If you’ve ever experienced the urge to draw and then been crippled with anxiety at the blank page staring back at you, you’re not alone. I’ve certainly been there many times. In fact, way back in Kindergarten I must have had my first brush with blank page anxiety. The neat overlapping purple marker strokes on my Christmas tree plate quickly gave way to random jagged streaks – the perfect example of a plan gone awry. Or, more correctly, evidence of what happens when you set out to create a composition with NO plan! So, if you’re wondering how to overcome blank page anxiety, read on!

How to Overcome Blank Page Anxiety

First off, it helps to start small. As in thumbnail small. Instead of pondering ways to fill a 9×12 sheet of paper, try a loose planning sketch on an index card or a napkin. The beauty of the latter is that using disposable paper often frees us from the shackles of perfectionism.

Whimsical doodle for How to Overcome Blank Page Anxiety post by Joana Miranda

Keep a Sketchbook

And commit to filling and finishing every page. As with anything, the more you practice, the easier it gets. My first three sketchbooks are by no means perfect, but I’m delighted to see the progression in my ideas and the increasing freedom in their execution.

(Keep Another Sketchbook)

As much as it’s important to have a sketchbook that you can show to the outside world (having accountability will spur on growth), it’s equally important to have a sketchbook where you can work out your ideas privately. Shhh, don’t tell!

Take a Course

I’m a big fan of the course offerings at Domestika – in particular, the classes taught by Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson. Even if you’re a seasoned artist, you might still benefit from learning from an artist with a slightly different perspective. And, with the courses so economically priced, there’s really no excuse not to give them a try.

The Proof in the Pudding?

Two days ago, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to create an ultra detailed composition, let alone enjoy doing it. But after dipping my toes into the water, I guess you could say I’m hooked. Here is today’s illustration:


“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” 

Desmond Tutu


  1. Helen Reich says:

    Wonderful! Quite the departure from your usual style. Not that your usual style is bland, or not sufficiently detailed, of course! I also like the new face, and I think it’s a good expression of anxiety about starting something completely new.

    • Joana says:

      Thank you, my dear! I’ve had to fight the feeling that drawing a thumbnail pencil sketch is “cheating” somehow. But trying to plan out a composition in ink is definitely challenging. Maybe if I do 10 years of thumbnail pencil composition sketches I’ll be able to plan out detailed compositions in my head after that. I’ll let you know…;-)

      Maybe you’ll have occasion to visit NYC someday soon? It would be fun to see you and show you my favorite haunts. 🙂
      xox – Joana

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