The night before last, I got no sleep. Zero minutes of sleep. None.
Although insomnia hits me often–averaging every second night–I usually get at least two hours of sleep in. I know this because my Fitbit tells me so. But that night, nothing was allowing me to fall asleep.
Why am I telling you this? Because something interesting occurred and was “recorded” by my Fitbit: for the hour or so of tangling to help me relax, the app decided that all it’s measurements showed I had slept for 49 consecutive minutes!
No, I wasn’t actually sleeping during that time. I was tangling, and was apparently deep enough into a relaxed, meditative state that Fitbit believed I was asleep. Since I have my sleep measures set to “sensitive,” the device doesn’t count any periods of movement of any kind as sleep time. It calls it restless time, possibly because the app has no way of knowing if I am simply in a less deep state of sleep or if I am in a waking-up state. So it does not count those periods as sleep. Since it is hard to draw without moving, all my other body signs must have fooled the app into thinking I was in an actual sleep state.
Even though I already experience the restful nature of Zentangle, it was both surprising and welcoming to have the meditation state and time confirmed by a scientific device. Just another reason to tangle on!
Yesterday I posted the official public step-out for the Zentangle® called Way Bop. I included a few of my first attempts. Today I am posting photos of two more I tangled today
The first one is drawn on a black square tile, using a white Gelly Roll™ pen for the design and General’s Charcoal White™ pencil for shading.
The second tile is a “pre-strung” Zendala® tile. That means it comes with strings already on the tile. The string breaks the tile up into smaller drawing/coloring areas. For the basic structure of the Way Bop, I “jumped the fence” (ignored the lines) a lot. Then I jumped a lot more fences to fill in with other Zentangle designs.
Imagine what you can do!
Remember: Anything is possible one stroke at a time! ®
For some time, I have been seeing a wonderful pattern drawn by CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers) appearing in the Zentangle Mosaic app on my iPad. It is intricate, beautiful, and full of tangling possibilities. The tangle is called Way Bop, an interesting name selected during a CZT-only event in 2016, when it was first introduced. Often, when Zentangle puts out a brand new pattern, the step-out is first provided only to CZTs to teach in their own workshops. After a while, the step-out is made available to everyone else.
Some patterns are relatively easy to deconstruct. This was not one of them for me, and I was delighted when the step-out was made public this past week in the Zentangle blog newsletter (click to view it). Along with it came a variation with a heart motif for Valentine’s Day. If you are an avid tangler and subscribe to the Zentangle app for iOS or Android, you also have access to an exclusive video showing founder Maria Thomas drawing and embellishing this pattern while founder Rick Roberts narrates.
Because this is still a very new pattern for me, my interpretations are still elementary and awkward. Despite this, my attempts are not too bad–not as elegant as they may later become, and lacking any great artistic qualities, but pleasant and intricate enough for early tries.
The one on the right was drawn as a Valentine, based on the heart variation step-out of Way Bop. On the left is a first shot at something more intricate than the simplest result.
Looks difficult, doesn’t it? Well, here are copies of the Step-outs from the newsletter to show you how easy this pattern becomes once the steps are logically presented. Just follow the arrows!
The spaces created by the Way Bop pattern can be filled with other patterns, surrounded by tangles and embellishments, colored in–so many possibilities!
For a recent 14-day FaceBook-based Zentangle challenge for Valentine’s Day (search with Valentangle2017), I tangled an impression of my home here in Sint Maarten. I had been playing with Way Bop for less than an hour when I drew this as a meditation in my sketchbook. It shows the garden, the view of the lagoon, and the “rippled tile” tin roof. The challenge theme was “Home is where the heart is.”
Just drawing this pattern is soothing and meditative. Adding elements to enhance the tangle is challenging, fun, and meditative in its own right.
If you are on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, as resident or visitor, feel free to contact me. In two months, I will be attending a certification seminar in Rhode Island, earning my certification. I will return home to my island as a CZT, ready to spread Zentangle to everyone who wants a meditative methodology that results in a small work of art, especially to those who are convinced they can’t draw. I can’t draw, but I can tangle!
About ten months ago, I came across Zentangle as I was researching forms of meditation, especially those I could somehow learn on my own. I had recently lost my mother, and I felt life imploding on me even though we had not been as close as we once were. Being still is more than difficult for me–it is impossible. I have more than a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder (ADD) and need to move or be doing something if I want to concentrate. So most meditative methods seem to be out for me. I had thought about Tai Chi, but I live on a tiny island, where offerings are few. Then I came across Zentangle, and got interested in the idea of meditating through repetitive drawing of patterns.
No one will ever accuse me of having even the slightest artistic talents. I took drawing lessons a few years back to learn perspective and techniques; the lessons helped, but talent was clearly lacking. So Zentangle’s claim that artistic abilities were not necessary intrigued me. I had to learn more.
According to the official web site, Zentangle.com, the best way to learn the Zentangle method is to attend classes offered by a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) in my area. Well, the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean Sea is small, and Zentangle hasn’t made it this far. I live in Sint Maarten, the Dutch country on this tiny island. The French side has a slightly smaller population. Even between the two countries, the total population is barely that of a small town back in the States. It is not surprising that there are no CZTs here, even though there are plenty of them in the Netherlands. Clearly, I would be on my own.
The second best method of learning to tangle, according to the web, is to purchase the official book. Instead, I bought a copy of a book called One Zentangle a Day, basing my purchase decision on the far lower cost compared with that of the official Zentangle Primer. I ordered One Zentangle from Amazon, along with the recommended pen, 3.5-inch square artist tiles, tortillions, and 2B pencils. Once I had everything together, i started experiencing Zentangle.
Each day, I poured my morning coffee and got out my book. Often, it took me longer than a day to complete a lesson, as I found myself getting frustrated with my apparent inability to draw even the simplest shapes and patterns. Clearly, I was doing something wrong, as I was not getting the expected benefits. As I “meditatively” journaled my journey into tangling on my writing blog (Write of Passage)–or maybe I was critiquing?–I began to notice a change in my attitude toward the process. It was actually working!
As I tangled my way through the book, I kept reading up on Zentangle. Finally, I broke down and purchased the official Zentangle Primer: volume 1 from the web site. Before making this purchase, I bought several e-books on tangling, and even a set of workbook-like books. By then, I had spent close to 4 times the cost of the Primer.
As it turned out, The Primer is all I really needed! The Zentangle method and philosophy is clearly laid out, including the celebratory nature of The Zentangle method and process. The reasoning behind the steps of the method is clearly defined, beginning patterns are illustrated as “step-outs” (which provide breakdowns of drawing even some very complex patterns!), and easy to follow lessons provide a framework for drawing. Even methods of shading and highlighting are included to add depth and dimension to basically flat drawings. Patterns, as presented, progress logically so that elements and methods from an earlier pattern are clearly evident in patterns of greater complexity. Best of all, entire charts of “fragments” to be used in rectangular, triangular, and circular grid spaces provide ideas and jumping off points for working on one’s own–including development of one’s own patterns and fragments. Everything a beginner needs to get started correctly is in the Primer, and web sites for inspiration and more advanced patterns are listed for the adventurists.
My work is not fancy, although I have learned to experiment with different materials and media for an occasional artistic touch. Tangles who understand the Zentangle method and process see the work for what it is and are not influenced by fancy patterns and flashy colors. That’s not to say fancy tiles have no place; it’s just that the simple process, simple tools, and simple black ink reduce the process to its essential elements–simple, controlled, relaxing, meditative strokes. The Zentangle motto is “Anything is possible one stroke at a time.” The products of advanced tanglers attests to the creative processes released by this clean and simple methodology.
At this point, I have been tangling for ten months, and using the Primer for about half that time. When I need to touch base with my center or need to relax, I reach for a tile, my Micron pen, my 2B pencil, and a torillon. I go through the eight steps discussed in two previous posts. And I begin to lose myself in the process of Zentangle. I don’t have to be home to tangle, and the small size and simple tools are so portable that a “kit” can be carried easily in a pocket or bag so I can tangle anywhere. As I tangle, thoughts pass through my mind. As in any meditation, some are let go, others are contemplated while part of my mind focuses on drawing a pattern or two. Sometimes, I need to tangle more than one tile to get full benefit. Sometimes I lose concentration and need to set a tile aside. Sometimes, an “artsy” inspiration comes to me for later or immediate attention. Each time I create something new. Each time, I learn something new about the process, pattern manipulation, or myself. When I make a mistake, I incorporate it into the process and move on. In Zentangle, there are no mistakes, only opportunities–for growth, for change, for coping, for living, for learning.
Simple tools, simple process, celebratory appreciation, meditation–all while producing a miniature work of art.
In a Part 3 of this series, I discussed the first four of eight steps in the Zentangle® method. These are 1) Gratitude and Appreciation, 2) Corner Dots, 3) Border, and 4) String. Today’s post will talk about the other four: 5) Tangle (or Draw), 6) Shade, 7) Initial and Sign, and 8) Appreciate. I will also talk about some of the intangible aspects of Zentangle that make it different from doodling and traditional arts.
Just a word… this is a lengthy post because it covers a lot of information–about what goes into each step and materials. Bits and pieces will be covered in future posts in more detail, and one at a time. In general, this is an overview of the next four steps of the Zentangle Method, and of the very few materials you need to get started. On to the discussion…
Steps 2 through 4 are done in pencil for reasons that will become clearer in a minute. For Step 5: Tangle (or Draw, depending on the age of the source; Tangle is the more recent step name), a pen is used. Using the pen, the tangler fills in the spaces created with the border and the string in Steps 3 and 4. The patterns used are generally those that are recognized by the Zentangle community as being either official Zentangle patterns or those created and shared by tanglers around the world. These can even include your own pattern designs! Step-outs, or step-by-step illustrations on how to draw the patterns, can usually be found on the internet. The largest repository of Zentangle step-outs is TanglePatterns.com. Although some of the patterns (or tangles, if you prefer) look extremely complex, they are easy to create by following the steps in a step-out. When first starting out, it is generally best to stick with a handful of tangles until comfortable with the Zentangle method.
Step 6 is when shading is added. Shading within and among patterns gives the tangled tile dimension and texture, not to mention movement. The difference between an unshaded tile and a shaded one is like the difference between a simple flat road map and the satellite view in Google Maps. There are recommended ways to shade particular patterns, but experimentation is the best learning tool.
In Step 7, Initial and sign, the tangler adds a “chop” of their initials on the front of the tile. (I will talk a bit about the chop in a later post.) On the back of the tile, the artist signs his or her full name. This step locks in one’s ownership of the finished piece. You created this little masterpiece, and, just like any artist, you sign it to let the world know you created it.
Finally, the pen is set aside and the artist studies the composition, rotating the tile to view the work from all angles. This is Step 8 in which you Appreciate what you have created, and decide how you want it displayed. You have put time and effort into your work, and you have set your mind free to wander or contemplate as you drew. Now that you have finished, you can study how the part of your mind that was concentrating on the drawing helped you create something unique and personal. Appreciate what your meditation has helped you create.
That is all there is to creating a Zentangle tile. The composition of the tile is “non-representational;” that is, it is not meant to be of something. In fact, if you are tangling with a picture in mind, chances are you are creating a ZIA–Zentangle Inspired Art. Many professional artists are now adding Zentangle patterns to their work to add fresh interest or texture. For example, one of my earliest attempts at a ZIA is a simple fish that one would never find in nature. Because I had intended to draw a fish, and because it has an obvious direction from which it should be viewed, it represents something, even if it was something from my imagination. Although the entire picture is done using Zentangle patterns, it is not a Zentangle. It is a ZIA.
A Zentangle may look like something real at the end, but the work itself is done without any particular object or subject in mind. Rather, a Zentangle is the result of your mind wandering around, but making suggestions of what patterns to use to fill the spaces created by your border and string(s). If I hadn’t intended to create a fish, then the tile would have been a Zentangle. But what are the chances that an obvious fish would come out of just drawing patterns? It is possible that a fish-like shape would emerge from the process, but unlikely that a clearly outlined fish would emerge.
So another aspect of a finished Zentangle is that it can be viewed and appreciated from any angle. That is, what started out as “top” with your first strokes may end up being a side in its most complementary position. Tanglers rarely draw from one tile position. Instead, they “spin” the tile for ease of drawing certain patterns, or to more easily fill in an empty space. Some tanglers find it easiest to draw certain strokes from left to right, for example. If the composition wants the pattern to go in a new direction, the artist turns the tile so that it is in the best position for the line or curve to be drawn in the favored direction. Experienced tanglers are constantly spinning their tiles as they work. Besides, because the patterns themselves are non-representational and non-directional, it matters little how the tile is aligned as the patterns are being drawn–except as needed to complete a pattern, of course.
A word about materials…
Although tangling–the process of drawing the Zentangle patterns–is generally done with a Micron® 01 black pen, any fine-tipped porous marker can be used. The finer the line, the better, especially for adults. The Micron 01 is recommended for a lot of reasons: it dries immediatelymso it does not smear or bleed, it is archival quality and will not fade ever, it draws one of the thinnest lines at an affordable price, and it is waterproof. The final quality becomes more important as the tangler begins to experiment with the addition of media such as watercolor or colored markers. The Micron 01 will not bleed into color or other treatments. A lot of pens that I have tried claim to be waterproof, but adding watercolor or artist marker over a drawn line can cause the black to bleed into the color, pretty much messing up whatever effect the i was going for.
Because the line of a Micron 01 is so fine (.25 mm line width) the ink dries instantly. Wider fine line markers–even the Micron brand–take a bit longer to dry and might smear accidentally when the hand brushes it or shading is added too soon. The Micron 01 also produces an instantly waterproof line. Several other artist quality brands take from an hour to a day to resist bleed when other media are applied. During experimentation, I have had inks bleed blue or brown into watercolor or artist ink. Having a tile ruined because of bleeding is frustrating, even if the addition of something else can “save” the work. It is hard enough to incorporate an unexpected line from the jerk of a hand or loss of concentration. To have a piece that is completed except for the addition of a bit of watercolor can ruin a meditation, even though the work can be saved–it is no longer what one expected.
For shading, a 2B drawing pencil is recommended. The 2B hardness is dark enough to add dimension to tangles, but light enough so that it can be blended smoothly. Using too dark (too soft) a graphite lead can leave the shading looking sooty when shadey is the desired effect. Also, the softer the graphite, the more likely it is to smear accidentally.
Not all 2B pencils are the same, however. It is a good idea to purchase several brands of 2B drawing pencil to figure out which works best for you. Some brands (or classes within the same brand) are darker or lighter. There are no industry standards about how dark or soft a 2B is. It seems that every brand determines its own 2B degree of softness, probably based on the hardness or softness of the other graphite pencils in its line.
It is also a good idea to have a 2H pencil for drawing corner dots, borders, and strings. More than likely, you want these to “disappear” into your finished work rather than have the line stand out. Erasers are frowned upon in Zentangle, as the idea is that, in life, you can’t always undo a mistake. So the motto, “There are no mistakes,” becomes a metaphor for life. As such, tanglers do not erase. Instead, they incorporate the flaw into the piece by changing the outcome of a pattern, even if it seems to be a cover-up. The point is to move on by using the mistake to create something new or different, and going on from there. Back to the 2H pencil, though. The pattern drawn in black ink hides the lighter graphite line of a 2H, or the 2H border or part of the string is easily blended into the shading of the piece.
For blending graphite into shading, a tortillion or blending stump is generally used. You can use your finger, but the graphite on it might transfer onto the tile exactly where you do not want it. It is easier to keep clear areas clean with a blending tool.
The only other thing needed for Zentangle is something to draw on. The recommended surface is a square paper artist tile that measures 3.5″ by 3.5″. The official tiles, which can be purchased from Zentangle.com or from a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher), are recommended for a number of reasons. The paper is high quality that professional artists use. It is also strong and thick enough to use with watercolor and markers without buckling or allowing bleed-through of inks or watercolor. The smoothness (“tooth”) of the paper is perfect for ink and graphite art, and is wonderful for watercolor.
Although the official tiles are a bit more expensive than other available tiles on the market, it is best to use the best quality materials you can afford. This is true for any art, not just Zentangle. Lower quality materials can effect the outcome of work at any level of expertise. It is generally more difficult to work with lower quality materials, and this can negatively affect the enjoyment of the art form. Plus, you are worth a few cents more per tile. Or for a pen or pencil…
Bottom line: anything can be used for tangling. Some tanglers draw everything into a sketchbook or unlined journal. From experience, I can tell you that it is easier to compose a tangle on a tile because there is nothing to interfere with the drawing process–no coils, no change in surface height, no difficulty in spinning the work. Otherwise, any notebook or piece of paper can be used for tangling–even glass or fabric or other surfaces. The internet has many examples of everyday items that have been tangled, whether to hide marks or to simply beautify a too-plain object or area. All you need is the special tools for working on the particular surface: china paint, fabric markers, wood-burning tools–whatever the surface calls for. Zentangles can even become the focal point of jewelry or holiday ornament. Lots of ideas can be found on the internet and in books, as well as at CTZ-led workshops and classes in your area.
Zentangle is world-wide. There are few places on Earth near which a CZT can’t be found. Although there is much information available on the internet or in books, the best way to learn how to tangle, expand your tangling horizons, and experiment with new techniques and materials is with a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). If you are on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, you can tangle with me. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everywhere else, check out Zentangle.com for a listing of CZTs in your country or near your home. I won’t be a CZT until May of 2017, but we can always have some tangling fun together before that time.
Until next time, when I tell you why I tangle, Happy Tangling!
Instead of “what is Zentangle? Part4,” today I am posting a Zentangle tile I am submitting to a weekly challenge from “I Am the Diva,” a Zentangle blog on Blogspot.
For this challenge, each tile was to use two tangles–Paradox and Diva Dance– in an almost interwoven fashion as demonstrated by Zentangle founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas in a new YouTube video.
I am posting my submission to the challenge here so you can see that, for Zentangling, you really don’t need to be artistically inclined. Enjoy!
One note about the video below. Some of the Zentangle videos are available only to users of the Zentangle Mosaic app or Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs). If this video doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of instructional Zentangle videos from the founders and many CZTs. Hope this helps!
Zentangle is a method first and foremost. It is a set of steps that enable the participant to achieve a state of meditation that results in relaxation and a small work of art to be proud of. Zentangle is also the resulting product, or tile.
The method itself consists of eight steps. The first four steps will be discussed in this post.
The first step in the method, as I currently understand it from books, is a preparation and centering step. After materials are gathered and the tangler is settled into theplace to create, the tangler begins to relax by taking what yoga instructors would call cleansing breaths. This begins the relaxation. In this step, the tangler takes time to appreciate and be grateful for the work space, the time, and the materials. This gratitude and appreciation helps him or her focus on the positive parts of one’s life and environment and helps the inner self to influence inspiration and creation.
Step 2 is to draw a dot at or near each corner of the square tile, using a light hand and a light graphite pencil. These four dots are called corner dots, for obvious reasons. This step serves two purposes: to eliminate a blank drawing space, and to begin to define that drawing space.
Step 3 is to draw (lightly and still with a pencil) the border by connecting the dots into a sort of frame in which the rest of the work will go. The border is loosely defined by the corner dots. The lines connecting the corner dots can be straight or curved. The only rule is to quickly join consecutive dots into a framing border.
Step 4 is to draw a string inside the border., still using a pencil. A string is one or more lines that create smaller work spaces. In most “how-to” books on Zentangle, the first string is a Z (for Zentangle) that goes diagonally from one side of a border to another, as in the first picture. However, the shape(s) of the string are only limited by the tangler’s imagination (second picture). And when imagination doesn’t help, there are many places on the internet to find inspiration. One of these is TanglePatterns.com, another is Zentangle.com (the official Zentangle site created by Zentangle founders Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts).
The sections formed by the string are generally used to fill with a different pattern in each area (see photo below, which is also shown in the previous post).
Among the reasons for using a string to define smaller areas within the workspace is that smaller spaces are less intimidating to many tanglers. Instead of seeing the entire work space as a single “canvas,” which can be almost as intimidating as a completely blank tile before the Step 2 dots are added, the tangler sees smaller spaces to fill up.
A note on the drawing of corner dots, borders, and strings: use a hard pencil and draw as lightly as possible. Hard pencils are H, 2H, 3H, and so on. Hard pencils produce a lighter line than softer (B, 2B, 3B, etc.) pencils. The softer the pencil, the darker the line and the harder it is to hide later. Any school or home pencil usually fits the bill for the harder pencils, as soft graphite is generally found in pencils specifically for drawing.
The reason for a harder rated (lighter toned) graphite pencil is that you want the dots and lines to act only as guides that disappear into the final drawing. Erasers are a no-no in Zentangle. Light lines can be blended into the final artwork or simply disappear as patterns are drawn. In the tile on the left, you can see where the string is shaded into the patterns to produce soft borders between pattern areas and to give the tile a bit of depth. If I had wanted “harder” borders between the patterns, I could have left the original lightly drawn string unblinded. In many cases, the patterns themselves clearly define the string areas on their own. In this particular tile, the string is easy to “see” even without the shading because the patterns simply don’t cross over the line. It is OK to cross a string line, but I didn’t want to do that in this “lesson 1” tile so that the boundaries created by the string could be clearly seen.
The point about using a hard pencil lightly is that, as a tangler becomes more experienced and confident, she or he may not want the string, border, or corner dots to be so obvious. In the tile on the right, I drew patterns along the string, often using both sides of the string, to create the borders. It is still easy to see the different sections filled with different patterns, but the string is much less obvious. Because I drew the string so lightly, it is almost impossible to see the original pencil line that broke the tile into sections.
Bottom line: the corner dots, border, and string should be drawn just dark enough to remind you where the sections break, but not so dark that an area where you decide to jump a line shows up to “ruin” a pattern element. Who wants to see a heavy line going through a beautiful petal or leaf in a weird place?
Before you pick up a pen to draw patterns on a tile, four steps of the Zentangle Method set the session tone and break the tile into small work areas. Step 1 is Gratitude and Appreciation. Step 2 is Corner Dots. Step 3 is Border, and Step 4 is String. The drawing begins in Step 5, called Tangle. But that discussion is for the next post.