Thursday, 14 March 2019

no sign of the three bears

This week I've found myself in a Goldilocks mood.  Nothing is quite right.  I've been preparing lots of backgrounds for the spring tangling ahead of me.  Inevitably this has meant using colours outside of my comfortable range - lots of yellow, pink and bright green.  I've been using different techniques to get the colour onto the tiles - a bit of hefty hack, some masking fluid, some stencilling.  Some of the tiles came out too pale, some horrifically bright.  Explosion in an 80's legwarmer warehouse bright!  I also worked on some dubious coloured paper and found it too smooth when using my pen, too rough when shading.  Whatever I tried I felt dissatisfied. 

And then I heard myself advising a fellow tangler to work with what they'd got, learn to know and cherish their limitations and let go of the things that they found too difficult.  Time to apply the same to myself!  So later in the week, once dry, I cut up my newly coloured tiles - and they started to not look quite so bad.  You'll be seeing them here over the coming weeks!  And I continued working on the dubious paper.

This week's tangling was largely a matter of fortune and misfortune and the blurred line between the two.  I recently discovered that the usual album I store my finished tiles in has been discontinued. 

My album of choice - I've filled two of these since I start tangling -
that's 576 tiles!

After endless research I discovered some sleeves that hold 3.5 inch tiles and have some ready to go into a large ring binder.  Seeing as I would be building my own album I thought it would be a good oppurtunity to source some sleeves to store my Zendala tiles - currently I just keep them in the tin.  I'm usually very precise when it comes to measurements, but I was so thrilled when I thought I'd found the perfect sleeves that I forgot to double check the size of the Zendala tile. When the sleeves arrived the tiles wouldn't fit! The openings are 4x4 inches and the Zendala a little larger. I then successfully bought some sleeves meant storing CDs which are perfect for my Zendala.
A happy home for my Zendala tiles -
these are the first three I ever tangled!

But I didn't want to waste the other sleeves as I loved the fact that they held two 4x4 spaces and four 2x2 spaces.

What fun, to have different sizes on the same page!
Around the same time I was clearing out some old paper scraps from when my only creative outlet was occasional card making. I found a virtually unused pack of textured card stock in a wild array of colours. One side was far too textured to tangle on, but the reverse look viable. I cut tiles to size in my current spring colours.

UK tangler Lucy Farran has created her own prompts for the month of March. Called Botani-tangles, she's focusing on broadening her use of organic tangles.  Her list is well chosen, with familiar and unfamiliar tangles, and a good variety of types of tangle, all still within the organic theme.
March prompts chosen by Lucy Farran - aka The Lucky Tangler

I set to work tangling on the two larger tiles, and then the little row of Bijou's down the side. 

Not so mellow yellow - Hollyhock,
Sanibelle and new favourite Loblolly
The pen moved quickly across the paper, meaning I felt less control than I usually have. On the plus side the black stayed really intense. Shading was also challenging as the paper is both smooth but with a residual texture from the other side.

In the pink - with Icantoo, Eddyper (which never comes
out as I want it to) and the dark and desirable Dayzee-Mae

All in all it was a different experience than my usual familiar papers. But there's a lot to like about it. As a whole page spread it feels like a sampler of organic tangles. I've always toyed with the idea of building my own tangle directory, but always find the thought quite tedious. But I can imagine having pages like this where I would browse the way tangles interact with each other. A great way to choose tangles I might have forgotten, but also more pleasurable to tangle in the first place.  I've used most of the tangles for the first 15 days of Lucy's prompts, but not necessarily in the order she suggested.  But that's the beauty of tangling - we can do whatever we fancy with it, and if we get lucky we might even find a bowl of porridge that suits out tastes!

Friday, 8 March 2019

say hello, wave goodbye

Last week I said goodbye to the winter instalment of my seasonal Inklings project. When I started this I knew it would be challenging - while I have very few concerns with managing the colours of winter and autumn, spring and summer are not my natural palettes. To me spring is the time when colours return - tentatively, just a touch here and there, pale suggestions of colour slowly intensifying as the months creep by.  Tender greens and warmer blues, but especially yellows and pinks - my least comfortable colours. But what's the point in challenging yourself if you only stick with what is comfortable?!

The following three tiles allowed me to dip my toe into spring. Each has one foot still in winter, but a burst of colour breaking through.

My fellow tanglers inspire me each and every day, in small, large and sometimes unexpected ways. My first tile is testament to that. Among her many delights, Anica has recently been sharing some tiles where she mounts a Bijou of one colour in the middle of another coloured regular sized tile. She then tangles, seamlessly blending the two together. I wanted to give this a try. Elsewhere, in a conversation with Alice, mistress of colour, we were talking about whether yellow tissue paper is more reluctant to give up its colour, when used in the tissue dying technique. I did a couple of tests on scraps of watercolour paper and found by luck more than skill that it worked! A two inch square tinted yellow and pink just begged to be used in an an Anica style tile.  It's actually mounted on a white tile which I then mostly coloured grey, the same grey I used on my winter tiles. I don't think my integration of the two parts is even close to seamless, but the process was great fun and one I'll revisit.

A window onto spring -
Nik in the corners, and Krokus in the middle

Back in January I broke the rules when joining in with Annette's first invitation to enjoy a Zendala Moment.  A few weeks ago she shared a second installment and this time I transferred the string faithfully to a Zentangle original round tile.  As soon as I saw those squares with their petal shapes I knew I wanted them be cut through to show what lies beneath. Again a tile started to come together that showed the cusp where one season slides into the next. Seeing as I'd already started with yellow and pink I continued, with coloured pencil on my ribbons.  The thing I love most about tangling Zendalas is that glorious repetition, moving from one section to the next, little adjustments to one part repeated in the others.  This piece started very pale, wispy almost - I liked its delicacy but it began to feel uncharacteristic of my style.  I went back and darkened some of the auras, and suddenly I could recognise myself again.

Pretty in pink and yellow -
mostly just Baton, with a few Fescu

My last tile began in the dark depths of December. I was playing around with F2F (short for Fringe 2 Fringe) - a tangle unleashed from the brilliant mind and hand of Tomàs Padrós.  I had an idea of using F2F to form a kind of snowflake.  I confess that I started out with quite a few pencil lines to divide my space evenly.  And then I sort of stopped, put the barely started tile to one side and mostly forgot about it. Occasionally I picked it up and wondered whether to start it again. And then this week I did. I completed the middle section which now looks more like a papery spinner than a snowflake. I added some pink and yellow watercolour in the corners, and once dry added a little Printemps. It's a strange tile, but I've always liked strange things!

Ready for takeoff -

Last week I said I was a little wary about reconnecting with colour, but having spent the week dabbling with my two most feared colours I feel a little braver about the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, 1 March 2019

farewell, my frosty friend

At the start of this year I set myself the challenge of tangling in line with the changing seasons - picking appropriate colours and tangles and styles - and working only with those. I defined winter as December, January and February. On this, the first day of March, I therefore declare winter over!

The only colour I've picked up in the last two months is a couple of cool blue pens, which mostly featured in my ValenTangle adventure. However I haven't missed colour in the least, and in fact I'm a little wary about having to reconnect with it again. My last tiles for my Winter Inklings theme really stripped back to the basics. Black and white and graphite, and a little grey watercolour on one or two.

Giving a PersianMosaic the winter treatment -
straight Shattuck over grey and white coloured 3Z tiles

Baton and 4Fun with holes cut out -
a sense of winter breaking up ready to melt
The recent Square One focus tangle was Ipso -
here getting a winter fix with Cat-Kin and more Baton
I end close to where I began the year -
strong diagonals of Diva Dance, Basketweave
over deep grey, and Edie with fragments of Baton

I love living in a country with changing seasons, it feels natural and right to me. Each season has its own character and things to love about it - but usually by the end of winter I'm willing to let it go. But this year I'm letting it go with a little more sadness than usual. I might just miss those bare branches and frosty mornings, that cool blue ink and grey watercolour. It might take me a week or two to get used to the idea of spring.

Friday, 15 February 2019

debriefing the heart

I wasn't the sort of teenage girl to draw hearts on my pencil case. I've had a fair unease about that shape for most of my life. Mostly because it seems like a rubber-stamped cliche of love - far from what love really means to me. Love doesn't look the same for everyone, so how can we all use the same symbol to represent it?

But I decided to tackle my reluctance head-on, and join in with this years ValenTangle fortnight. I'll share my results in a moment - but first a tile for this weeks appropriately hearty Diva Challenge. I actually started this tile for Day 11 of ValenTangle - but it drifted some way from the prompt, and then it went a bit wrong, and then I tried to correct it by throwing a colour wash over it, and then some TranZending. And then I thought it looked a mess so I put it to one side and made a new tile for Day 11. But I've resurrected it today, tinkered and shaded and I'm willing to call it done.

This started as a band of Marguerite Samama's Love Fragment -
which has been featured throughout ValenTangle

And so to my experience of ValenTangle. I reflected often as I worked on each daily prompt, and I've come to a number of conclusions. Firstly that I love working regularly and intensely on a theme - I feel proud of the body of work that has resulted. Once I decided my limited colours and materials (I stuck with a cool blue as my only colour to keep in mind with my Winter Inklings project) I could let go of planning and expectation. I could immerse myself in Marguerite's profoundly inspiring prompts - each satisfying enough to get your teeth into, but with plenty of opportunity to flavour as you see fit. But at the same time I felt the downsides of working this way. I rarely join in anything with a regular commitment, and whilst I could have dipped in and out, once I'd made my commitment I stuck to it. Much like love, I'm faithful once I decide to take part. And there were times when I found the need to produce a tile every day a little draining, and there were times I craved creation unrelated to hearts. But darkness makes us appreciate light, lack of love makes us appreciate its presence. I'm now relishing the thought of being utterly directionless in my tangling - who knows where I'll go next.

A whole lotta love

I've shared these tiles in the ValenTangle Facebook group - but repeat them here as I know some of my readers don't do Facebook, and also it's nice to see them all grouped together.

Day 1 - exploring the Love Fragment.

Day 2 - Hearty Ratoon
Day 3 - a little tangling, a lot of space

Day 4 - make a 3Z mosaic

Day 5 - tangle an object

Day 6 - hearty Wholly Hollibaugh

Day 7 - the Love fragment in a hexagon

Day 8 - tangle the initials of your loved one/s

Day 9 - hearty Star-Ing

Day 10 - tangle your corners

Day 11 - tangled borders

Day 12 - hearty Yuma
Day 13 - Bijou in a grid tangle

Day 14 - tangle a puffy heart pillow

Over the course of 14 days I came to realise that the heart shape is just a shape, no more no less than any other – it has points, recesses and curves. It can behave in all manner of different ways and if you tangle it enough times all meaning, both good and bad, begins to recede. I don't think I'll be drawing hearts on my pencil case any day soon, but I definitely don't feel quite as allergic as I did, and I can imagine that by this time next year I might get the urge to join in with the next ValenTangle.

Friday, 8 February 2019

full to the brim

This week I've been talking to my blog friend Sarn about the benefits of looking back at our early tiles, to see what's changed, and to notice how far we've come. As I prepared this weeks blog post, in which I'm going to share my most recent sketchbook pages with you, I thought I'd glance back at my old sketchbooks too. And I was quite stunned by what I found.

I knew that I filled books far less rapidly than I used to - I've been working in my current book since 2016 - whereas I used to fill about one a year. Look at a snapshot - five pages taken from the start of the years I've been tangling. Look at how spaced out, small and tentative my tangling was where in those early days. On one hand my pages look cluttered and messy now, but also far more sure of themselves. In the early days I was trying as carefully as I could to copy down tangles exactly as the rules defined them. Every tangle I used I practised first. Now my sketchbook is a place to try out things I want to explore further, it's experimental.  I note down tangles as I discover or rediscover them, as I know it's impossible to try and hold them in mind alone now that I'm familiar with so many. My sketchbook becomes a prompt and inspiration in itself - I can open a page and find an idea to play with. Start with a blank tile and any random page and use only the tangles on it and suddenly another layer of decision-making has been removed. The evolution in my pages is startlingly apparent - I wonder how they'll change in another five years time?

Five pages from the start of my tangling years - 2014 through to 2018.
Ability to see close up detail doesn't matter here - the point is look at how my pages have changed!

I haven't shared recent sketchbook pages with you since last August, a time which seems a distant memory now. We were locked in the grip of a heatwave, whereas today every window is wearing thousands of raindrops.

Points of interest - revisiting Static and loving it.
A trio of treats from Helen Williams.
And noting down a couple of ingenious variations of my Kitl tangle
spotted on a recent IAST challenge.

Points of interest - the organic delight of Easy Mooka and Iza
Playing with Molygon and loving it more each time.
Sharp pleasures from Shiraz and A-Frame.

Points of interest - playing with my initial as a fragment.
XLNT makes a really exciting centrepiece.
IAST#269 introduced the idea of filling a field with diminishing tangles.
To play with at greater length - F2F.

Points of interest - new tricky official tangle, Ratoon.
A couple of Tomas Padros quirky treasures - Love Handles and Helix.
The delightful Sistar and Q-Mi deserve much more of my time.

I'm heading back now to the wonderful world of ValenTangle, where am finding myself less resistant to hearts with every passing day!  I'll share the results of my adventures in my next post!

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

a pleasing shade of discomfort

Sometimes the wisdoms that I learn from my Zentangle practice mirror those I hold true and close in the rest of my life. But sometimes they lead me in entirely different directions. In my day-to-day life I am not a risk taker - it doesn't suit me. I know my comfort zone - I nurture it, protect it from threat and cherish time spent there. But on the blank page in writing, or on a tile that's a place I'm willing to take the odd risk. There I'll chance trying something a little out of the comfortable. Because what's to lose really - only a little time and ink?

Ratoon - in black and blue - with aura, orbs and something like Fescu
So this week I'm taking some risks. The Diva invites us to play with new ZTHQ tangle Ratoon. It's been circulating for a while but the official stepout was only just released. Every time I've seen it I've loved it, and every time I thought about trying to tangle it I've talked myself out of it. These kind of knotted tangles often prove tricky for me. But I did it - not even practising in my sketchbook first! Just straight to the beautiful Fabriano paper. And while there are a few wobbles and a couple of moments where I thought I was losing control, I'm pleased with my first attempt, and even more that I've broken my fear of Ratoon.

If you're similarly wary I'd offer a few tips. Firstly allow plenty of space, at least when you're starting out, and make sure that the outer 'seeds' are placed a good distance from your inner ones. Slow down, breathe often, and turn the tile to whatever way feels most comfortable as you draw each line - I learned this the hard way when for much of the tile I couldn't see where I was aiming for with my lines!

Blue Molygon - with added hearts!
I'm also warming up in preparation for joining in with my first ever ValenTangle. Some of you may know that I have an aversion to drawing hearts - but this year seems the prime time to overcome that. It's just another shape after all! ValenTangle, now in its fourth year, is a two-week opportunity to tangle on the theme of hearts and love in all its guises. It's the brainchild of Dutch tangler extraordinaire Marguerite Samama. Yet again she's written a PDF filled with illustrated prompts sure to tickle your tangling tastebuds - and I was honoured to be invited to write a prompt for one of the days! There is no obligation to join in everyday, or to stick with any particular colour scheme (I'll be working in muted blues to tie in with my Winter Inklings project1). ValenTangle begins on February 1st, and continues through to the 14th. Come and join the dedicated Facebook group where people will be sharing their art, you can also find the prompt book there. If you're not a Facebook user but would like to join in drop me an email ( and I'll send a PDF back to you!

ValenTangle 2019 on Facebook 

Friday, 25 January 2019

listening to echoes

Mostly when I tangle I don't think – my mind pleasantly disconnected from anything other than the flow of ink across paper. But if I do think I think about the tangling, and sometimes I think about what I might say in my next blog post.

This week I thought about repetition. About how I find myself often saying the same things to different people within the tangle community. I don't think this repetition is a bad thing. I often rediscover and repeat the same things to myself on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This is how they sink in, this is how we learn.

This week I shared the thought that taking part in tangle challenges should never feel like a chore, merely an invitation to inspiration, that we should always feel able to decline without a shadow of guilt. This isn't the first time I've said this, and it won't be the last.

I didn't feel inspired to respond to the invitations that the Diva put out in the first couple of weeks of the year. But this week I did. The opportunity to fill stripes was too good to resist.

Keeko and a Beadlines variation -
ragged in places like a beloved old cardigan

But then a funny thing happened, all of a sudden I felt like doing a tile for the previous week's challenge as well. I explored a new medium by trying out a form of reverse TranZending which I've been watching Anica develop and explore over the last few months.

A rare photo of the works in progress

I used a Posca white pen to lay down a base layer of Baton. The benefit of the Posca pen seems to be that it dries to a permanent finish – which means it doesn't clog your micron when you go over it many times, and it doesn't re-moisten and start to move about. I drew my tile on a Strathmore grey tile - newly recommended to me by tangle friend Jules after I'd admired one of her 'hairy' grey tiles. These come measuring 4x4 but I cut this one down to our more familiar 3.5 x 3.5.  I often tangle on grey toned pastel paper, but these tiles have a smoother surface which seemed better suited to this technique.

Bunzo, Mooka and Tipple - I love how shiny and dark this looks -
like seeing an underwater world trapped beneath ice

Guess what happened then! I fancied doing yet another Diva tile, one for the first challenge of the year. I don't have a spinner machine so I laid down some concentric circles using two shades of grey watercolour brush pen. When I blended these with a water brush a subtle purple started to appear - sometimes an unwelcome side-effect, on this occasion a welcome hint of colour.  Not that I'm missing colour, despite being firmly locked into the blacks and greys of my Winter Inklings project.

CC and a bit of Mintea - and lots of graphite -
ornate cloud banks on a misty day

I politely declined to join the party for the first two weeks of the Diva challenge year, but this week I had a ball doing all three. I feel sure that I wouldn't have created these tiles if I had forced myself last week or the week before. These tiles could only appear when they were ready, when I was ready - I just need to remember over and over again to listen to my instinct.