Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Got It!

Even CZTs struggle with patterns sometimes.  After years of tangling and creating countless tiles and ZIAs, I find myself stuck on occasion.  It's not surprising since I continue to learn new techniques, tangle patterns, and ways of exploring my favorite art form.

Enter Quandary.

I have built up a mental block about this pattern and have struggled with it ever since it was released by Zentangle®.  Every time I created it, I'd start out okay, and then my orzo shapes would get all wonky and not line up.  I know, I know, there are no mistakes in Zentangle art.  True, but when a pattern causes me frustration, it becomes a barrier to my creating and enjoyment of the process.  I'm willing to put in effort to make a pattern work for me up to a point.  If I start to get frustrated, I put it aside and come back to try again another time when I'm up to it.  Sometimes it can take a while... like with Quandary.

The Diva posed a real quandary for me this week.  The challenge was to use Quandary in a piece.  I guess if the Diva asked me to use the dreaded pattern, I would try.  I know it's good for me.

I once again practiced the pattern in my Tangle-A-Day calendar first to get a feel for the motion.  I tried creating the triangular seeds in different ways.  I used the Diva's recommendation of creating a single seed first then building out.  That produced better results than usual for me but still didn't feel right.  For me, this pattern is tricky because it seems like the orzo shapes have to line up and be the same length to get the pattern to work.  Of course, it doesn't really matter if they line up.  Collectively, the pattern works beautifully and looks so interesting, but I still wanted to find a way to make it work that felt comfortable to me.

Next I built a six-petaled flower in the center, added the outer ring, then built triangles from there.  I think it looked pretty similar to the first one with more of a gap in between the shapes.

My favorite attempt had the triangular shapes touching at the points.  This seems to be the most consistent and least frustrating way for me to explore this pattern.  So, I think I'll stick with this way for a while.

I think it's wonderful that we get to make tangle patterns our own.  Sometimes the step outs just don't work for me or for my hand, or I build up a mental resistance to the pattern formation for some reason.  I love being able to make a minor alteration to make a pattern work for me.  It's not about doing it the "right" way; it's about doing it in a way that provides me with relaxation, an enhanced sense of focus, and the joy of creating something handmade and unique.  If I have to tweak a pattern to achieve those goals, I think it's worth it.

Here is my tile in response to the Diva challenge.  I used one of the lovely Renaissance tiles with black and brown Microns, white colored pencil for highlights, and woodless graphite pencil for shading.

I started with the brown Quandary in the center panel.  I built my triangles touching each other and was pleased with the result.  I added little circles where some lines didn't quite meet in the center.  Next, I expanded the shapes on the right to form larger seeds.  I created an inner triangular aura with circles to give a different feel along with some heavy shading.  On the far left, I built my seeds in a different way. I created bulbous triangles thinking I'd do a variation of Tripoli.  When I added interior shapes similar to Bales, I noticed that I ended up creating Quandary in a different way.  It looked almost exactly like the center section so I thought it would be fun to fill it in with black and a brown inner triangle.  I can't believe how many ways I explored to make the same pattern!

I can honestly say that I had a great time working on this tile and that I enjoyed exploring Quandary in a way that worked for me.  I think I'll have to keep it up.

If you're struggling with a pattern, maybe you just need to find a way to make it work for you.  Hmm, does that logic apply to other problems in life too?


CZT Mail

CZTs around the world sent tiles, letters, and adorned letters to the CBS Sunday Morning show on April 1 to try to bring the joys of Zentangle® to the show's viewers.  

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people could learn about this amazing art form?  What would happen if more people learned the many benefits of regular tangling?  Would the world be calmer?  Would we all feel more inspired and more able to tackle the world's problems one step--or one stroke--at a time?  I wish that people could enjoy even a portion of the benefits that I have received from my regular Zentangle practice.

Check out see a sampling of art and letters on Blog Zentangle, and learn more about this idea in a recent Zentangle newsletter.

I'd love to be in the the CBS mailroom to see all the amazing works of handmade art in that mailbag.  I hope the Sunday Morning show wants to tangle with us!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Where the Flux Takes You

It's spring which means we will soon be seeing something green popping through the still snow-speckled ground anyday now.  After this very snowy winter, I know I am ready for the first signs of spring and am appreciating the warmer weather.  I might not have the greenest thumb, but I love to create tangled gardens.
I had the great joy of teaching this fun and creative way of exploring organic tangle patterns with thirteen tanglers.  We had a lovely evening discussing flowing patterns, new ways of shading, and adding highlights to our ZIAs.

While teaching the pattern Flux, I tried describing how when I draw this pattern it typically grows and stretches outside of my borders or even off of the edge of my paper.  I think some patterns just want to be free.  I encouraged the students to, "Go where the Flux takes you."  After a good snicker, we moved on and tried several other fun patterns including Bumper, Sedgeling, Sanibelle, and Mooka.  I love all the oohs and aahs we get while covering the pussy willow-like Cat-Kin pattern (from CZT Mimi Lempart) especially on these beautiful toned papers.
In this class, we explored shading with a woodless graphite pencil that provides a smooth, heavy shade.  Within a minute, I could tell people were in love with the new pencil.  I think once you go woodless graphite, you never go back (ok, maybe for borders and strings).  

I love how each person has such a unique interpretation of the same patterns.  Some of the gardens are newly formed ready for future growth.  Others are well established, long-lived, and eager to be appreciated in their abundant beauty.  I would love to visit each and every one of these gardens if I were a dragonfly!

Look at the beautiful gardens everyone created:






In a Spiral

This week's Diva challenge was to use a spiral string.  This was the last of my 53 ATCs I was creating for a swap.  I started with a pencil spiral string then filled with a variety of border style patterns.  It was fun to see how the shapes changed as they went around a bend.

Challenge yourself to try something new or to take a pattern and try to make it fit into different shapes.  It can be interesting to see what happens if you push a tangle's creative boundaries sometimes.


I'll have to remember to take photos without the plastic sleeves next time, but I was so eager to get my ATCs on their way.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exceeding Expectations

I taught a class last week that was all about exceeding expectations.

Check out the amazing first tiles my two new students created:


When I was packing for my class, I had about eight people signed up to attend with a few maybes.   I'm always excited to teach no matter what size the class, although it can be exciting to think about introducing the Zentangle® method to a larger group.  There's just something about the energy and excitement that builds with a larger audience.

Then we were hit by plagues.  Email after email announced illnesses or family emergencies leaving me unsure if anyone would be able to attend.  I encouraged everyone to get well and to join in another class when they were able.  There's always time to explore and to learn this amazing art form.  It's far more relaxing and enjoyable when people are at their best.

I went to my class unsure if anyone would show, but I tried to remain encouraged.  I set up my display and teaching materials and was then greeted by two of the friendliest faces!  Two lovely ladies came to my class filled with enthusiasm.  We had a wonderful evening which turned out to exceed any expectations I could have had.

One of the women had seen some Zentangle art, was inspired, and even purchased some books.  She knew that she had to take a class and encouraged her sister to join her.  Both were creative and crafty but had not tried the Zentangle method previously.  Within minutes, I think both were hooked!

At the end, one of the attendees said that the class "exceeded her expectations."  Both thought this technique was just what they needed and were eager to do more (and signed up for another class!).

I had the most amazing evening with these ladies.  The class was intimate and allowed for an exploration of any questions or ideas that were raised along the way.  I enjoyed deviating from my lesson plan as we talked about different topics related to tangling.  I felt artistically invigorated and didn't want the night to end!  I always love teaching, and I never cease to be surprised by the fact that each and every class is different and brings its own unique attributes.  I learn something new every time and am always grateful.

Since I wasn't sure I'd have attendees, my expectations were definitely exceeded.  Even better, I got to enjoy a relaxing and creative night with two lovely people.  It was a joy to share my passion with them and to watch them explore the Zentangle method for the first time.

I even learned some things about myself.  I mentioned how I constantly see patterns in the world around me.  One of the students said that my daughter will benefit from my tangled view of the world.  I know that the sense of relaxed focus that I achieve from my tangling benefits me and my family, but I never realized that my creativity and world outlook had changed so much.

My students taught me that my excitement about the world around me--and the patterns that make it up--is something that I will share with my daughter.  Learning something so profound about myself as an artist, a person, and a mother certainly exceeded my expectations of the night I'd spend.

When I got home after class, my daughter asked me where I was.  I told her that I taught a Zentangle class.  She snuggled up close to me and asked if I would teach her how to do it when she was bigger.  I can't wait until she's able to hold a pen for long enough to tangle!  I look forward to a lifetime of tangling together and admiring shapes in the clouds, finding patterns in nature, and picking out shapes all around us.  She made me feel happy knowing that I have something special to share with her.  I didn't realize that I'm already sharing my passion with her in so many ways even before she's able to focus and hold her pen.

Take a chance today.  You never know when something might exceed your expectations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Tangled Birthday

I had the good fortune of being invited to teach at a birthday party for an adorable 7-year-old girl and her friends recently.

The girls explored tangling on traditional tiles and on scratch art with animal stencils.  I think the colorful scratch art was the hit of the party.

As always, I find so much inspiration from watching my students learn to tangle.  These girls were amazing to watch.  Each one played with the patterns, made up her own, and evolved patterns into new and interesting looks.

I love how fearless kids can be about trying new things.  The birthday girl looked at some of my artwork and immediately started recreating the patterns that she liked without instruction.  I hope she will continue to find patterns and inspiration all around her.

One of the girls burst with enthusiasm when she realized that some of the patterns reminded her of the Cutie Marks on her favorite My Little Ponies.  I keep smiling just thinking about her excitement.

One of my favorite moments from the party happened during the instruction of Pingline by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.  This penguin-looking pattern is fun to create but generated an unexpected response.  The mom and her smiling 5-year-old daughter noticed that the initial stages of Pingline looked just like Yoda!  First, I love that a 5-year-old adores Star Wars.  Second, it is always fun to find shapes and hidden ideas inside patterns, but it's even more fun when they remind you of things you truly love.  I hope she continues to draw Pingline-inspired Yodas all over her artwork!

This same girl was concerned when she first started her scratch art because she had colored in a part and didn't like it.  With some encouragement, she continued and filled the rest of her piece with patterns and other filled in areas.  By the end, she was beaming with smiles and said that it didn't even matter that she had colored in the first section.  I love how forgiving the Zentangle® method can be for all ages!

Check out the fun scratch art that the girls created:


I was thrilled to hear that the girls kept tangling after I left.  I hope they were as inspired as I was.  What a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Getting to Know Charlie


This week's Diva challenge was of the UMT (Use My Tangle) variety.  We were challenged to use the pattern Charlie created by Erin Olson, aka the Bright Owl.

This is an easy pattern with a lot of possibilities for tangleations and fun.  How could a pattern inspired by Charlie Brown's shirt not be fun?

I used the new Zentangle Renaissance tile for this piece because I'm enjoying playing with different colors and effects even if they don't always scan that well.

I started with creating two bands of Charlie in the middle.  Next I added some bold black stripes for a lot of contrast behind the brown.  I added Paradox inside Charlie for some delicate line work against the black.  Even though I like white space, the white gaps seemed a bit too bare to me, so I filled in with some Jetties.  I have a feeling that every Renaissance tile I create will have 'Nzeppel in the background.  I love this pattern anyway, but I like how it looks even more like stones with the white highlights.

I will be honest.  I did not like this tile one bit when I created it.  I loved making it and playing and filling in the different areas.  I typically enjoy trying new patterns.  I just wasn't thrilled with the outcome, but I did like it more after I added the heavy shading around the center blob.

What I love about the Zentangle® Method, is that it doesn't matter if I am passionate about this particular piece.  This was a small tile and a great mini canvas for experimentation.  Do we all get things right the first time?  Do we always master something new when we first do something?  Let's think back.  Were you nervous when you first got behind the wheel of a car, or did you just hop in and drive beautifully?  And even if you know how to drive, do you ever get nervous about driving to a new area?  

When my daughter (or all of us!) first walked, did she just stand up and go, or did she stumble and fall on her rear end a million times?  Even now that she's an expert walker, jumper, and dancer, she still approaches some new situations with caution.  Good thing or she'd dance off the stairs!

Sometimes learning new things, even if we have some experience, can produce unexpected or undesired results.  I think it's important to remember that life is a learning opportunity.  Just because the first try at something might not be to our standards (gasp, am I showing my perfectionistic tendencies?), it doesn't mean we give up.  

With tangling, we can always pick up another tile and start again.  I never let it get me down when I create a piece and feel "eh" about it.  Instead I just feel inspired to try again and to practice more.  Sometimes I never feel fully comfortable with a pattern or a technique.  As long as I enjoy my journey and the relaxation I achieve while tangling, that's all I think really matters.

I say, tangle on!