A major principle in Zentangle® is captured by the phrase, "No mistakes." Meaning, even if you do something "wrong," there's always a creative opportunity to explore and you may come out with something even better.
So far, despite being obsessed with the tangle below, I get it "wrong" every single time. And yet, it always looks good anyway (to me at least). I drew it on my 2023 calendar; it's "wrong" again, and I still love it.
I was forced to work around the error(s) but ended up with a cover design I will enjoy viewing anyway this year. In the process, though, I believe I have finally figured out the last piece of what I need to change, although I haven't tried it yet. Likely I'll continue to be obsessed by this tangle for some time to come! No mistakes, no mistakes, no mistakes.
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
Just an amazing class from Lynn Mead of The Tangled Mind today--a benefit for children in Ukraine. I loved every minute of the class.
Lots of discussion about MC Escher (of course), but also excellent teaching and plenty of time to tangle. Done on gray cardstock with a black Micron 05 and graphite pencil with some white chalk pencil for highlights. This was very much in the "quick and dirty" mode. Fun!
This falls into the "you never know what you are going to get" category.
When your ScratchArt tiles are all ten years old or older, you can be pretty sure that over time the black coating will have adhered itself like super glue to the surface of the paper and scratching will be about 40 times harder than it should be.
Such was the case here.
Using an extremely dull piece of wood was also a factor.
As was lack of practice.
Result: a vibrant candidate for the Museum of Bad Art. (Which is one of my all-time favorite places to go when I need a mood booster. Do check out that link--it's a real place.)
And I am still laughing.
It's similar to meditation: the process can dig up some very stuck stuff and the results aren't pretty at times (even when run thru an iPhone filter, which, alas, no meditation app can do).
A sense of humor really helps.
Yup, I'm gonna keep on practicing. Stick with me, ok?
PS, if you'd like to try your own hand at ScratchArt, click that link to get the cheap stuff at amazon. Note that my set is so old it doesn't even look like this anymore but it's by the same people. If you prefer to work with better quality materials, just google "scratch art paper" and you'll find some high-quality options that will make a huge difference in the quality of your finished product. Tools really do make all the difference. Search the web and you'll see some stunning art made this way, using better tools (and more consistent practice).
...or am I just incredibly messy?
Hard to tell. Both, I think. I'm at the beginning of a new rug (one reason I haven't been posting drawings much is that I've been so busy doing punchneedle embroidery, finishing off my last traditionally hooked rug, and now starting a new traditionally hooked rug).
Here's what my studio floor looked like last night and still today.
I guess I know myself well enough to know that I need to throw stuff all over the floor and leave it while I look at it for a few days. This mess with its stumble-inducing health hazards--you take your life in your hands trying to walk across the floor--will in fact result in much trial and error but eventually I'll be able to work out a color plan.
Many rug makers I know can pull a few wools from their neat shelves, roll them together for testing purposes, decide on an initial plan, start working, tweak a bit and then boom! They are on their way. Not me. My mother would probably ask me if I was raised by wolves in Lower Slobbovia, but in fact, this is how I need to work. Yes, for me, it's all about creating chaos and allowing things to arise out of the mess.
Pretty much like the way our minds work in meditation. Until we learn to let things to arise out of the mess and begin to sort through them, allowing them to pass on their way, we just have the mess on our hands. But eventually we're able to sort through it and clear the space. Or perhaps it's just that life unfolds as it will, and things get sorted on their own.
I'm very moved by chaos theory, and that sense of energy. That quantum physics. We don't really, in Hindu tradition, have a father figure of a God. It's about cosmic energy, a little spark of which is inside every individual as the soul.
While working on a different project (punch needle embroidery) I had a minor textile collapse when the foundation fabric shredded all the way through. Eeeeek! Although I knew what I had to do--patch it--I have been putting it off for days. I've never had to patch anything before and it was intimidating.
This morning, after a bit of tangling and a lot of meditation, I took on the task and as with many intimidating things, in actual practice it was easier than I thought. And I learned a lot.
Things I Learned:
No need to draw on the patch first, or to pin it in place. It can be done by "feel." I did lengthen the loop length by 1 (went up from a 2 to a 3). Go slowly, be prepared to back up a bit if needed. Check how it looks on the other side frequently. Afterwards, be ready to clean up well, and trim off the extra. Here are the steps (sorry I didn't take a "before" picture). Imagine a blank spot with no punching and holes in the fabric where the patch now sits:
Well of course as I was patching this up I was thinking of all the times I've screwed up in other life issues and had to try to make repairs. Oftentimes it's been quite successful. Occasionally, not.
Don't we all have to patch things up in relationships from time to time? Seems like the guidelines are the same: You cannot plan everything perfectly in advance, although you have to think things through. Then, you have to do it by "feel," going slowly and being prepared to back up occasionally. Checking frequently with the other person to see how it's going, and if it's successful (not always or immediately guaranteed), cleaning up afterwards by following through. Finally, it really helps to learn from our mistakes by analyzing what worked well and what we could have done differently.
If only we as humans could get better at patching things up. Especially in this very messy scary world right now. Someone once said, "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." And yet--even with no eraser--it is often possible to keep going and turn a mess into an eventual triumph. Let us hope we can do that in the current situation. May we all treat each other with respect, compassion, and generosity.
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.
Got up this morning thinking I'd do something on the back of that bookmark from the last post. I had dropped some watercolor on the back and was not best pleased when I noticed how the paper crinkled and--even after being flattened under some heavy books--wouldn't straighten out.
So I set to work this morning intending to practice my Punzel tangle some more. Only--
I got distracted.
Um, really distracted.
So what you see here isn't even close to Punzel. Oops. When I realized how I'd messed it up, I thought about throwing out the entire thing. But I like the other side, so in the spirit of Zentangle®, ("There are no mistakes"), I kept going.
Result: Looks like a cobra laying eggs in a flowerpatch, right? Or might it be peas ripening in some type of excessively weird peapod?
Whatever. I like it anyway. (How many times do I find myself writing, "I like it anyway" on here? But it's always true.
Time to go get this bookmark laminated, now that both sides are done.
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!
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."
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