Posted in Zentangle

Fixing focus on busy tiles

The longer I tangle, the more I believe the Zentangle Method®️ is becoming more of an art form and less of a meditative mindful experience. When in the right frame of mind, Tangling becomes not only meditative as I mindfully draw one line or curve after another, but it has become a way to come to terms with stuff in my life, especially the less than positive or happy stuff. To me, it becomes almost like prayer, but with honest reflection, and often possible sets of solutions.

Most Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) feel as I do–that Zentangle should remain a meditative Method, using mindfulness in tangling, and giving the heart and spirit–and, of course, the mind and body–a bit of calm and respite in a chaotic world. Tangling helps one focus on the patterns, which later translates into focus on tasks and activities. And it is focus that this post is all about.

Today a new technique came to my mind for focusing on specific elements of a rather cluttered looking tangle. The process occurred to me as I was tangling a piece that started out as a good idea, but then became “muddied”. What I mean by that is that suddenly I could not easily discriminate one type of “leaf” from another. I was taught two ways of making elements stand out–1) thicken the outline or heavily shade the form, or 2) aura the form to make it stand out. Well, in the middle of a muddle, adding an aura is almost impossible. And if the forms are intended to have equal ‘weight’ in the design, heavily shading one causes the one next to it to melt into the background. Neither was what I wanted, and it was too late to aura. So what to do?

Let me show you the result (remember, this was a practice and not intended for sharing, so don’t laugh, please).

I can’t blow it up any larger, probably because I have too little space on my iPad, but even at this size, you can see each individual element–some behind others, and some simply sharing the spotlight in an area, as though each leaf were equal there. You might also notice that as borders are crossed, the petals change. They may go from white to black, or to checkerboarded, or half white and half black, or even tangled with printemps (the spiral-like figures inside leaves or outside as background. That is because my “string” divided sections into “pattern areas.” And all that is what made the work look completely cluttered and blob-like. Wish I had thought to take a Before photo, but it’s well after midnight, and I just didn’t think of it in time. But here is how I separated all the leaves without touching the overall design.

First, I outlined each leaf with a 08 Gelly Roll white gel pen. The white ink in this particular pen is opaque enough to cover black if used slowly and carefully, without a lot of pressure on the pen. In a few cases, I outlined inside the original shape to give it better visibility so it would not melt into an adjoining leaf.

After allowing the white ink to dry–it takes about a minute, but here in humid St Maarten, it could take longer, so be patient–I outlined the shapes again in black ink, as much on top or tight against the white ink. I was surprised by how much this process drew out the individual petals, especially from busy background areas.

Since black ink over white gel ink takes a while to set and dry, I waited some more.

Once I was sure the inks had dried completely, I used the graphite drawing pencil (softness 2B) to push the background where it belonged–in the back. I used a fairly heavy hand to darken the background as much as possible, taking care not to get graphite on the black portions of any leaves. Remember to use more side than point as you are doing this. Next, use a tortillion or blending stub or even a cotton swab to spread the graphite into the background and even it out.

Lastly, I shaded my petals as usual, applying graphite to the outside for depth and shadow, and to inner areas to give them dimension. Don’t get too carried away or you will create a second blob. For the most part, shade these areas as you would if you didn’t have the darker background. You will know if you need more shadow, so add several lighter coats rather than one thick and heavy coat.

And voila– a vastly improved tangled piece, with the focus back on your petals, bringing them forward by letting them stand out.

This can work whenever your items blend instead of separate. I got the inspiration for this from a book by Eni Oken’s, who has a beautiful blog and sells wonderful books on drawing techniques specific to tangling. I only have a few, but they left an impression on me that allowed me to take things a step in another direction. As you gain experience, it is amazing how your mind focuses on using techniques learned for one thing and applying them in a whole new way. My inspiration came from Eni’s book on making white seem to sparkle on black tiles.

Hope this helped.

Happy Tangling!

DrEllieCZT

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

Tangling and Oil Painting

Tonight, I did something different and fun. I attended a sip’n’paint event to help sponsor talented SXM (Sint Maarten) kids to travel to NYC for a week to learn not only more about their particular talent ( singing, dance, painting, etc.) but to also take a workshop about the business end of the professional artist. The painting event was led by world renowned St. Martin artist Sir @RowlandRichardson, who showed us how to paint a still life of three colors of bougainvillea in a simple jar vase.

We used exactly three colors–blue, red, yellow–and white to produce a lovely pallet of colors. Here is a photo of my work tonight. How many distinct colors can you see? Certainly more than the three we started with!

This is not to highlight my lack of talent with oil paint, but to show the influence of my Zentangle work and patterns on Zentangle-inspired art ( ZIA). In essence, I tangled a painting of real-life bougainvillea in a simple jar-style vase. Not only that, but it’s my first genuine still life work. That is, working from the real thing instead of a photo.

Note the number of poke leaf and flux in this painting, adding dimension to the simple patterns through how the paint was applied.

I will never be a famous artist, but I am really proud of this silly little piece encouraged by a famous artist, but completed because of the Zentangle Method®️. Tangling is so simple and versatile that it adds richness and texture to a piece that would have been completely flat and dull without my grasp of Zentangle patterns and techniques.

You may not be into Zentangle for the stress reduction, but if you are an artist, the method is definitely worth exploring for its patterns and unique shading techniques. I am proud to be a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). Thank you, @MariaThomas and @RickRoberts! Without your influence, even a master artist like Sir @RolandRichardson could not have helped me do any better than apply dabs of color and hope for the best!

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

A Little Help From My Friends

For the past ten days or so, I have been re-visiting patterns I learned early in my Zentangle “career,” but have stopped using. Some fell into disuse because I simply didn’t like them; others because I couldn’t make them work for me; still others for reasons I have forgotten. Using the Zentangle Primer to guide me, I simply started at the beginning.

Yesterday, a Primer exercise (#zp1x16) directed me to draw a tangle I either don’t like or have trouble drawing to my satisfaction. I selected a pattern that looks simple but that gives me trouble, ‘nzeppel. 

‘Nzeppel

‘Nzeppel is a simple enough looking pattern that is drawn in a grid of exes. But it has given me a lot of trouble because I can’t get the corners to curve instead of come to a point. This tile shows my best effort in the 10 or 11 months I have “known” it. I posted it on the Zentangle Mosaic app with an explanation, figuring that was the end to it for a while. I was incredibly surprised to learn how many experienced tanglers–individuals whose work is incredibly artistic and beautiful–had difficulty with this pattern as well! Their admission left me feeling so much less klutzy! I am so grateful to them all.

Some CTZs offered suggestions (privately) on how to draw ‘nzeppel better–tips that they used themselves. These made me think about the pattern differently. So I redrew it. 

Better ‘Nzeppel.

This is much closer to the effect I was trying to create all these months. It reinforces my feeling that tangling with a group has many significant advantages over tangling alone. Other tanglers can offer advice based on personal experience or contact with other tanglers. It also made me realize that I am not simply having a unique and personal difficulty with a simple pattern. So often, the most complex patterns turn into an easy exercise (my experiences with Way Bop before seeing the step-out, for example), while the simple, easy-looking patterns are challenges for even artistically gifted tanglers. It is such a relief to know that I am not simply an untalented klutz with a pen and pencil. 

Several of the tips and suggestions I received after uploading the first tile yesterday included references to personal difficulties with the pattern and the tip or instruction that yielded that “Aha!” moment. But it came from group participation and sharing. 

And sharing is just another important aspect of Zentangle. We all get by (and get better!) with a little help from our friends!

If you live on the island of St. Martin, in Sint Maarten, or are planning a visit to the island, let’s get together and tangle under a palm tree or beach umbrella by the sea! 

Until next time, Happy Tangling!