Wednesday, February 03, 2016

cotton & thread.

My mom is downright dangerous with her sewing machine. I was kicking back with her in her sewing room (a.k.a. her 'happy place'!) yesterday, and wondered aloud whether a Zentangle tile could successfully be stitched by machine since it's 100% cotton paper. Never one to back down from a creative challenge, she did the loopy border on her sewing machine, and then I tangled the rest.

See how the thread casts a shadow from the sun slanting in through the window? Late afternoon is the prettiest time of day in my studio, when the sunlight illuminates the inhabitants of my fish tank and my meticulously curated dust collection. ;o) 

A few other borders... they didn't make the cut, but still looked pretty cool stitched into the tiles. These patterns might look vaguely familiar to my fellow tangle junkies.

Next I'll see if I can successfully sew two tangled roundies back to back with batting in the middle, and make an ornament out of it... I only have eleven months to make it work! ;o)

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Monday, February 01, 2016


Hi, friends!
Long time no blog.

I'm gonna be honest with you...having a Zentangle facebook page has made me very lazy. I'm not one to make new years' resolutions, but I am recommitting myself to blogging this year. I have a couple big things in the works- one is a whole post on cruffle variations (trying to get it whittled down to fifty-- it's completely ridiculous right now!) and then there's a 2.0 post full of tangle remixes coming down the pike too. I'm excited about what's lumbering forth on the horizon... thank you for hanging in with me. :o)

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Soo, lollywimple. 
Yes, I can hear you shouting 'oh, whatever, that's crescent moon!' To which I say, "look again!'

This pattern is drawn as a ribbon/border. It absolutely can be drawn successfully without the initial pencil strings, but since I like to use it as a foundation to build on, I've left them in all the drawings below so you can see where the pattern started. You'll see why in a minute.

The basic steps:

first, the lollies on a string... o O o (which I will refer to as 'bubbles' from here on out, because I honestly don't know how many times one can read the word 'lolly' in a single blog post without wanting to slap the author). 

...aaaand then, the wimples!... ) ) )

Step 0: optional, but try it this way first. Lay down two parallel pencil lines, relatively close together.  When I draw auras around a shape, I don't like to let them go on and on and get too big (I'm lookin' at you, IX!), because the lines start to get harder to control. The closer together your pencil lines are, the more your auras will behave. 

• Vary the size of the bubbles (and the spaces between them, if you're feeling adventurous) along the entire length of the first pencil string. Repeat with the second, varying the size of the bubbles between the left and right sides, and offsetting them so that none are directly 'across the lane' from another.

• Add one aura to each bubble. Then start adding extra auras, here and there, very randomly. The end result can be very interesting if you don't go in order- or even double up on some before moving on to another one. You start with one on every bubble so you have the width of at least one aura between every bubble to work with later.

NOT closing off the spaces between the bubbles (as I have done below) will give you more options for blending this pattern with others. So consider this the version you would use for a simple border.

A couple more examples of a simple border... 

It's cute... but, very cool things can happen if you *don't* close off those edges! You can see how far the first auras extend past the pencil line- I LOVE irregular edges.

Here's where things start to get a little more interesting...

All those open ends mean bridges to other tangles! Oh, the possibilities! I know Mooka is not the answer to everything....but sometimes it feels like it. ;o)

I probably threw too many different patterns at this one... but I love busy line art with lots to look at, so I went for broke.

A few other examples. I know this post might not seem as straightforward as some other tangle how-tos (more art, less zen for sure) but you can see where I started if you look for the pencil strings. The other stuff just blooms out of the open spaces in between the bubbles. This is why you should always draw your initial string in pencil with Zentangle... open ends are GOOD. You can't build a city with a wall in the way!

This pattern doesn't have to make sense, visually. Continue some lines, close off others... just have fun with it. Shading does wonders, too.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

a post with no pictures.

“I don't really care what the "rules" of Zentangle are! I'm not a’s my art and I’ll do what I want!” 

I see this subject get kicked around on Zentangle fan forums from time to time. I don’t normally engage because I don’t really feel like handing angry people a stick to beat me with, but it’s hard for me to see something so inherently good and useful be misunderstood. So, I want to try to explain it. Please bear in mind that this is my own point of view and I'm not representing anyone else.

Books and Pinterest and YouTube videos are all wonderful sources for patterns for doodling/tangling/patterning/line weaving…. but all of those words are used interchangeably, and that’s where the conflict arises. The confusion seems to come from the fact that that people will refer to any intricate piece of line art as a Zentangle, because they think that’s just the latest buzzword for ‘that thing I was already doing years ago in the margins of notebooks’. 

It is possible to place identical drawings side by side where one is a doodle, and the other is a Zentangle. The reason that’s possible is because the art itself does not make a drawing a Zentangle. The art is the byproduct of the complete mental immersion in the process of ‘tangling’. It all depends on where your mind is when you do it. If you’re in this for the art, these guidelines don't matter one iota. Doodle/draw/sketch away. But if you’re craving a temporary, effective escape plan from pain, grief, or stress (or you just need a mental break) read on, because this information just might come in handy one day.

Yes, the rumors are true: there are guidelines (they're just roads to a destination, really) with Zentangle. And they don’t exist to crush your spirit. Think of them as stout little pillars that work together to support a single purpose: to refocus the mind. Zentangle is mindful. Every guideline exists to make that complete mental immersion possible, and sustain it. That's no easy task in a fast-paced culture (with a constant barrage of distractions) like ours.

#1: The first step in starting a Zentangle: a border and ’string’, drawn lightly in pencil. 

Reason: The pencil line, or string, creates sections to draw within. The string line is merely a suggestion and a place to begin. It is drawn lightly in pencil so that it will disappear behind the ink that follows. Some people have never faced a blank piece of paper and been intimidated and overwhelmed by it, but for those who have, something as simple as having a place to start is a huge relief and can easily mean the difference between success and failure. 

#2: Zentangles are completely abstract.

Reason: This eliminates the preoccupation with whether something looks ‘right’. If it’s supposed to look like a bird but something about it doesn’t look the way it should, that is what you will be preoccupied with. This actually eliminates a whole bunch of other mental hurdles that go along with drawing specific things, e.g. proportion, placement, what goes around it, etc.

#3: Zentangles are drawn only in black ink. 

Reason: This keeps the tangling process as right-brained as possible. To keep the focus on the repetition of the patterns, the slow, deliberate drag of the nib across the paper, the ink soaking into the paper in its wake. With color, decisions must be made: Paint or gel pens? Or marker? How many colors? Which ones? Where do I add them? Do they work together? If you start to add color, that is what you will be preoccupied with. And limiting drawing materials can inspire creativity in surprising ways.

#4: Patterns should be created by drawing repetitive strokes… structured, non-representational, and easy to draw in a limited number of steps.

Reason: The goal is to focus on the strokes of the pen used to create the pattern, and the controlled breathing that happens along with it. The primary goal of drawing a Zentangle is not to draw complicated tangle patterns. Some people are in it for the Zen, some are in it for the art… and there can be a pretty big difference in the way it looks. Which brings us to…

#5: No planned outcome. 

Reason: This aligns with minimizing decision-making. Relaxing into the process and just letting a Zentangle unfold as it appears line by line is calming, and it’s fun to see all those little nuances coming together here and there when opportunities present themselves. 

#6: Paper, or ‘tiles’, are 3.5 inches square.

Reason: Zentangles are designed to be finished in a short time. They’re friendly. They’re manageable. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something beautiful from start to finish in one sitting. The small size also makes it portable (Doctor’s waiting room? No problem. Two-hour wait for an oil change? Yes please!). And because it’s small, it’s easy to turn, making drawing in one direction over another more comfortable. 

#7: No using stencils, rulers, or graph paper. 

Reason: In short, there is no zen to be had in the preoccupation with perfection. There’s a certain joy in letting the pen wander without being confined to a grid or rigid space. Imperfection makes art more interesting… embrace it! Also, see #2. 

“It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact.” -Edmund Burke

#8 No erasers. 

Reason: Anything that interrupts the drawing process is going to create a shift in focus. Then it becomes less about drawing those slow deliberate lines and breathing, and more about fixing/changing stuff. Just keep drawing and let it evolve. Get comfortable with the idea that mistakes can be turned into something good and unexpected (and exciting!).

If you’re not a rule-follower, it’s ok. Not following these steps does not mean your line art is in any way bad or wrong; it just means it’s not technically a Zentangle. I’m a CZT and 99% of what I draw isn’t technically Zentangle... I’m here for the art too. It's good to know the difference, but don’t let it be a label and keep you from enjoying the journey. 

Comments and respectful discussion are welcome. Trolls will be bound and tangled. ;o)

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On sharing: I have gotten several requests for permission to share this post. I have no problem with anyone (CZT or otherwise) sharing it, either in print or online, as long as no changes are made to what I've written and I am credited as the author. If you share a link, that's great... if you aren't linking directly to this page please throw in my blog website too. Thank you so much for all the sharing, forwarding, exclaiming, virtual hugs, and 100% positive feedback.


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Monday, August 10, 2015


This pattern came to be a few weeks ago while I tagged along with various members of my family to Chuck E Cheese. I did, I'm sure, what most normal people do... pretended I was tangling on the beach with a mai tai and not surrounded on all sides by a riot of screaming children. ;o) Zentangle is so great for that... temporary mental relocation for the cost of a pen and a tile!

As per my usual, my directions probably seem more complicated than they need to be. These are just some tips and tricks that help me with my drawing style... you may not need them. And if you're not a perfectionist, you can skip this part altogether:

• This is not a fast pattern to draw... the third step especially is a real time-suck. I found that it helps to use a smaller pen for the third step than you use for the first two... and (like a lot of patterns) it really helps to slow it down while drawing it. 

• It sounds nit-picky but if you do all your circles at once, then all of your lines, then switch pens for the swoop that connects those lines you won't have to keep switching back and forth (and your swoop-to-line connections will be neater). 

• You could just draw a circle and park a flower in it, but the lines that go in first provide consistency in spacing and depth. They also keep the lines from going too far into the circle... otherwise it looks more like a flower. I draw from the inside to the edge because that works really well to control the length of the lines.

• I section off a circle the same way I section off my mandalas so I don't have to use a ruler or measure. Imagine a clock: the first line is drawn at twelve, then six, then three, then nine. I then cut those sections in half until I have the number of sections I want. Center each new line between two existing lines, and then draw the opposing one directly across from it. 

• I draw the dots in step 4 in the same order that I do the lines... I don't just go around the inside of the circle. I don't know why it works, but drawing them across from each other helps me keep the dots centered on each line.

I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I think I should have used red for this one. 

Using different numbers of lines/lobes will give you a different look. So far I've found that 12 is the easiest to section off and looks the best. And 24 makes a nice throw rug.

A little shading adds some oomph... do you see innies or outies? 

>>> An exciting update...!!! <<<

I was looking at the above tile last night (after I'd already published this post, naturally... that's when the good ideas roll in!), when it hit me: this pattern would look SO AWESOME with one of Lynn Mead's dewdrops in the center! I'm rather fond of daisies so I was quite taken with this idea. I contacted Lynn, and she graciously accepted my challenge and sent me this beauty. If you want to learn how to draw your own dewdrops, you know what to do! >>> .oOo.

I absolutely love the contrast between the stark black & white and the soft grays... collaboration between tanglers always brings new and unexpected surprises!


That's all, folks... happy tangling!

•  •  •  •  •  •  •
Thanks for stopping by! 
Feel free to join me here
where I frequently share artsy things that inspire me, 
invite tanglers to share art,
crack silly jokes, 
and offer up the