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've been wanting to attempt an illustrated letter for quite a while and decided to try it this evening. I learned a lot doing this.
Every line in a drawing is a new experience. There's no "right" place to begin. We just start. Each individual line is a new creation. There's no "right" way to draw anything. Some drawings are "better" than others...but if we're drawing mindfully, they all teach us something, no matter the result.
It's the same with meditation. There is no one right way to meditate. Every moment is new, and if our minds wander--which of course, they always do--we simply draw in a new breath, and begin again.
Another "learning tile" done very quickly from an Artifex video. This was done fast as a thank-you gift for a friend who made me a lovely dinner. I cannot cook so cannot reciprocate, thus I wanted to draw her something as a way of expressing gratitude.
However, I needed gray-toned paper to work with, and didn't have any. What to do? I grabbed a white tile and threw a gray wash on it. Et voilà--it actually worked! I'll give it to her this evening.
Whew. When it doubt, improvise. Always a big life lesson for me.
Starting a new rug. Some of the work is deceptively tricky but I think I'm getting the hang of it. This is my second try and is an obvious improvement over the first. I'm learning as I go. That's the story of our everyday life, yes? "Learn as you go. " No instruction manual, no do-overs.
Taking each day as it comes. Not so easy to do! And not every day is a masterpiece either, that much is certain. But day by day, moment by moment, we create our lives. Hopefully, we learn as we go.
At least with rug hooking, you get to pull something out and do it over if needed.
"Yesterday I was clever, so I changed the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." --Rumi
It's hot and humid outside, not my preferred weather. Demotivating.
However, I see the value of "warming up" in other contexts, like when doing any kind of art. Warming up = doing anything mental and/or physical to get oneself going. Even sitting down for only ten minutes when there is supposedly NO TIME. Here's last night's warm-up below, a quick tangle done just before sleep, inspired by the Sunday night Tangle Time with Amy Kam.
This morning I noticed I didn't want to meditate. Not. At. All. So I applied the warm-up idea to meditation, telling myself that I only had to sit for ten minutes. And reminding myself that I could look right at the resistance the whole time if I wanted to, and that everyone has resistance at times. I did, and of course discovered that I easily meditated for my entire usual time (way longer than ten minutes) and enjoyed it.
Yep, warming up...I may not like it when the weather does it, but it's pretty darned handy for the arts and for meditation.
After warming up today, I did this:
I'm not sure it's finished yet. Probably is.
This was my second try at drawing Tisoooh (see my first attempt HERE) and I could not believe how much easier it was. So much easier! I want to continue to explore.
Thanks to my friend Susie Ng in Thailand, who actually tried the same video I described in my previous post about it and then went good-crazy into experimenting with Tisoooh on her own. You can see her amazing results HERE (scroll down until you find them but prepare for a visual feast along the way). Susie is a phenomenal artist, as you'll see!
So it started out this way...
I'm still "blobbing." A great way to try out various watercolors and watercolor techniques. These are Yatsumoto metallic watercolors. Very subtle unless you really load your brush.
There was a teeny bit of Inktense Watercolor Pencil tangling going on in the upper left quadrant.
...and ended up that way:
No idea how this happened. A friend and I were fooling around daubing several types of metallic paint on a variety of Zentangle® tiles a few months back. I've no idea what specific paint we were trying out here or even what I did.
The tile sat around with the paint scattered on it for weeks, and then I picked it up today and inserted a few scribbles. It was fun, although I'm not sure I made it better and may have made it worse. Just experimenting!
Here she is, the icon.
But since nothing is sacred these days...
She apparently was photographed attending a party shortly after posing for Leonardo.
This is her "riotous party smile."
Uh-oh. I know this is a sacrilege, right?
But what fun to try.
Romi Marks had a wonderful workshop called "Zenovating the Mona Lisa," and since I'm in full-on learning-and-practice mode I wanted to take it. My motivation actually was learning to tangle on photographs, especially on photographs with a lot of dark areas in them. I want to try this out on pictures that I've taken, and I knew there were tips I needed to learn first. Romi is a marvellous teacher and I learned a lot doing this. Next I want to try some of my own photos to see what I can do.
So many art opportunities, so little time.
And then, of course, after the party Mona needs to relax. I'm sure you've all seen this meme going around, depicting what Mona has been getting up to at the Louvre since it's been closed due to the pandemic. Wish I could find the original source to give this the right attribution but so far it's been shared so many times I don't know who came up with it.
A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation.
This was my interpretation of a well-done class by Vandana Krishna, CZT in Bengaluru, India, as a part of the Artifex series I mentioned in the last post. While I'm not sure my version actually looks like a magnifying glass, I really enjoyed the process.
On a night when--for no obvious reason--I simply could not get to sleep, working on this tangle was relaxing, fun, and absorbing. I have occasional bouts of sleeplessness, and am so glad to have drawing to occupy me when it strikes.
Here's how it looked when I finished the linework, and then on the right is how it looks after adding some color and shading. There's currently a big boo-boo in the center of the tangle (I'll probably fix it at some point), which I left in place for now. You can see it in the large version--a misplaced black line.
In my next life I will try to commit more errors.
(Jorge Luis Borges)
"There are no mistakes in Zentangle."
(Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, Zentangle® creators)
I love the life lessons I constantly learn from Zentangle®. This was another big one. I set out to draw one thing, ended up getting hopelessly lost, and by the time I finished the preliminary linework last night and forced myself to stop and go to bed, I was looking at a hot mess. I didn't think it could be salvaged.
But this morning I just had to keep going to see what would happen, and ended up with this--which I quite like. [Although it does bear a resemblance to "St Patrick's Day on Steroids," don't you think? But that's ok, I like it anyway.]
Here are the details for you tanglers out there (no need to read this part if you don't tangle--it could be boring for you): I fell in love with an Emiko Kaneko CZT video (HERE)* and thought I'd give it a try. But I misunderstood what it was: She clearly labeled the video "A Tangleation of Tissooh," but all I saw was "Tissoooh," which is a high-focus tangle by Tomas Padros CZT that I've always wanted to attempt.
Emiko made it look so easy that I was sure I could do it and learn.
Well. I did indeed learn, but not as she intended!
Mine has some resemblance to hers, but I ended up with a lot of weird space in the background, and things are not in the same places as on her tile. So did I learn a lot? You bet. But now I need to go back and find a simple stepout for ONLY Tissooh and have a go at that one tangle--this tile combines Tissooh with something like Bales, Tripoli, and Orbs. However, I do love my outcome.
For years I've heard that it's lways good to learn by copying the masters, and Eri is certainly a master of this art.
For me, the biggest learning is that no matter how bad something looks, it's highly likely that it's worth it to try and save the thing. Or as the I Ching would say: "Perseverance furthers."
*Thank you to Susie Ngamsuwan for catching the fact that I'd attributed this tile and video to the wrong CZT. Wow, much appreciated.
Note: I've been doing a LOT of copying lately, along with watching videos and going along with them. I always credit people as I'm copying. I'm on a mission to learn from a wide variety of tanglers whose skills I admire, and if that means I am copying for awhile, that's ok. It's a powerful way to practice.
Here are three quotes about copying as an effective tool in learning art:
It would have been the equivalent of Jackson Pollock's attempts to copy the Sistine Chapel. (Malcolm Cowley)
But Shakespeare's magic could not copied be;
Within that circle none durst walk but he. (John Dryden)
If my students seem to copy me when they are learning, that is good. It shows they are listening and trying to do what I tell them. They will develop their own style soon enough. (William Draper)
Finally, I took these two photos only one minute apart. The first one, on the left, was taking on a white background in indirect daylight. The second one--using the same camera with no setting changed--was taken a minute later on the blue background and in direct sunlight. WOW--look at the difference! It might as well be two different pieces, but it isn't. Isn't that incredible! It never fails to amaze me how light and a different color in the background can make the same thing look totally different.
PS: The one on the left is the actual coloring of the tile.
I am a very fortunate person. Very. Yesterday, a weekend day, I had to call for help twice: My air conditioning broke in this very hot weather (mice in the compressor chewed thru the wires and blew a fuse) and later I had to call a plumber because of a leak in my kitchen faucet spewing water everywhere. Why is that lucky? Because when I called, both of them came within 60-90 minutes even though it was a weekend, both were wonderful and both problems got resolved completely.
I'm also very lucky because I have water. And because I even have air conditioning. But especially because I have water, when so many in the world do not have safe drinking water for miles, let alone in their homes. I know how lucky I am.
Below are two pieces: the first is my attempt to draw a tangle called Drawings (pronounced "Draw-Wings"). I've never been all that good at this tangle but I love the way others do it. Yesterday I was determined to improve so I drew it on a post-it note and gave myself permission to mess up bigtime if that's what happened. So of course it came out pretty well.
I was really interested to see how well it came out when I deliberately reminded myself that the outcome did not matter. Just the practice.
After doing the post-it, I looked over at a tile I'd been stuck on for several days. I mean, I was REALLY stuck. I was planning to discard it. It was not symmetrical. The center sphere wasn't really a sphere. I had no idea what to do next and most of it was blank. I'd done the two tangles Snelly (as the "string" or container) and inserted the tangle Aleuba--this is a tile for Hanny Nura's Full Moon Mosaic on FB where each month she suggests a string and one or two tangles, always involving the moon somehow, and then everyone does what they like with them. Including adding other tangles. So I'd created the string and inserted the second tangle she suggested but the tile looked awful.
What the hell, I thought, I'll throw in some Drawings tangles in those big empty spaces. Just for practice--this can't get any worse. And then I'll add a bit of color. What came out was this, which I quite like even though it's still asymmetrical.
Well of course the big lessons are: Unless it's a life or death issue (just about never), give myself permission to screw up and see what happens. And the typical, constant lesson from Zentangle® is: don't give up on something. Keep working. If it fails, so what? It's just a fifty-cent tile. It's just practice. I feel like I got lucky again.
Seems to me that all of life is just practice. Right?
The more I practice, the luckier I get.
More Sunday night Tangle Time with Amy Kam (see previous Sunday posts) of The Peaceful Pen. This was great fun. Below are the original black and white tile, then the shaded version, then the third one is actually a print-out on my computer (which is why the entire tile looks darker) and with added color.
This is a printout of the tile above. I didn't know if I wanted to add color or not, so in order not to ruin the original tile (in case I didn't like the color), I printed out the photo on crappy printer paper. And added the color to the printout as a test. Arteza Watercolor Brush Pens in three shades of blue and a gray were used here, in addition to adding a little more graphite.
This was such a fun experiment! I ended up liking all three--the plain unvarnished first one, the shaded version, and then to my surprise I liked the color as well.
Art, like life, should be free, since they are both experimental.
The most closely-watched trial in this country in a long time ended today, with three guilty verdicts. Perhaps this signals the beginning of some kind of reckoning for racial injustice in this country. There is so much work ahead. I put my head down and sobbed when I heard the convictions--relief, and sadness. All mixed in.
Allow me to change the subject completely, as I do not want to get into the habit of posting political thoughts--that's not the focus of this blog. So there was another ending today: I finished this rug, which I've been struggling with for quite a while. I had one color scheme in mind, and it didn't work out.
Not. At. All. Which meant I had to rip out a large proportion of the rug, think about what else might work, and then re-hook a large proportion of it. I did, and just finished binding it today. Next I gave it a good steaming and took a picture. Tonight I'll sew on the label. Hurrah!
The pattern is by Pearl McGown; I believe it's a very early design of hers, done while she was still in her "geometric phase" and before she started designing the florals for which she's better known.
I did the color planning--much trickier than it sounds, as I mentioned above--and of course I did the hooking using largely #8 strips (with a few 6s and maybe even some 5s) from my stash. I bought a few scraps, but nearly all the wool (some of which I dyed) was from my stash so this rug didn't require more than perhaps a total of one yard of new wools. If that.
There was a LONG period as I worked on this where I was aiming only to "get it done," thinking it was so ugly that I'd never want to see it again. But now that I've changed the colors and done a lot of re-hooking, I like it.
My "Duncan" was inspired by one I saw in 2009 at a rug show of the late Lida Skilton Ives' work. The show was held at UConn in Storrs CT and the "Duncan" Mrs. Ives did stopped me dead in my tracks--I fell in love on the spot and knew I would hook it one day. Gee, it only took me twelve years to start my own version. Mine doesn't resemble hers one bit, but she completely inspired me. Thanks also to my friend Kathleen H who, when she saw the photo of the Ives rug, told me it was a McGown pattern--I would never have guessed. And Kathleen had already hooked her own version before we ever met, and since then has hooked a second one. Phew.
The beginning? Time to begin cleaning up the mess the production of this rug generated. And to begin a new rug. I have just the one, ready to put on the frame.
Here is the "mystery" from yesterday--solved. Joanna Quincey of Zenjo taught a quick class on Teabag Tangling Now you know what I was doing with that mess of teabags in my previous post.
(PDS: thanks so much for collecting for me, since I don't like or drink tea! I have enough to keep me going for a while.)
Jo is a terrific and inventive teacher. Here are my first tangled teabags.
Massively fun to try out! Thanks, Jo.
More to come on this tomorrow or early next week.
The prep for a grand experiment.
(this is Teaser #1)
I know the general outline of the experiment will be, but I have no idea if it will work or not. Hmmm. This could be the first & last you hear about it.
Teaser #2 is below
It's the same little punch needle "ruglet"--which I showed here a few days ago--only this time, it's lying on part of my new rug. I'm now binding the rug, and will show it in full once it's done.
"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it."
Since I'm working hard to finish my current rug, not much tangling/drawing is getting done. I just about manage to attend the 1-hour free Sunday Night group tangling led by Amy Kam, CZT, of The Peaceful Pen. I did go last night and produced this tile, which was guided by her, but I went off-road and did several things differently. In the picture on the left I thought I was done. But then this morning I added a few more things. So here are two versions of a very busy tangle.
Yes indeed, this is a very busy tile. Think of it as a tangle "sampler."
Tangles included: Weighted Printemps, Blinkt, NStitch, Brrst, N'Zeppel, Strut, Beadlines, Narfello, DaizeeMae, Bales, Therefore, and DooDah. Phew!
And now, back to working on the rug. I'm on a mission to get it done. But I do miss tangling every day.
Here is the "before and after" on my first Ecoline Watercolor Map Tangled tile. I'm curious to look at them side by side. Is the tangled tile an improvement, not as good, or is it about the same in its appeal? I had my doubts about tangling on it as I loved the plain tile.
I like them both but think I'm favoring the tangled one. Which surprises me.
Thanks, Annie Taylor CZT for great tile prep instructions and fun class! I loved the room you gave students to use whatever tangles we wished, while making good suggestions. And for your linguistic talents at teaching simultaneously in English AND Spanish! Wow.
"If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again." --Groucho Marx
I prepped that tile above** (wet on the left, after drying on the right) after midnight last night, waiting for sleep that really never came. Such intense color. I woke up after far too little sleep, thinking about the tile and how I might tangle on it. An idea floated by--oooo, more experimentation! And now, back to rug hooking. I gotta get this rug done.
**Thanks to Annie Taylor, CZT (of ArtyZen) for terrific how-to-prep the tile instructions!
Amy Kam CZT of The Peaceful Pen on IG and Facebook does a great one hour Zentangle® meditation, free, every Sunday evening at 7 pm EST. I attended my first one last night and this was the result. Well, I started last night but shortly after I joined realized I was ill, and as a result completely lost focus on her excellent directions and my entire piece went badly off the rails.
NOTE TO SELF: Never tangle right after a dinner that is not agreeing with me! I was forced to stop and lie down until I improved, but I could watch the computer screen and see the results everyone had (over 100 tanglers). My own hot mess of a first try has scribbled notes all over it so that I could have a do-over later last night, and I had no trouble with it on a fresh tile after a couple of hours. Lesson learned.
It's rare that a piece cannot be saved, but that first tile will be relegated to the trash. I was too ill to function. It's true there are "no mistakes" in Zentangle, but it's also true that at times in life things need to be faced squarely, evaluated, and then entirely redone.
"What we call experience is often a dreadful list of ghastly mistakes."
--J. Chalmers da Costa
Phew. I finally got this entire project redone and finished. It's not my best work, but now at least I know what the trouble was--my helpful teacher pointed out that I need better quality small brushes. (And lots more practice) Yes!
Here is the initial stage, the underpainting before I used the smaller (problematic) brushes to add in the tangle patterns. Although I preferred the bee I painted yesterday, I had more control in this painting overall. It's an improvement over yesterday's background wash and hexagons. I'll take improvement!
When I got to the very end (adding tangles to the underpainting) and switched to small brushes to created detailed tangles, I noticed the points on the brushes were poor and the hairs would collapse--and spread--at the slightest pressure, resulting in sloppy lines.
But it's done (below), and wow did I learn a lot in creating it. See yesterday's post for my initial problems. Now that I know what went wrong, I think I'll be able to do better work in future. I'm glad I experimented, and so glad I stuck with it long enough to try again.
There are two major take-aways:
1) As usual, anything new takes substantial practice, and
2) Do not use cheapo materials--the right tools are worth every penny.
It started out so well...and ended up so badly! The story of an epic failure.
The start: And, here we go again. Another watercolor in a class with Sam Taylor/zenlapse (she has wonderful classes mixing Zentangle® with watercolor).
Whoa, watercolor is so darned tricky! Here I have prepped a 6x6" watercolor paper with her bee template, put a wash over the background, and done some coloring of the bee itself.
Those are Fine-Tec metallic watercolors on the wings (silver) and the pollen baskets (gold) although as usual, they are so hard to show in a photograph. The overall wash and other colors I just mixed from myregular cheapo Prang watercolors.
If you really look you can see some hexagons drawn lightly in pencil and scattered randomly throughout the wash; unfortunately, as you'll see below, I did rather too-good a job erasing them so that the outlines wouldn't show in the final painting.
Hah! When it came to painting them, I couldn't see what I was doing. And I still haven't mastered the trick of avoiding "hard lines" in a watercolor wash. Watercolor has a big learning curve. That's ok. I'm determined.
Mid-stage: I'm beginning to paint the hexagonal cells. Because my light is on the left side, you can only see the gold and silver Fine-Tec there. More hexagons to come.
Having done an over-zealous job of erasing, I'm having issues making my hexagons the right shape because I can't really see my guidelines. Live and learn! I'll keep going and post the outcome next.
* * *
Er, um, no, I guess I won't.
The End: The entire project went off the rails badly just a couple of hours later. It went so far off that I ended up gently, slowly, and deliberately tearing it into several pieces (yes, I did indeed, a first for me), with the intention of keeping and repurposing parts of them somehow into another art project. I bet I can.
What went wrong? When I began tangling onto the completed background using a watercolor brush, I lost control and completely wrecked the bee. Oh, I was fond of that bee! I tried to rescue it using a Micron, but that made it so much worse.
I was stung. (pun intended) However, as I mentioned earlier, I am determined. I will re-do the entire project. Perhaps I'll improve the next time. I know I learned several useful things even though this attempt didn't work. Hope springs eternal.
Best to have failure happen early. [It] wakes up the phoenix bird in you.
This is the result of a truly wonderful class with Stefanie vanLeeuwen this afternoon <@tanglestudiostefanie>. There were students from Canada, the USA, Holland, Germany, the Carribean, and Spain. We had such a good time and I certainly learned a lot. I'll be trying this method again with other forms and colors.
Every person in the class produced something very beautiful--the sign of an excellent teacher. Stefanie had everything extremely organized well in advance.
I chuckle when I contrast the sense of control I have with colored pencils to the lack of control I have with watercolor; see yesterday's post for more on that.
Art is truly endless learning.
"Regard everything as an experiment," said artist Corita Kent. Words of wisdom.
Or should that be, Rusty AND Tricky? I did some watercolor yesterday and today and wow, was the it ever hard to handle. What a mess! The result is fun but not particularly good--I say that not to put myself down, only to say I can definitely get better with practice. It's been about 3 years since I've done any watercolor practice, and it shows. Did this one in a class by Sam Taylor (@Zenlapse on IG).
I'd gotten a new set of "tropical" colors and couldn't wait to try them out, so I tried them out on this warty fish:
It's just amazing how that darned water can get away from me. Or I would assume something was dry, only to discover it wasn't...so then I'd have one color running into the other. Or I put my hand down to draw something and would feel that sickening wet feeling under my hand--I'd forgotten that part was still sopping wet and now I'd smeared it. Yikes! Hilarious, however.
Watercolor requires patience and plenty of mindfulness. Looks like it's time for me to cultivate both.
I think I'll try doing another fish.
Because watercolor actually moves on the paper, it is the most active of all mediums, almost a performance art.
For years I've heard about Map Tangling and while I had some idea what it was (see below), and had really admired it, I didn't have time to figure out how to create it. Today I took a class with Nancy Domnauer. Great fun! She's an excellent teacher.
Here you can see my first attempts. We spent time preparing the tiles with watercolor (that's where the Map Tangling technique really applies) and then completing two monotangle tiles.
There appear to be at least two ways to prep a tile by Map Tangling. Nancy's class focuses on one. I think there is at least one other. I will be playing with this technique for sure--I know I can get better at it with practice.
As shown here and above, "Map Tangling" is when a watercolor wash is applied to a tile in such a way that the colored portion is left with ragged edges., and could be interspersed with lots of white space or just have white space surrounding it. Only the colored space is then tangled. The watercolor background frequently resembles the map of a continent or country--hence the name.
The process reminded me of gelli-printing. There was lots of pressing going on before the tiles were done, and all results were inevitably surprises.
"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
— Werner von Braun
It never stops, the learning. Here I'm trying to learn a Zentangle® technique called TranZending--a form of layering one pattern over another. I've never really gotten the hang of this before, but am happy with how it turned out. I watched one of ZenLinea's videos and followed along. What I learned: for one thing, even tho she suggests some very very faint white colored pencil guidelines to start, and I did make them faint, the wax in the colored pencil still acts as a "resist" and doesn't really get colored over later on. Which is fine -- even promising -- if it's a design element. But here it wasn't meant to be a design element. Now I know.
I may try this one again. Lots to learn, and I'd like to try the guidelines in graphite and see what happens. Once I figure this out, I can apply to my own future tangle designs.
Here are the beginning and mid-stages of this piece:
I'm always open for people saying I'm wrong because most of the time I am.
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