Artist Spotlight

Jenna Ledford Uses Art to Drown Out the Self-Doubt


AKA Ginnis Tonik on certain parts of the Internet

Educator. Feminist. Creator. Activist. Writer. New Mama to William, not so new mama to four furbabies

How do you live a creative life?

By being a part of Get Messy, duh! I regularly check in on the forums, as in I put it on my Todoist to make sure I do it, I follow a lot of Get Messians on Instagram, and I am on all the newsletters which means I am regularly exposing myself to a community of folks talking about creativity!

This year, I also made the resolution to find ways to study creativity more in my job. I work in higher education in a teaching and learning center, and one of the topics I intend to research more is assessing and supporting creativity.

Do you put your life into your art journal? Or is it focused on technique?

Both! I am a total nerd for technique – I am very INTJ like that, but through art therapy with my amazing, long-term therapist I have learned that I process my feelings best through metaphor which art allows me to do.

I don’t recall how exactly we figured it out, but one day she decided to bring a paper pad and a 24 pack of Crayola crayons and asked me to draw things like anxiety, codependency, etc., and it opened up a whole new way of communicating my feelings via shape and color. Then she had to have surgery, and I couldn’t see her for several months – and serendipitously, Caylee was teaching her Mini Book Workshop with Studio Calico at the time, and I found art journaling was the exact thing I needed at the time.

I like the challenge of learning new techniques, but my intuitive self has to emerge no matter what.

What is your biggest barrier to creating?

My own “secret rules” or “limiting beliefs” – I borrow these terms from John Acuff’s book Finish (which was a Lauren recommendation!) because they give a name to a phenomenon so many of us feel and experience. Secret rules, or the actual term in psychology “limiting beliefs,” are the deeply held beliefs we have about how we should live our lives. The example Acuff uses a lot is that if we are experiencing joy and happiness too often then we are not working hard enough.

I truly am my own worst enemy – and isn’t that the case for so many of us?!

How do you get over that hurdle?

Identifying my secret rules is one thing – and then turning that into art. I made a whole art journal around my secret rules – identifying them and talking back to them. I think so much of my art journaling is me fighting with feelings of who I think I should be versus celebrating who I am.

What has been your biggest lesson when it comes to creating art?

It is so much harder to do, and I think less rewarding, without a community.

What is your favourite art journal page you’ve ever made? Why is it your favourite?

A spread from the collaborative journal I did with three other Get Messians, Debbie Bamberger, Cece Chan, and Serena Kaba celebrating vulvas! I took a picture of a famous, first female director and played around with ideas of the female gaze, and the overall page took me less than 10 minutes, but it so perfectly captures the idea, and the idea emerged during the process, I didn’t set out for it to be that. I love when that happens!

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Have you ever actively disliked a page you’ve made? What did you do with it?

Oh, yes, many times! Sometimes I paint over them and start a new page. Sometimes I rip them out and trash them, though I am trying to break that habit, because I have discovered that my “do-over” pages often end up becoming some of my favorites – even if not aesthetically, for the fact that I learn a lot about myself through the “do-over” process.

Have you ever been through artist block? What did you do to overcome it?

I get artist block from overwhelm – I have so many ideas and not enough time and ridiculous expectations – so I freeze up. I have several strategies to help with that: Get Messy recipes page from the Messy Pages class and Brush magazine, warm-up exercises like the ones in Messy Marks, and I also have a designated warm-up journal. I have heard other Get Messians call them their “ugly” journals, but essentially it’s an art journal with the sole purpose of allowing yourself to make “bad” art.

What’s the best art advice you’ve ever received?

From Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please: “The good news is there are ways to make it [self-doubt] stop talking. The bad news is it never goes away. If you are lucky, you can live a life where the demon is generally forgotten, relegated to a back shelf in a closet next to your old field hockey equipment. You may even have days or years when you think the demon is gone. But it is not. It is sitting very quietly, waiting for you.”

This sounds potentially discouraging, but it’s important because I see it in myself and hear it in others the idea that we will somehow achieve this art state where self-doubt isn’t constantly undermining us, but it’s still lurking back there. The goal isn’t eradication, that’s just another way of putting too much pressure on ourselves, but to just keep pushing back at it.

What does community do for your creating?

The accountability is a big help for me, but hearing others struggle with the same demons is important for me. That reminder that you are never alone – or as a dear friend of mine puts it – no feeling is unique, it’s just uniquely felt.

Who would you like to celebrate in the Get Messy community?

My vulva collab ladies: Debbie Bamberger, Cece Chan, and Serena Kaba. In 2018, we shared collaborative journals with one another centered on the theme of the vulva as a way to claim and celebrate our femininity. The journal that came out of that is truly one of my most cherished possessions – I would grab it in a house fire.

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Jenna Ledford

AKA Ginnis Tonik on certain parts of the Internet

Educator. Feminist. Creator. Activist. Writer. New Mama to William, not so new mama to four furbabies

Let art drown out your self-doubt

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