Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring is for New Beginnings

Tangling, like spring, is an opportunity for new beginnings.  Whether it is just learning to tangle for the first time, trying a new pattern, or embarking on a new creative endeavor, our Zentangle® practice allows us to grow, to blossom, and to bring joy to ourselves and others.  

I had the honor to teach a Zentangle® Basics class for a lovely group at the Wilmington Memorial Library recently.  The group was made up of beginners as well as a few familiar tanglers.  It was lovely to see how excited people became as they learned they could create stunning artwork in a short amount of time.

At the end of the class, several people commented about how relaxed they felt and how they just may have found a new passion.  I hope their love continues to grow.

Here are the stunning tiles everyone created:

My New Pattern: Flitter

My daughter loves the Disney Fairies movies.  They are sweet, fun, colorful, and clever.  The animation is stunning to go along with the fantastic natural world of the fairies.  I enjoy the films too (I'd better since we watch them so often) and would love to think of sweet fairies helping the seasons change.

In the first movie, Tinker Bell, we learn the story of how the fairy is born and learns about her true talent.  I have always loved watching as Tinker Bell is born from a baby's first laugh.  She floats through the sky in a flower seed until she reaches Pixie Hollow, gently lands, and is magically transformed into a fairy with the help of a little Pixie Dust.  I've tried to find an image online, but the closest I can get is right after she is transformed (from The Disney Wiki).  For a feel for the beauty and a look at her seed-turned-dress, check out this video clip from Disney.

The shape of the floating seed has always captivated me.  I was tangling in my Tangle-A-Day calendar one night while watching the film with my daughter.  I started adding simple curved lines until they made a small, delicate cup.  Next I added a swan like stem with a little top to it and added some shading.

I showed my daughter, and she said, "It's Tinker Bell!"  Whenever I use this pattern, she squeals with delight that I am drawing little fairies being born.

I present the step outs for my new pattern, Flitter:

Flitter can be used as a border, a fill, or a focal tangle, depending on your piece.  I look forward to seeing what you create with my fun little pattern.  Let's channel a little fairy magic into our tangling, shall we?

The Renaissance Reveal

I had the pleasure of teaching a fantastic Renaissance Zentangle® class recently.

We tangled our first tile with some familiar and new patterns exploring the use of black and brown Micron pens.  I asked everyone to look at the tangled tile, and I noticed they weren't quite impressed… yet.

Then the magic started to happen.  As each student applied shading, highlights, and colored contour, the tiles transported us back to the Renaissance days of chiaroscuro art.  The tiles came to life filled with vibrant texture all created by different pencils.  The room filled with oohs and aahs!  I am still in love with the Renaissance tiles for this very reason.

I think the tiles make it easier to begin to play with color in a way that is warm and comforting without needing 100 colored pencils, although that is wonderfully fun too.  I love how these tiles pop with just a little added highlight.  It becomes fun to adorn tangles and to see how dramatic the tiles can become.

Check out the amazing tiles that everyone created:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This Boot is Made for Tangling

There is a fantastic group on Facebook called Ornation Creation featuring artwork created by tanglers around the world.  What makes this group special is everything features, and is inspired by, templates and art by Ben Kwok.  Ben generously provides the templates for everyone to enjoy, and the resulting art is amazing.  His templates yearn to be tangled, colored, and explored!

I have only done a few so far, although I love many of his templates.  I think I got overwhelmed thinking that I had to produce large versions of the templates.  I just realized that I can print the templates in a smaller scale to work on them in a more comfortable format or size.  I created this vintage boot in my 5x7" journal using an 005 Pigma Micron.  

It was fun to think of patterns to use in the different sections.  My scan doesn't seem to show all of the shading, which is my favorite part of this piece.  
I studied Victorian culture throughout college and read many long, obscure novels from the era.  I always joke that I could have been a Victorian in another life.  The second I saw this template, I knew I had to tangle it.  I see many tangled boots in my future.

Templates, stencils, and other tools can be a lot of fun to enhance tangling.  They can inspire creativity and encourage us to try things in new ways.  They can also introduce some additional stress.  Once I start to add other tools, I can find a little intimidation and questioning creeping into my process.  As much as I loved the boot, I found myself looking for patterns that had the shape I wanted rather than freely tangling.  I enjoyed tangling this piece and am pleased with the end result, but it wasn't quite as relaxing as if I had randomly picked patterns and let the process carry me on my creative journey.  I practiced a bit on a scrap paper first rather than letting the artwork unfold as it wants to without a preconceived idea.

Working with a template or on a specific project can move away from the intention of the Zentangle® method but can still be enjoyable.  Once I selected my tangles, I enjoyed the relaxation of tangling in small areas.  Sometimes I like working on a piece like this to push myself creatively.  

I also love knowing that I can return to the relaxing, free-flowing Zentangle® method anytime I want so I don't have to think about what comes next.  It is freeing to realize that the method is always there and only a tile away from me.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Finding Color in the Darkness

I've been battling a nasty cold and haven't had much energy for anything let alone whining on the couch.  Not very zen.  I can get pretty down when I don't feel well, and I sometimes find it hard to see the light at the end of the tissue box.

Today I am feeling slightly more human.  
I left the house.  
I ate normal food.  

I tangled.  

If anything will get me out of my funk, it is tangling.

I had been inspired by several posts on the new Square One: Purely Fun Zentangle® Facebook group inspired by the fabulous Meredith Yuhas, CZT.  After such inspiration, I knew what would make me feel better--playing with color!  I used a black Zentangle® tile and filled it with some Fife and Fescu then colored areas with Prismacolor pencils.  I added a little highlight in the intersections with some white charcoal pencil.

This piece makes me happy.  It reminds me that there is always color and light even on the darkest days.  Even if I feel horrible, I can find comfort that it is temporary and that I will feel better, brighter, and happier soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tangler's Block

It happens to many of us.  Tangle, tangle, tangle, block.  Either life gets in the way or we just get stuck. Sometimes it's life stress, and sometimes we can be become blocked about our tangling.

I recently taught an amazing private lesson with a talented tangler who had been feeling stuck.  She has eagerly learned many exciting techniques and patterns and has been exploring larger works in her sketchbooks.  When I visited, she had half of this page completed and kept talking about how she just couldn't finish.  She was stuck, blocked.  She didn't know where to go.  She sounded discouraged.

When tangling becomes frustrating, it's a good time to get back to basics:

  • Breathe.  
  • Appreciate.  
  • Start small.
  • Find comfort in dots and a border.
  • Hug your canvas with a string.
  • Embrace your personal tangle.  Start with the pattern that comes naturally to you.
  • Start and enjoy.

Her piece was, in fact, stunning as it was with the portion above the center band tangled.  Throughout the lesson, I offered several options but knew that only she could choose her outcome:

1.  Accept the piece for what is and consider it finished.  White space can be fantastic in a piece!
2.  Turn the page and start again with a clean and less stressful page.
3.  Put it aside for a while and come back to it when ready to try again.
4.  Breathe and dive in by adding tangles below the border.
5.  Add string lines below the border to fill.
6.  Get back to basics by tangling on a tile to get the creative juices flowing again.

She loved what she had created and really wanted to finish the page.  I admired her determination and hoped that I could help her to get unstuck.  After our breathing exercises and playing with tiles, strings, and patterns, I think she felt freer to explore her piece.

We spent a lovely afternoon tangling, talking, and breathing.  Sometimes we just need a reminder of how wonderful this process truly can be.

I was thrilled when she wrote to me later the same day to thank me for the lesson.  She told me that I had made the process much more enjoyable for her.  Tears came to my eyes when I opened the attachment.  She had finished her piece!  In the same day she was stuck, she discovered the key to unlock her creativity and her passion.  I was proud of her and happy to have been a part of her journey.  She's even sent me additional pictures of additional pieces she has created illustrating that she is still tangling.

The amazing thing is just how much my students inspire me each and every day.

Hooray, Diane!

ZIA by Diane Gray

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I taught a fabulously fun home party with fellow moms from a local mother's club.  Since all of the moms I know tend to have a fair amount of stress (along with lots of love, adorableness, and excitement), I thought this group could use a little zen.

Throughout the night, we giggled every time I mentioned the non-representational, handmade aspect of the Zentangle® method.  The concept was fine, but my made up word choices, "roundish," "circle-like shape," and "straightish" induced chuckles.  Laughter is always great for reducing stress!  I also think that hearing the same idea multiple times can help it to resonate.

We don't need to draw perfect circles or straight lines.  Who can without tools anyway?  I know I can't, and I'm okay with that.  I'm human.  I'm an artist.  I am not trying to be a computer or to replicate some form of perfection.  Instead, I breathe and allow my artistic process to take me on a journey--straight lines or not.

Sometimes there is comfort in knowing we don't have to be perfect.  Moms have to do everything, and lately, it seems like they are expected to do it perfectly.  Even among mothers, there are factions disagreeing about the right or wrong way to parent from feeding and diapering to discipline techniques and education.  There is a lot of pressure to be a parent (I know it's hard for dads too, but I am focusing on moms since the class was moms).  There is a lot of stress with trying to make the right choices while  keeping our kids safe and happy.

We don't have to be perfect.  Our circles can be roundish.  Our lines can be straightish.  Our kids will grow up happy even if we have a cranky day, yell occasionally, or forget to use the orange plate.  They will remember their overall childhoods rather than the few days during which we were human.  Maybe they'll learn more from those human days and see that it is okay to make mistakes.  Maybe they'll be compassionate parents who will try to do the best they can too.

There are no erasers in parenting or in Zentangle®.  We can do our best to try to relax, enjoy some quality time, and breathe.

Everything else ends up perfect-ish.