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.


  1. I certainly agree with you about which ones I like and which ones I don't! It's a good idea to think about what ones style is, even when - like me - I think I have one, but what is it exactly? That understanding could help throughout the creative process. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    1. Margaret, you definitely have a style. I can almost always recognize a Zentangle as yours before I see your name. I LOVE your style.

  2. Great post, Caren. Like you, I tend to wonder what my style is. I like the idea of going through past work to see which are your favorite. (I agree with you about Margaret. Can't define her style, but her work is so easy to pick out.)