Make the Most of Get Messy

Tips for Newbies

If I had to choose only one thing to tell a newbie to Get Messy, it would be this: Get Messy is the most warm and welcoming online community I have ever come across. When I joined just a few weeks ago, everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. Within a few short weeks I feel like I have begun to make some very real and lovely friendships.


One of the best ways to experience this sense of community is through the amazing forums. Creating is often a solo activity. So it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to share with other artists — not only our pages but also the process, the questions, the challenges, and the joys. It feels good to have travelling companions, to meet others who love the things we love and who get excited about a certain kind of ink or thickness of paper. I’m amazed at the way new friendships have begun to form. When we met online recently for the Digi Make-a-thon, I felt like we had already met. And in a way, we had!


Ask questions, get involved. Talk about what concerns you, what you love and care about. Chances are many others feel the same way. If you don’t know the first thing about certain materials or techniques then ask a question. So many people are eager to share their experience and wisdom with you. I asked all sorts of things — about scissors and how to clean your palette and how to keep pages from sticking together — and I discovered that reaching out brings connection. I also found that the friendliness and encouragement I received from others acted as a fuel to keep me making art.


The forums and discussions are there if you want but they’re not a requirement. Perhaps your style is just to dip in and say hello every now and then. Or to have a flurry of interaction and then retreat to the solitude and joy of creating in your own space. When I first joined, I was on the forums all the time, interacting and commenting. But there were times when I felt I needed to pull back so that I could focus on making art in my journal. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. Equally, don’t feel you have to follow all the prompts and tutorials. All that’s needed is a spark to get you going. Some weeks you may take part in everything and others just one little snippet will be enough to play with.


You may already have loads of art journaling experience or you may have never picked up a paintbrush in your life. It doesn’t matter one bit. My background is in cartooning and making comics. When I joined Get Messy, I wasn’t used to colour and I wasn’t used to art materials. I was used to using a single black pen on a white page. Part of the reason I felt comfortable joining was that this last season was all about playing with art materials. I felt I didn’t need to know anything. I could just come with my enthusiasm and a desire to learn and play. I now realise that each and every season at Get Messy is a chance to experiment with new techniques, so whenever you decide it’s time for you to dive in, it will be the perfect time!


I guess one barrier to diving in could be feeling daunted that the pages people are making are so brilliant and wondering how you could ever produce something like that! It takes something to stay with yourself. This may mean not getting too drawn in to what other people are creating and having some time to get grounded in your own process. At the same time, it’s so inspiring to see what’s possible. I’ve looked at other people’s pages and been so in awe, thinking how I could never do something like that and how I wouldn’t even know where to start. But to see all these possibilities can be inspiring and eye-opening. It can also give you ideas that you can play with in your own work. Wow, splashes of a bright colour, I want to try that! I’m sure that my art exploded during this season because I was drinking in all these amazing possibilities.

One of the many wonderful things about Get Messy is the wealth of new tutorials that are available each season (and all the tutorials from past seasons too). While the Creative Team are making amazing art journaling spreads of their own, they are also giving tutorials to help you learn all sorts of new techniques. I am amazed at how many new things I have learned in just a few short weeks.

It’s all about the process. Art journaling is not necessarily about creating amazing stuff (although that will probably happen!) It’s about the process of discovery and exploration and self-expression. This totally takes the pressure off! You are not required to create Rembrandts each time you come to your art journal. Seeing other people’s works in progress really helps me remember that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. In fact, it’s often our “mistakes” that lead to an interesting new image or technique!

You have your own unique expression. Sometimes it’s easy to see other people’s style and not see your own. But you are your own best medium, better than any kind of ink or marker or paint. There is something that comes out on the page that is just you — a unique expression. This is another gift of creating alongside others who are passionate about art and self-expression: maybe they can see your unique style and reflect it back to you.

Value what you bring wth you. When I began, I was worried that comics would have no place in the art journaling world. Instead it has entered my pages in all sorts of amazing ways. The art journaling, in turn, has opened up my cartooning to new possibilities. Perhaps you have been scrapbooking, crafting, doodling while on the telephone. You never know, the thing you bring with you may be the very thing that others are dying to know more about!

I am so glad to have discovered the Get Messy Art Journaling Community. My art has blossomed in all sorts of new directions and my creative life feels so enriched by all the new friends I have made. This last season has been like a 6 week festival of art and I have enjoyed it tremendously. The only thing that can console me it is coming to an end is that there will be a new season starting very soon. I look forward to seeing you there!

Divyam Chaya Bernstein

Divyam is a writer and cartoonist based in London. She enjoys working in a variety of forms, from fairy tales and poems to comics and art journaling. She loves to share what she discovers about the creative process along the way.