Art requires more than just skill, practice, and vision. It requires courage: the courage to be honest, to do things that have never been done, to stand by your vision even as others doubt it. Courage has been on my mind A LOT lately because it’s the focus word for the first issue of my new digital magazine, The Turquoise Iris Journal!

The thing about courage is that it’s defined on an individual basis. What requires one person’s courage is a cakewalk for someone else and that’s why we chose it for our first issue; courage, like art, is a personal journey of growth. When we embrace our courage and trust it to carry us through the things that frighten us, we are always better for it.

Five years ago I received a message that changed my life. Jennifer Allwood reached out and invited me to be her Etsy expert on shipping… and I almost said no. Instead I actually did something worse.

I was so overcome with insecurity and fear that I ignored Jennifer Allwood! Yep, you read that right, I just flat-out ghosted her. 

(*NOTE: Don’t do this!!! Learn from my mistakes below!)

Fortunately for future-me, she was very persistent and messaged me again after a week. This time Matt told me that I should probably answer her but I dug in my heels and said “No way! She has 100,000 followers!” Thank GOODNESS that Matt’s sense won out and I scheduled that phone call. 

Jennifer and I spoke for an hour and I agreed to help her with her very first webinar as the Etsy shipping expert. It went great, just as she assured me it would, and I began to realize what that would mean for my business.

It pains me to think where I would be if I had not made that one little phone call and I’m so grateful for every opportunity that has come to me since then. So, when I question whether I can do something or need to muster up some courage, I remind myself of that moment; standing in the living room on a Sunday afternoon and Matt looking at me so confused as to why I just wouldn’t call her back.

Dionne Woods and Jennifer Allwood posing for a photo together

If I had allowed impostor syndrome to get to me, I wouldn’t be where I am now. 

I wouldn’t have become a better artist if I wasn’t willing to just SAY YES! 

My gut knew it was the right thing to do even as I stressed over it!

But it’s not like that was the first time I grappled with impostor syndrome and kept going anyway. For example, I remember that I used to submit to Miss Mustard Seed’s blog every single week for a year without fail until she finally accepted my submission. Y’all, I cried!!!  Becoming a better artist requires that level of perseverance to achieve growth. 

Sometimes you just gotta go for it even if your courage is lagging behind your dreams! You just have to look impostor syndrome in the face and say “I’m not letting you get in my way, sister!” 

One of the first wardrobes painted by Dionne, a large wardrobe partially painted and fully distressed

Sort of like the time I was sure that I would be a laughing stock because I left a huge part of this piece 👆 unpainted but I posted it anyway!

Or the time I used a PUTTY KNIFE  to add layers and thought people would look at me like I was crazy.

Orrrr the time I added a bunch of shading and dark wax to this white piece and was terrified everyone would think it was dirty?

I also had similar experience the first time I ever shared my painting techniques. Way before I ever started teaching I had people asking me all the time how I was achieving my finishes and signature styles. At least a few dozen people asked me to share a tutorial but I was sooo worried about the judgement and criticism I might receive. (Before you laugh, look at it from my perspective: I was literally spraying water on wood furniture and no one else was doing that yet!)

But I did it, people loved it, and now it’s my signature style! 

Are you sensing the pattern here? Time and time again I questioned everything — my vision, my innovation, my ideas, my work — but it’s the times that I went ahead and did it anyway that had the most impact. The thing is that I know who I am. I know what kind of person I want to be and what kind of art I want to make but, sometimes, the hardest thing in the world is just being yourself.

Courage, to me, is about allowing myself to shine even when I’d rather keep that light to myself. Shining that light means that I might give light to others, that I might provide them with the encouragement they need to shine their own light. While being a beacon is a wonderful thing for those who are looking for light, it can make one a target. And that’s why courage also means choosing to never let anyone dull that shine.

The first issue of #IrisJournal is focused on courage and what that means to each of our featured artists because we hope that we can encourage and inspire creatives to shine their light and share their art with the world….

Hopefully by submitting to be in The Turquoise Iris Journal!

I think one of the best things we can do for our courage is keep a list or a journal about how we feel after we do something courageous. The next time you’re struggling to be bold, you can look back through your list at all the incredible things you’ve already been through and remember just how bright your light is!

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