawing or just a pretty background, then journal in detail the story of what happened; think about a family member reading that testimony someday decades from now: what words do you want to leave behind to encourage them in their faith by sharing your experiences? Let your story become the hero of the page, and the art becomes simply an embellishment.
“I literally wrecked my Bible by [name the art tragedy].”
I’ll admit what some won’t: we are imperfect and might occasionally have an oops! Learning by doing is the most effective and long-lasting way to grow in art. Discovering that a particular brand of paint bleeds, or that tugging washi tape off a wet page can tear it—we get an unexpected result and fear of doing it again rises up. Your Bible is not ruined; most Bible journalers have a few pages with oopses, and those are the artists who have learned the most. You’ve just joined their ranks!
TIP: The first thing to do in most cases: b r e a t h e. Moving quickly may make things worse. If paint has bled through the pages of your bible journal, gently slide a sheet of paper under your tragedy, and let wet paint air dry; occasionally paint can be lightened, even after dry, by gently rubbing with a baby wipe. If not, that page can be photocopied out of another Bible and added as a tip-in (see below). Write a note on masking tape attached to the medium that bleeds to remind yourself not to use it again.A torn page can be reinforced—after the paper is allowed to air dry—with Scotch tape from the back; keep Scotch tape handy in your Bible journaling supplies. Wrinkled watercolored pages can be lightly ironed for 15-20 seconds between sheets of paper; do NOT iron over acrylic pigment or gel pens with acrylic content, as heat will melt them.
“I am afraid the art will leave Scriptures unreadable.”
Some journalers create in one Bible and use another for study, so this is not a concern for them. But for others, maintaining readability of text is crucial. All art can be relegated to the journaling columns on the outer edges, but full backgrounds are quite beautiful and draw attention to that page as you flip through your Bible, reminding you of those eternal truths. Don’t be afraid – just experiment with mediums and techniques that accomplish what you desire.
TIP: To maintain readability, either keep all art in the journaling columns on the outer edges, or focus on mediums like watercolor, watercolor pencil, or colored pencil; they are nicely pigmented, and even when colored over the words, are most often transparent. When creating art over top of words, keep colors fairly light, and keep edges soft and with little contrast.
“I don’t know how to come up with a picture to go with a verse.”
First, pray about the verse; write it on a piece of paper in your pocket to look at all day, and ask God to show you how to illustrate it. You might be surprised at what He calls to mind – once while praying about wanting to express my love to the Lord, my dog’s nose ended up illustrating it: I want to look at God the way my dog looks at me!
TIP: Study the verse, then do some free-form writing about it. Choose a word that jumps out at you from the verse, and write a long list of synonyms. If they’re nouns, you have a list of images! If they’re adjectives, write a list of objects that can be described with that adjective. If adverbs, make a list of actions, and nouns associated with them. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to See the Scriptures in a new way.
“I have terrible handwriting, I’m embarrassed to see it on my pages.”
The recent rise in “modern calligraphy” has caused many of us to doubt our handwriting skills. Our handwriting is as individual as our fingerprints—and endowed upon each of us by our Creator! While practice can “clean up” our writing (Sister Norma made sure we practiced in second grade, but I find I still need to keep working on it!), and it is possible to learn a whole new style of calligraphy — think again about the previous Grandma example. Wouldn’t your great-grandchildren be delighted to see your natural handwriting? (Ephesians 2:10)
TIP: Practice writing. Write out pages and pages of your favorite verses (helps with memorization as well!) Or to practice every letter in the alphabet, write out this pangram (a sentence containing all letters of the alphabet): Quiet doubt and expel fear with the amazing knowledge that Jesus chose and loves YOU. (Shout out to Paula Johnson who came up with this one!) Write it in cursive. In printing. In all caps, and upper and lower case. Write it quickly, as if writing a shopping list – and write it more deliberately, as if writing a letter to a cherished loved one.
“I’m just not creative, I have no ideas.”
We were all created in God’s image—and He is the ultimate Creator. That means we each are creative, we may just be on one point or another on our journey, seeking the areas of creativity where we’ll shine! Think of art as a muscle that needs exercise; your legs need to work out in the gym regularly, and your creativity needs workouts too! At the start, leaning on the ideas of others can help get moving forward on growing in our art, and soon—we realize that in all things, God is working for our good, and we can take off the training wheels and fly! (Rom 8:28)
TIP: Practice, practice, practice. Get an inexpensive sketchbook; when paper is expendable, we are freer to try things out. Fill the book from front to back, every page should have many drawings, doodles, and notes. Spend at least 10 minutes a day sketching out something — anything. A mug. A flower. Your dog’s toy. A shoe. Don’t worry if they look like the object or they’re shaded right or in perspective. Let the making of marks become natural to your hand, and in time your personal style develops.
“I’m scared that I’m wrong to add to the Bible, even though I want to.”
This is a common fear, so do not feel alone! Watching others who are released into creating in their Bibles can make us wish we had their perspective on the Word of God, but doctrinal teaching or interpretation of different verses (Dt 4:2, among others) can cause our hearts to be either confused or condemning of others or ourselves. Seek God and ask Him. If I dare to speak for those who create in our Bibles: we are not adding or changing the truth of the Scriptures, but instead we are making it come alive for us. The images, text, and color helps us to remember and internalize God’s truth better, and the actual Word of God remains primary above and beyond anything we have created ourselves.
TIP: Create Bible art in another book. In an art journal, an old hymnal, or any favorite book — or any other art format! The same Scriptures can inspire art in so many ways and be just as beautiful as what is seen in others’ Bibles. Plus, other books may be printed on more durable paper that can take a beating, too! For some folks, art in journals is a step toward creating in their Bible as they develop their skills. For others, it’s a beautiful expression in and of itself.
Your Bible Journal Is…
Above all else, remember that God’s perfect love casts out fear. Prioritize spending time with the Lord; bask in His love. Know that He loves and adores you, and He accepts your creative worship as a sacrifice of praise. He loves your art, your handwriting, your creative style—and He’s happy to hang your artwork on his refrigerator any day!
Can’t get enough art journaling? Take a look at this demo from artist Nichole Rae!