Posted in Zentangle

Embedded Letters

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!

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Posted in Zentangle

High Focus Tangles… Huh?

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.

Until next time, keep on tangling!

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Update: here is the completed tile from above.

Yep. High focus.

Posted in Zentangle

Back on Track

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.

Patterns: Waybop, Poke Leaf, Perk, Henna Drum, Knightsbridge, Printemps…

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.

So glad to be back and feeling artistic again!

Until next time, keep on tangling!

## @DrEllieCZT @educ_dr

Posted in Zentangle

Quiet day…

Today was the first quiet day–afternoon, actually, but still quiet–that I have had in quite a while. I am finally happy with my temporary work space setup, and continue to await construction completion and furniture delivery. But this afternoon…

This is the first experimentation I have done in quite a while. I used a Magic Pencil (available at many art stores and at Amazon), which changes color as you draw. I’ve done a few of these in the past on white tiles, but this is the first time I tried it on a black tile.

For the shading/highlighting, I used General’s Charcoal White, a sort of white pastel type pencil that is the “official” whit shading pencil of the Zentangle community. Despite its versatility when used with other media, I found it difficult to use as effectively as I would have liked with the very waxy Magic Pencil. As I said, an experiment. For two reasons 1) to test hoe the two pencils interact; and 2) to ease my way into using black tiles again.

Black tiles are great until you draw your first white Gelly Roll pen on it. We are used to seeing black ink on white paper, but less often see white pen on a black surface. Thus, originally, it took me many months to feel brave enough to tangle on black tiles. So I deliberately purchased a big box of the tiles. The moment I had lots of them, my fear disappeared, and I was drawing all sorts of beautiful designs while experimenting with several brands of white gel pen. The moment I found my perfect combination (a fine-line Angelic gel pen), I took to black tiles like s fish to water.

After Hurricane Irma, when I had fewer supplies than I was used to (I thought all were lost during Irma, but was flooded with donations from the Zentangle community), my fear of tangling on black tiles returned in proportion to the decrease in my supply of these tiles. For me, it must be the knowledge that I could “ruin” lots of black tiles and still have many more left to explore.

I think I spoke in previous posts about the generosity of the Zentangle community (especially of Zentangle’s HQ and many of the CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers) and regular tanglers from the Zentangle Mosaic app (available in free and full subscription forms from Google’s Play Store for Android devices and from the Apple Store for iOS versions for iPads and iPhones). They sent tiles (mostly white, and in various sizes and shapes), as well as Micron pens, Zentangle and other B3 drawing pencils, sketch pads, colorful Prismacolor Pencils, watercolor pencils, color Microns, color staining tissue, watercolor sets– well, everything and anything anyone has seen me use on the app. One CZT, @JodyGenovese, even sent me river rocks to tangle! It seems the community loved my color-touched tiles as much as (more than?) my black ink on white paper tiles.

Alas, I finally had to break down and buy a box of black tiles again, even though I waited until we reached the UK. And I did take advantage of those black tiles again! Unfortunately, there are only so many supplies you can cart around the world, so many donations and personal purchases were shared as I traveled, and before returning to Sint Maarten.

It took me months to get back to my island home (St. Martin island) and discover that many of my blank tiles and tangling supplies were in great shape after Irma. As Irma was threatening to bear down on us, I stored as many raw paper and pen supplies as I could in watertight plastic storage containers. I doubted that they could survive a hurricane of Irma’s strength, but the boxes had been expensive enough when I bought them, and I figured my supplies had the best chance of surviving in them. Well, as unpacked or paper box packed items and books turned to pulp around these boxes, and the Irma-given skylight in the ceiling let in all water possible, the items in the boxes survived! Among the supplies were many black tiles and white gel pens and pencils.

It took a while longer to set up a quiet place for meditative tangling, but a few days ago I succeeded, and drew my first white on black tile in ages. That’s the one featured. I was afraid I had lost both my passion for tangling and my ability to produce creative tiles, but I learned with this featured tile that maybe I just need more practice–maybe start at the beginning again– to regain my confidence as well as my meditation abilities.

Sometimes all I need is a bit of encouragement from the wonderful people on the Zentangle Mosaic app, and a stack of black tiles, to find my niche again.

Thank you to all who helped with stuff and with emotional support during a very trying period of my life. I am all set now to go out into the community and volunteer to teach with free supplies to community groups who continue to help those in need, whether children who need to learn to sit still for 15 minutes, or adults dealing with serious health and post-Irma trauma issues. The Mosaic community has provided me with so many supplies to share that I needed extra suitcases and several parcels to bring supplies home with me to share with those in need. I need to buy a few items where Irma shorted me, but I have plenty of supplies to get started here in Sint Maarten (the Dutch side of St. Martin, where my home is). One school has already asked me to teach it’s teachers so they can pass on the anxiety reducing Method to their students. Other organizations are considering. Other groups are putting me in touch with yet more groups. I hope to be really busy soon, and leave the house and contractors to themselves and my Cujo-wannabe dog. Sharing the Zentangle Method. Rings me incredible joy and peace. I want to share that with my ravaged community as we all pitch into the rebuilding effort.

Happy tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

Feeling Guilty

Yes, I am feeling guilty! It has been weeks since I posted. So much has been going on…

Did I mention that I got a job? It’s half-time, on contract, and tons of fun! I get to work with students, teaching them better ways to study, or tweaking their current study skills. A few weeks ago, I even gave a Zentangle workshop for students at the American medical school here (my employer) and a few were young people I helped (hopefully) and encouraged to attend. 

The purpose of the workshop was to provide students with one more way to relieve stress and general anxiety. Some students were so tense that 4 Microns had to be replaced. Medical students are probably the most tense group of students under the sun.

As I ran the workshop, I tangled along with them, using a really fancy overhead projector that broadcast to several monitors. Here are my versions.



We had started a third tile, but ran out of time. 

We ran short of time because, close to the time of the workshop, the sponsoring department decided to push through a protocol that made the workshop part of a research project. A “before” survey, which was supposed to take two minutes, took up a quarter of an hour. Then time needed to be left at the end for the “after” survey, cutting ten minutes off the end.  Still, the students left with supplies and enough information to do some tangling on their own in a very Zen-oriented way. 

I really wish there had been time for a photo of the participants’ work. I saw a few tiles that were outstanding. But we go with the flow and do what we can. More workshops are going to be scheduled for the next semester that starts next month with over 200 new students.

Next post, I will share some experimenting I’ve been doing with different pens and colored pencils. You will be left with little doubt that spending just a bit more for better tools can increase your enjoyment and the satisfaction with results many times over.

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Humble Beginnings

Earlier this week, on the Zentangle® Mosaic® app, founder Maria Thomas shared one of her first tangling pieces from very early in The Zentangle Method®’s history. She encouraged us to share our firsts. 

As I read through descriptions of uploaded first works, I marveled at how many tanglers were introduced to Zentangle through use of the book One Zentangle a Day, by Beckah Krahula. Individuals who had not been able to locate a CZT (that’s Certified Zentangle Teacher) began their tangling journey using that book One Zentangle a Day was published in 2012, four years before the more comprehensive Zentangle Primer, Vol. 1 came out. Although Suzanne McNeil had been publishing thin workbook-style books for several years by then, it did not take a rocket scientist’s math abilities to realize that Krahula’s book was more cost-efficient and comprehensive than twelve workbook volumes. Before spending $50 on the official Zentangle kit (available from the Zentangle.com site or from any CZT) and, for the past year, another $50 on the Primer, so many of us took the less expensive introductory experience of purchasing One Zentangle and a stack of inexpensive card stock paper tiles by Peter Pauper Press (probably all purchased via Amazon, too!). Or we used sketchbooks in lieu of tiles. This way, if we didn’t like tangling, we spent less than $30 for book and tools rather than $100 or more to get started. Not one of us regrets having spent that $100 later, though, because the tangling journey made us feel good, and we needed more.

My tangling journey began 15 months ago, with One Zentangle a Day and a sketch book that had many of my traditional drawing attempts in its first half. I worked almost exclusively in the journal for several weeks, mostly because I lacked the confidence to ruin even a cheap tile. Sometimes, I drew 3.5-inch squares to simulate tiles. More often, I simply drew a square that was big enough to tangle in, but was either larger or smaller than an actual tangling tile. Perhaps I was deciding whether I liked tangling, or maybe I was sticking to the sketchbook  because I needed the sense of familiarity and security of a well-used surface. It took a while before I started using the inexpensive tiles.

Much of my tangling was originally done in pencil–just in case I wanted to erase, even though we don’t erase in tangling. Then I moved on to more complex tangling as I learned more patterns and came up with more strings. Gradually, my work improved and I out-grew One Zentangle a Day

That’s when I decided to invest in the Zentangle Kit, the Primer, and finally the Zentangle Mosaic app. Following the lessons in the Primer and getting insight and inspiration from fellow tanglers on Mosaic, I kept tangling and found my art–and my ability to meditate–growing, expanding, evolving. By then, I had also decided that I needed to attend the Zentangle teacher certification Seminar, if for no other reasons than to attend a formal class, and to legitimately spread the love of tangling to the island’s residents so I wouldn’t have to tangle alone. 

Maria Thomas’ challenge on the Mosaic app opened so many opportunities to share where many tanglers started, and why we started. Some people took up tangling because they were established artists wanting to learn a new technique. Many started their Zentangle journey because of a major life change–the loss of a loved one, a move to a very different environment, retirement. Still others came across the Zentangle Method when they were searching for a form of meditation that didn’t force  physical stillness. A few were introduced to tangling by a close friend. Some simply stumbled across Zentangle on the internet and thought it was pretty. Most started tangling because of several of these reasons, plus others. But we all started somewhere, fell in love with tangling, and continued to grow through certification seminars or various local tangling workshops. 

The humble beginnings project got many of us communicating and sharing how the Zentangle Method has helped us personally. Both on this blog and on another blog site (Write of Passage, or dremiller.com), I have shared both why I tangle and what my experiences have been. Among the ways Zentangle has helped me personally is calming my mind, helping me learn (or re-learn) to focus on something, relieving physical and mental tension and anxiety; and providing meditative opportunities to examine my past, including behaviors, and to brain-storm the possible impacts of important decisions. Meditation has helped me explore myself in many ways, with the topic of exploration showing up often in my tangled works. 

Why do you tangle? How did you get started? If you have been tangling a while, how has the Zentangle Method helped you with your life and your art? How has your art changed?

Leave a comment to this post and share your tangling journey!

Until next time, Happy Tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

First Six (Through 12 or so…)

Lately, instead of blogging, I have been tangling away for a “first workshop.” The Zentangle Method® workshop is being conducted for students and faculty of a local medical school. This may be a “one shot” as the group is very busy with classes and studies. So I need to present as many workable tangles as possible into a 2-hour workshop. It’s not for another six weeks or so, but I want to give participants an idea of what can be done with just six or seven basic tangles. 

The purpose of the workshop is to help students to learn an active meditation technique. Tangling can help them relax, relieve anxiety especially before exams, and learn focus and concentration tools that can be applied to studying. The purpose of the examples is to help them see the versatility of using only a few patterns to get them started.

These are the first tiles I have tangled with just the first six (or seven) patterns I will be teaching during that workshop. I plan to teach both Tipple and Jetties together, because I kind of think of them as the same basic tangle–a basic version and a version with attitude. The other tangles will include Crescent Moon, Hollibaugh, Florz, Printemps, and Shattuck. And Bales, if there is time. These should provide an idea of the versatility of learning and tangling with such a limited number of patterns. 


In addition, I am working up tiles that would include tangles from a second session. That session would include Bales (if not covered in the first session), Knight’s Bridge, Flux (both versions), Mooka, Poke Root and Poke Leaf. So much more versatility with only five more patterns!


More to be posted soon!

Happy tangling!