Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What if I make a mistake? - by Michaela Turpin

What if I make a mistake?
Hi, I am Michaela, I am a joyful wife and mum of 7 children, 5 of whom are at home and I also home educate and I am also a recovering perfectionist (you will learn the significance of this statement shortly). Today I am delighted to be a guest blogger for the Bible Art Journaling UK blog and I am going to be answering the question which often gets asked, usually a bit like this – “I would love to do Bible Journaling, but I’m really worried about drawing and writing in my Bible – what if I make a mistake?”

I love to keep things real, so I’d like to begin this blog post by rephrasing that question in the way we should ask it – what happens ‘when’ I make a mistake?! I would so love to be perfect, but we live in a world that is marred by sin and perfection is currently unattainable. So, first of all we all need to let go of that unreal expectation that we are ever going to create something that is perfect– maybe you find that easy, but I still don’t. However, I take great comfort from Philippians 1:6 – “Being confident in this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. “ In the meantime, we can aim for excellence – excellence is achievable, with practice and perseverance.

Once we choose this starting point, it already makes things easier. We can be relaxed, free and have more fun because we know that we are going to make mistakes and that we can use those mistakes to learn and take us further on that path to excellence. Also, there are some techniques and tips that can help us in making changes or adaptations, so we can still create something in the present moment that we find pleasing and brings us joy. The best bit is that in time we will get to look back on some of our past efforts and see how far we have come in our creativity and in our walk with God.

My Top tips for Dealing with Mistakes:
  1. Silence the inner critic: Yup, we all have one and we have to learn to silence and ignore it. This is a time when we need to take those thoughts captive to Christ. Try and look at what you are creating as if you were going to help a friend improve their journaling. You would point out what you loved and liked best, and maybe if they pressed you, you might suggest a little something they could do differently next time… in a kind way! So remember to pick something you love and something you can learn from for next time. It is rare to have a total disaster with nothing you like, but if that happens, don’t worry, read on and we can fix even that…

  1. Try starting off by Barntangling on pages: I love the concept of Barntangling (zentangling or doodling, but using a Bible verse to meditate) because there can be no mistakes. Even if you do something unintended it is an element of the process of meditating on the scripture and it forms part of the piece. What is not to love about that?!

  1. Pencil and paper rock: The pencil is a most important piece of equipment, as it can be used to make sweeping strokes and sketch out our ideas, before we commit with pen and we can also use an eraser to rub it out too*. Press lightly and don’t be in too much of a hurry to rub out. It can be helpful to leave a crooked line in, to show where the proper line should be. Also, be careful with rubbing out on Bible pages, as it can be easy to crease the page (but creases smooth out, anyway, so no worries).

If something goes terribly wrong and you really hate it, or you have done a painting or pen design which has bled through, then you can cut a piece of paper to size and simply cover it up! This is also another way of journaling. Prepare your artwork and then stick it in. Obviously, you need to be careful not to stick your pages together and careful not to get glue on your journaling ￿

  1. Embrace the mistake and make it part of the piece or do a mini cover up: You can just leave the mistake, if you want to and it works ok (see Sarah’s blog post on how she used a bleed-through as the beginning of her next piece). And, remember that you don’t have to point it out to anyone or apologise for it either. Alternatively, I have covered up bloops with little flowers or hearts, added words in creative ways – put a sticker over something unwanted, changed a letter into another letter etc. Remember, we are not aiming for perfect we are aiming for pleasing – for us. We don’t have to show it to anyone if we don’t want to. It’s great if you share your work to encourage others, but you don’t have to. Sometimes if I feel less than happy with a piece I’ve done, I just close up the Bible and leave it be. Most often, when I come back to look at it later, I can appreciate it much more and even start to like it. After all, for me, Bible Journaling is about the verse I’ve illustrated or written out and my ultimate goal is to deepen my walk with God, although it is pleasing to create a little bit of beauty to behold.

  1. Practice builds confidence: I really would encourage you just to have a go in your Bible and use your actual journaling as your practice for improving. However, I came across a really neat idea recently whilst learning knitting and I thought it would translate well for Bible journaling. I have been doing a DVD knitting tutorial by Lucy Neatby and as part of that we actually DELIBERATELY make mistakes and practice correcting them. One of my big fears in knitting was dropping stitches. Well, when I started deliberately dropping them and practising picking them back up again, I realised that dropped stitches were no big deal. Most Bibles have a few spare pages, well why not make some deliberate mistakes and practice correcting them? Hopefully that will give you the confidence, that it really is no big deal to make a mistake.

I hope that I have given you confidence to have a go at Bible journaling and to find joy in creating and even in making mistakes! Just like in life, sometimes we can get our best learning from our errors and embracing our brokenness. Papa God has endless grace for us, which enables us to live guilt-free and ultimately joy-filled lives. My hope is that you can apply that concept of grace and mercy to your own creative process and enjoy having fun with your Bible.

Be encouraged

*NB: if you are going to do a design with coloured pencils you have 2 choices –1) go over the graphite pencil with pen and then rub out the pencil outline before you use colouring pencils or alternatively, 2) use a light coloured colour pencil to sketch in the first place. If you use a light colour with light pressure, you can usually rub out the line. Unfortunately, graphite and coloured pencils don’t mix well together, I think it’s something to do with the different leads.


  1. lots of great ideas there Michaela, and a lovely encouraging post

  2. Journaling is a lovely idea and I love seeing your beautiful creations. Inspiring and encouraging post! X