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
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.
Here is another version of work I did in a class with Shie Naritomi, CZT. What a wonderful teacher. See my comments from yesterday on the background of this work.
As one person, I cannot bring peace to Ukraine. I cannot restore what they have lost: lives, livelihoods, homes, family, and peace of mind. No one person can do this alone.
But I can join with others to protest, to support. And I can take the time to sit quietly and calm myself, so that I make wiser decisions when I protest or when I support.
Drawing and meditation both do that for me. So does drawing AS meditation. The more peace and compassion I can develop within myself, the more peace and compassion I can bring into the world. Perhaps only in small ways, but if each of us were able to do this, it would be powerful.
So I have taken the time to draw this afternoon, breathing deeply and working line by line, one line at a time. It is calming. It gives me courage to watch the news tonight. Again. To witness the inhumanity. Again. It gives me courage to keep protesting, to keep supporting, to keep loving, despite it all.
Patching Things Up
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.
Borders and Boundaries
Since I am on another map tangling kick, I am thinking about borders and boundaries and what happens when they are disrespected. My heart is with all the people of Ukraine, and extends to all the other wars going on all over the planet at this moment.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
― Albert Einstein
Tacking This On.
A quick leftover tile from yesterday's session.
“Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by color.” --Cezanne
Watercolors: Sooooo tricky to use. But I love them.
How odd to be map tangling on a day when the world is experiencing one country violently overrunning another country's borders and attempting to re-write the global map by obliterating a democracy. I had prepped the tiles for this several days ago but it wasn't until today that I realized the irony of drawing this piece at this time.
Same tile, same room, same time, different lighting. Amazing difference.
I can never quite believe what a difference lighting makes in a photograph.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Groundhog Day Tile
A repeat of yesterday's tile. This is version 2.0 since I gave away the tile I did yesterday as a thank-you gift to a neighbor. I realized I still wanted a version for myself and redid it, enjoying every line.
Tangles: Didot, Rain Dotty, Pringer, Hamadox, Joy-Jirella, Chillin, Emingle. My version of a class by Indica Boyd CZT for Artifex Eruditio Spring '21. Material uses: Green and Black Microns, Gellyroll 10 in white, General's Chalk pencils in white, green, and blue, graphite, Gellyroll Luxue Gold Pearl in green. Drawn on a white Zentala tile with a gray watercolor wash.
In today's version I added substantial green coloring as well as the blue, and experimented a bit with placement of patterns. This was just as much fun as the first one.
In A Pinch
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.
I'm turning into a major fangirl of CZT Emiko Kaneko, who has a fantastic Youtube channel and shares her teaching there. This (above) is my version of one of her lessons after watching one of her free videos.
Here below are a few of the stages this mandala went thru on its way to completion. I photographed as I drew. What a calming experience.
One line at a time.
Enjoy the moment.
Mistakes? What mistakes--a mistake can be addressed and learned from.
Appreciate appreciate appreciate.
Hold the pen (hold things) lightly.
I love the lessons I learn from Zentangle®; they're directly applicable to meditation, to daily life, to just about everything.
Kintsugi: The Broken Egg
I made hard-boiled eggs last week and after they cooled this is what I saw. I took a photograph because if ever there was an egg begging for kintsugi, this one was it.
However, I ate the egg in my dinner salad, so no kintsugi took place.
Not sure what kintsugi is? It's the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold in the cracks, resulting in a mended object of striking beauty. Look HERE.
The beauty is in the brokenness.
The instant I saw that egg I wanted to paint it, though I've no idea why. Perhaps I've been thinking about kintsugi recently as I observe so much brokenness surrounding us all.
Compassion can be one way to join our pieces back together, to form a strong bond, and to heal ourselves.
I contemplate this, and then write:
Pick up your broken pieces.
Lovingly place them together.
Add the gold.
Allow time for healing.
And then, look.
So much beauty.
And here is one lovely article I saw on the topic.
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:
Blobs After and Blobs Before
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.
When You Don't know How You Got There
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!
Sit In One Place
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.
Through a Looking Glass
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.
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