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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pattern Play

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties."   
Erich Fromm

Do you ever feel like you've hit a roadblock in your tangling? Although there are thousands of tangle patterns do you find yourself using the same ones over and over again? Well that's what I felt was happening to me. There are no rules in Zentangle, I know that, but if I didn't follow the step-outs for a pattern just as they were presented, I felt like I was doing something "wrong". When I wrote my e-book Step Out in Style, I included tangleations (variations) for several of the patterns. However, I never felt right changing someone else's patterns.

That is, until a few months ago, when I received my copy of Pattern Play, a new book by Cris Letourneau and Sonya Yencer. The book is all about thinking outside the box and changing patterns to make them your own. After perusing the book my mind was really opened up, and I found my creativity soaring. If you're yearning for more creativity, I highly suggest that you run, not walk, to get this book (or you can probably stay in your seat and order it online).

Since the book was so inspiring to me, I decided to teach a class based on it. In order to plan for the class I took out a new sketchbook and started playing with patterns. Add a little of this, change a little of that, put something here, take away something there. That's the way my mind worked as I looked at pattern after pattern, and designed new tangleations; sometimes one new look, sometimes a half dozen. I had more fun planning for this class than any other one I've ever taught. My biggest problem with it was deciding which tangleations to present in class. I wish I had time to demonstrate them all, but I guess I had to leave some things to their imagination.

As part of my planning, I created several tiles. Here is a one I did just to show several tangleations I came up with for the pattern 'Nzeppel.

The next one has "Nzeppel, Hollibaugh, Cubine, and my pattern Gaudi.

Here is one with 2 tangleations of the pattern Well, along with some Printemps.

A colored tile with Fife and Keeko  (that Keeko looks very different, doesn't it?).

And another one with Huggins and Cubine.

Then I had to throw in a Zendala with Cadent, Hollibaugh and Diva Dance.

This last one is an ATC tile with some variations on Paradox.

All this preparation led up to my class last weekend. There were three students, and I won't lie...I was a little disappointed that there weren't more. I gave them Bijou tiles (the new 2 inch square tiles), and had them do a tile for each tangleation. At the end of class I offered each of them a hole punch to punch a hole in the corner of each Bijou, and a metal ring to hold all the tangleations. Here is just a small sample of  the tiles they created.

I hope that my enthusiasm wore off on them and they will continue to come up with many of their own tangleations. As for me, the book Pattern Play, and the time that I spent preparing for this class, have opened up a whole new world of tangling opportunities. I am much more inclined now to not follow the (nonexistent) rules and to go where my imagination leads me. And I think that's a good thing!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


"Enthusiasm just creates bubbles; it doesn't keep them from popping."   Adora Svitak

Another challenge! Sometimes it's hard to keep up with them all. Well actually I don't. I choose the ones that appeal to me most, usually because of the tangle(s) involved, and then hope that I have time to do them. This week's It's a String Thing challenge (hosted by Adele Bruno, CZT, of Tickled to Tangle) was to use her own pattern Uncorked, in her own string (#62 from Tangle Patterns). Here's a picture of the string.

And here's a link to the pattern Uncorked.

I had not used Uncorked before, but it looked like it would be fun, and boy was it ever! It really began to flow and take on a life of its own, and started to burst out of the bubbles. So much so that you can't see the string at all. But I did start with the string...I promise.

Next I tried it on a black Zendala tile. This time I didn't even try to use a string. I started with four enclosed bubbles in the middle and let it burst forth from there. I drew this with my Sakura metallic gelly roll pens in copper and silver. Then I added some pink tipple, also a metallic gelly roll. Those metallic pens are beautiful on black. I thought that the pink might have been a drop too bright with the other colors, so I toned it down just a bit by using some white charcoal pencil right on top of the pink. I also used the white pencil to shade the rest of the Zendala.

Uncorked does seem like a fitting name for this tangle pattern, at least for the way I interpreted it. It's as if a bottle was uncorked and out flowed the design.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life is Full of Surprises

"One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do."    Henry Ford

When I saw the focus tangle for this week on the Facebook group Square One, I thought to myself,  "I won't be doing this week's tile!" You see, I am not a fan of the pattern Fengle, which is this week's focus. My problem with Fengle is that it just doesn't seem to go with anything, meaning I never know what other patterns to use with it. But after a few days of watching the pictures that everyone in the group was posting, I got inspired to give it a try.

I decided to keep it simple (that's my new mantra) and tangle the Fengle itself, but not add anything in the background to distract from it. Here it is...

I actually had fun with that tile and chose to do another one, this time including multiple Fengles. This one deserved a background, but hearing that little voice in my head saying, "Keep it simple, keep it simple," I just added some lines, not a real tangle at all.

Now call me crazy (that's what I'm thinking anyway)...I did another one! This one is drawn on a hand-colored tile I made. Colored first, then tangled, then shaded with colored pencils.

At this point I was unstoppable! I had two Fengle tiles in the traditional black on white, and a colored tile, so why not do just one more on a black tile? But I didn't do the normal white on black, instead I did black on black. That's right, a black glaze pen drawn on black results in a very elegant look. The photo didn't come out great, and it really looks better in person. Zenstone shading around the outside gave it a kind of glowing look, and white charcoal pencil was used to add some highlights. The funny looking thing at the bottom of the picture is a clip that held the tile up for taking the photo.

Wow! Last week when I saw the focus on Fengle who would have thought that a few short days later I would have 4 tiles? Certainly not me. Life is full of surprises...but I think it will probably be a long time before you find me using Fengle again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

"You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."   Walter Hagen

Those of you who have ever cruised know that there is always - at least on all the cruises I've ever taken - an art auction. We usually don't attend them, although one time we did and actually bought a piece of art that now hangs in my study/zentangle room. On my cruise last month, as an incentive to get people to go to the art auction, they were handing out some sort of raffle ticket along with an art print, to everyone as they walked through the ship. We did not go to the auction, but did come home with two of the following pictures of a tulip.

I'd love to give the tulip artist credit; however, I can't read the signature. But you know where my mind went immediately...the tulip was just screaming out to be tangled. I only wish they were handing out a variety of prints on the ship, because I really don't want to tangle two of the same thing. It would have been great to have an extra one had I messed up the first one and wanted to start over, but that didn't happen (yay!). So here's what I got when I put pen to paper.

The paper has a glossy surface so I used my Sakura Microperm pen to tangle, as the Micron pens I usually use would just have smeared and made a mess. The variations of color in the tulip form a natural kind of shading, so I didn't do any extra shading after tangling. 

Around the colorful area is a one inch white border which is difficult to see in the above picture (the whole print is nine inches square). I decided to also tangle the border, using the pattern Knot Rickz, a pattern which really looks better with shading. Pencil wouldn't work on the glossy surface, so I tried my alcohol markers. First I tried a Copic marker (on my extra picture), but it seemed to kind of smudge the lines I had drawn. So I tried a Prismacolor brush marker which did the trick. They're both alcohol based markers, so I don't understand why one worked and not the other.

Well, now what do I do with the extra tulip picture? I've decided to give it away to someone else who would like to try tangling it. There will be a slight difference, as I had to cut off the corners on the diagonal (just the white border). I actually might like it better that way and wish I had done that to mine before I tangled. So...if you'd like to tiptoe through the tulips with your pen, leave a comment here. Sorry, but I can only mail it to someone in the U.S. You have until Thursday, October 16 to post a comment. On Friday I will randomly pick one of the comments and post the winner here (please include your name in your comment). So check back at the end of the week to see if you will be receiving a flower in the mail!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Back to Square One

"I go wherever my creativity takes me."   Lil Wayne

Another week and another focus in the Square One Facebook group. Pendrills. I've only used this tangle a couple of times before but remember enjoying it when I did, so I decided to give it another try. I wound the Pendrills around and around (not quite sure when to stop) and then added some B'Dylan, a fairly new (I think) pattern from Mary Beth Schoonover. I love the light, feathery feel of B'Dylan.

This tile was inspired, in part, by a tile posted by Cherryl Moote, where she used "powder puffs," as she called them, in the background. Although she didn't seem too happy with the way hers turned out, I loved the look, and that's what led me to this.

Although the Pendrills are all tangled up (no pun intended), the tile still has a simple, uncluttered look to it. At least that's the way I see it. And I love it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back to Basics

"I'm going back to basics, to where it all began, I'm ready now to face it, I wanna understand."  Christopher E. Martin

I belong to a Facebook group called Square One: Purely Zentangle. Everyone is invited to share their 3 1/2 inch square white tiles, completed in black pen, with pencil shading. That's it...back to ZIAs (Zentangle Inspired Art). Each week there is a focus tangle if you choose to use it, although you don't need to.

This week's focus tangle is Betweed. It's always been one of my favorite tangles, and my favorite way to use it is in...I'm not sure what to call it....maybe columns? You can see what I mean in this tile, where I used Betweed with 'Nzeppel. The first one is unshaded.

Now the shaded version.

If you follow my blog you may recall me saying, more than once, that I like contrast in my Zentangles. Well, this one does not have my usual contrast, but I really like it anyway! I had so much fun  that I decided to do another Betweed tile. 

Unshaded with some Knightsbridge and Diva Dance...

And shaded...

You'll notice that I brought back the contrast for this one. The repetitive strokes of the lines in Betweed are very soothing to me. I love to use the pattern as the stem of a flower or trunk of a tree, as I did in the piece below, which I completed last year (just noticing that there's not a lot of contrast in this one either!)

I think I'm all Betweed out for now. Wondering what the focus for next week will be.