Every year at this time I find myself looking backwards. And forwards. Today I was doing some cleaning in my art room, and I found these 12-month-old-tiles below. Bittersweet, indeed.
In mid-December 2019, I was just back from a wonderful weekend with a good friend at Kripalu, drawing tangles with Martha Huggins (on the left) and Molly Hollibaugh (right) of the Zentangle® family. If this year had been normal, I'm sure I'd have done the same. But we all know it was not a normal year.
So here is a short review of some of the work we did in December 2019, with the fond hope that we will be able to do something similar in 2021. Looking at these tiles brought back so many good memories for me.
And although I'm not a Christmas celebrator, I just happened to get some non-Christmas presents this year (the timing just worked out that they arrived at Christmastime). Here are two that I'm thrilled by but haven't had time to try out yet.
This is a commemorative but perfectly functional Oxford Punchneedle, called The Peacock. Amy (Oxford) had only 1300 of these made from laminated wood, to commemorate her 25th year in business. It's a #13 Fine size and I cannot wait to try it out. Check out the bag, made of fabric to match the needle. I love it! I gifted this to myself from myself.
A friend is a gift you give yourself.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Here is the start of a mandala, just the beginning linework.
I drew this last night while studying one of Romi Marks' videos. I screwed up the center--but luckily, there are "no mistakes!" in Zentangle® and so I just kept going and did my own thing in the center. And I like the way that came out. I also changed a few things in the next layer.
This is one major thing I learned about drawing since I've begun to draw regularly. In fact once I began drawing in the Zentangle® tradition it was resoundingly, repeatedly, and overtly reinforced.: There are no mistakes--keep going and see what you can make of what is in front of you. 90-95% of the time, not only can you work through whatever is there but you can actually surprise yourself with a good result.
It's the same in meditation. And, I believe, in much of life in general. What about that other 5-10%? Anywhere from "meh, or disappointing," to a genuine catastrophe. But still, those odds sound pretty good to me.
So I persevered and began adding color. Big difference! Encouraged, I drew the outside of the tile and stopped there for a bit, having worn myself out for the day:
And here below is the finished tile. I'm glad I stuck with it.
Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.
We have no choice but to start from wherever we are, yes? I've finally had the time to start tangling again, but my recent lack of practice means I've gotten very rusty. No matter. It's just where I am in this moment. The tile at left is not one of my favorites but it's the truth of things.
The tangle is Auraknot, one that I've never quite "gotten," always making mistakes. In the past its' been frustrating! This time I finally got it, and did it successfully. One time as the frame, and then five additional times inside the frame. I was excited and pleased for myself!
But here's the thing: I'll probably never like this tangle. Even now that I know what I'm doing with it, it's just not that attractive to me. Maybe with more practice? We'll see.
It does make me think of the old saying from the I Ching, however: "Perseverance furthers." It was so satisfying to figure out how I'd been going off-course and correct myself. Now this tangle comes easily to me.
Many lessons for me here. We really can only begin anything from right where we are in that moment. And repetition can really pay off--in daily life and in formal meditation. Finally, we each have our preferences, and it's important to notice them.
With all that is going on externally in this country, tangling provides such a lovely respite and rest. And the more I do it, the more begins to come back to me. I'm working my way through Gratitangles2020 and I'm way ahead in the month already because I'm enjoying the process so much. At this rate I'll be done early. Here are two more tangles.
“When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ―Fred Rogers
Normally I don't do any type of tangling on representational art, but I made one exception for this small project yesterday. It borders on being too cutesy for me but what the heck. It's the product of a webinar I took from Zentangle® headquarters in lieu of the large multi-day seminar they had to cancel due to the pandemic.
We'd all like to "fly away" from our current global situation. I am lucky to be healthy so far, but have at least one sweet friend who is battling for her life at the moment. Everyone fighting this (and really that's all of us, even those who aren't sick) is under stress. I'll Fly Away is an old gospel song done by many choirs and artists since the 1930s. It's in the repertoire of the hospice chorus I sing in. Since I finished this tangled balloon, I've been hearing the song in my head. If you click on the link above you'll hear Alison Krauss's version, recorded for the film, O Brother Where Art Thou, which had such a great soundtrack.
Here's the same piece photographed this morning in better light and on a white background. Amazing how different things can look under different light. Much like the way we view problems in life.
Although I worked on this only two times, it took twenty days to finish it because after I got it started on the 4th of January (see below)--
--it took three weeks before I had time to get back to it. I kept looking at it with longing, but simply could not carve out the time to sit down and finish. This type of dilemma always points out to me how over-committed I am.
Here is a picture of how it looked yesterday as I picked it up again and was about 1/4 of the way through finishing it. I had put down a first layer of color on the green "leaves (top half) and was putting down a blending layer (bottom half) when it occurred to me to take a picture at this stage.
and here's another photo, different from the one at the top of the page (different lighting) of the finished piece for contrast.
It's interesting to contrast this version to another version I did (in December) as I was taking a class with The Tangled Yogi. The December 10th version was a situation where I just had to go with pencils I happened to have on hand; this one is more "me" in terms of colors and execution. I highly recommend Romi's videos and classes as I learn a lot from watching and emulating.
A video is also a great way to jump-start one's practice after a long hiatus. After I've been away from tangling for a few weeks, it's so helpful to follow along with what someone else is showing in order to rev up my own mojo. Once I've done that, I'm ready to go off on my own again.
Whew. The last two weeks have been a blur, and none of it holiday-related. I'm not a holiday celebrator (no offense to those who are--if you enjoy it all, more power to you), so most years, while others may be stressing out buying gifts, sending cards, gathering with family, I am nurturing my introverted self with quiet and reflection--I love it! But not this year. Visitors--welcome indeed but unusual for this month--a few minor health inconveniences, a couple of intensive workshops, and on and off insomnia have combined to create more stress than usual. But it's all good, and it will all straighten out.
Many projects are underway. I have been working to finish my punched pillow. First I had to un-punch and re-punch some areas, and then begin the finishing process. It's a time-taker but I hope it will be worth it. Here's what I re-punched:
I got that fix done (all will be revealed once I get the pillow completed), and now I'm into the messy process of creating and binding the back. This boring looking beige-y broadcloth was the single fabric I could find that would not clash horribly with the front. Hopefully it won't show once it's done. I'm creating an "envelope back" for the first time, and sure hope it works.
Next up: a good friend and I were lucky enough to go to a workshop with the Zentangle® folks at the Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the focus was creating a Compass Rose. I had made one before in 2016, and you can find it HERE in this blog. I wrote about the origins there as well. We used a very different method this time (no protractor, just folding the paper). All of us made small Zendala versions first and here was the class mosaic (some are missing from this mosaic):
We then moved on to beginning the actual Compass Rose. I wish I'd thought to take more pictures. I only have one "before" photo, below. Wish I'd taken pics from the folding-stage through the initial black and white stage, then adding color, then embellishing, etc. This (below) was perhaps almost halfway through. I wasn't enamored of it at this stage. That is an understatement.
We then added the North arrow and used the Embedded Letter tangle technique. I liked it a bit better but was still dubious. We added a bit of gold gellyroll as well. Still dubious. However, that was as far as we got in the workshop and I took my tile home, where it sat for over 2 weeks until I had time to get to it.
That happened today. Below is the finished (??) piece.
Yup, working and taking my time on it definitely improved things.
Finally, I took a chance on a product I saw on a Kickstarter campaign and it arrived last night. I haven't yet had a chance to play with it:
Looks like it will work great, but I've yet to take it for a test-drive.
Just too darned busy.
A good night's sleep would also help.
"Last night I dreamed I ate a ten-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone."
A friend stopped by my house today, exhausted and distraught, sharing a very sad but very familiar story of serious family trouble. I think I may have been the first person outside the family she told. There was nothing I could do but listen. I can only hope that being present with her, and listening, was enough to help.
She was here for hours. After she left I had to help myself, so I did this "variation," of the tile above, experimenting with what I'd learned in Zen Linea's class to produce this on a Bijou tile (2"x2"):
Listening with loving-kindness was the only thing I could do.
I am frequently reminded, as I hear other people speak of what they are going through, of how fortunate I really am. I am grateful for my life, with all its warts and minor upsets and imperfections. And with all its privilege and grace.
Compared to what some of those who matter to me are going through, I often feel like the luckiest person on earth.
May she and her family heal. May all those who suffer heal. May all of us know peace.
Oh boy! New gray-toned paper to play with.
I'm beginning to think I do my easiest tangling late at night. Both the previous work and the work below were done very late. It was after midnight when I finished each of them. I'm thinking that being tired slows down the critic in my head, plus at that time of day my goal is really relaxation, and I don't care much about what comes out of the pen. The result is usually better than the more self-conscious efforts when I'm more alert.
I take note that in meditation, focusing on the current moment and not worrying about the "results" is prime. And so is acknowledging that there is an inner critical voice; realizing that the voice is "just thoughts," and that thoughts are not the same as facts. We do not have to believe or pay attention to thoughts that pass through our heads, and that goes for the critical voice as well.
It's difficult to have fun or to achieve concentration when your ego is engaged in what it thinks is a life-and-death struggle.
(W. Timothy Gallwey)
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