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).
Ok, that title is WAY more dramatic than what is actually happening. In fact, I'm doing well in real life but am just barely beginning to think about doing anything other than reading. My little "medical adventure" took 2.5 MONTHS away from normal life, and the single thing I could do was read. 50+ books in 8 weeks. But as I heal, I hope to be back on track.
I have been extremely eager to tangle or do some textile work over the past month, but have been unable to get comfortable enough. Only in the last few days did I think I might be able to draw soon, and today I sat down and gave it a try.
This is what happens when you are unable to practice for a long time:
Wonky wonky wonky!
After nearly 3 months, it's just wonderful to be tangling ANYTHING, even if I've lost a lot of aptitude. As I said in the header to this post, you gotta start somewhere.
Very similar to meditation--after a time with little to no practice, you gotta start somewhere. The big lesson of meditation is "Begin Again. And keep going." It's the same with Zentangle®. Just start again, and keep going.
Practice will never make perfect, so give up that idea. But practice will prove itself to be worthwhile over and over. Practice makes for noticeable improvement.
I'm on it!
Hmmm, it's been awhile.
Consider me on a temporary hiatus while I attend to a few life changes and a medical issue. All is well, just distracting. Hopefully I will begin again some time in June.
“The Fallow Time”
When you are lying fallow,
Surrounded by your leaves,
Rooted in cold, unyielding earth
And leaden sky overhead…
Do not think that you are done.
You cannot live in constant Spring,
Nor was your previous green a trick.
Your barren now is holy space
Miraculously pregnant with you.
Rest in fruitful letting go and soon
Your green returns again.
...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.
What happened to these people, the Mimbres, who created such dramatic and elegant pottery?
Emerging from the Mongollon culture, they were a later version of that group which lived around the Mongollan Mountains in Arizona and New Mexico from about AD 200-1450. If I am correct, the Mimbres peoples lived toward the end of that period (1050-1200 or so).
Eventually, it appears that they abandoned their homes and cultural centers for unknown reasons. Just walked away, probably dispersing into other groups or other areas of the country.
Who were they and where did they go--and why? So far, we have no answers to these questions. They leave us their inspired, graphic, dramatic pottery, from which this tile is drawn. Here we have the fish, the deer, the turtle, and the caterpillar, all very precious and symbolic to them. We have the four directions, a stylized sun, some stylized feathers. While we can say something about what modern generations of Native/Indigenous Peoples would say about these symbols, we can only guess at the full extent of what they mean to people from this era. It's a definitely a mystery.
Only their art speaks to us about who they were.
To a Mimbres Woman
by Marty Eberhardt
I see your thousand-year-old thumb print
On the plain brown potsherd.
My own thumb fits perfectly
In the curve you left.
Other more elegant pottery bits
Lie among rocks and junipers
On this hill of dry grasses.
Red-on-white interwoven geometry,
A tasseled quail,
Designs fine as any
In the art galleries of the town.
But it is this plain brown piece that draws me.
My thumb seeks the curved place, again.
I see you forming the pot
From coils of clay,
You look out over fields of corn and beans
In the valley below.
Then, as now, a red-tailed hawk dips,
A horned lizard scurries under a stone
That forms the village wall.
Beyond the fields
Green cottonwoods mark the river
Between jagged hills.
The wind shakes their leaves like a gourd rattle.
In the quiet between gusts,
The river rushes below, monsoon-strong.
It is in these wild places,
Where our thumbs
Feel the curve of another’s hand,
Places free from cement, neon, asphalt, smog,
And deadened water,
Across cultures and countries,
Beyond all reason,
We find each other.
Practice will never make perfect, but it can certainly make things better--both visually and also with my internal weather system. If I don't practice, I can tell the difference the next time I try to draw. This is one reason I take classes frequently. And if I don't practice I start to feel a build-up emotionally too. Drawing repetitive lines is incredibly soothing, calming and meditative.
Speaking of which, meditation is the same for me. If I don't practice, I begin to see the effects almost immediately in daily life.
I'm just better when I practice, whether with drawing or with meditation.
Yes, I'm now officially addicted to this tangle with its deeply graphic qualities. I added some blue and gold rings in chalk pencil when I was finished, the colors of Ukraine, since the tangle is derived from Ukranian folk art (see yesterday's post).
Tangle: Kivka. Done on a black pre-strung Zendala tile. I ignored the string, but when I was done drawing the string still showed faintly so I added the chalk pencil rings to cover it. Gold and Silver Slicci Metallic pens. Both pens were at least 10 years old and previously unused. I am lucky they worked. I don't even remember where I got them.
My first try at a new tangle called Kivka, from Jo Quincy, CZT (Zenjo). She just offered her second fundraising class for Ukraine. As a result, this time she'll be donating around $3000 to UNICEF for Ukranian aid and relief, based on participants' donations. In her first class she raised somewhere around $2500 I believe. What a lesson in how one person can make a difference.
"Kivka" is named for Petrykivka, which is both a small village in Ukraine (southeast of Kiev) and also the home of a style of painting called Petrykivka, a folk art of great beauty. I plan to work more with this tangle and make further donations when I can for relief there.
The new dawn blooms
as we free it.
For there is always Light,
if only we're brave
enough to see it.
If only we're brave
enough to be it.
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.
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.
How gorgeous is this? I'm so proud to say I know the woman who designed and made it.
Paula Garbarino, Fine Furniture Maker
Two views of the same luscious hearth-rug designed, dyed, and hand-punched by my buddy AE.
You haven't lived until you've sunk your toes into a hand-punched rug. So luxurious.
I would love to say "I taught her," but it just ain't true. I spent about half a minute several years back showing her how to punch and ditto showing her how to dye wool (yarn). She already had killer textile instincts in other media, and with basically no instruction developed her own style and vision. Now I feel like I'd recognize her work anywhere, and she's far surpassed me in her dyeing skills. Really beautiful work here. She also weaves, sews, embroiders, beads, and draws. Some folks just have the gift!
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
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.
Did this today as part of a fundraiser to send aid to Ukraine. There is so little we can do as individuals, but together we raised a considerable sum to help those under siege. The phenomenal Jo Quincy from Wales in the UK organized this (Zenjo). Thanks, Jo.
I had a problem.
With sewing machines.
Other than my ancient old Singer treadle, which I somehow managed to "misplace" during one of my Year of Seven Relocations (don't ask: an unhappy time many decades ago) I have always found sewing machines super-challenging.
Oh how I loved that treadle; it was just my speed, even when I was young. It was reliable. It never snarled up or gave trouble. Photo of a similar machine at the end of this post.
After the Year of Seven Relocations, I bought a small, inexpensive Sears Kenmore that had some basic bells and whistles and looked portable. I used it a few times, had the usual issues (snarled up threads causing endless cursing), buried it at the back of a closet and forgot it.
Fast-forward forty-five+ years to 2017. Having relocated yet again, I finally brought the Kenmore in for a complete tune-up--cleaning, oiling, and a bit of general loving. It was sorely needed. (Ya think?) I had not used it once in over 40 years.
Since 2017 I've only pulled it out a couple of times but now it positively hums and performs flawlessly. It's a joy to use. I used it this afternoon to zig-zag around the edge of my latest rug, and enjoyed the entire experience. It sews like a dream. It's a trooper, after 5 decades.
What a far cry from 50 years ago. I'm sure its tune-up helped, but I know that I'm actually the one who's had the major tune-up since then. I realize now the trouble was never with the machine, which in fact is extremely well-made. The "fault"--though I wouldn't use that term now--lay with my own inner unhappiness at the time. The impatience. The self-doubt. The insecurity. The determination to blame something or someone else, never taking responsibility myself.
A little meditation (OK, a lot of meditation) and an education in the School of Life have tuned me up quite a bit! It turns out I have always been the owner of a very well-made sewing machine, and only needed to grow up enough to use it.
Yesterday and today I have been experimenting with using a 9-pointed star as a string for tangling. Below is my first attempt, done with Tomomi Galliano, CZT of the Pebbles and Drops website.. And underneath that is today's try. I like this 9-pointed mandala a lot. Nevertheless, first tries are just that: first tries. I can only get better with practice, eh?
Once again I've been immersed in a large textile project so it was fun to break away today and work on this small drawing.
It's based on a free video by Romi Marks, CZT which you can view for yourself if you would like to try it. Romi (a prolific artist) recently spent time in Hawaii and was inspired by the beauty there to create this. And she was kind enough to share her inspiration with others for free.
Short, easy, and relaxing. Give it a try!
If you're a runner, you'll certainly recognize what this refers to.
(The dime is just there to indicate the size of the piece)
I punched this with Valdani thread as a prototype for a friend who wants to learn to punch. This teeny piece is relevant to a project she is creating. Before I teach her, though, I needed to figure out the right tools to loan her. She will be punching many small pieces for her project and I wanted to make it as easy on her hands as possible. After a few hours of testing various threads and needles, I think I've got it worked out. A little textile mystery that was a very fun experiment.
I posted my first try at this tile two days ago here. Today I was wanting to make a card to accompany a gift certificate for a friend and decided to use the same tile design. I'm pleased with this and hope the recipient likes it. I made some minor changes in the design.
See an earlier stage of this project below:
Just getting started on the coloring, after creating most but not all of the linework.
"Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America."
That's one reason I don't mind doing the same thing several times over. I know I learn best that way.
Can you get more simple than this? I don't think so. This must be the equivalent of doing musical scales each day.
I'm using Bijou tiles here (only 2" square) to practice one basic tangle a day. Except I'm way behind and these each only take a few minutes to do, so I've been doing about 2-4 tiles a day to catch up. This is part of a 365 tangle challenge, and I appreciate that the intention is to keep it very simple each day all year.
Good advice, whether in drawing or in meditation. Practice-practice-practice is one great first tip, and the next: don't over-complicate things. Review the basics frequently. Take time to breathe. No need to rush or push. All of these things are true for both art and true in meditation. Art and meditation are deeply interconnected, in my view.
This mandala was easy to draw this morning because one of the talented artists I'd taken a class with some time ago, Annie Taylor of the Arty Zen website, emailed a private video free to all her former students as a thanks. It was a how-to of this piece, so I gave it a try. Very fun.
You can see the progression above, from the linework through the finished piece. I like this mandala pattern and can see using it for other things. Will be trying it again. Thank you, Annie. It's always wonderful to get a surprise gift.
And as I'm catching up on my back-to-basics 365 Tangle challenge, here are a few more super-basic tangles from early January. The wind is howling outdoors; how lovely to stay inside and draw.
This is really back to basics. There's an art challenge going on that focuses on just one tangle each day in January. Really basic. No pressure. Of course I didn't get started on time but it'll be easy to catch up. Each tile is only 2" square. We began with some of the first tangles any beginner learns. A fun and stress-less project which will continue all year.
When I look back at my early start with Zentangle®, I remember that there were only about 106 "official" tangles at the time. Unbelievable. Of course as soon as Rick & Maria began teaching, all their students were encouraged to come up with their own tangles, and everyone did so with a vengeance. Now there are thousands of them. And none, not one, are originals, because humans have been drawing patterns since the Dawn of Time, and so everything we use has been "invented" many times before. The only difference is that R&M named each tangle and created easy 6-steps-or-less instructions for each one so that anyone anywhere could learn to do this. And the rest is history.
Meanwhile, this (below) is the reason I've hardly been tangling. I've been working on this rug (photo is a peep at a corner of it) but ran out of a couple of spot-dyed colors and have to wait about two more weeks to get just a teensy bit more of the fabric or the border will end up not matching. And I was on a roll! But not paying attention to my stash. Live and learn.
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