Too Much Stuff To Find Anything

Managing digital art supplies creatively

Last week I wrote about the Digital Scrapbook Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, and some advice I’d read on a few blogs about how to get ready for them—essentially, how not to blow the budget. Of course I did just that right off the bat with those wonderful budget-busting sales they like to call doorbuster sales, or Flash sales because they’re gone in an eye-blink. The stuff you buy, of course, stays with you no matter how many times you blink your eyes in disbelief at all you just bought. And now what the heck are you going to do to organize it and keep it from getting lost amidst all the megabytes, even terabytes, of other digital assets? Good advice I read was to take some time to clear out the older kits and assets so you wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed and driven out of hard drive space.

That’s good advice that I don’t often take, however. It’s good advice if you always work with individual kits, using just the papers and elements that the designer has included. It’s also good advice if you can’t afford the extra storage space it takes to keep all your scrapbook and art journaling supplies available to you without searching the archives for them. But if, like me, you often mix elements and papers from different kits, and if you can afford the additional drives to store them on, it’s nice to be able to quickly locate that brush or frame or cute kitten you remember having that you think would be perfect. You won’t mind trying different elements, either, to see what works best, if you can do that quickly. So I tend to mix “retirement” (archiving) with keeping some older kits still on my drives.

Just keeping more kits on hard drives doesn’t do enough for me, though. I can’t remember what’s in all the kits. I did try keywords, but that was way too tedious and cumbersome. I use them for photos, but not for digital assets anymore. I finally hit on a couple ways to organize that easily reflect my changing interests, and don’t demand too much of my time. The time I do spend is offset by saving time during the creation process, as well as helping me remember what I have.

Scrap page made with elements from many different kits
I use a lot of elements from different kits to create many of my scrap pages. If I had to remember what kits they were in, I’d never find them all. If I had to add keywords to everything so I could perform a search, that would take all the time I have. So I work with custom folders of elements I’ve duplicated, such as a folder of my favorite cats, toys, frames, or furniture. The elements in The Salt Shaker were found in many different custom folders.

The first method of organization was to take up more hard drive space duplicating some of the files and placing them into organized folders of their own. Not everything gets put into those folders. I call them “favorite shells” or “favorite scene papers,“ etc, but my “favorites” include papers and elements I think will be useful outside the kit they come with. At first I thought I might be sorry to give up drive space to a lot of folders containing duplicate files, but I’ve found that I constantly use these folders to add something to my pages. They’re a big part of what makes retiring some kits possible.

I do “retire” kits more often now that I have the best of them still in my folders of favorites, but I also keep their previews in folders so I don’t forget that I have them. The preview is just the small JPEG file that comes with each kit. I copy these into a folder of previews, then put them in stacks (which you can do with either Adobe Bridge or Photoshop Elements Organizer). For example, kits that are primarily red and green go in one stack, while the orange and yellow kits are in another, all in a folder for color sorting. I’ve also sorted copies of the previews into different folders using different criteria, such as a Theme folder giving me Vintage or Winter kits in their own stacks, or a folder of Presets, such as glitter styles and edge brushes.

Stacks of themed previews
Just a few of the “theme” stacks I’ve created to hold previews of the kits I’ve bought over the years. I created a cover sheet to help me find the right theme quickly.

The stacks of previews often give new life to kits. I spot kits, old and new, that go together when I’m sorting them. I then sort them into a folder that previews kits that pair well, the same way designers often partner with each other to create a kit, and now I can use them together to create a whole new look. Previews have also become a quick look inside my creative world. I’ve discovered that I have a strong affinity for certain color schemes and themes, even if I don’t have need more going by what I have to journal or scrap. I now consciously try to expand my creative horizons by looking for new styles and palettes, and when I see another Autumn or Seaside kit (huge favorites of mine), I try to resist them if they look too much like what I already have. That way I do mind my budget a bit better, although I still can’t resist a good Flash sale.

Courage To Continue art journal page
Even when I’m focusing on a single kit for a layout, I usually find that I want something additional, as I did here with this art journal page based on a kit by Jen Maddocks. Sometimes using a template also calls for an element a kit doesn’t include, and if I decide I want additional elements, I can quickly locate them in my”favorites” folders of duplicate files.

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When We Overindulge

Digital Scrapbook Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Right before the new Digital Scrapbook (and Art Journal) Day, I read a few blog posts about how to handle a week of frenzied indulgence in new kits, tools, and commercial use grab bags. And of course, this applies to the very next month when we not only were overindulging in scrap art supplies, but in anything and everything else as well. How would we manage it all? One bit of advice was to make a budget and stick to it. That is very safe, good advice—from someone who obviously has never attended a Flash sale. These scrapbooking supplies going at 75-90% off are often called doorbusters—the loss leader that gets you through the door to buy something else while you’re there. If there were truth in advertising, however, these would properly be called “budget busters.” That’s what they really are; the unexpected sale that is so good, it simply can’t be passed up.

These budget busters make it impossible for you to stick to your budget and still get the items you want that are on sale, but not quite as eyepopping a sale. Often, we’ve chosen these more expensive items to purchase on sale because they work for a project we have in mind or already have in progress. They aren’t absolutely necessary to the project, but the project would go better for having them.  We don’t really want to sacrifice getting something extra special for a project just to stick to a budget, or exercise so much self-control, we don’t enjoy the unexpected journeys a flash sale leads us on. Not if we have the option to purchase a bit more. We all have budgets, and one of the reasons we shop the sales is there are many items we would love to have, but can’t quite justify having at full price. But that’s not the only reason to shop the sales.

I would argue that the Flash sales are something different and worth the ruin of our budget if we engage in them with more purpose than winning by dying with the most scrap supplies. (Yeah, I’m too often playing that game, too.) Most of the scrap art designers I have discovered, I’ve found because some kit or action or brush set of theirs was so cheap, I could try their work and not mind if their product just didn’t live up to my expectations for it, or if my ability to make good use of it was currently too limited. Flash sales might help you pick up more from a favorite designer than you would, because you know you don’t need more from them, but what they’re really good at is finding a designer whose style is different from what you’re used to, or who is offering a creative tool through an action or brush or layer style—some product that will get you to stretch your imagination and will help you grow as a a creative person. Sometimes there’s a very good reason to loosen up a bit, about budgets as well as your artistic endeavors. Finding potentially more expressive tools is one of those reasons.

Next time I’ll talk a bit about what you might do with this stuff to organize it in ways that will help you later use it more creatively.

Image depicting you can't kill a good idea like democracy, but you can bury it for a long time
Scrap art for democracy. “Homage to Carrie.” Credits belong mainly to itKuPiLLi and Finecrafted.

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Thankful This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving art journal page
I am thankful for every single one of the 57 days before Inauguration Day 2017

Although I’ve been pulled in different directions this past year, I’m still making some time for scrap and journal art. Hopefully I’ll find even more time soon. Hey, I have to. I shopped the NSD sales this Fall, so I need to make good on my promises to myself to use everything I bought. I hope all who celebrate this holiday have a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving.

— Credits: Jen Maddocks, Rebecca McMeen, Raspberry Road

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Pep Talk Art Journaling

After the iNSD sales

Every time Scrapbooking Day sales roll around, I fix a budget and look for designers I haven’t yet collected to add to the list of my current favorites. I’m way past the time where I could justify my purchases because I didn’t have much of anything to work with. Now it’s simply “I don’t have (enough of) this designer,” or more often, I want the new “look.” And hard as I try to stick to the amount I’m going to spend, like any gambler I don’t keep my promise not to go over budget. I say like any gambler because at this point, I have enough to cover today’s and all future needs, if I’m creative in how I reuse what I do have. I’m gambling that I’ll somehow manage to use a bit of everything I buy.

Then, feeling guilty, I renew my vows to use the assets I have— however long I’ve had them—and to make sure I’m having a good time. I don’t want my pages to become a chore to avoid. I have enough of those around the house as it is. However, with plenty of family photos making me feel I should be productive and get more of those scrapped—work before play, right?—I can use a little extra shove to create pages for my own well-being. I keep my computer filled with quotes and ideas to help me face a blank screen, but recently Tangie & Co (Rebecca McMeen is the Co, I believe) have begun including an “itinerary”  for newsletter subscribers. If you want to get involved with any aspect of art journaling, both digital and mixed media, their site is worth a look.

Subscribers get a link every odd-numbered newsletter to download the itinerary—a PDF that includes a challenge, a quote, ideas to spark a journal page, etc. If you are a paid Art Journal Caravan member, you get this plus other goodies on a regular basis. This past week’s challenge was to create a page with a skull, 3 cacti, and 6 flowers. The quote: “It is possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems.” There was no requirement to use the quote with the skull and cacti, but I thought I’d try to figure out what the pep talk was in the quote and illustrate it.Pep talk example 1Pep talk example 2I often look for quotes that inspire a positive attitude towards life. And I certainly give myself little pep talks from time to time. Just getting out of bed is an affirmation that life can hold some good, even today. But no matter how uplifting the statement, not all are capable of getting me to feel the pep. In my own journaling, I want to acknowledge my feelings and, hopefully, develop a truthful awareness of myself and my world. When I come across a quotation like this one, I try to figure out if it resonates with me in any way. In Kenya, 350,000 Somalis live in a “temporary” refugee camp. As refugees, they enjoy none of the privileges of residents to find work and make homes outside the camp. Some have been there for 25 years. Some were born there and have had their own children there. Does telling them that it’s possible to go on add anything to their lives? They live that truism every day. Practically all they have is hope and, if lucky, love within their family.

Art Journaling a positive message
The Quote: Maybe it’s not about having a beautiful day, but about finding beautiful moments. Maybe a whole day is just too much to ask. I could choose to believe that in every day, in all things, no matter how dark, there are shards of beauty if I look for them.—Anna White
Created using Jen Maddox’ Preamble art journal kit

Or what about us who are much, much more fortunate? If we’re on the brink of giving up, will this statement pull us back, affirm our feelings, but also buoy us as we attempt to manage the challenges we face? Or does it hold us responsible for outcomes, by implying that we can achieve anything merely by refusing to give up; our fault if we don’t?Pep talk example 3Pep talk example 4I’m at a loss for just what I should take away from this quotation, and juxtaposed with a skull, I decided to illustrate a slightly less positive response to it. Perhaps context would have told me more. Some affirmative statements help us gird our loins, go out there, and win one for the Gipper. Others, like the one above, feel more like part of the often relentless pressure from my society to always have an uplifting message for everyone.

Journaling truth about women's lives
The Quote: The only way for a woman to provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man that can afford to be good to her.—G B Shaw, 1898. Credits: Mischief Circus and others.

I don’t mean that I think my art journaling should be a lengthy and hopeless diatribe against the world. That would be pretty shallow. The pain in life gives shape to our joy, but even small pleasures are equally real, and joy and laughter happens among us all. My art journal is where I want to express the complex emotions and nuances in my life, with or without words, and feel no pressure to follow the social edict that if you haven’t anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. So I came up with nothing good to say, and I had a lot of fun doing it.Pep talk example 5As Granny said of the unicorn in Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies“See clear! Don’t let the glamour get you!  See what’s in front of your eyes! It’s a damn great horse with a horn on the end!” Even fantasy must reflect real life to resonate with us. No unicorn is entirely beneficent. There’s that horn. . . Art journaling has the potential to be a powerful influence on our lives. If we treat it with respect, it can express our humor, our reverence, our joy, and our pain. It can be our political, sociological, and philosophical statement, our diary, our way of keeping awake to our lives. It can be therapy. If you find a quote that expresses what you believe, use it. If you find one that fires up your opposition to it, use that, too. At the end, an art journal page is about you and for you, and has nothing to do either with what “art” should be, or what you should feel about anything in your life. It’s a space to record what you do feel.

Skull and Cacti with flowers
The Quote: It is possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems—Nicholas Sparks. The Response: (Except for this poor guy. . . there’s always this poor guy. It wasn’t terribly possible for him. . . Became utterly impossible, if you ask me. . .) Credits: Mischief Circus, G&T Designs, Raspberry Road, and others.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Drive Space

Folders that collect things you didn’t know you wanted

I’ve been MIA here for awhile, partly because of family obligations and work, but mostly because of an issue for which I only recently got help. I’ve been battling the disappearance of my system drive storage on my old Mac Pro for some time now. At first I thought I’d simply allowed too much non-essential stuff to get on the drive. I cleared it out and moved anything I could. But my drive kept being eaten by files the OS called “Other.” Not photos, movies, or apps. “Other,” whatever that is.  I wasn’t gaining much space back by moving everything I could find off the drive, either. Free space continued to decline. I was getting a bit frantic and my computer wasn’t running very well anymore.

“Other” had to be in either my User Library or my System Library. I searched through my User Library files more than once looking for the culprit. I clicked on folder after folder, and pressed Cmd-I (Info) to have the OS calculate the size of the folder. I worried that my drive might be going bad and it was actually misreporting what space what being used.  I spent a lot of time attempting to be organized and fully backed up in the event of a catastrophic failure.

Nothing was working, but not long ago, I performed another Get Info on the Adobe folder inside the Library’s Application Folder. The OS calculated some 100+ GBs, not nearly enough in the entire folder to account for the loss, but by sheer chance I left that panel open while I focused on other folders. They, too, weren’t large enough to account for the disappearing storage space.

Suddenly something happened I had never seen before. The Info panel for the Adobe folder updated its file size—and there was the culprit. Somewhere in that folder I had lost ~300 GBs. The Mac usually says “Calculating. . . “ until it reaches the final size for a folder, but in this case, it gave me a size, then continued calculating.

Inside that folder I still couldn’t find what was taking up space. I opened folder after folder, checking the size if I found a lot of files in it. I finally sought help from Adobe experts. I knew it was something in there, but a lot of folders I opened had nothing in them, and the ones that did have a lot of files didn’t amount to much. The experts suggested I check the Media Cache Files folder inside the Common folder.

But it had nothing in it! Oh, wait. . . wait for it. . . wait for it. . . It had so much inside it that it took my computer some time to display that it had any files. It turns out that if you own the full Collection, which includes Premiere Pro and After Effects,  the Media Cache Files folder comes with it. Any video you download to play later, from any source, is cached at its full size in that folder, and it isn’t deleted when you later delete the video you watched.

Adobe is just trying to be helpful. Adobe assumes that you want the video cached in full to speed up playback, so it obliges whether or not you ever use an Adobe application to play your videos. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t using Premiere Pro or After Effects in any significant way, I was completely unaware of that folder’s existence and had several years’ worth of videos piling up in the cache. The videos themselves had already been deleted from the drive they were stored on, so I never suspected the culprit.

If you don’t have the full collection of Adobe software, you should be spared the consequences of also owning this particular folder. There are probably other cache folders from your OS or other applications that may also be building up a very large cache—Bridge comes readily to mind, although I’ve never seen it get that big, and Lightroom Backups will also eventually add up. From time to time, you should check on your cache folders.

But if you do subscribe to the entire Creative Cloud, or use the full Creative Suite,  even if you don’t use the video applications themselves, I suggest you check on the folder to see if it’s threatening to bury you in cached files.

On Windows, the path is C:\Users\insert your Windows name here\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Common\Media Cache Files

On the Mac, the path is (user) Library\Application Support\Adobe\Common\Media Cache Files

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to once again enjoying my computer as a creative outlet, rather than feeling I’m trapped inside the Matrix.

Alice in the Matrix composite image
Alice in the Matrix. Credits for assets include Marta Van Eck with Surrealice from Mischief Circus, and brushes by lordandre and peristrophe—both at Deviant Art. Topaz Texture Effects were also used in the destruction of the original.

Finding Discipline as an Artist

Letting your computer nag you and finding allies

I last talked about the benefits of copying the work of others, trying out different styles and methods, when developing a style of your own. With summer and more activities away from home, I noticed how easily I can be sidetracked by anything and everything when it comes to challenging myself to become a better artist. I always have an excuse ready. Part of being human, its very definition, includes the drive to make art, but we don’t always like doing it, especially when we’re comparing ourselves to the genius of others and feeling vulnerable.

So I can become terribly inventive in the excuses I make for not working at the very thing I want to accomplish. I easily dismiss the importance of what I’m trying to do, saying artists are born, not made (ignoring that famous artists studied and practiced);  I’m really only playing at this; what I do has little value, so something more productive is a better use of my time. Yet artistic endeavor makes us pay so much attention to our world that it doesn’t really matter if what we produce has little value on its own; it’s what it does for us that makes being alive feel better—like getting moderate exercise, eating nutritious food, or taking short breaks from work.

Image of a minimalist painterly style
Working on mastering the painterly minimalism for scrap pages popular with designers such as Anna Aspnes and Jen Maddox. I’m used to the idea that you can never have too much bling, and now I’m trying to learn when to stop.

Even when I’m not negating the value of my efforts, I’m negotiating with myself:  “After I finish this project, I’ll take some time to try this style, that technique.”  What I’m really saying is “I can’t fail with this project. It’s well within my comfort zone.”  I’m substituting being more productive for an endeavor to become more creative, and it all feels so right—we’ve been trained to value productivity since we were children. We like to measure things, and it’s a whole lot easier to measure how many vacation pictures we’ve scrapped than it is to measure how far we’ve come in developing our own style.

Altered Art on an Art Journal Page
One of my first Altered Art images using kits from Deviant Scrap (now Mischief Circus). Beginning with nothing is always difficult. Choosing a scene paper provides a guide that helps start a composition.

Of course there are plenty of times when something else does have to take priority, even if I don’t want to mow the lawn or pay the bills. But once I realized that I was making excuses to avoid getting out of my comfort zone, I came up with a couple of ideas to help shove me past my stopping points. Number one is letting my computer nag me. It loves nothing more than to set repeat calendar events and spread the nag along to all my connected devices—phone, tablet, other computer. . .  So I decided to let it. I picked the time I’m often free to choose what I do, and I scheduled different hurdles on different days—one day for creating altered art, another to try art journaling or digital painting, and so on. I don’t make these activities chores, but the nags remind me that these are the things I want to work on. If I choose instead to scrap a Christmas photo with all the bling I can pile on—a favorite technique—that’s okay. The nag just tells me to keep striving for what I’m not (yet) any good at.  I don’t like to fail—and I always believe no one else ever fails—but nagging reminds me that I can’t succeed if I never try, and settling for not failing by not doing isn’t quite good enough.

Art Journal paper made with brushes and blend modes
Starting with a completely blank canvas to create a background paper is a challenge­, but I learn a lot from working with brushes, blending modes, adjustment layers, and even filters. I only attempt papers once a month or so because it takes me forever to get one done, but it’s always special when I later use it in a project.

The other choice I made to help me get past some of the hurdles was to find challenges created by artists. I took the Photoshop Artistry course not because I needed to learn how to use Photoshop, but because it came with a lot of guided challenges for trying new styles. I then looked around on the scrap art forums and found many of them also create challenges. I keep a folder of challenges I can turn to when my nagging calendar says I need to work on something, but I don’t have a clue where to start. Between the calendar and the challenges, I’m not as plagued by a blank canvas, or by avoiding doing the hard thing just because it’s too difficult to get started. I’m so far from where I want to be, I need fifty more years to get close, but I’m also closer than I was last week.

A Photoshop Artistry course challenge.
I tried a look new to me using a Photoshop Artistry course challenge. There are a remarkable number of ways to turn a photo into photo art, and manipulated photos are perfect to use in an “artsy” scrap page.

To be honest, I don’t always respond to being nagged. On average, two or three times a week I give in, pull out an art journal kit, make an “artsy” element or paper, or try a bit of photo art. I may not be prolific in any of this, or develop creative skills very rapidly, but I have a start on it. After all, I began with nothing, so I can only get better.

This week's art journal challenge.
My response to a nag this week using a kit from Rebecca McMeen & Tangie Baxter. When I’m far out of my comfort zone, I rely upon a kit coordinated by designers to help me compose an image. A little “can’t fail” assistance helps me get over some of the hurdles to mastering a new style, and the close attention I pay to each element helps me understand how the style works to express a feeling or concept.

Growing Your Style

Limits and Creativity

Practically the first advice anyone embarking on a creative journey hears is that they must work to develop their own style, as the goal of artistic endeavor is original expression. Almost no one follows that up with the advice that to become original, you must first copy, copy, copy. Those who do talk about copying often talk about mastering technical skills, which is necessary, but is far from the whole story about the importance of copying to become your own artist.

Here I’m not talking about professional art instruction, but only addressing what is commonly said about “the meaning and purpose of art.” A lot of rather intimidating emphasis is placed on originality, and not a lot said about what being original means, or how we grow into our own unique style. It might even be simpler to say what being original does not mean. It doesn’t mean you live in isolation, dreaming up an art form no one has ever seen before. Or that until you do, you must hide your artwork because it’s “derivative”—that is, you copied. Art by its very nature is derived from something, very often what the artist has seen produced by others. Originality comes from the way the artist blends various approaches to creating artwork so we get a new view of something old.

Mary Cassatt "Nude Child."
Mary Cassatt, like many artists of her day, borrowed heavily from the style of Japanese prints, which were just becoming very popular in the West. Her “other” style was considerably more Western and Impressionistic, but when she merged genres, she created a painting uniquely her own.

And that is really why copying other artists is so important to creating your own style. Yes, you learn the technical skills you need. But by pushing yourself to copy styles by other artists and genres, you can begin to understand how the techniques work to express the ideas. When you use the basic elements of a style to find a way to express your own subjects, you learn to appreciate the nuances of artistic forms of expression. Often it’s at little bit of something different about a style that makes it interesting. Note the ink outline and very little shading used to flatten the figures in Mary Cassatt’s painting, making it less a portrait of an actual mother and child, and more about motherhood everywhere. It’s still Mary Cassatt’s subject and composition, but now she’s using a new technique to see how it might express her vision of the world.

What to study?

Birds scrapped in clustered style
This lush, heavily clustered style tends to be romantic in appearance, and indulges our taste for abundant riches, whether material or found in nature. Elements are most often extracted from photos, or, if hand drawn, tend to use Layer Styles to replicate materials such as plastic or glitter.
Medieval Fantasy scrap with extracted photo of a child
Fantasy is always fun when creating worlds with children in them, but fantasy plays a role in our lives no matter what the subject. It is the heart of creativity—the world of what might be.

For my convenience when looking for what to study to be a better scrap artist, I’ve come to think in terms of four main genres: Heavily laden, romantic, and clustered; minimalist, often very painterly, even abstract; traditional papercraft, with pattern upon pattern and geometric arrangements like an old quilt; and fantasy, from storybook imagery to still life. Scrap artists also often participate in the world of art journaling, textured and blended photo art, and photo manipulated art (filtered and/or digitally painted). I think of these as the overarching categories of style to study and emulate. I look at the work of others to find those elements that are the earmarks of that style—like looking at the Impressionists, the Cubists, or the Expressionists, in an attempt to get at the essence of each, and to spot what makes each style distinctive no matter if it’s a landscape, a portrait, or a still life.

Cats scrapped with vibrant pattern and color
Heavily patterned and frequently brightly colored, paper scrap often emulates the traditional homemade scrapbooks before there were computers. The look is flatter, less photorealistic than clustered or fantasy styles, but is every bit as sophisticated. Geometric layouts are often used to tame the riot of color, pattern, and graphic line.
Filtered Photo scrapped in an abstract, painterly style
An abstract, painterly style, often minimalist in expression, is a very modern approach to making scrap art. Even when a realistic element is used, such as a frame, flower, button, or butterfly, the style remains distinctly abstract. One look and most people recognize designers Anna Aspnes or Jen Maddox, although the style is gaining in popularity and many more designers are working with it now.

That doesn’t mean I’d be trying to become an Impressionist or an Expressionist if I were a painter. Nor does it mean that artists within these genres don’t vary significantly, and aren’t worth studying on their own. What it does mean is I’m going to take the most notable characteristics of a style and make it work with many different subjects, solve different problems, even if, and perhaps especially if, it’s a style I don’t feel comfortable or confident trying to recreate.

What does this have to do with developing your own style, you ask? By working within stylistic limitations—abstract, clustered, patterned, etc.— you focus on learning how to use key stylistic and symbolic elements to create an image with virtually any subject. If you don’t limit yourself when starting out, you’re in danger of floundering about, using techniques only the way others have used them without understanding how they work. You might never become confident enough to stop copying someone else. On the other hand, if you limit yourself to just the one style you’re initially most comfortable with, you won’t push the boundaries of your creativity at all. You’ll be a Johnny One Note, stuck in a rut, and all those other clichés about being too timid. Even with only two different styles thoroughly mastered, you can begin to see the possibilities that come from blending them together in different relationships to each other, and that is the way to find a form of expression unique to you.

Military subject using clustered style without appearing lush or romantic.
This seems to belong to the clustered style, with a profusion of realistic elements surrounding the frame. But the clusters are nearly flat, and several abstract brushes were used. It is decidedly not romantic.
Fantasy furnished room with clusters and framed photo
This is clearly based on the Fantasy style, but here be no dragons or faeries. Instead, this is a room that could be, but never was. It derives from both the clustered style and the fantasy depiction of another world.

The better we understand the styles others have developed before us, the more we have to draw upon as we interpret our own understanding of our subjects and express our own relationship to our world. We all want to express our personality in our art, and the thoughts and feelings that give our lives their meaning. But going straight for that original expression is like charting a course across the ocean when the world we know is flat and the ocean drops off somewhere. It’s better if we just learn to sail the ship first and grow from there. Once we know enough about what we’re trying to do, we’ll know enough to have our own ideas about how to accomplish that.

An example of art journaling
Art Journaling is a visual means to express ideas instead of scrapping memories, as well as traditionally a private space for practicing drawing and painting—much like the artist’s sketchbook. There’s no right or wrong way to make a picture. This style of self expression is rapidly gaining in popularity among digital scrap artists. If you look carefully, you can see elements from the clustered, romantic style, the heavily patterned paper style, and the painterly abstract style— with a lot of fantasy thrown in for good measure.

“God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things.” —Picasso.