It began like this. 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.
So it started out as this way...
...and ended up that way:
This is all I'm capable of today. The night before last I had only 2 hours of sleep, who knows why. All day today I've been dealing with credit card fraud in a major way. It's taken hours to straighten things out. And I made a major blooper with some friends that also took quite a while to straighten out (assuming I even did get it straightened out).
Isn't this just how life is--some days great, some days awful. (I could re-write that sentence substituting "hours" or "minutes" for the word "days" and it would be equally true.)
There is nothing else to be done but to respond to each moment in the moment. And what a challenge it can be to respond skillfully.
So all I can do is work on a few small blobs. In fact, I am a blob myself today. Neither happy or unhappy, but still just a blob. Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow--even when the flow is temporarily blocked and becomes blob-like.
Here was how I started out, after watching a really fun video on IG TV by Yvonne West, CZT < @ywestart > which I thoroughly recommend.
My blobs before I tangled them. The video was fun to watch and if ever you don't feel energetic enough to tackle a full tangle, this is a terrific exercise for experimenting with watercolor in a low risk way.
A kind neighbor brought these marigolds in a tiny bottle. She collects old bottles and also grows flowers. A wonderful combination.
I could actually have given this post a much longer title. Something like: "Kind Neighbors, Marigolds, and Other Favorite Things." Too long.
Some of my favorite things. The hydrangea in an antique bottle, a book on drawing (recommended), and an old white soapstone I tangled years ago and put into a frame to use as a coaster, after first baking it in the oven to set the paint. Plus, my front porch. Love to sit out and watch the world go by.
Finally, a quick late-night tangle I did last night after watching Amy Kam's weekly Tangle Time. The tile had been given a watercolor wash years ago. I added the tangles (Gneiss, Black Pearl, Crescent Moon, Shattuck), along with colored and chalk pencils and graphite. I threw in some white gellyroll. And I still couldn't sleep--however I didn't wake up this morning until almost nine. Oooh, a lovely sleep after all. Once it actually came.
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!
This was my own version of another fun composition from Amy Kam of The Peaceful Pen. The big central diagonal attention-grabbing tangle was new to me. A sparkly watercolor pre-coat on the tile made it challenging to draw.
And here's a quote that applies equally to tangling and to meditation.
Learn to poke around. Take your time. Go slow. Get down on your hands and knees and dig around. Sit in one place for an hour at a time and let the world come to you.
(John Bates - A Northwoods Companion, Spring/Summer issue, 1997.
Today more than a hundred CZTs from around the globe gathered online with CZTs in Singapore to do an hour-long meditative tile on behalf of those who have suffered from Covid-19.
These were the same CZTs who last year donated $10K US and this year donated $12K US to Covid relief efforts as a result of their two very successful and well-run schools for tanglers.
What I loved about doing it, though, was that 3 or 4 different CZTs from the other side of the globe led us all through an hour-long meditation in which, as we drew, we focused our compassionate attention on anyone who has suffered from Covid. They did a superb job leading the meditation. I so admire the structure they've created to support humanitarian efforts. Thanks!
And now for the tiny treasure. Yesterday I went to my local bead-and-jewelry-repair shop to get my watch battery replaced. While waiting, I spotted this wooden box, which is no more than about 1 1/2" square. With what appears to be a tangled Turtle on top.
In fact the box is so small I had to take a picture and enlarge the photo in order to see the fine detail on the turtle, which just blew me away. The top of the box slides off so smoothly it's just a marvel of craftsmanship. It's so small that I cannot imagine what to put inside.
This continent was originally called Turtle Island by the First Nations People, and I still call it that. I am very fond of turtles and simply couldn't resist this tiny masterpiece.
And this leads us right back to the meditative nature of the turtle:
Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.
Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.
Turtles always strike me as devastatingly serious. If turtles could talk, I'd believe everything they said.
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)
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.
Yes, spring definitely continues. I can tell by my constantly running nose.
It's totally worth a runny nose to have such a gorgeous spring.
Today I did this in celebration.
Before I added and activated the watercolor pencils--which I am quite enjoying--the linework looked more or less like what is below. I must have prepped that Zendala with watercolor years ago because it's just barely visible there.
"Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment."
I did this during a class with Debbie L. Huntington, CZT. I was impressed by the wildly different results achieved by the students--each Zendala was completely unique. It was my first try at watercolor pencils; it won't be my last.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
I'm in a liminal place: In between rug hooking projects, in between books I'm reading, in between tangling projects, and just "in between" on a lotta things. The mind doesn't like being so in between, but that's just how it is right now.
Here's a map-tangled tile I prepped a while back and finally got around to tangling last night. I'm not sure I enhanced it. I kind of liked the prepped version before I added anything. But I'll see if it grows on me:
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
What??? How can there be such a thing as "too much color?"
That's not possible, right? I mean, look at that spectacular Squill. The bees certainly weren't of the opinion it was "too much color."
So what the heck...? Read on.
In the same fabulous patch as the Squill I found these perfect Crocus:
While you cannot really see the lush carpet of flowers--partially in shade--in this house's wonderful front garden, you can see the closeups above.
When I got home and looked at the photo I was so focused on the way the light was bringing out the spring yellow in the bush that it took me several moments to see the light shaft with a big rainbow in it hitting that same bush.
As if this little garden was being nourished by light and color.
That was my morning. Color, there's never enough. Beautiful.
So what am I talking about, "too much color?" Keep reading.
Spoiler alert: Art Catastrophe below.
The entire bottle of blue rolled off my desk, hit my legs, and made its merry way onto the floor.
You think my jeans look bad? I wish I'd thought to take a photo of the floor but I was too busy racing to mop up the mess which spread EVERYWHERE. I'm still finding traces around the room.
Thank goodness this was watercolor and wiped up easily but I used a zillion paper towels (and I don't like to waste those, but they were right there and I was desperate)
After which I took off the pants, laughed at my blue legs and my turquoise-y hands from cleaning up the floor, and spent quite a bit of time rinsing the pants in the sink. The amount of blue ink that came out was unbelievable. Fortunately I had just put a dark-colored wash into the washer, ready to run. A happy coincidence. So I threw the pants in and they've come out looking as though nothing ever went wrong.
So yes. A bit too much color in that moment.
After that, I did another tile with another set of colors (the one on the right above).
Because seriously, there really is no such thing as too much color, and my entire day reflected that.
Accident is design
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.
What should we do when there appears to be very little energy for "doing?" Sometimes we have days like that. I had one today.
Fortunately, I had two small Bijou (2"x2") tiles already prepped with Map Tangled backgrounds, so today I did them as experiments. I had to make an effort to get going since I had no energy at all.
The jury is out on whether I like the results all that much. On this first tile I put the tangle Pepper (with a few orbs added) which I tarted up with Gold Jellyroll pen in between the black Micron PN strokes and also in the negative spaces. I'm still contemplating this one. But at least it got me drawing on a day when I felt...blah. As we sometimes do, for no reason. Just blah. Not bad, not good.
How often do we notice these moments of complete neutrality? I usually don't, unless a lot of them get strung together during a day--unusual, but it does happen once in awhile. Should neutral always equal "blah?" Many folks experience an occasional no-energy day.
Perhaps I just needed a day to do nothing? Or simply to contemplate neutrality? There hasn't been much to feel neutral about in a long, long time (locally or globally). Perhaps neutrality has been snoozing, and is now waking up again. Is it actually neutrality, then, or could my over-stimulated nervous system from these last few traumatic years not recognize what it means to rest and restore itself?
Experiment #2,is also done on a pre-prepped Map Tangled background on another tiny tile. Only this time, the prep included putting a silver metallic Fine Tec watercolor glaze over the regular pink-rose watercolor. I used a purple Micron PN to do the tangle, which is Diva Dance--a tangle I love but always find quite baffling. I need remedial Diva Dance lessons!
Diva Dance reminds me of neurons in the brain, quivering and firing. And yet when I'm drawing, I'm usually totally absorbed and just not thinking. Perhaps my own dancing neurons go into some type of trance when I draw. A good thing, on days like this one.
A metallic shine is hard to capture on camera, and the deep rose color did not show truly here. As is the case with the other small experiment above, I am still waiting to decide how I feel about the tile.
In the end, it doesn't matter. The practice itself--and "showing up" even on a day when I didn't have much energy--was my intention, not the final outcome.
Show up. Sit down. Whatever comes up is simply what is arising in this moment. Notice it. No judgement.
Exactly like meditation.
A Zendala tile prepped and waiting to be tangled. I almost don't want to do any tangling on this one--I just love the look of adding metallics. I'm leaving it to think about for a good while. Watercolor paint and Fine-Tec Gold Metallic mixed a la MapTangling Method. I did this the day after a class on using the metallics with Map Tangling. Class details below.
After taking the class with Nancy Domnauer, during which we prepped and completed the tangling on three tiles (I only showed two of those), I spent just a few minutes the following day to produce the two UN-tangled tiles above. I'm learning as I go. People get obsessed with MapTangling, and I can absolutely see why. It's a surprise every time; results are always unexpected and ever-changing.
Just like our day-to-day lives.
But with MapTangling, results are likely to be beautiful every time, even if tangling on them can turn out to be tricky and challenging. That's half the fun.
Now, if I could only learn to be as calm in daily life when presented with a challenge as I am while doing this.
Here's a tiny tile I did just before bed last night. It took about ten minutes. This was done on a Bijou tile (2"x2") which I'd prepped a background on earlier in the day. This is simply more linework from one of Jo Quincy's lovely soothing videos, just what I needed before trying to sleep after a wild couple of days in my life. Once again I combined a video from Jo with my own "take" on it, by using MapTangling. Ahhhhhhhhh.
To finish up, here's an iPhone-app "distressed" version. I can never resist those iPhone apps.
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
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
Above you see one classic type of pretzel knot. On the left, when you think of it, is another type. Those are washed and dried worsted weight yarn skeins from my wildly successful bargain hunting the other day--twisted into the kind of gentle "knotty looping" that is useful when storing yarn.
I drew the tangled piece as a bookmark for a friend having a birthday next week. It's inspired by one of Sadelle Wiltshire's very nice freehand-knotting videos and this is what fell out of my pen. Perhaps I should do a Celtic Knot punchneedle piece with that yarn. These knots are very relaxing to draw.
And given the knotty problems facing us all right now, with the pandemic and a planet dealing the climate change, political messes and human rights issues, I seem to have knots on the brain.
We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.
Above is yet another tangle I have never particularly liked: Rain (it's the outside tangle on that tile). And yet I am surprised at how much I like the way it works as a border. Challenging myself to use it was a good idea.
After trying that, I decided to try the tangle Waybop on a piece of scrap paper, so I stuck this on the back of a bill I had paid, and which I'd already tossed in my recycling bin. It's on cheap copy paper and isn't even shaded. Perhaps if I do shade it and the appearance changes dramatically, I'll repost the update on another day. I had fun experimenting.
"Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is."
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.
"Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
- JK Galbraith
Ah, here it is. The prime example of Don't-know Mind, that shocking moment of extreme uncertainty. I write this the day after the election, during a time when we still don't know the results.
Here we sit.
It's not comfortable. But that is the truth of this moment.
Even once a decision is clear, we still will not know what happens next. In fact, we never can know what happens next. We are always in Don't-know Mind; it's simply more obvious today than usual. Since we are wired to prefer certainty, it's so much more convenient to ignore the reality that Don't-know Mind is our continuous state.
Another thing I don't know : who stained or painted the small square of watercolor paper I used to tangle on last night. To whomever you are: thank you. The staining was faint but spread in lovely fashion across the paper and provided a wonderful smear-y background for linework and bits of color that I added. I like the way the original background spreads out beyond the border here.
I rarely do either of these tangles, so every line on this square is a product of Don't-know Mind.
Thank goodness for Zentangle®, which is amazingly relaxing, even in the most uncertain times.
"So much of our difficulty with uncertainty is that we've evolved to survive by trying to predict the future. The seasons, the crops, where the animals will be, if we're hunting.
But if we can really take care of what's right here, this present moment, what else is the future made of, but this moment right here, right now? The future is just a continuation of this. So there's no point in worrying and being anxious about the future, if we take good care of this moment, breathing in, knowing our heart is still beating, and how miraculous that is.
Breathing out, and feeling the gift of our lungs. That's the present moment."
- Kaira J. Lingo
This is my first attempt at the tangle Khala, by Anica Kabrovec, CZT. It's gorgeous and what's known as a "high focus tangle." I have a long way to go to learn this one!
However, I've not been able to tangle in weeks. It's been totally crazy here and that will undoubtedly continue for a while. All good, just overscheduled. At times like this, it's all I can do to squeeze in any time for drawing and I truly did not want to take on anything challenging; so I treated myself to one of The Tangled Yogi's instructional videos and picked this one.
Sometimes the best way to practice is simply to copy. Even when you copy, you still end up with your own version. Thanks to the Tangled Yogi for her very accessible videos, which enabled me to do SOMETHING, even if it's not my own thing.
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