I'm a day late and a dollar short with this one (a week late, actually) but here goes. Caroline Broady, our 16 year old CZT with mega-talent, created this tangle and issued it as Diva Challenge # 177. Quite impressive! I have been wanting to practice another new tangle, Maryhill, so I put that in the center and then "Truffled" around it. Somehow it ended up reminding me of the amazing Jellies (jellyfish), so I tossed some waves in underneath, along with a moon. Then I added some color randomly with my Amazing Dollar-Store Pencil (pictured just underneath). Unfortunately, the color just never picks up well in these photos, but you get the idea. Fun!
And now...on to all the piled-up chores!
What a week. I would never have thought to do this if it hadn't been our homework assignment for this week from Sketchbook Skool, but I am so glad I did. It's the "Parade of Selfies."
#'s 1 and 3 look the most like me. #6 fits well into the "Who is THAT?" category. The two Blind Contour ones are simply hilarious. I actually love all of them. More commentary after the photos. (Scroll over each to see what the assignment was.)
So, that #6 Selfie (2nd row, bottom right). Did that today. On the one hand, it looks absolutely nothing like me. There's a lot I got wrong. On the other hand, I can see some resemblance for sure. I actually like it a lot even though I wouldn't call it a "success" by the measure of how much it looks like me. So why do I like it? Because I learned a lot while doing it; I learned a lot about shading, about crosshatching, about watercolor, and just learned a lot also about what can go wrong. I am actually very pleased.
What a week of learning! To be doing this with hundreds of other students, all of us posting things daily, was remarkable. There were the inevitable comparisons and "Oh I wish I could do that" issues, but the big take-aways were 1) how many of us were willing to even try; 2) how many of us posted comments laced with self-criticism, and 3) how many people insisted "this doesn't look anything like me," which may have been true. Or, may not have been true. Finally, 4) how many students hated the assignment, or found it "painful."
I realized in reading the posts how many people truly do not like to look at themselves as they are, warts and all. That made me sad. And my, how self-critical we all are! If we aren't critical about the "art," we're horribly critical about how we look.
I get that, but it too feels sad to me.
Each day I felt like I was rolling out another aspect of myself. My selfies ALL look like me in some way, shape, or form, even if they aren't photographic reflections. I had such fun! It was hard to find the time to do it (partly time, partly fear), but when I finally sat down to work I just had a blast. There was the uncanny sense that I was discovering things about myself every day, as I saw things I had never seen before.
Someone posted a link to Rembrandt's selfies, which are funny and quirky and honest. Ditto with Van Gogh's. There was a big discussion on Rembrandt's nose, and how he handled it when doing selfies. I was curious to notice that no one mentioned Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, which have been the subject of so much discussion in the art world. I will be studying these and other self-portraits carefully. FINALLY I see the value of doing these on a regular basis. Here are just a few points:
I'm exhausted (this took time!) and SO GLAD I did this and I hope I keep it up from time to time.
Now, on to the next week of SBS.
Happy tenth anniversary to Zentangle®, a truly inspiring meditative method which has been training non-artists to finally understand that they CAN produce art for ten years now.
The tile at left is part of String Thing Challenge (#49) and I've actually used this week's string, which creates the number 10, four times on this piece, so there's a 10 in each of the corners if you look.
To celebrate, I wanted to use tangles that were particularly associated with Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the creators of the Zentangle method, so I used Rick's Paradox (he came up with it, so it's named after him), and Zinger, which is a favorite tangle that Maria has used for years and it associated with her. I threw in a few other random decorations and also a bit of Knase and of Swarm. There's even a tad bit of Crescent Moon disguised as a sun in each corner. I really do have to get a better camera; the lower right quadrant is not faded on the actual piece.
Personally, I'm thrilled to have discovered this method of accessing creativity. It appears to have catapulted me back into my creative self, and I am forever grateful to Maria and Rick for helping me to reconnect.
Here are selfies #4 and 5. #4, as mentioned in the last post, is a "blind contour" drawing; the assignment is to draw without ever looking at what you are drawing. These result in hilarious results, quite like Picassos gone amok. The second one, on the right, is part of an assignment to draw an imaginary selfie. Without any mirror or photo, what do we imagine we look like? Also known as a selfie-from-memory. 4 minutes.
This week's challenge: Stain your tile with your favorite beverage, then use that as a guideline. I used coffee (others may use tea, wine, whatever) and it only landed in the middle, with some splashes around the edges which I used when I could see them. Voila. A quickie, but fun. Following this is today's "selfie," an unusual one!
...and now for today's selfie (the SBS homework assignment for every day this week). This is a "blind contour" drawing, a common technique which involves DRAWING WHILE NOT LOOKING AT THE PAPER OR YOUR HAND. So whatever you are drawing can end up anywhere on the page, and some of these have truly bizarre results. I hope to god I don't actually look like this...I am lucky my eyes/mouth are sort of in the correct places. I tried really hard not to cheat by looking at any time, but I wonder if I may have sneaked a couple of glances. It's hard to do a blind contour! If you think it looks exactly like me, keep it to yourself. I don't wanna know.
Since I got off to a late start with these, I am trying to make up for lost time. First another quick contour drawing (contour = don't pick up the pencil once you put it down on the page). I am a suspicious looking dame, eh?
...and then a quick sketch from the mirror. Tossed in just a bit of color but didn't have time to do the entire thing. I look even more suspicious here. Or maybe startled? Perhaps I have a profitable future in caricature.
Oy VEY! The latest SBS (Sketchbook Skool) assignment is a series of selfies. This ought to be interesting. The homework for this one was to draw a portrait without ever lifting the pen off the page. Hence some of the odd lines. (I have plenty of odd lines in reality, without the additions from not lifting the pen)
I think I've discovered I don't have a good black in my watercolors. My hair is NOT "russet brown."
Ah yes, the monkey. To be clear on what I'm talking about, check out Danny Gregory's short piece today--he's writing a book on what he calls "the monkey on our backs" when it comes to doing art. He includes a very brief illustration of his own monkey at work in the post.
In my case, it's monkeys, plural. I appear to have several of them. I don't think I'm that unusual.
So here are two pieces of my Sketchbook Skool (SBS) assignment for last week, called "Fast and Slow." The assignment was: pick something reasonably complex, really LOOK at it and, using watercolor and a big brush, do a FAST DRAWING in one minute or less. Just a fast gesture to get the overall picture.
Can I tell you how long I put this off, how many excuses I made not to try it? I couldn't find my watercolors. I was too tired. I needed to do other things I was responsible for. I wanted to finish the library book that was due in just a few days (actually I had two more weeks). And on and on. Monkey-monkey-monkey. Ugh.
I used a pine cone for a model, so here's my fast drawing.
After doing that, I went out and ran some errands to let the paint dry, then came back and did the slow version, using a brown micron pen and a black micron pen to create a sketch (on top of the watercolor) where I really looked at the pine cone and tried just to record what I could see. I lost track of time so have no idea how long this took but am guessing 30-45 minutes.
The outcome, while not a masterpiece, was really fun and I rather like it. The process was also fun. I'm not quite sure I've grasped the concept of why we did this...I am thinking that it's all about seeing "fast," and then really moving in and seeing "slow," and how both processes can add to really being able to see the object. Once we learn to see it, then drawing it becomes simply a process of copying. Ok, that makes it sound boring, which it isn't--copying very precisely takes one completely out of one's thinking mind and is ridiculously satisfying. It's anything but boring.
Here are photos of: 1) the real pine cone; 2) the "fast" watercolor; 3) the "slow" sketch.
This is only my second try at doing a pine cone. Curiously, I tried doing the exact same thing in a long-ago watercolor class that I took, a three-hour one-shot class. I was horrified by the result, which I was absolutely certain looked more like a turd that a pine cone. I somehow managed NOT to throw it out, though (a fact I can't explain to this day, because I remember being really embarrassed that I had apparently drawn a turd). Years later I found it in an old journal and was really surprised to see that it looked like...a pine cone! And was actually quite good. (It's possible it resembles both pine cone AND turd, but who cares) If I can find it, I'll try to get a picture and post it in here.
That's one time the monkey managed to utterly convince me that I'd never learn to draw. I am so thankful that I kept that old sketch, and could look at it more objectively years later. Monkey mind, monkey mind--something most of us need to firmly ignore when we try to create. So right now, I'm going to go off and do a bit of mindfulness meditation, which always helps with monkeys, slow or fast.
This week's Zentangle® Challenge from The Diva was a tangle I had never seen before: Crux, by Henrike Bratz. And it was indeed a challenge; yesterday I took it for a test drive on a piece of scrap paper. Disaster! Ugh! My first tries were hideous.
I liked Henrike's illustrations, and the Diva's version, but wow, I had real trouble with it. Just couldn't get it.
So today, with great trepidation, I grabbed my Gelly Roll pens and a black tile and set to work. To warm up, I started with Squid, the organic tangle on the right of the tile.
Much to my surprise, Crux came out just fine. I have no idea why. Was it the warm-up first? It just flowed right out. Could have knocked me over with surprise. Any ideas on why this sometimes happens? Is it that the brain has had time to think about it overnight? Is it the beginning of muscle-memory from the practice yesterday, even though yesterday's results were terrible?
I am posting this before I change my mind. I am surprised to say that I like it. Even the colors are unusual for me; I never use pink. Next I'll swing by the Diva's website and see what other people are doing with this tangle.
The whole experience reminded me of my experience with high school algebra (seriously--read on and you'll see why).
Freshman year I took Algebra One. Up until then I had been a straight-A student in my academic career, although math was always a terrible struggle. Algebra One totally defeated me. I did not understand one single thing the entire year. At the end of the year I squeaked out a D, I think, the only D I ever got, and I think they gave me a D only because they couldn't bear to give an F to an otherwise A student. I knew Algebra Two was coming up in my Junior Year and began worrying the day Algebra One finished. Sophomore year we had Geometry. I did poorly at that also, but managed to grit my teeth and get through it with a B if memory serves. That summer after sophomore year I went into a full-scale panic, knowing what was coming up: The dreaded Algebra Two. I knew I could not do it.
Mid-summer I was practically physically sick with anxiety. Finally the month before school resumed I went to the library and took out an Algebra One book and brought it home. In a state of complete hopeless terror, I opened it and began reading.
I understood every word. It was a breeze to learn.
This was a complete mystery to me then, and even now. What happened? I aced Algebra Two and even enjoyed it...why? Did I mature somehow? Did my brain go to work on the topic after that horrible first year? What made the difference? I still would like to know.
Today's experience with Crux was a (very) mini-version of that phenomenon. Go figure.
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
and another quote I'm sure I've shared before:
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
In the words of the Great Julia Child: “I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.”
<Why did I not listen...>
I'm now working on the second semester of Sketchbook Skool (yes, that is how they spell it and it's referred to as "SBS"), which I highly recommend. It's the "anti-stuffy, anti-pretentious art school," more like having a collection of coaches to help you learn to sketch.
But, ya gotta sit down and do it.
...as I learned (AGAIN) today. This is an ongoing life lesson for me. How about you?
I spent most of the day avoiding the SBS assignment, which was simply to draw a piece of toast. The assignment came out on Friday; people have been posting their toast(s) on the SBS Facebook page and of course, looking at all the fantastic drawings just made me want to EAT toast. Which I did.
I kept telling myself that this was an exercise in seeing, which is so necessary for any kind of drawing; it was, in fact, an assignment to promote seeing. I was telling myself it should be easy. Right. So why was I procrastinating all day today?
Finally I got down to it. Well, of course it was difficult. Quite a bit harder than I'd anticipated. It was all about fear. And I suspect it was made more difficult when I tried to rush it. Drawing does not work that way.
As usually happens when I draw, things--including me--began to slow down. Time began to slow down. I forgot I was trying to draw toast, and simply saw all the crinkles, holes and texture. And despite my self-criticism during the process, and many moments of not having any idea what in the world to do next, I did get a result. Perhaps not the result I was looking for, LOL! Is this a picture of moldy potatoes? Or a bagel without the hole? Is it really looking like toast?
All I can say is, *I* was toast at the end, very tired. But also happy.
I'm aware of how often I procrastinate in life, not just with things that scare me, but also with things I have an aversion to (I'd name them but there simply isn't enough room to mention all the things I'm postponing).
I always feel better when I begin. I always feel better when I am in the middle. And even if the end doesn't quite match my expectations, I most definitely always feel better when I'm done.
I have a lot to learn from art.
Two Quotes on Procrastination by that prolific writer, Anonymous:
“Someday is not a day of the week.”
"Warning: dates on this calendar are closer than they appear."
This morning I set out to do the weekly Diva Challenge, which I referenced in yesterday's post.
Nothing about this turned out as expected. Not one thing. For example: I thought the Challenge would consist of selected tangles we'd be assigned to use. Nope; it was actually a challenge to pick two strings, draw one on top of the other, and then tangle it with no prescribed tangles.
Ok, I can do that...so after a bit of thought I used the beginner's "Z" string, and superimposed an S on top of that. Fine so far.
That's when the surprises started.
First, I had no idea I was about to do a monotangle. I started off in the center with Betweed, a tangle I love. And then, somehow, I kept going, and going, and going...yes, a monotangle.
Second, I noticed the paper felt fairly rough to me. I used a regular Zentangle® tile for this, the regular Fabriano paper of course, and a Micron 01 pen. After completing the tile, I went over it lightly with a kneaded eraser to get rid of the penciled-on strings.
At least, I thought I went over it lightly, but the first sign of trouble came when some of the Micron marks actually lifted off the paper and the paper in those spots looked pretty rough. Hmmm...odd. I had to take out the Micron again and go over some lines which had nearly disappeared.
Third: When I went to shade, once again the paper seemed rough and grainy and appeared to be lifting off in parts. I've never experienced this on a regular ZT tile. After shading and blending V-E-R-Y carefully and lightly (because by now I was concerned about shredding the paper!) I had to get out the Micron a third time and reinforce lines that had just been lifted right off the paper by the shading. And I know I *was* working very lightly by then.
Finally, after looking at it a while and not knowing what to think, I was inspired to get out my Prismacolor pencils and use a blue pencil very lightly. By this time, I felt like I was really overworking the piece and should just stop. But I was compelled.
After the blue pencil, I went over the entire thing with a white pencil to blend a bit. With the blue and the white pencils I was working very lightly so did not notice any more shredding. I just wanted to add a very faint touch of color.
The piece looks overworked to me because the paper looks so tired.
The good news: I really enjoyed doing this and the surprising way it developed. The bad news: I'm really unclear why the paper began to disintegrate like that. Did I cause this? Was it a bad batch of paper? That last one is hard to believe; they have great quality control. I'm thinking I must have been "bearing down" much harder than I thought, either with pen or the eraser when I went to take out the pencil lines. Of course, in classic Zentangle® technique there IS no erasing--and in truth, I really didn't need to erase anything; the lines were pretty invisible.
So what can I learn from this? 1. SLOW DOWN, even if I am not aware of rushing. 2. DON'T OVERWORK, and no erasing unless absolutely needed. 3. BE AWARE, focus on one line at a time. That's the first ZT guideline and I need to pay it more attention.
4. Sometimes when things aren't successful, they're still ok. I like this piece even if it's not my best, and I like the way it surprised me.
There are days (most of them) where I will use any excuse to avoid doing art. All the other responsibilities I have take first place, and by the end of the day I'm just too tired. But in truth, I know it's nearly always fear that stops me.
Fortunately, Zentangle® never seems to take THAT long to do, and there are always a number of weekly "challenges" being posted by avid tanglers on the internet.
I'm going to work on doing 2 of those challenges a week--the one this one went to, called It's a String Thing Challenge, and The Diva Challenge. This is one I did for the String Thing; it uses four tangles, one each successive one beginning with J- U-L-Y. It's kind of a flag-waver, which isn't really like me at all (I've nothing against flag-waving, just not my style) but since it appears all our fireworks will be rained out this year due to Hurricane Arthur, I can view it as a "sparkly-boomy" kind of tangle.
The fun thing about doing challenges is that parameters are tightly set; the even more fun thing is to see the wildly different pieces people do within those parameters, and how the individual results look so utterly distinct that it's nearly impossible to see that everyone WAS working with the same constraints. I can't wait to see what people do with this one, and will try to remember to post a link to the results here.
The absolute best thing about these challenges, for me, is that they get me drawing. Creating. Putting the pen on the paper. It's the beginning that is tough.
Once I get going, it's hard to stop.
PS, Once I get going here, it's also hard to stop! After posting this, I read this fabulous blog post by the wonderful Flora Bowley on why getting stuck is a necessary part of the creative process. Take a moment to read it, and see if you don't think that getting stuck in LIFE is also sometimes part of what we need to do periodically, in order to move on in the most mindful way.
Here is my latest rug, a scrappy punch-hooked rug. This thing took me so long to finish I had nearly given up hope of ever getting it done. It's now on the floor in my bathroom, and I am just so pleased with myself. (Note the self-satisfied look on my face--oh that's right, I forgot to photograph that bit)
But in making this rug I was reminded of the truth about a certain esoteric life principle: When you are attempting to get rid of something and trying hard to use it all up, a mysterious process occurs at night while you are sleeping; whatever it is, it MULTIPLIES while you sleep or when your back is turned.
Case in point: the yarn for this rug. I was trying to use up ALL my leftover rug yarn. I was certain this project would do it. Punch hooking takes a lot of yarn.
So I was confident.
About halfway through the rug I began to suspect the scraps of yarn were multiplying when I turned my back. And by the time I finished, I looked in the bag and was convinced. I cannot believe how much of this yarn I have left. It's as if I never made the rug. WTF?
This is a universal rule and applies to many things in life we are trying our best to use up:
...you get the idea.
But anyway--the rug is now where it should be and I love it. However, I apparently can make yet another rug, or several, with this same yarn.
Of course, should I suddenly be inspired to use this specific yarn for a tantalizing and exciting new purpose, I know that I would go to the yarn bag tomorrow and find nothing but a few short pieces.
It would all have simply disappeared overnight.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator, meditation teacher and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society