52-Week Art Journal

Week 8: Boundaries

We’re revisiting boundaries this week. Because they’re important. If you missed it, check out when they came up last week in “Mending Hearts.”

Let’s Get Started

We’re breaking out the paint again this week, yay! So you’ll need paintbrushes and other things you can use to apply paint. And you’ll need masking tape that’s not too wide, or artist or painter’s tape if you have them, or electrical tape if you don’t have any of those types of paper edging tape.

As always when doing a single-page project that will need to dry, start on the left page if you’re right-handed, and the right if you paint with your left. Feel free to turn your journal to paint horizontally instead of vertically, which is what I did for both paintings in this week’s video.

Start by creating a tape frame around the edge of your page. Then make smaller frames within by first bisecting the page wherever you see fit.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Place your tape however you’d like.

THEN HAVE SOME FUN WITH PAINT! Try different things around your house to apply paint and create different effects. This weeks’ new tool for me was a large straw from a milkshake I’d decided to indulge in. I’d like to try rolling aluminum foil through my paint, but didn’t get to it this week. Plastic wrap is another non-traditional art supply that can be used in various ways. You may need to wait a bit between layers to maintain various textures. In the two paintings in this week’s video, I was working with the smudging and blending created with wet layers. If you do you this week’s painting like that, be careful about letting things get too  mixed and muddy.

Here’s this week’s video

If you watch if first, be sure to come back, as I tend to miss some points that make it into the blog post.


Boundaries are a way to keep ourselves from getting too mixed up and distracted from what matters most. They’re important in mending our damaged hearts, as we talked about last week, and to maintaining our health.

We’re not meant to throw ourselves into every project or opportunity. Our relationships won’t be healthy if we let others have all the say in defining them. We need to remember that we can’t fix other people, or change their behavior. We can shield them from consequences, but that’s counterproductive. When we let people take advantage of us, we keep them from taking responsibility for themselves. If we let codependency, or any of our roles or relationships, or any perceived limitation determine the shape of our selves or lives, instead of taking responsibility for and ownership of our decisions, we can’t be all we’re meant to be.

Our Tape

The tape in this week’s project isn’t a perfect analogy for the boundaries we need in life, but it’s an interesting illustration of how boundaries can make things… more beautiful… more interesting… more manageable. They reduce the chaos. And give us breathing space.

Even the good things we do can be too much. We need to learn when to say no.

The art of establishing and maintaining boundaries is imperfect. As was the lifting of the tape from my paintings. I’ve found something the paper I love in the journals I recommended from Amazon and use with the art journaling group at my library isn’t ideal for: masking tape… or masking with electrical tape.

At first it bothered me that the masking tape I used first was coming off so imperfectly. I wanted it to work cleanly. But the imperfection kind of works for this project, doesn’t it?

Because we’re imperfect. As I say over and over. I’m well familiar with the fact of my imperfection, and perfectly comfortable admitting it. I haven’t been great with establishing boundaries. I’ve come a long in my ability to say no. Even to things that seem good, or that I may enjoy, but that don’t fit either with my other current obligations without overextending me, or don’t move me closer to where I want to be.

Learning to say no and set boundaries on our time and our obligations can be very hard. Any type of boundaries, as the tape coming off my page, may need work as we go.

I decided to repair the loose pieces that were sticking up with some glue.

Life is not without the need to reassess our choices, our obligations our boundaries, and our relationships.

Our Journaling

Is there an area of your life that feels overwhelming? Is there something in your life that just doesn’t fit? Is there something that hurts, that hurts in a way that feels beyond necessary or worthwhile? Maybe you have an obligation that detracts from things that are more important, even things that may not seem more important but have a more personal impact on those you care about or on your own health. Is there a situation in which you’re pretty sure you need to establish some more or different boundaries?

That’s what we’re journaling about this week.

Take some time to journal about something in your life that needs to change.

Maybe it is an area that needs new or stronger, or the first-ever, boundaries.

Maybe you need to let go of something, either in that area or in another area.

What, if anything, do you need to say no to, to allow you to make the most of your time and your energy and your resources?

Not to muddy the water, but I’m going to bring up another consideration when we’re talking about things we should let go of or not do. You know those things that you’d really rather not do, not have to deal with, but you feel you have no choice?

I wrote about this, on my old blog, several years ago, in a post in a series about surviving the holidays. One thing I’ve learned is that when we go into something feeling like we have no choice, that we HAVE TO do it, it will probably be harder than if we accept the fact that we actually do have some say in the matter, that we actually did have a choice.

We made the choice to do this thing we’d rather not do but feel like we have to.

When we think about the alternative, and we think about the consequences of the alternative, we really have decided that to follow through on the action or obligation, is better, for some reason that means something to us, than not following through. We made a choice, even though it felt like, and feels like, we don’t have a choice. We made the choice, and we continue to make it.

Accepting that we had that choice, but we’ve chosen based on the potential outcomes, is empowering, it’s freeing, it’s relaxing. It can make those hard things easier, less stressful. Feeling powerless feels awful. And can also allow us to abdicate not just our agency but our responsibility.

Maybe in your situation, the way to take control is to accept that this is something you believe is worth doing, for whatever reason, and it’s your choice. You’re not being forced to do it. You have chosen to do it based on the evidence as you see it. You’ve decided it was the best choice. Even though you don’t particularly like how it feels.

But, swinging back around to boundaries, there may be different ways you need to do this thing, different boundaries you need to set up within the confines of your choice.

Another possibility is, it just needs to go.

I keep saying that I’m telling you things that I know aren’t easy, and I’m saying that again.

If wisdom and discernment were easier and quicker to come by, like would be a lot less messy, wouldn’t it?

Just write

For today’s journaling, write about a situation in your life you would like to see change.

Just write about it. You don’t need to analyze where your responsibility lies or anything like that yet. Just write about the situation, and let how you write about it evolve naturally. Don’t force it. Just write what comes to your mind and heart.

You may find yourself writing toward a solution. Maybe not the complete answer, but you may write yourself toward at least your first step in taking control, ownership, and responsibility for what you can control in this situation. Which is part of the reason you shouldn’t force your writing. You don’t want to convince yourself to take the wrong course of action just because it’s what you think would feel better. At least in the moment. In the long run, when we make choices based merely on how they feel in the moment, we’ll be disappointed in ourselves if we neglect things that are bigger and more important than temporary feelings.

As we go further through our 52 weeks, we’ll write more about what’s important to us. About who we really are, and who we want to be. As we do that, as we think about what we’d like to accomplish and what we’d like our lives to mean, it will make those decisions about what to do or not do easier.

Thanks for joining me

I’ll be back next week with another video. In the mean time, have some fun painting. Take some time to journal. Share the 52-Week Art Journal Journey with someone else who would benefit by reclaiming their creativity and establishing a healthy habit of creative self-care.

If you decide to share your artwork on social media tag me @melindavanry and/or use #artjournalwithmelinda.

Follow this and other parts of my art journey on Instagram and Facebook. Learn more here.

Thanks for the opportunity to encourage you to be creative and practice creative self-care.

Protect the margins.
Leave time for creative self-care.
For things that make you feel alive.
For growth.


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