Indeed, it's been awhile.
Another round of surgery for me (nothing life-threatening), much-needed but requiring a lengthy recovery. And I'm not done yet. What I mean to say is, I AM done with the surgery but not anywhere near done with the recovery.
However, I've recovered enough to produce one tangle. Just one, but my first one in two months. That long a pause is almost unheard of for me. I had hoped to do a lot more drawing and tangling in recovery but it hasn't yet been possible.
The good news: Everything is going along well, just as predicted. I may be slow but I'm beginning to be able to "art" again. I've also been doing some punch needle embroidery but that's not at a stage where I can show it. Soon, i hope! I think I have about another 6-8 weeks of recovery to go and then I hope to be back to myself.
Time and Time Again.
I began this tile yesterday, at a late night workshop where everyone else was doing symbolic and pictorial drawings within a circular border and no one else was doing Zentangle® other than me. Given the purpose of the workshop, I think the NON-Zentangle drawings were a better idea (see the Mandala Secrets technique, which has nothing to do with tangling and is extremely interesting--I test-drove it several years ago and enjoyed it but it's not what I want to be doing just now).
Series of Surprises.
Drawn by me yesterday, and hugely relaxing to do! I think it's been years since I used my Rainbow Lead Pencil--check out previous posts on the Rainbow Lead by looking in the right-hand column at the Categories section (scroll down and you'll see that category; click there to find the previous posts).
I have missed using it. Disorganization meant I couldn't find it for quite a while but I'm getting more organized and located my itty-bitty-stub of the original Rainbow Lead as well as a newer one.
What I love about the Rainbow Lead pencil is that you can try to manage it, but you really can never guarantee 100% what color is going to come out of the tip. I've learned to figure some of it out, but it still surprises me and I love that. It forces me to respond more creatively. In this case, it meant I somehow ended up with less color than usual, and that was fine. I like the opalescent look of this mandala.
Here are 2 more photos. In the first I was in the middle of the line work, and in the second I had finished and lined up all my tools (you can see the nearly-used-up stub of my original Rainbow Lead pencil there; I have to use a ""pencil extender to use the last bit of it.
Drawing this led to surprise after surprise with the colors. I love that!
When Comparison Is Helpful
It's been over ten years since I went to my first official Zentangle® class. I've never been able to locate my actual tiles from that class (as you can imagine if you read this blog, I've got zillions of completed tiles) and believed I had lost them years ago.
Why should I care? Because occasionally, other tanglers will post "Here's my first Zentangle ever! And here is what I'm drawing now for contrast," and I always enjoy seeing the effect of their practice. Practice makes SUCH a difference! I've always wished I could find my first tile to view the effect of my own practice.
Then this morning I followed some clues that led me to look in my photo collection from 2012. And yay! I found photos of my first two tiles from my first "official" instruction by a CZT. Unfortunately I cannot remember her name, and I don't think she's teaching any more. I would like to thank her but don't know how.
We did 2 tiles in that class, which I remember as only about 2 hours long. I do remember rushing to keep up. But she got in all the basic tangles (Crescent Moon, Hollibaugh, N'Zepple, Tipple and a few others). Perhaps "speed tangling" was not the best way for her to teach, but I got the idea, including the principles, and took off from there. Without further adieu, here they are--tangles from my very first one in 2012 to 2020, eight years after I learned. The progression is obvious.
Proof that anyone can do this.
As always, I'm struck with the parallels between tangling and meditation. Practice is practice, no matter where it's applied, and it always improves things. We may not be able to see it minute to minute, but observing month after month and year after year, the difference is huge.
“Painting is a means of self-enlightenment.” --John Olsen
Certainly not perfect, but good enough. Perfection is not the goal.
I took a break today from the Lunar Phase Project (see the last few posts) and followed along on a video by Tanglewerks CZT. She has many videos; the one I watched had no words, just music (and I shut off the music). She did her mandala on a white tile. I put it mine a grey tile, made a few changes, and added white chalk to spice things up. It was a lovely way to spend the first few hours of a day--just quiet practice. A meditation indeed.
How Quickly We Forget
I used to be able to draw any phase of the Moon easily from memory. This is the Moon in Waning Crescent mode, as I've positioned it above. (of course I could flip it around 180° so that the white "horns" point left and then it would represent exactly the opposite, but this is how I drew it--waning). I haven't been watching the Moon as much during the last couple of years, and sure enough, I'm beginning to forget what's what. Time to check back in with Her!
In fact, I have a series of tiles prepped as the Moon in Her various phases and I noticed confusion as I tried to put them in order this morning. Could. Not. Do. It. Had to resort to googling the Moon's Phases (what DID we do before smartphones?) in order to turn things the right way. Yes, definitely time to check back in with Her daily changes.
While trying to determine exactly how long those tiles have been sitting around waiting for me to finish them, I re-discovered this (below). If you asked me, "Have you ever drawn an elephant?" I would have said with 100% confidence, "Nope." But here it is. And I drew it. Memory is notoriously unreliable!
I based the coloring and the stars on an amazing photo I saw of a man in India riding an elephant for a spiritual celebration of some sort (to Ganesh, perhaps?). His elephant had been covered with light blue blue dust and he or someone had painted stars all over it. It pretty much looked like this. I completely changed the blanket, though, and left off the man, and used a template for the outline of the elephant from Ben Kwok of Ornation Creation (he has tons of animal templates). So this is not a copy of the photograph, not even close. I rarely tangle anything representational but my friend Julie adores elephants so I framed and gave it to her. And I drew it exactly 7 years ago today. A lot has happened in that time--she got married and now has a lovely little boy. I'm betting the elephant picture is somewhere in her house, maybe even in his room.
Finally, since I've been on a Moon kick, yesterday I had fun with a Zendala I'd prepped with a watercolor wash a long time ago. Just playing with the tangle Ibex. I started off like the photo on the left and then somehow ended up like the photo on the right. Not my best work but oh boy did I have fun playing.
Really, it is the same tile, just taken on 2 different backgrounds under different light conditions and clearly I'd done more drawing in the version on the right. Still, when you look at the color differences, it's hard to believe it is the same tile. I think I prefer the one on the left, before I overdid the work on it. Live and learn.
Ah--I just heard that Queen Elizabeth has died. I know she was still working as recently as the day before yesterday, when she greeted the new PM. Talk about taking to a role in life with utter dedication--how serious she was about it! She wasn't perfect, but she was wonderful anyway. She was born to become an archetype, and perfectly lived the role. Go in peace, Lady.
This is part of a project I began years ago in a workshop with Martha Huggins and Molly Hollibaugh. And I do mean years ago.
It always surprises me how much better I feel on a day when I draw. Whether the piece turns out well or not, the process is mindful and meditative.
Here's a short article on why drawing--bad or good--is loved by so many. (Many of these same points could be describing the practice of meditation.) Count me in.
What happened to these people, the Mimbres, who created such dramatic and elegant pottery?
Emerging from the Mongollon culture, they were a later version of that group which lived around the Mongollan Mountains in Arizona and New Mexico from about AD 200-1450. If I am correct, the Mimbres peoples lived toward the end of that period (1050-1200 or so).
Eventually, it appears that they abandoned their homes and cultural centers for unknown reasons. Just walked away, probably dispersing into other groups or other areas of the country.
Who were they and where did they go--and why? So far, we have no answers to these questions. They leave us their inspired, graphic, dramatic pottery, from which this tile is drawn. Here we have the fish, the deer, the turtle, and the caterpillar, all very precious and symbolic to them. We have the four directions, a stylized sun, some stylized feathers. While we can say something about what modern generations of Native/Indigenous Peoples would say about these symbols, we can only guess at the full extent of what they mean to people from this era. It's a definitely a mystery.
Only their art speaks to us about who they were.
To a Mimbres Woman
by Marty Eberhardt
I see your thousand-year-old thumb print
On the plain brown potsherd.
My own thumb fits perfectly
In the curve you left.
Other more elegant pottery bits
Lie among rocks and junipers
On this hill of dry grasses.
Red-on-white interwoven geometry,
A tasseled quail,
Designs fine as any
In the art galleries of the town.
But it is this plain brown piece that draws me.
My thumb seeks the curved place, again.
I see you forming the pot
From coils of clay,
You look out over fields of corn and beans
In the valley below.
Then, as now, a red-tailed hawk dips,
A horned lizard scurries under a stone
That forms the village wall.
Beyond the fields
Green cottonwoods mark the river
Between jagged hills.
The wind shakes their leaves like a gourd rattle.
In the quiet between gusts,
The river rushes below, monsoon-strong.
It is in these wild places,
Where our thumbs
Feel the curve of another’s hand,
Places free from cement, neon, asphalt, smog,
And deadened water,
Across cultures and countries,
Beyond all reason,
We find each other.
Practice will never make perfect, but it can certainly make things better--both visually and also with my internal weather system. If I don't practice, I can tell the difference the next time I try to draw. This is one reason I take classes frequently. And if I don't practice I start to feel a build-up emotionally too. Drawing repetitive lines is incredibly soothing, calming and meditative.
Speaking of which, meditation is the same for me. If I don't practice, I begin to see the effects almost immediately in daily life.
I'm just better when I practice, whether with drawing or with meditation.
Yes, I'm now officially addicted to this tangle with its deeply graphic qualities. I added some blue and gold rings in chalk pencil when I was finished, the colors of Ukraine, since the tangle is derived from Ukranian folk art (see yesterday's post).
Tangle: Kivka. Done on a black pre-strung Zendala tile. I ignored the string, but when I was done drawing the string still showed faintly so I added the chalk pencil rings to cover it. Gold and Silver Slicci Metallic pens. Both pens were at least 10 years old and previously unused. I am lucky they worked. I don't even remember where I got them.
Yesterday and today I have been experimenting with using a 9-pointed star as a string for tangling. Below is my first attempt, done with Tomomi Galliano, CZT of the Pebbles and Drops website.. And underneath that is today's try. I like this 9-pointed mandala a lot. Nevertheless, first tries are just that: first tries. I can only get better with practice, eh?
The Point of Practice Part 2
I posted my first try at this tile two days ago here. Today I was wanting to make a card to accompany a gift certificate for a friend and decided to use the same tile design. I'm pleased with this and hope the recipient likes it. I made some minor changes in the design.
See an earlier stage of this project below:
Just getting started on the coloring, after creating most but not all of the linework.
"Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America."
That's one reason I don't mind doing the same thing several times over. I know I learn best that way.
Gifts from the Internet
This mandala was easy to draw this morning because one of the talented artists I'd taken a class with some time ago, Annie Taylor of the Arty Zen website, emailed a private video free to all her former students as a thanks. It was a how-to of this piece, so I gave it a try. Very fun.
You can see the progression above, from the linework through the finished piece. I like this mandala pattern and can see using it for other things. Will be trying it again. Thank you, Annie. It's always wonderful to get a surprise gift.
And as I'm catching up on my back-to-basics 365 Tangle challenge, here are a few more super-basic tangles from early January. The wind is howling outdoors; how lovely to stay inside and draw.
There are so many surprises in life. This was certainly one of them.
Zentangle® can be counted on for providing surprises on a regular basis. You never know where you're going to end up once you begin.
After yesterday's post I thought I would try another mandala but this time I would attempt to place the more complicated Punzel tangle in the round.
Success! However, I ended up with something that reminds me of Brutalist-style architecture, my least favorite style of all time.
You could say this got the job done, but although I technically succeeded I'm not in love.
Which leads me to wonder: what would this look like if I ran it through an iPhone app? Let's see:
In part of Mary Oliver's Poem, "The Turtle," she says:
...Crawling up the high hill,
luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin,
she doesn’t dream
she is a part of the pond she lives in,
the tall trees are her children,
the birds that swim above her
are tied to her by an unbreakable string.
For the entire lovely poem, see New and Selected Poems: Volume One (Beacon Press) or go here.
I think I like the iPhone variations better than the original in this case.
Colors of a Winter Afternoon
The temperature was zero Farenheit when I woke up and this afternoon has reached a blazing 11° F (that would be MINUS 11.6°Centigrade, correct?). I've been basking in the warmth by drawing a blue and black zendala that captures the winter colors.
Wind outside is howling, and howled all through last night.
Daylight is fading. Snow is on the way.
Hot cocoa, anyone?
By Mary Oliver
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
shoves and pushes
among the branches.
Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
but he's restless--
he has an idea,
and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake.
But his big, round music, after all,
is too breathy to last.
So, it's over.
In the pine-crown
he makes his nest,
he's done all he can.
I don't know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
tucked in a white wing
while the clouds--
which he has summoned
from the north--
which he has taught
to be mild, and silent--
thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
like stars, or the feathers
of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
that is asleep now, and silent--
that has turned itself
Holy cow, this was a hard photo to take! Two of the mandalas would look great, the third would almost disappear; I'd try again, another two would look great and the other third would disappear. I was gnashing my teeth. This is the best I could do.
This is part of a series of moon phase pieces. I have moon phases on the brain right now. I am hooking moons into my latest rug, and also working on these drawings which I began in late 2020.
My heart is like the autumn moon
perfectly bright in the deep green pool
nothing can compare with it
you tell me how it can be explained
Inspirations and Imitations
After watching my friend Jo Quincy, CZT, create a Mooka-Tipple combination tile, I thought I'd have a go. I've done this tile before but not for ages. Jo has damaged a finger on her dominant hand very badly and has been tangling with her non-dominant hand and producing work as gorgeous as if she was using the dominant one--she is really amazing. (NOTE: I used my dominant hand to do this one and it's not half as good as hers, done with her "wrong" hand.)
I tangled with a blue Micron 05 over a pre-prepped watercolored Zendala--on the left. And then tarted up the piece with some watercolor pencils and gold gellyroll, on the right above. Which one do I prefer? Don't know. My tile is totally inspired by Jo's piece, but of course it came out differently as tangling is like handwriting. Hers is much more subtle. To see hers, go HERE. And as you watch, be aware she's using her "wrong hand." Amazing!
Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.
Finally, I had to play with them on my iPhone apps and producted these 2 versions:
Playing with "special effects" is always fascinating, especially any shift in color. Knowing that we don't always see color the same way makes this even more intriguing. Which version(s) do you prefer?
Continuing with zenAgain21: Here's a Dali-inspired tile. Mine looked quite different from those done by others (they were better at listening to the directions).
I know, scary stuff, huh?
"When we are asleep in this world, we are awake in another." - Dali
He's not one of my favorite artists, but this was a fun idea to experiment with.
This was done with brown and black microns, graphite, watercolor pencils and white chalk pencil with a touch of white gellyroll on a 3.5" white tile.
Somewhere during the four days, we worked on an Opus tile (10 inches square). I have plans to re-do this one, since I liked the idea but felt a bit too rushed during the execution. It was fun though.
I have a few other things to finish or re-do, so that's it for now. What an opportunity. To be tangling for four days straight was just wonderful. And exhausting. As Molly Hollibaugh says, "Drawing is a physical act." True!
All Dressed Up
Sometimes tired old things just need to be dressed up a bit to shine.
Cue the comments on whether that's true for all of us! I'm talking about things. Ha.
This morning I found a gray tile that I'd tossed some lavender-ish watercolor on long ago, in an early attempt to map-tangle. The color had spread out over most of the tile, with absolutely no interesting shape, and was incredibly plain. BO-ring.
Out came more watercolors today and I tarted it up, used my heat gun to dry it, and went to town with some of the Inktober tangles. Better. Every tangle except one was brand new for me. Some of them turned out more successfully than others, so I'll re-do the ones that really didn't have enough room to show themselves off. Perhaps that'll be the task for tomorrow.
This is what happens when I run out of black Micron 01s and still want to tangle. Spynes, which I tried for the first time yesterday, is a really fun tangle for experimentation--I couldn't resist this second try.
The Stone House Runner is nearly done; just the usual finishing steps left. Here it is:
A meditation on the preponderance of spirals in the cosmos.
"In a spiral galaxy, the ratio of dark-to-light matter is about a factor of ten. That's probably a good number for the ratio of our ignorance to knowledge. We're out of kindergarten, but only in about third grade."
Let's Make Up for That Last One.
I enjoyed every moment of this one. Enough said.
Let Me Count the Ways
How many ways can a drawing go wrong?
I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. Oh gosh, I started off drawing the tangle Dewd, which I have never quite grasped. (an understatement if there ever was one)
The first thing to go wrong was that I discovered that my beloved Micron 01 was dying. I searched for a new one, which was when I found out I did not have another 01. What to do? I picked up an 05 instead. Oh dear.
That's one of the things that gives this very funny tile a look of having been drawn by Edvard Munch (the painter who created The Scream). But wait, there's more!
Dewd is the tangle around the edges of this Zendala. I kind-of-almost had it at first, and then totally lost it as I moved in toward the center. At several points I thought, "Oh for Pete's sake--this is rubbish, I can't go on." But hey, it's Zentangle®. We always keep going and see what happens. One line at a time.
So instead I started to laugh and plowed on. I added another tangle in the center. Oh my, a nice one but it didn't help. Edvard Munch lives on.
Well hey, in for a penny in for a pound, right? Will it help if we tart this up with color? (no) Out came the Silver Shadow Gellyroll pens. These are always tricky to use as you never quite know how they will look when dry. I followed that up with a liberal application of General's Colored Pencils in two colors. Thus proving the saying by Oscar Wilde, "Nothing succeeds like excess."
Because despite it all, I kinda like it. And I laughed my way all the way through, which is always fun.
It felt great today to just sit and tangle awhile. Quiet and relaxing. I'm rusty but the annual 'Inktober" Challenge adapted for tanglers got me going and I couldn't be happier, even though we're already nine days into the month. I plan to do what I can and thoroughly enjoy doing it. It's good to be back.
The people we tend to call Huichol in Mexico (they call themselves Wixåritari, or, The People) have a long history of art. I've admired their beadwork, small glass beads pressed into wax lining the bottoms of gourd-bowls and other objects coated with a thin layer of wax, using bright, bright colors. Check it out at the link above. They work in many media in addition to beadwork--textiles, paintings, et cetera.
This tangle is based on a shape common to their culture and others. We see it in quilting patterns everywhere, and in many other cultural contexts. Mexican CZT Celina Bonilla Martin gave a class using the form as a template. I decided to go with a different colorway and did my own thing.
Tangles included: Printemps, DoDah, Wadical, Umbler, Flux, Ko'oke'o.
What interested me was that most of the way through working on this, it looked like it was going to turn out as an epic failure on my part. It looked horrible. I wish I'd taken photos during the progression. And then I began adding the tangles and it turned around. While it may not be a masterwork on my part, I quite like it now.
How many times have I said that here, and drawn a parallel to daily life? Trying out new things often brings on a feeling of, "Oh my god, this is never going to work," and then somehow it turns out better than expected. And with practice, we just learn more and get better and better. This is certainly not true in all situations in life, but it's the case far more often than not.
The critical mind is always predicting epic failures.
Just ignore it. See what happens instead.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society