Friday, November 21, 2014

Let it Bleed

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."   Pablo Picasso

I'm always on the lookout for new artsy ideas that can be incorporated into my Zentangle work. A while ago my daughter found something on Pinterest that she thought I might like... using tissue paper to color a canvas. I've used many different methods for making colored tiles, including watercolor paint, Ranger distress ink pads, dylusion sprays, alcohol inks... and the list goes on and on. But I've never tried tissue paper. 

So I decided to give it a whirl. You don't use regular tissue paper for this, but instead use bleeding tissue paper. Just as the name implies, the color bleeds onto the surface below it. And onto your fingers, so be advised to wear a pair of gloves if you want to try this, unless you like colorful fingers. The directions showed applying this technique to canvas, but not being a big fan of tangling on canvas, I wanted to see if it would work on watercolor paper. And it did...beautifully! (I used Strathmore 140 lb. paper.) I ended up with several good tiles, and a couple of not so good ones that I tossed.

I forgot to get a picture of this first tile before tangling, but here's the completed tile. I wrapped my pattern Cruze around the outside and then filled it with the new pattern Arukas. I wish my Cruze didn't try to run off the top of the tile, but it had a mind of its own.

For the next tiles, I remembered to get pictures before putting pen to paper. I scanned the tiles, which does not always depict the colors exactly the way they look in person, so I adjusted them a little in Lightroom to make them as close to reality as possible. That's why the colors in the before and after pictures might not match exactly. This first one is probably my favorite one of all that I made.

Since I loved the colors here so much, I wanted them to really shine through and chose a couple of light and airy patterns, Tofube by Damy, and Lichen by Jennifer Hohensteiner, which I think go very well together.

Next I tried one of the Zendala tiles I had cut. I like the way this one turned out, except for the yellow spot, the result of one of my fingertips that still had color from another tile, touching it.

Luckily, after tangling, that yellow spot was disguised at least a little bit. For this one I decided to use a stencil I have from Acadia Laser Creations. It was hard to get a good picture of the stencil since it's made from clear plastic, but this gives you the idea.

And here's how it turned out. I used the pattern Hi-Cs by Anita Roby-Lavery. It's normally a grid pattern but I did what I call "taking a pattern out of the grid" to give it a totally different look.Then I filled the outside sections with Knightsbridge and finished it off with some line work.

If you'd like to try the tissue paper method for making colored tiles, you can find the tutorial that I used here. I found the tissue paper on Amazon. It's a lot of tissue paper that will last me a lifetime! I have several more tiles that I made, so when I get around to tangling them I'll post them another time. If you decide to try it, I'd love to see your tiles!

Monday, November 17, 2014

In the Groove

"Once we get into the groove, we're kind of like long-distance runners - that adrenalin kicks in for me and I just keep running - and I don't stop."   Keith Urban

On a recent lunch stop at a restaurant I've never been to before, I saw the following piece of stained glass. (I know it's not a very good photo, but I just took it while sitting at my table, purely for inspiration).

I immediately saw the pattern Flux, and couldn't wait to sit down and try to create this very swirly, flowing look that is different than any Flux I've ever drawn before. Later that evening this is what emerged.

I began with a pattern in the round center, but it quickly became overwhelmed by the Flux and didn't look right at all. So I decided to just blacken it in, which adds to the boldness of this tile, and I love it! This is exactly the style I was talking about in my recent blog post What 's Your Style?, bold yet airy (sounds like I'm describing wine!)

I've also been working on some more tiles that illustrate the style that I love. The first one here was drawn on one of my hand-colored tiles, using the pattern Y.A.F. with some variations. I filled the background with orbs. Lots of strong contrast here. It feels very tropical to me.

For another one with contrast, I used my tangle pattern Canz, and surrounded it with Bunzo.

I'm glad to say that since spending some time analyzing what I liked and didn't like in my Zentangles, I think I've found my groove! I know I'll still create some pieces that I'm not all that happy with, but hopefully that will happen a lot less often.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mr. Sandman

"It is our art that has an opportunity to leave a footprint in the sand."     Hugh Newell Jacobsen

What an adventure we had this past Friday! 

Inspired by Simon Beck's and Andres Amador's snow and sand art work, I recently asked several of my tangling buddies (former students) if they would like to join me to tangle in the sand at the beach. I was so excited when most of them said that they'd love to do it. I wasn't too sure if they would just think I was crazy. 

But I guess they didn't think I was totally crazy, so the planning began. Thanks to Barb Round, fellow CZT from Vancouver Island, Canada, for sharing with me some information and tips from when she tangled in the sand. Living in the Charleston, SC area, there were various beach spots I could have chosen. One of my friends accompanied me on a session to scout out these areas and decide what would work best. The tide charts needed to be studied to determine when the sand would be wet enough to work, the tide would be low enough to give us space, but not too low that it would start coming back up and wash us away before we were finished. I finally worked through all that and chose a date (and a rain date just in case).

I told everybody what supplies they would need - rakes and poles (one person brought hula hoops to help mark circles!) I worked out a sketch of a design that we would start with, kind of like the string for a traditional Zentangle. I thought about the best way to get the design laid out so it would be fairly symmetrical. Here's the sketch I drew of what I envisioned.

Friday morning proved to be absolutely beautiful, with pure blue skies and a temperature around 60 degrees. We could not have asked for a more perfect day. When we arrived at our spot, there were several people out walking and biking on the beach. As soon as we started setting up, people came over to see what we were doing and I handed out a few brochures about Zentangle.

I could keep you in suspense, but I will start by showing you the finished Zentangle art work we created.

Picture taking was going to be a challenge. We were tangling right next to a pier which would provide great photos from above, but it is really the property of some condos, and it's gated and can only be accessed with a code. So I brought a 6 foot ladder to get up as high as we could. As we were taking some of the first photos from the ladder, a woman came over who was watching us and taking some pictures of her own. She asked if she could get up on the ladder to get some photos. She said, "You know you can get some good photos from up on the pier." When I told her you need a code to get through the gate, she said, "I have the code."  And she was willing to give it to me! I think she was from out of town and staying in a condo there. What a stroke of luck. So some of the pictures you will see here were taken from the ground, some from the ladder, and some from the pier. They were also taken on 3 different cameras which each produce a little bit of a different tone in the images.

Here we are in the beginning stages, using string and poles and hula hoops to measure out and mark the design. I must say that we worked together very well as a team to get this done.

Next we drew Knightsbridge (a checkerboard ) in the "arms" of the design to give it a uniform look.

Here the knightsbridge is completed and each tangler is working on the in-between parts with tangles that they were comfortable with.

Here are a couple of pier views as the work progressed nicely.

The happy (and tired) tanglers posing for the picture.

Putting the finishing touches on as the ladder stands by.

Some more posing for the camera.

Everyone decided to put their name outside the section they worked on.

A couple of last pictures of the completed project with the pier as a beautiful backdrop.

I had a blast working on this little (maybe I should say big, or even super-sized) project and my friends all said they did too (I hope they meant it). We were all tired, some of us with achy backs and feet, but were very proud of what we had accomplished. I think I learned a couple of things that I would do differently if I ever do this again. One of those things being that I think the patterns that have areas "blackened" in show up better and make more of an impact than the ones that are mostly comprised of lines. 

Later that evening when I looked at my watch and realized it was about high tide time again, I sadly pictured the smooth sand left behind where our masterpiece had been. 

I want to thank Cindi, Celia, Tammy, Cheryl, Jamila, and Jill (in no particular order) for going along with me on this adventure. If I decide to give it another go, I'll let you all know. (They're probably all running to hide right now...)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dancing in the Moonlight

"Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars."   Les Brown

A while ago Sakura (pen company) came out with new Moonlight Gelly Roll pens that have a finer tip than the originals. In case you haven't used them and don't know about them, the Moonlight pens are nice bright, neon type colors, and some even glow under black light. They can be used on white tiles or paper, but I love them for the way they look on black. I've had the original pens for some time, and always wished they made them with a finer tip since the wider tip makes it hard to tangle many patterns. Well, my wishes came true, and they now come in a finer tip. I was very excited about them, bought them right away, then put them aside for when I had time to play with them, and as things go, that time didn't come for a few months. 

I finally got around to it, and here is my first try. I used Strathmore Artagain black paper, cut into 3.5 inch squares. I found that the pens work better on this paper than they do on the black Zentangle tiles, which seem to soak up the ink more. But even on this paper, I had to go over some of my lines to get the real bright color I wanted. After I had tangled with the Moonlights, I did a couple of auras with my favorite white pen, the Uni-ball Signo UM 153, and then added some shadowy effects with a white charcoal pencil. 

I wanted to work some more with the pens, so when I went out of town last weekend I brought them with me. I never travel without some of my Zentangle supplies, but unfortunately this time I forgot to bring my rings full of patterns to inspire me. Luckily I have Sandy Steen Bartholomew's tangle library app on my phone, so I pulled that out. Here I used the pattern Dyon, along with some embellishments. And again, some white charcoal shading.

I decided to do one more "tile."  I chose Sandy's pattern Falls since I had spent some time viewing and photographing waterfalls that afternoon. Because it was Halloween that day, I used the orange Moonlight Gelly Roll, along with white. Then I added another of Sandy's patterns, Quiff, which reminds me of clouds, in remembrance of the cloudy skies that hovered above us at the waterfalls. And of course some shading.

I love the way the white pen looks with the neon colors. If you haven't tried the Moonlight Gelly Rolls yet, you really should. They're quite fun as a break from the traditional black and white (which will always be my favorite way to tangle).

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's Your Style?

"Style is a reflection of your attitude and your personality."   Shawn Ashmore

I feel like I've been in a Zentangle slump for a while. As much as I enjoy the process of tangling for the relaxed, focused state it puts me in, I just haven't been that happy with a lot of my finished Zentangles or ZIAs (Zentangle Inspired Art). That shouldn't matter to me since Zentangle is supposed to be as much about the process as the outcome, right? Right...but I'm still disappointed when I'm not satisfied with what I've done. After all, I'm only human.

So I'm on a quest to "find my style." Studying my work that I'm really happy with, I tried to figure out what those pieces have in common. The conclusion that I've come to so far is that they are fairly simple and uncluttered. When I use two or three patterns on a tile, and sometimes only one, I like the look better than when I use more. It's easier to appreciate the beauty of each tangle pattern without the overload of too many. And I must remember to leave some white space, because I always love it when I do.

I've also discovered that my favorite tiles are the ones that have a boldness to them - big contrasts between the light and dark. And even though it may sound like a contradiction, my favorites have an airy and flowing feel to them. Yes, I can have boldness and airiness at the same time!

Another observation is that my favorite tiles are the ones that have no string to start. I just choose a tangle to begin with and then build another off of that, until I'm satisfied.

Coincidentally, while I've been contemplating my style recently, I came across an article on finding your style in photography, which is a hobby of mine. This article states, "One of the rules that you hear a lot is to simplify your image." Then it goes on to say that you can't always simplify a scene. Maybe not, but in Zentangle I can simplify to my heart's content.

The article also says, "There are so many photographers out there that are wanting to copy someone else's style instead of finding their own." I think that is true in Zentangle also, especially with all the social media sharing. I see so much beautiful work and am inspired by so many other talented tanglers, that it would be easy to copy their work. But I try to figure out what it is I really like about what I see, what ideas and concepts they have used that I can apply to my work while putting my own unique spin on it.

Another quote from the article: "...the important thing about photography rules is knowing when to follow them, and when to vary them up just enough to fit your image." There are no rules in Zentangle, so I can't possibly be breaking them, but nevertheless, I felt like I was when I drew a pattern and it didn't look just like the way that it was originally presented. (I touched on this in my last blog, Pattern Play.) So I had to learn to allow myself to vary those patterns to fit my image. I had to allow myself to break the rules that really aren't rules.

That article on photography ended with, "Don't forget that art is very subjective and what works for one image may not work for another. Experimenting with techniques and composition helps you to learn about photography and find your own creative balance." I think that we can easily replace the word photography in that quote with the word Zentangle.

That's exactly what I'm trying to do - find my creative balance, my own style, in Zentangle. It's an ongoing process, and my style today is different than it was last year, and it may be different 6 months from now.

I'm including a couple of tiles here to illustrate some of the points I made.

Here's one of my all time favorite Zentangles. It includes only two tangles, Cruze and Phicops, so there's the simplicity. It has blackened areas to add boldness, but the way I see it, the style is still airy. And I did not begin with a string. It meets all the criteria of my "style."

Last week I did these tiles for the Square One Facebook group. I love them because they're nice and bold. I stuck to one or two tangles and no real string. 

Here are two tiles I did a while ago that are definitely NOT my favorites. There are too many things going on for my (current) taste. I started these with a string, and they just feel a little too rigid.

Now that I've become more aware of what my style is, or at least what I want it to be, I hope I'll get out of my Zentangle slump and be creating art that is more self-gratifying. I would love to hear your comments. Do you have a style?  If so, how would you describe it? Has your style always been the same, or has it evolved over time?

If you'd like to read the photography article that I quoted in its entirety, you can find it here.