I am an Artist: Breaking The Chains of Fear and Self Doubt

I have always had a love for art. Museums were far more enjoyable for me than most of my peers. A beautiful photograph or painting made me want to just stop and stare. I never created though. I was not an artist.


An Unintended Art Lesson

When I was in Kindergarten my teacher had taken a picture of a monkey and colored it three times. One just had scribbling all over the page, one was in the lines, but colored in all different directions with white patches showing, the third was carefully and neatly colored inside the lines. She pulled out three ribbons and had us rank the pictures in order 1st, 2nd and 3rd based on how well they were colored. Clearly her intent was to teach us about 1st, 2nd, 3rd, but I learned a much bigger, and ultimately quite damaging, lesson that day.

What this innocently intentioned lesson taught my 5 year old impressionable brain was that people were judging my art work, being the best is very important, and you better color inside the lines. Pretty soon I decided I wasn’t an artist and didn’t like art. I wasn’t automatically as good as that 1st place picture and I didn’t have the maturity to understand that it took time, patience, and hard work to get there. I just knew I didn’t want that 3rd place ribbon! I didn’t think it out quite so clearly at that age, but I realize now that I had decided I would rather be known as not trying than try my best and be found lacking.

This one small moment in my education has carried lifelong consequences. I have spent 32 years denying my own desire to create. I have avoided learning about different artistic mediums and techniques. I have labeled myself as “not good” at art and never really gave myself a chance to do it. My artistic self has tried to break free of the chains I placed around it, but never really succeeded in more than maybe stretching the chain a bit.

Learning to Test My Artistic Limits

Around 2006 I started dabbling in digital scrapbooking. My mom and sister were both enthusiastic paper scrappers, but I never really got into it because I was no good at art. I decided that I could be an artist on the computer because if I made mistakes I could just undo and start over. This was my first baby step towards letting my creative self really flourish. In 2008 I decided that I liked the digiscrapping enough that Digital Design would be a good option for using my GI Bill to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.  I really enjoyed making T-shirts, word art, and logos, but it still wasn’t completely fulfilling my need to create.

My next step was photography. I didn’t have to actually create anything, I thought, I just had to creatively capture what God had already created all around me. I read “Understanding Exposure” to learn all about manual settings so I could capture what my eye saw. This was much more fulfilling, but there was still a hole. I then read “The Photographer’s Eye” which is all about the artistic principles you can use to improve your photo composition. As I was reading about these basic artistic principles I began to feel those old stirrings of “I wish I was a good artist”, but once again told myself that wasn’t something I could do.

How I Destroyed the Chains My Artistic Self was Bound With

First, I had the opportunity to attend a CreativeLive workshop in person called “The Creative Newborn Studio” taught by Julia Kelleher. During the class Julia gave us each a dish of multicolored clay and told us to create something. While we were working she spoke about becoming as a child again and just creating without any fear of what others thought. As I sat and molded that clay I finally released the chains that had held me bound for so long and just made something fun. I was sitting there playing with clay as aI listened for over an hour. Also as part of the class Julia discussed the Corel Painter software and how it could be used to turn photographs into paintings. When I returned home from the class I purchased the software and have completely fallen in love. I have also learned how to do a lot of painting techniques in Photoshop. In fact the main images of my branding were all created by me using these programs!

Digital painting | Corel Painter | graphic design | artist

The second opportunity I had was completing some business coaching with Jeff Jochum. I had first heard Jeff speak during another CreativeLive class. Jeff is all about specialism, creating a business around who you are, not just what you sell. His course included a lot of soul searching and defining who I was at the core. It was really hard work! I had to be brutally honest with myself. At that point in my life I wasn’t living true to my true nature, needs, and desires. There were a LOT of tears shed as I began peeling away the layers that I hid under and really got to know my real self. One thing I had to face was that I had an unfulfilled desire for creativity that really needed to be set free.

The third event occurred when I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Vivid and Brave, about the art of Zentangle. I have always loved this type of art but it seemed way above my ability level. This time I decided that I would give it a try. I searched out a few patterns on the internet to learn, grabbed a ball point pen and just began to draw. I got lost in the process and it was amazing!  I have now purchased pens, shading pencils, and colored pencils so I can continue to learn this art. Once I have those down I am planning to learn watercolor techniques. I finally overcame that last little hurdle of fear and just allowed myself to create, by hand, on paper, with no undo button. This has led me to experimenting with calligraphy and hand lettering as well as continuing to refine my digital art skills by applying what I learn as I work with paper.

Event four was coaching with Christine Tremoulet who wrote the best selling book “Blogging Brilliantly for Your Business” and just happens to also be behind the Vivid and Bave website. I have long admired her and first rubbed shoulders with her when doing my coaching with Jeff. When she offered me a seat in her new “Business Brilliantly” class I jumped at the chance, and got far more than I expected. Christine helped me define exactly what I wanted to achieve in life, not just my business, but how was I going to be unapologetically me and use my strengths to change the world! It was because of her that I was able to completely change gears away from being a professional photographer and into blogging and direct sales. She is the one that helped me create a mission statement for my life. You can now find her and her classes at The Life Boss.

In the past when people asked me what I did I said “I’m a stay at home mom and I sometimes make a little money on the side doing graphic design and photography.” Now my vision is so much clearer. I know who I am. I have stopped worrying about that little blue 1st place ribbon and instead am learning to be true to my inner voice and embrace my unique creativity. Now I can say-

I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, art, and fashion

I would love it if you wanted to check out some of my work. You can see my art at Fine Art America or request a custom piece via my Etsy shop. If you are interested in my fashion info check out my LuLaRoe and Paparazzi Facebook pages, my LuLaRoe VIP group and my Paparazzi shopping page.

Now I want to ask you, what is fear holding you back from? What are you going to do today to fight back against that fear and let your true inner self shine?

Fine Art America

I have recently fallen in love with the site Fine Art America. It was first recommended to me by a friend in a Facebook group. I was impressed with the variety of high quality art available from many big name artists including Karen Sperling, Greg Olsen, and Sean Davey. Fine Art America specializes in museum quality prints and canvas of original artwork and photography. They have also recently added tote bags, t-shirts, and iPhone cases.

mother and child colored pencil

I have begun selling some of my own art and photographs on their site. My work has recently been featured on their zentangle tote bags for sale page and their landscapes art for sale page. I am really excited about partnering with Fine Art America to sell my art.

Serenity watercolor

I recently ordered my own Zentangle Serenity Prayer design on a tote bag. I am very happy with the product. It is very sturdy thick material and I know it will hold up well over time.


As always I love to do custom orders. If you have any specific image in mind I would love to create it for you. Just send me an email (emily@emilyjphoto.com) and let’s collaborate!

What do you think my next art project should be?

Serenity Prayer Zentangle

What is Zentangle?

I have recently discovered and fallen in love with doodle drawings also commonly called Zentangle. This type of art has been around since the beginning of man, but has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity due to Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas giving it the name Zentangle and dictating rules to follow as you create it. Most artists, however, don’t really believe in following rules so we take what we can from the art form and then invent our own ways of creating. Most artists then call their works Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA) or simply just doodle drawings. One thing I have chosen to incorporate into my art is including my favorite quotes, sayings, and scriptures. I then tangle around them making beautiful motivational art that I can decorate my home with.

Benefits of Tangling

1- Meditation

The original intent of creating Zentangle was for meditational purposes. The idea is that as you concentrate on making the repetitive strokes necessary to create the fill patterns you are able to relax your mind and let go of the jumbled thoughts of the day. It affects my mind in a way similar to deep breathing exercises and has actually been called “yoga for the brain”.

2- Develop Creative Abilities

Anyone can begin creating ZIA by following the myriad of step by step instructions available for different patterns. Check out my Zentangle Pintrest board where I have saved many different patterns for reference. As you become more familiar with your favorite patterns then you can start to add your own embellishments and variations to make each piece uniquely you.

3- Increase Hand Eye Coordination and Spatial Awareness

The careful creation of each stroke can do a lot to increase hand eye muscle coordination. You can make strokes large or small. You have to match angles and align different strokes to create correct patterns. All of this programs the brain to be aware of spatial relationships. It is excellent for kids to work on their writing skills which can then hopefully translate into better penmanship.

4- Therapy

For me personally Zentangling has been wonderful therapy. Creating with permanent pens represents life; I can’t erase so I have to find a way to turn my “mistakes” into a part of the finished product. I also like to include my favorite thoughts, quotes, and scriptures into my work. This gives me time to ponder on the message of those words and how I can then apply them in my life. For many people doodling can be a way to process through their emotions of fear, anger, hurt, embarrassment, and more. It can also be used in addiction therapy by giving a patient something to focus their mind on as they are working on avoiding their triggers and cravings.

5- Increased Attention Span

Entangling requires concentration and focus. The repetitive strokes and patterns train the user to calm their mind and focus one creating their art. Often the act of doodling can increase a person’s ability to listen to a class or lecture going on as it draws their mind away from other external distractions.

6- The Finished Product

Of course the finished art itself is the number one benefit of tangling. Through the act of creating and sharing art self-esteem is boosted. A person feels like they have contributed to their community in a meaningful way. They also can be reminded of the other benefits they experienced while creating each time they look at the piece.


There are many good resources out their for learning the art of Zentangle. The first of course would be the actual Zentangle website. Here you can learn the story behind the creation on the official rules as well as get reference for many patterns to try. They even have a list of certified zentangle instructors if you’d rather learn form a class instead of by researching on your own. There are several great books out there as well. One that has been highly recommended in many of the groups I am in on Facebook (there are several of them so just search Zentangle then join the ones that appeal to you) is One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula. This is a 6 week course that will teach you new techniques and patterns each day. For kids we have and love the book “Zentangle for Kidz” by sandy Bartholomew. This fun book is written comic book style and introduces children to the art of Zentangle as well as including instructions for several patterns. Sandy also has several other books and sets of pattern step-out inspirations cards. Many anglers like to use the cards when they are stuck not knowing which pattern to draw next. Simply pull out a card and use whatever pattern it instructs you on!


The most basic supplies needed for Entangling are paper, permanent fine line black pen, pencil, eraser, and pattern references. I personally use Sakura pens and a set of Royal & Langnickel sketching pencils. I got the sets on both of these so that I would have a variety of options for line widths and shading capabilities. I also use Koh-i-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils and am planning to purchase the Prismacolor colored pencils for more shade variety in the near future. Many artists also love to use Copic Markers and watercolors to color their artwork. Many artists will make copies of their black and white line work before adding color so they can experiment with different options. I love to pull my tangled pieces into Corel Painter to play with with different colorization methods. I love that I can do many different methods on one piece of art by utilizing the technology available to me.

Serenity Prayer|Zentangle Inspired art|ZIA|Zentangle|Doodle

Here is an example of my most recent ZIA. I created the word art in Photoshop and printed it on regular white paper. I then created my line drawing with the Sakura pens. I scanned it into the computer and made a copy for coloring with colored pencils. I then pulled it into Corel Painter and did one copy with just shading and a second copy with various watercolor brushes. I had a ton of fun and now I can’t decide which one I like best! If you happen to like it prints of this and my other works are available on my Fine Art America page and Cafepress.

Do you like to create doodle or Zentangle art? I would love to see your work! Feel free to share your link in the comments so I can check you out.