So, it’s the last day of 2019, and I have been thinking about high focus tangling. A lot.
A tangle pattern does not need to be difficult to be high focus. Any stroke or combination that is difficult for you (not necessarily for someone else) is high focus, at least initially. For me, any pattern that requires auras is high focus. Even when I maintain my focus, strokes don’t always come out the way I want them to. But that’s OK, because there are no mistakes with Zentangle.
One of the loveliest projects to come out of Zentangle HQ is something called Embedded Letters, tagged #EmbeddedLetters. This project relies heavily on auras. Interestingly enough, even if the auras aren’t perfect, and even without shading, the result is lovely. Here are a few examples of my own embedded letters.
As you can see, they are not perfect, yet the people for whom they were created seem to love them. And I have gone on to embed whole names.
Here is how to get started with your own embedded letters project.
1. Create an outline of the letter (or word) you want to embed.
2. Fill in the outline.
3. Aura around the filled letter(s).
4. Add some embellishments. The easiest is to add a few fescue around the edge. Weight the bottom of the fescue to give it a feel of old fashioned engraving. Add as many as you like, wherever you like.
5. Aura around that embellished layer.
6. Add another layer of embellishments, maybe adding some flux and perfs (or pearls) to fill in spots too small to add other patterns to. Then aura that. Or just add several auras. As you gain confidence, add bits of other patterns. Whatever you do will look great.
Lastly, shade as desired–or don’t shade at all. Either way, you have completed a project that took a bit of focus, a few simple strokes, and a lot of yourself.
Tangling isn’t difficult, but it does take mindfulness to keep strokes even or balanced. The mindfulness is meditative and relaxing. Using the whole 8-step Zentangle Method, from gratitude for time, place, materials in step 1, to appreciation of your accomplishment in step 8, helps to calm your anxieties and stress, at least for a little while.
Happy 2020 to you and yours. As always, Happy Tangling!
As you can probably guess, a high focus tangle is a pattern that requires more than just half of your attention. In fact, if you let your focus drift too much on a high focus pattern, chances are high that you will utter “Oops!” followed by the Zentangle mantra, “There are no mistakes in Zentangle.” You might even add that an “oops” is an opportunity to do something different or try something new.
The starts of two high focus patterns, Rumpus in the center flanked by Arukas, are pictured above. These are difficult on a traditional 3.5 inch square tile (shown on the left for comparison), but become ultra high focus when done on a Zentangle Opus tile. The Opus tile measures three regular tiles across by three down, or 10.5 inches square. Sometimes, when enlarging a pattern in a sketchbook or on an Opus tile, the challenge is to keep in mind exactly where the pen is to end up, as the destination is often covered or obscured by the very hand that is doing the drawing.
For example, just to get this much of the beginning of my tile onto the Opus tile, I counted seven “Oops!” utterances before I stopped counting–the counting was just too distracting! Since my intent is to end up with a frame-able tile, the No Mistakes mantra is probably embedded into the tile itself.
These two tangles are not particularly difficult to master–and I have them down for the traditional tile sizes–but Arukas is primarily inner auras while Rumpus (at least, the way I have drawn it here) is primarily long double Cs or Ss, diverging at the beginning and converging at the end. An easier, and just as pretty, way to draw Rumpus is with doubled lines that are joined with a curve at each end, essentially creating long, thin oblongs; or the doubled line can be connected with points to generate a ribboned effect. Both of these effects can be seen on the new gray traditional sized tile (3.5 inch square) in the basic Rumpus sketch below.
The tangle Rumpus doesn’t end here. As presented in the official step-out for this pattern, it is filled with pearl-like orbs, then richly shaded. If you have the Zentangle Mosaic app on your mobile device, you can see the official step-outs for both Rumpus and Arukas there. If not, here is a Pinterest link for Rumpus that will help: https://pin.it/bz2wa5n6mj5icx ; and one for Arukas: https://pin.it/y6ikp7r6mrlp62 .
Auras are easy, right? You learned about auras with your very first pattern, Crescent Moon. First you created the half-circle and filled it in; next you drew an aura along the curve. You’ve been aura-ing ever since. And so have I, but auras continues to be difficult for me, as I can barely trace well, let alone draw an outline of whatever I just drew. So for me, anything with an aura is a high focus pattern–even Crescent Moon! But that never stops me from taking on even the toughest-looking pattern.
Thankfully, Zentangle is not about the difficulty of the tangle or tile, but about your journey as you learn and conquer more challenging patterns. The step-outs learned during classes and workshops, or online via YouTube or tangle sites, make all the difficult patterns easy to recreate on your own.
I am afraid to look at when I posted my last blog. Please forgive my long absence. It’s been a roller coaster ride for over two years. We’ve finally finished the rebuilding of our home, and are still putting finishing touches on it. One project I’ve been working on is creating lots of Opus tiles (3 standard tiles wide by three high) and those are coming along slowly because they are in color, and I am learning about art and color theories as I go along.
Here is the unframed version of my first Very own Opus tile–and the framed version is nothing short of fabulous.
This is the first of at least four, all different, all sharing one or more elements, all only partially complete. As I said, I research and learn art techniques as I need them–because I was not trained in art–but they will all be used in future work.
Today’s post is to let you know I am back–no patterns or techniques to share. But that is only today.
Follow me on my journey of mindful meditation through learning and rebuilding. As I learn, the information I am allowed to share will be shared with you, my readers. Whether those are new tangle patterns or tangling embellishments, or whether they are art tips and “tricks,” all will be presented here a bit at a time.
Meanwhile, taking a page or two from several of my tangling friends, I am considering giving live and taped (Incase you miss the live one) online classes. What are your thoughts? Would you be interested in something like that? Et me know what you think, and what you would like to learn if you are interested in online classes. Just say something in the comments section below, and maybe we can get some discussions going.
Browsing through my album of tiles and my sketchbooks over the weekend was an interesting and surprising experience. I have been tangling since the end of April, 2016–about 10 months. What I saw was growth as well as regression–typical of any learning progress. When my work became more attractive, the same patterns and techniques appeared in a cluster. During times of learning new techniques and patterns, the work became cluttered or less cleanly drawn. The pattern kept repeating in cycles, only now becoming less extreme in its swings.
If you look at the tangles above, you can see that, in my early tile, what I lacked in pattern skills I tried to hide behind a bit of flare. Today’s tile is less stilted. Whether it is more pleasant to view is not my call, but I find it more breezy, better developed, and stronger, even though two of the patterns used here are out of my sketchbook and on a tile for the first time.
To be honest, I have no inate artistic talent or abilities, and it is only about three years since I learned to produce any art at all. I took up drawing lessons to learn to see things as an artist might, and had limited success. My teacher suggested switching to acrylics (I’m too slow) or oils (which I feared). I even picked up watercolor books and videos and tried to learn that, only to discover that watercolor presents its own unique set of challenges. Then, less than a year ago, I learned about Zentangle.
I had been looking for a method of meditation and relaxation that involved movement. Although Tai Chi was an option, I couldn’t find classes here on the island–not then, anyway. Besides, going to a Tai Chi class would have involved getting into the car and searching for parking–not very conducive to relaxation.
“Zentangle” was a term I remembered referenced in several of my art how-to books. I thought at first it was some new professional school or method of art. Then I found out it isn’t art in the traditional sense at all–it’s Zentangle, pure and simple. That it centers around drawing is a good thing, I thought to myself. That it can be done by even the most artistically challenged is even better! So I researched more.
Although certified Zentangle teachers (CZTs) can be found all over the world–increasingly in China and India–none seem to be in Sint Maarten, the tiny island (well, half-island) country in the Caribbean. So I ordered a book or two from Amazon and set out to see if I could teach myself. I spent well over 20 years teaching children and young men and women professionally. Surely I could teach myself, too.
And I did teach myself Zentangle, of a sort. On the official Zentangle site, Zentangle.com, the recommendation is to learn the Zentangle method from a CTZ through a workshop. The second best way to learn is by purchasing the Zentangle Primer, Volume 1, and the Zentangle starter kit, both available for purchase on the web official site. After months of trying with other sources, I broke down and purchased both. Not only did I wish I had done that from the beginning, but I also decided that, because Zentangle was so helpful to me, I wanted to bring Zentangle to this tiny island. In two months, I will be attending a Zentangle seminar to become a CZT so I can do just that.
Here’s the thing: I may not have started off with the best self-teaching materials, but I did start off with an excellent resource, One Zentangle a Day, a book by Beckah Krahula, CZT.It gave me enough information and techniques to get me started, even if I became frustrated sometimes. As a beginner’s reference, it is a great book, especially if you are looking for at least a little of the mindfulness and relaxation benefits. It contains a lot of information for trying Zentangle on for size, but it doesn’t cover Zentangle principles in depth. A great “first” book at low cost. If all you are looking for is art or crafting ideas, it is also a great source of ideas and buying information. But for a deeper understanding of the Zentangle method and its effects on calming your mind and increasing both focus and creativity–and if you want a book that will continue to be a resource for years to come–then The Zentangle Primer is a must-have book.
For me, a helpful resource is an app called Zentangle Mosaic, available in Apple iPad and iPhone format, as well as in Android format. It is an excellent source of inspiration, tips, and friendly and supportive members from all over the world. Many well-known and respected CZTs share their work on the app regularly. Many up-and-coming CZTs participate and provide advice and support. Zentangle founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas share their own work, new ideas, and even exclusive videos there. Rick, Maria, and their family interact with members all the time, providing feedback and encouragement, especially to new tanglers. It is a marvelous community of tanglers. Posted work is validated for its “Zentagleness” (my word). There is a free option, if all you want from the app is inspiration, and a paid option, which allows you to upload photos of your work and actively communicate with Mosaic subscribers. I don’t know enough about the free version to compare it to the paid subscription, but I believe that, as lovely as the free version is for viewing others’ work, the most useful features come only with membership. To me, the benefits I derived from the paid subscription is priceless, especially since I tangle alone here on the island.
Encouragement from members of Mosaic got me participating in national and international challenges on Facebook and blog sites. The challenges are not as supportive as Mosaic, but I have learned to judge tangles on “Zentangleness” instead of eye candy. Many challenge submissions are Zentangle Inspired Art, which can be beautiful and whimsical, but a lot are by professional artists. They each have something to teach, though, even if the intention is not there. There are many artsy and craft ideas presented by challenge participants. Mindful tangling is difficult to put out there when one is not an artist. My tangling may not compete in artistry, but it solidly represents the Zentangle method and purpose. After one or two posts, I was no longer intimidated by the pros. For an example of a short (two-week) challenge, visit “valentangle2017” on Facebook. It came with a book of instructions for what to include in each day’s tile, along with lovely examples to use as models. The contributor pool was just over 200 participants–small by Facebook standards. Lots of beautiful work on display, though.
All of these resources have helped me grow as a tangler. I firmly believe, however, that workshops are the best way to learn Zentangle. When I tangle alone, even with supportive online communities available, it’s difficult to get questions answered or discussions on techniques moving smoothly. There is something about face-to-face contact that helps those of us seeking the mindfulness and meditative aspects of Zentangle. Hopefully, I won’t be tangling “alone” on the island for much longer!