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

Bijou Tile Holder

Earlier this week, I posted a picture on the Zentangle Mosaic® app of a holder I made out of an Apprentice tile (4.5 inches square) to keep my brand new 2.5-inch square business cards from VistaPrint®. 

This post caused several people to ask how I made the holder, and I promised to post directions here on my blog. 

Thinking back to a four-piece bijou puzzle I tangled for Valentangle2017 on Facebook, I thought it might be better to create a bijou-sized holder instead of the business card holder. Where the business cards are 2.5 inches square and need the larger Apprentice tile, bijou tiles are only 2 inches square, so a standard 3.5 inch square tile is plenty large to make a holder. No matter what size holder you need, the procedure is the same.

Step 1: Mark the center and diagonal lines.

Mark centers and diagonals.

With a pencil, find and draw the diagonals and centers on the backs of both your “final size” tile and the tile from which you will make the holder. Measure for accuracy. Your tile will resemble a squared round pizza.

Step 2: Line up the two square tiles, then trace.

Align diagonals with center lines as shown; trace bijou.

Turn your bijou 45 degrees, and match up the bijou’s diagonal lines to the standard tile’s center lines, and the bijou’s center lines to the larger tile’s diagonals. It may not be a perfect match, but match as closely as possible. Once the lines are matched, trace the bijou onto the larger tile. 

Step 3: Re-draw 3/16-ths of an inch away.

Draw a 3/16-inch frame around the bijou tracing.

Aura the bijou outline 3/16-ths of an inch away from the center on all sides. 

Step 4: Score for folding.

Score just outside pencil lines.

Line up a ruler or other straight edge tool with the drawn lines. With your favorite paper scoring tool (I use a bamboo skewer), score just outside the pencil lines, going from one edge of the larger tile to the other. Do this for the bijou tracing and for its frame. 

Step 5: Fold along scored lines.

Fold along the scored lines. Trim away corner pieces.
Fold along all of the scored lines. At the corners, there will be extra paper. Trim away this extra space with two inward snips along the main fold lines. Cut no further than the inside folds. 

Step 6: 

Sharpen creases.

Re-fold the tile so the clean side is to the outside. Sharpen the fold lines by pressing on them again with your fingers or with a smooth hard object for a sharper crease. 

Step 7: Tangle.

Fold out tile and tangle as desired.

Unfold the box and tangle it any way you like. Remember that three flaps will fold over each other in the box to contain the bijou tiles. You may want to wait until the holder is glued together before tangling the back.

Step 8: Cut some filler.

Cut some filler to make gluing, tangling on the back, and closure cutting easier.

Before going further, take some time to cut some bijou-sized filler for your holder. I generally fold a newspaper page several times and cut out a section the same size as what I plan to fill with–such as bijou tiles or business cards. While you are at it, cut a piece of waxed paper or baking parchment to the same size. Slide this between your filler and the flaps. The filler makes it easier to glue the flaps together and later tangle the box, as well as provide a surface to cut into if you plan to make a flap tuck for your holder. The square of waxed paper or parchment keeps the filler from being accidentally glued inside the flaps when the glue spreads out inside. 

Sometimes, I just carefully wrap bijou tiles or cards in waxed paper and slip them into the holder before gluing. This works best if I use tiny wafer-thin magnets as a closure. The waxed paper does nothing to prevent the X-acto knife from cutting into a good tile or business card!

Step 9: Glue flaps together.

Glue three flaps together, envelope-style.

Overlap the two side flaps and glue them together. Next, bring up the bottom flap and glue it in place so the section resembles an envelope. This is far easier to do and let dry with filler inside. 

For gluing, I use the same thing I use to seal my artwork–Mod Podge® Matte water-based sealer, glue, and finish. It works great as a glue and as a sealant to protect the paper from wearing too quickly, and to keep my artwork looking fresh longer. 

Once the glue is dry, you may want to tangled the back. You can wait until after you have sealed your holder, but you will need to seal the work again, as even Micron® ink can smear when used over the Mod Podge. 

Step 10: Seal your work.

Seal the paper.

To protect your artwork and to extend the life of your holder, seal the entire surface–front, back, sides–with a protective sealer such as Mod Podge Matte or Mod Podge Glossy. Using an inexpensive art brush, cover the front and sides with the sealer, wipe away excess at the edges with a damp cloth, and allow to dry completely. 

When dry, flip the holder over and brush the back with sealer. Wipe away any excess, as with the front. If you like, erase any pencil marks from the inside of the loose top flap piece, and seal it, too.

Give the holder time to dry completely before continuing. Mod Podge is dry to the touch in minutes, but could take half an hour or longer to dry through layers. 

Step 11: Flap closures.

Cut out flap tuck, if desired.

Once everything is completely dry, fold the top flap over, and make marks to either side of where you want to cut a flap tuck. Using a straight edge and an X-acto knife, cut two parallel lines close together through all thicknesses. 

I didn’t wait long enough, and the damp glue not only got all over the knife edge, but also created some problems for cutting through damp paper fibers. The result is a slit that is more ragged than it would have been if I were a little more patient. 

If you prefer to use magnets or Velcro as fastenings, this would be a good step to apply those closures. 

Step 12: Decorate back, if not done earlier.

Decorate back, if not already done.

All I wanted to do was add a bit of printemps around the flap tuck. You may choose to tangle the whole back, if you haven’t done so in an earlier step. I was going to leave the back untangled, except for the flap which I tangled with the front. However, I got finger smudges along the flap tuck because I cut too soon. I wanted to cover them up a bit. 

And the holder is done!

Completed bijou tile holder

Hope this gives you some ideas about what can be done with tiles, other than draw on them. There are so many beautiful, creative art works by tanglers all over the Internet. Maybe you will add to them to inspire others!

Until next time, Happy Tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

CZT27 Seminar, Providence RI


I am a CZT! That’s a Certified Zentangle Teacher. 

This post is way overdue. It has been a week since Seminar ended, and I am still walking on clouds from the positive energy generated by the 93 attendees, the presentations by Zentangle founders and family (relatives and adoptees!), and the hushed intensive participation in activities and practice. 
Above are Frannie (my roommate and fantastic artist) and Amber (one of my favorite Mosaic app tanglers). In the second photo, I am the short old person on the right, with Frannie on the left.

One of the best parts about Seminar was meeting tanglers whose work I got to know and respect on the Zentangle Mosaic® app. There were more Mosaic friends than I expected, as I assumed most were already CZTs–their work is that good!  What a surprise to discover that so many were trainees like me! So much to discuss and learn from each other, and now a shared experience to bring us closer!

CZT27 Seminar was held April 23 through April 26, 2017, in the historic and fabulous Providence Biltmore Hotel, an architectural masterpiece of Arte Neuvou and Art Deco! Every part of the building that we explored had beautiful grillwork, inlays, sculpture… a treat for the eyes and inspiration for new patterns! The staff was wonderful, polite, and friendly; accommodations were luxurious; and the ambiance was conducive to relaxation and creation. Meals were incredible master works that challenged Cordon Blu restaurants, despite our numbers. Break “snacks” could challenge formal British teas. We were so pampered!

But despite the luxury, we worked. We worked hard. So much was introduced at each session! The Tuesday sessions left many of our heads spinning from the skills and information presented and acquired in that single day. I saw no one leaving the class room whose eyes were not glazed over. 

As always, the best part was meeting such talented artists from all over the globe–34 countries were represented (I think that’s the right number!) and more than two-thirds of the States. What a diverse and glorious group! Frannie, my roommate, is from Brisbane, Australia–an incredibly long trip crossing timelines and losing and gaining days. Others came from France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, China, India, and many many more places. Our session brought the number of CZTs to over 2700 internationally. And the next two Providence-based certification sessions in June will bring that number close to 3000. With a few sessions scheduled to be given in China later this year, the number of CZTs available to teach this meditative art method will skyrocket! The Zentangle Method just keeps growing! 

We learned how to conduct the introductory workshops, mostly through modeling. Rarely were we told “Do this first, then that,” except for which tangles to teach first–and that is because these patterns set the stage for vocabulary and concepts for all the other tangle patterns created by the founders and by tanglers from all over the Internet and the world. 

At each new session, we started the day or session with new tools that would be used for that lesson’s techniques. I came home with almost as many gifted tools as purchased ones. Pencils and pens, samples of different types of tiles, an official Zentangle® journal, a CZT carry bag, “CZT Only” booklet of official tangles and their step-outs, and so much more. 

We learned new tangles and old, and string creation techniques. We learned what we can and cannot do as official representatives of Zentangle and the Zentangle Method. We learned some official vocabulary and some not so official terms. We shared our work in class mosaics that took up half a large rectangular banquet table. We got ideas for journaling and initiated them with the tiles we produced, organized under the session names. 

Here are a few pages from my Zentangle journal.

        

The first photo depicts the how and why of the Zentangle Method, accompanied by a powerful discussion of the elegance of limits. The next photo is of an unfinished tile with a string I drew for the String Theory session. After it spent some time in the class mosaic, I decided that I really like it just the way it is, with the unfilled string as part of the completed whole. The final tile is special to me. The pattern is called Verdigogh, and was one of the first patterns I tried to learn on my own a year ago. Drawn during the Deconstruction session, it represents the best Verdigogh I have ever drawn. Despite following step-outs and studying various videos on YouTube, it took watching it drawn in person for me to draw it to my personal satisfaction. How much of this was due to the presenter (Martha,I think), personal experience, ambiance, group energy, or a combination of these, I don’t know. But I am incredibly proud of the complex yet simple-to-draw achievement. 

There are many other tangled tiles in my journal. Over the next several posts, I will share several more. For now, I want to tell you just a bit more about #CZT27 Seminar.

We tangled classic tiles, 3Z tiles, black tiles, bijou tiles, renaissance tiles, and Zendala tiles–even Apprentice tiles! We tangled in black and in brown. We learned ways to use graphite to best advantage and charcoal white pencils on tiles of any color. We each tangled a section of a seminar mosaic that was framed and given by lottery to a very lucky participant. 

During breaks, we marveled at the artistic creations by attendees–tangled origami sculptures, tangled plates and boxes and carvings. Tangle-decorated album and journal covers, frames, orbs, jewelry… so much to see that my mind could not absorb it all. Seeing supplies and tools in the Zentangle Store was like entering an exquisite toy shop full of potential purchases. I wanted one of everything! Unfortunately, funds and luggage space were limited. 

The group energy, the exhuberance of founders Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, and the teaching techniques of Molly Hollibaugh, Martha Huggins, and Julie (whose last name escapes me) sustained our interest and activities during sessions and in between. There was humor, compassion, serious periods, and flow–lots of flow. 

Words cannot express the whole experience. I am so grateful to have been gifted with the CZT training experience. I was in a Wonderland where only good things and better things happen. 

Next time, I will share some personal challenges that could have prevented me from experiencing the full effect of the Seminar, but that quickly made me appreciate the experience even more. 

Until next time, Happy Tangling!

Zentangle Mosaic® name: @DrEllieCZT

Frannie’s Mosaic name: @fplshCZT

Amber’s Mosaic name: @AmberRainCZT

🙃

Posted in Zentangle

Back to Basics 2

Ten days ago, I talked about being so overwhelmed with so many new tangle patterns being developed and shared. I decided to spend time working on the basics of Zentangle and a more manageable number of patterns. I pulled out my handily shelved Zentangle Primer and started from the beginning, as though learning tangling for the first time. I have shared some of my Back to Basics work here and on the Zentangle Mosaic app, and I have temporarily removed myself from the world of Zentangle challenges (not that I take part in more than two or three!).

It has been an interesting week of tangling for me, as I draw for the lesson exercises, breaking things up with an occasional meditation with greater complexity. But I continue with the Basics to get my tangling back on track. 

‘Nzeppel practice
Striping practice
Crescent Moon exercise

The ‘Nzeppel I shared previously, as I got it almost perfect with input from friends on Mosaic. The Striping exercise is the result of a “teaching session” in the Primer. The Crescent Moon tile is the result of an exercise challenging the tangler to shade Crescent Moon in several different ways. Interestingly, today a T3 (Tangles, Tips, &a Techniques) video was posted on the Mosaic app showing three specific things that could be done with Crescent Moon to make it look different on each tile. A lot was covered that I had recently completed in my tile, but there was a lot more information that kept me interested and following along. The resulting tiles, each containing only the single pattern, made me realize that I don’t need all those new tangles that are constantly showing up to produce something special. 
Three ways to tangle and enhance Crescent Moon

Today I practiced Crescent Moon as monotangles (one pattern tiles) three ways. I started practicing a tangle I am not especially fond of–Rixty–but am not ready to share where that pattern is taking me. It happens to be the next pattern introduced in Lesson 6 of the Primer. It’s a long chapter and will take some time to complete, even though none of the patterns are completely new to me. After all, this is not my first time through the book. Each time I go through it or check a step-out or seek inspiration, I learn something new or see the pattern from a different perspective. 

There is so much to learn from practicing the art of Zentangle, not the least of which is meditation and relaxation. I hope to be tanglingin the physical company of others soon, as I will be attending a certification seminar in late April (2017). Afterwards, I hope to bring Zentangle, its methods, and its philosophy to people here on Sint Maarten who would find it beneficial to their health and outlook.

If you are in or near Sint Maarten, join me for a tangling session! 

Until next time, Happy Tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

Endorphins on My Mind

Zentangle is in large part a mindful method of stress reduction. When one tangles, a meditative calm sets in, often releasing unexpected bubbles of creativity that positively excite us into a focused frame of mind as we concentrate on what the pen is drawing. Sometimes we plan our tangling; sometimes the pen seems to take over and the only things left to our minds is to focus on steady strokes, straight lines, and smooth curves. As we are doing all this, the brain and body release endorphins, and we feel better and better. 

Endorphins are those feel-good hormones produced by our bodies’ brains and nervous systems to inhibit pain and produce a euphoric state (probably to reduce pain!). They have a calming effect on our nerves. They want to soothe whether the pain is physical or emotional. They also make us want to reach the same levels of feel-goodedness again and again and again. In short, they are addictive.

When we are stressed or under psychological pressure, we tend to tighten up, which causes muscles to ache and heads to throb. Whether we think about it not, we need for our systems to release a few endorphins to make the pain and stress go away. If we don’t take proactive measures to reduce the effects of stress, everything gets worse–muscles knot up more, the throbbing in our heads takes on the sensation of being pounded by a psychopathic drummer, aches increase, and so on in a downward cycle. 

Because we often can’t think straight when we reach the point of physical discomfort, the best proactive approach is to practice endorphin-releasing activities to either lessen the effects of stress or to keep stressful situations from taking us to a point of no return. Some people run every day or two; other people work out at the gym; still others take yoga classes. Some of us Zentangle.

Zentangle can be practiced anywhere–in the grocery checkout line, in the doctor’s waiting room, in a restaurant waiting for an order, in front of the TV, in bed–well, anywhere at all. Even if people use smart phones to record appointments and lists, a pencil, pen, and small note pad or artist tile are easy to always slip into a pocket or purse, or keep on the nightstand. Zentangle requires no special clothes or equipment. A smal amount of time–maybe 15 minutes–is all that’s needed, and no appointments or schedules are required. 

If the paper or tile gets a little smudged or wrinkled as it travels along with you during the day, those elements just add charm and character to the tangle. Here’s a tile I drew while waiting in the car for my husband’s haircut to be finished. 

Creases from cell phone pushed on top in my purse were accented with graphite. A scribble from a lost pen cap was incorporated into the design–sort of.

Nothing fancy, and I admit I shaded it at home because he came out faster than I expected–but still not a bad little piece of on-the-go tangling. It was a little cramped behind the wheel, as I am very short, but I had enough elbow room to draw and relax a bit ( and I could have moved the seat back). My husband always calls for pick-up too early. Rather than be angry, I tangle while I wait and let the endorphins flow. And if I am not finished when I reach the cashier or my breakfast order arrives (or my husband gets in the car) I can set the tile aside to complete it another time. I don’t need to worry about forgetting what the next step was supposed to be because Zentangles are unplanned. The patterns should be those that come to me when the pen reaches a blank space. When that space is reached–in the next microsecond, a year, or any time in between–the pattern that comes to mind is the one that goes there. It’s OK to plan the patterns; it’s just not necessary.

An idea just came to mind. It is time, I think, to tangle another tile and get another endorphin fix.

Until next time, Happy Tangling!