Wednesday, 15 January 2020

getting to grips with a new year

At the start of a new year I like to take a little time to reflect on where I've been in the past year, to better know where I might want to go this year. In terms of tangling I like to look through the tiles I created and pick out some of my favourites.

Last year I worked on a year long project to tangle according to the seasons. At times it felt challenging, but I feel a great sense of satisfaction having done it and it's wonderful to flick through my album and see the colours fading through the spectrum in tune with the seasons.

12 of the best from 2019
Admittedly my favourite pieces come from a fairly limited part of the year's palette!

This year I want to do things differently - I want more freedom. I have a long list of things I want to do. Some are new things I've never tried, techniques I've read about but put aside for the time being. I have e-books (speaking of which) I want to work through, devoting the time and focus they deserve. I also have a long list of things I want to revisit - things I enjoyed but want to spend more time with, to dig deeper thereby getting more from them. I also want to linger over the things I love doing often and regularly. I want to strengthen my weaknesses and have wild times with the things I feel I'm good at.

I want to spend more time doing and less time reading and thinking and talking about Zentangle. I blogged 42 times last year. I might blog less this year, or the same, probably not more. But the style of my posts might change a little. There will still be themed posts where I share a cohesive body of pieces and talks about the techniques I used. But there might also be simpler gallery type posts where I share a snapshot of the things I've been working on, without as much wordy padding! Hopefully my blog will still remain interesting and attractive!


To start this year I've joined in with Zen-untangled which is the latest collaborative project from Alice Hendon. She talks about it on her blog as well as uniting many fellow tanglers who are doing it on her Facebook group Tangle All Around. Simply put, Alice is inviting us to get to know the 170 Zentangle core tangles. She encourages participants to create a book, including step-outs and examples, which will become a wonderful offline resource for your own tangling and to pass on to others.

I was taken by the idea as soon as I heard about it, mostly because I love the official tangles - well, most of them anyway! But it's important to know and acknowledge what will work for you. And what won't!  I knew I wouldn't like doing Zen-untangled in the exact way Alice suggests. I don't like working in books on a regular basis and I knew I wouldn't enjoy drawing step-outs for every tangle either.  I'd rapidly fall behind and abandon the whole thing.  Thankfully Alice encourages us to join in whatever way we prefer.

At the moment I'm storing black cards and finished cards in the tin -
but I when I finish I think the stack of tiles will probably be too big,
so I might clip them together with a binder ring unless I have a better idea!

A bit of pondering and a dose of luck and I've struck on a way that works for me. My partner gave me this little tin for Christmas, and it's a perfect fit for ATCs, which is a tile shape I'm liking a lot these days. So I'm doing my Zen-untangled on ATCs.

On the left - Eye-Wa and Florz
On the right - Dex and Hurry

On the left - IX
On the right - Avreal, Ahh, Snail, Therefore and Tipple

On the left - Centipede, Ynix and Frondous
On the right - Echoism

On the left - Cubine and Ixorus
On the right - Flux and Hollibaugh

As you can see, on some days there's just one tangle on the tile, some days 2, other days more. I like the way I get to see how the tangles play together, I get to draw a simple version and some variations if I want to. I get to use colour in large or small amounts or just celebrate the beauty of black and white. And when it's finished I'll have a lovely deck of cards to shuffle through for pure Zentangle inspiration.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

shimmering beginnings

A new year of a new decade and what better way to kick off 2020 on The Ragged Ray than with a new tangle!

The fruits of my recent tanglings
The origins of this tangle go back many years – it started as one of the many scrappy ideas I play with but set to one side. In December I saw a piece by German CZT Stephanie Kiefhaber which really caught my eye. She'd used a repeating shape and acknowledged that she didn't think it was any named tangle. I told her that I'd played with an idea for something similar many years back but hadn't worked further with the tangle, drawn a step-out or named it. I showed Stephanie my scrappy notes and she encouraged me to develop my idea – and so I did. It's my pleasure to introduce you to Quin!

A small stash of tiles to play with
Quin clearly shares tangle DNA with official tangles Tagh and Centipede as well as with Adele Bruno's C-Perfs. But I think it has enough of its own character to merit its own name – do you agree? It's a tangle that asks you to draw slowly, and shade carefully, but it's rhythmic and mesmerising to use. Resembling scales or petals it adds texture and depth to any tile. I named it Quin for its resemblance to a string of sequins - and while I mostly tangle it without an the extra dot and dash, if you're in a representational mood they can be a fun addition too! If you find any weird angles or wobbles that you don't like when tangling Quin, simply darken them with your pen and you'll find they add character.

Before the festive break I cut and coloured some bright white Clairefontaine papers - one smooth and the other with some texture. I added a touch of colour using two Finetec watercolours (Blue Silver and Lavender) that my dear friends Debbie and Stephanie (a different one!) in Singapore sent me last year. It's hard to capture the beauty of these mica-rich pigment paints, which offer one colour when viewed straight on but another shade of shimmering magic when tilted to catch the light (you can catch a glimpse of what I mean in the photo at the top of this post). They bring a subtle but welcome shot of colour which plays so well with the white tile, black ink and grey shading.

And so, to the tiles -

Quin was too shy to appear on this first tile - but
Nvelope, Printemps and Mooka had fun among themselves!

I started this tile with Ixorus, and added a sunken section of
Quin, and some little Fescu-type tufts.

Two sections of Quin with Fescu formed a central space that I
started to fill with Bales, but which rapidly morphed into Puf.

Quin defined a strange shape and space on this tile, room
for a little Hollibaugh in the middle and more Fescu!

Lastly an arcing band of Panepinto (with Jetties) formed a space which
I filled with Sistar. A handful of Flux and Perf-topped tufts, and a single
line of Quin showing its resemblance to a string of sequins.

That's all for now. I hope your year is getting off to a good start. And I hope you enjoy getting to know Quin – please do let me know if you use my tangle and how you find it.

[As always, if this tangle appears to be too similar to any others in name or style, please let me know.]

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

grey skies and muted blues

It's not always easy - even with the things you love the most. I've struggled in a number of ways during the second half of the 12 Days adventure. For one we've had so many dark days of rain, and I like to tangle in natural daylight so I've been trying to catch the odd hour here and there where it's been bright enough. I've also started to feel a little resistant to the colour blue following the recent result of the UK general election! In addition I felt a little underwhelmed by some of the recent Zentangle videos - the ideas just didn't spark my interest as much as they sometimes do, which perhaps ties in with my fourth struggle – finding the time and energy to tangle at this hectic time of year.

But the good thing about spending time doing the thing you love, is that it encourages you to overcome most barriers that arise. So I tried to keep tightly focused on the method that is central to Zentangle. Focused on the fact that it's about the process rather than the product, focused on the fact that I can turn these tiles whichever way I want, whichever way works on any given day.

So for the second half of my 12 Days offerings I've muted the blue, and while I've held onto each idea, I've carried it a little closer to my natural and comfortable tangling style. So my tiles are a little darker, a little more minimal than those shared by the ZT team. But I love these tiles, and I loved tangling them, despite my lack of energy and the sky's lack of encouragement.

On Day #7 we were encouraged to play with an oversized Bales -
which we then filled with pods and auras. In the spaces of our grid
we put a three-pointed Well style fragment. I chose to contain my
tangling in just one half of the tile.

On Day #8 Maria demonstrated a whirling dervish of tangling -
with abundant embellishment and shading and gold pen. It's a look
she carries off so well, but not me! I tamed mine a great deal – adding
more black, less blue, less variation on the fills, but including Beadlines
and choosing to have two of the Cadent style frames on my tile.

On Day #9 there were a couple of aspects that I just
wasn't keen on, so I tangled this instead. Using an ATC
sized tile allowed the tangled spiral to feel more settled.
I left out the tricolour background and instead just used a
little graphite and some tiny white gel Therefore dots.

Day #10 seemed to take using a very different direction, feeling far
more botanical and calm than any of the other days. This surprised
me at first but proved to be a welcome oasis of calm. I  got
thoroughly lost tangling my Bronx Cheer, Flux and Mooka,
and even a sprinkling of Fescu. Adding just a hint of graphite,
white and blue pencil. Rounding is always the finishing touch - and
then also a 3Z sized triangle frame drawn behind - I don't know why -
it just looked like it belonged there!!

When Rick tangles Paradox you can clearly see he's in his comfort
zone. Not so for me! By Day #11 I couldn't face 4 Paradox Bijou
tiles - so instead this.  A square the size of a Bijou in the middle of
my tile.  I left the centre of each Paradox open allowing me to drop
some Beadlines through the holes, plus a couple of black ribbons.

For Day #12 Maria led us through a variation of Hollibaugh to create
the look of a coffered ceiling. I relished this exploration - it embodied
everything I love about Zentangle - seemingly complex but broken
down into mindful attainable steps.  In a nod to where I started - I drew
a faux Zendala on a 4 inch Strathmore grey tile.  My initial bands came
out thinner so I put in more, and I got a little carried away with shading!
I know I'll play with this idea lots more!

We've reached the end of the Zentangle countdown, and there's a week to go until Christmas Day, but this will be my last blog post for the year. I've prepared some tiles that I hope to tangle during our festive break - and I'll share them here a week or so into the New Year. Thank you for reading my posts, and looking at my pictures over the past 12 months - it's been wonderful to share my tangled meanderings with you. Best wishes for your weeks ahead, however you spend them. See you in 2020!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

half a dozen days in December

Every year I look forward to the 12 Days of Zentangle activities.  Whether you buy their Project Pack or not (I didn't) it's a great invitation to watch the videos, tangle along and know you're joining many other tanglers around the world who are doing the same.  It's also a great chance to take some time in your day, to tangle and unwind from the inevitable momentum we gain as the year heads toward its festive finale.

This is the 4th year I've joined in and I often take the ideas in a slightly different direction to suit my mood.  For a couple of years I worked in a sketchbook - and last year I tangled along on one of my Zigzangle's instead of the suggested spinner. This year I needed to make the suggestions work with my Winter Inklings colour scheme.  The grey tiles get a big tick of course, but I wasn't planning on using any colour for this month, however the ideas that Zentangle are sharing do rely on a little pop of colour every day, so I made the exception seeing as it's blue and that works as a winter colour! (Interestingly I also had a burst of blue in my February Winter Inklings when I worked on my Valentangle tiles).  The gold pen had to go, too warm for my idea of winter, but thankfully I had a new silver pen to hand!  I have also used different materials where I'm lacking ones that came in the project pack - but that's great, because it shows that you can have just as much fun, and also produce slightly different results, with whatever supplies you have! I've listed what I used in more detail than usual, which is a little clunky to read but perhaps helpful.  All papers used are discussed on my previous blog post.

On Day #1 I drew 'faux' Bijou on a 4x4 inch piece of Strathmore paper.
I tangled with my Sky Blue Copic and used a blue coloured pencil
(Koh-I-Noor Polycolor 54 / Cobalt Blue Dark) instead of the blue chalk
and it worked fine. I varied my Tipple, colouring some blue,
some white and silvering a handful.

On Day #2 I had a great time working with Tomàs Padrós All Stars tangle 
which I'd used back in Spring. This time it sports a wintery look - on a Murano
pastel paper tile.  Initially a complex looking tangle, the more you use it the
easier it becomes.  White highlights from a Derwent Coloursoft pencil and
white Gelly Roll add bright accents.

On Day #3 I ripped up the rule book - I just didn't fancy that idea on a round grey tile -
I don't know why but I didn't!  So I did it on a watercolour postcard instead,
and added blue watercolour (Clean Color Brush 030 Blue) to the Purk parts,
and only blacked in some of the Jonqal lines.  Graphite and colour shading
sharpens up the finished piece.

On Day #4 I traced around a Bijou tile 3 times onto a regular black tile
and then tangled in silver (Uni-Ball Signo).  I'm not that keen on tangling
predominantly with the metallic pen as the line feels so thick compared
to the white gel, let alone the my usual black 0.1.  But I like the way my
watercolour pencil (Faber-Castell Phthalo Blue) adds a touch of colour
onto the black - that's an idea I might play with again.

On Day #5 I didn't fancy tangling the ornament exactly as Martha did,
so I decided to create a band of ZINGsplatz right across my tile
(Clairefontaine PaintOn).  I'd hope to make it more angular and frosty
looking but of course every line made it more and more soft and curvy -
so there it is.  My white was done using a Graphitint white
pencil. In winter zebras dream of blue flowers!

On Day #6 I tweaked Rick's idea a little - I only inked with a black pen,
added blue into the bands of Hollis using an Irojiten pencil (Horizon Blue VP-8),
and added background of grey texture lines which ties it in with
my recent Hollis tile, although this one is far more minimal.
The key to tangling Hollis is to slow down -
and make the most of whatever strange shapes arise.

So that brings me up to date with the current 12 Days videos.  I'll be back with the rest next week.  There's been days of endless wind and rain of late (apt for the uncertain political times my country is facing today), and many times I've struggled to see the line I'm tangling, or the truth of the colours I'm adding to my tile.  But then a little later, I'll tilt the tile and the silver ink will glint as it catches the light - and there is my moment of hope.

Friday, 6 December 2019

grey is the word

Many people find it dull or depressing but I find it comforting and full of charm and warmth.  It makes me think of clouded skies and favourite knitwear, feathered and furred visitors to our garden.  I'm talking about the colour grey of course. (Or gray if you're reading from the United States!)

I've long loved grey but not used it a great deal as a feature colour in my tangling.  Too often it's simply the colour that gets added when I shade - although it got some attention in January, when I last dipped my toes into Winter themed tangling!   But for the next fews week I'm turning my tangling spotlight onto this wonderful colour to show you what it's capable of.

Trust me when I tell you I'm not sitting a mountain of grey paper, but I rooted through various packs and pads and gathered together quite a sample.  A wide range all claiming to be grey - some dark, some light, some with the barest hint of green, blue or brown.  That's the nature of this colour - it's never easy to pin down, or quantify.  It's also fairly hard to get a photograph that captures their true colours - the truth lies somewhere between the photo of them all together and the scans of my tiles!

[a range of grey papers - detailed below]

1 - Daler Rowney Murano Pastel Paper - from Cool pad - probably Slate
2 - Khadi Paper Dark Grey
3 - Clairefontaine PaintOn Grey Paper
4 - Two Rivers Paper - included in their Studio Pad
5 - Daler Rowney Murano Pastel Paper - from Neutral pad - probably Platinum
6 - Strathmore Artist Tile Toned Gray
7 - Khadi Paper Light Grey
8 - Official Zentangle Gray tile
9 - Stonehenge Colors Paper - Pearl Gray
10 - Bockingford Tinted Watercolour Paper - Grey

I set out on a voyage of exploration - a way to try out some of these papers, to harness and showcase their grey charms, to see which pens and shading styles suited them.  Not a methodical comparison mind you, just a meandering trip through a grey landscape.

I kept my choices simple - a  handful of Official ZT tangles and black pens, white pens, graphite shading, white shading.  First up - something quite minimal, quite sleek.

Mostly just Fife - black ink, graphite and white coloured pencil
on an ATC of Two Rivers Paper (4).  A somewhat delicate paper,
but a rich shade to work on. 

Next up - something different, switching the black pen for the 08 white Gelly Roll with a touch of graphite and some smoky white pastel along the edges.  I find the Pokes quite tricky to tangle elegantly, but rounding helps a lot, a chance to smooth out any anomalies and add definition.

Pokeleaf and Pokeroot - looking frosty and fabulous!
On a tile of Dark Grey Khadi (2) - rough but the Gelly Roll coped fine!

As I moved onwards, each new piece became a favourite - and that's often what happens when I start to get attuned to a certain combination of colour or tile.  I become more confident, but at the same time more calm - more instinctive, more engaged in the process, doing rather than thinking about doing.

Exploring Hollis, with rounding and Tipple - on a tile
of Clairefontaine Mixed Media paper (3).  A lovely paper
to work on, I used the tan version for Inktober.
Black ink, white chalk, graphite and some fine detail
lines in grey ink to add some background texture.

Those three papers all leaned towards the darker and rich end of the grey spectrum, but the next two went to the other extreme, being paler and cooler.

I love how Spoken looks when cut up by the limits
of an ATC.  With Printemps filling certain sections,
rounding and gentle shading in graphite and touches
of white I really like this Stonehenge paper (9).

Last, but by no means least, I tangled on my first ever Zentangle official Gray Tile - released just a few months ago.  This tile seems to be made from the same paper as their Renaissance tiles.  It's a beautiful shade of grey, very classy, very cool - and while you have to work a little gently at the shading stage, both the graphite and white chalk look wonderful

Nothing but Rumpus - looking like frosted flowers. 
This is a tangle that never disappoints offering
a truly mindful calm as you add circle after circle
and then link them together.
Black ink, graphite, and white chalk on a
Zentangle Gray tile (8).

That's all for now with these papers - but I have previously shared tiles tangled on a few of the others.  When I was a novice tangler, way back in 2014, I experimented with my Snag tangle on a Bockingford tinted tile.  A couple of years ago I tangled a lovely set of tiles on the lighter shade of Murano pastel paper.  In January this year I did some reverse Tranzending on a piece of Strathmore

My winter time has begun, the nights are colder, the days shorter - but it isn't often about snow and ice and sparkle here in the UK, there's a lot of damp days and grey skies too.  And that's what my last month of Inklings will celebrate - the beauty of winter even when it doesn't look like the image on a Christmas card, even if it's more likely to be raining than snowing on Christmas Day!

Thursday, 28 November 2019

the still point

Just one piece to share with you this week – but it's a whopper by my standards! I always prefer to work small, but on this rare occasion I decided a bigger area might suit my need.

In the summer of 2018 I was talking about a paper product I'd seen but not tried - Magnani Acquerello round blocks.  Hard to find or massively overpriced in the UK, a generous and kind tangle friend, Jules, offered to send me a few sheets to try. It took till now to give the first one a road test, but it's a great paper - a little thirsty, smooth but with enough tooth to slow me down and take hold of the graphite.

Link to buy in the US via Amazon.
And at long last, a viable UK seller!

They come in two sizes, and I used the smaller one. It's about an inch and a half larger than the official Zendala tile which doesn't sound like much but feels like a lot of extra tangling space!

Just like the days make a week make a month make a year -
so a tile grows, slowly but surely, a little at a time.

I wanted this tile to represent the cusp between two seasons, that point where autumn segues into winter. I worked slowly over the course of a week, laying down my string, my colour (Peerless watercolours), some tangles to define the space, autumn tangles in one section, winter in another.  I considered shading using colour, but decided that smooth blended graphite was the way to go.

A dance of two seasons.
Defining the space - Marasu, Miff, Beadlines and Doodah.
In the Autumn section - Hollis, Gelijoy, Mooka Easy, Tamisolo.
In the Winter section - Arukas, Flukes, Hemp and Fassett.
And right at the middle, Uncorked by Adele Bruno (my very first tangle friend and mentor).

There's lots of different tangles on this tile, more than I would usually put together on a single piece – but the limited colour and shading and the repeat of those black perfs with their tiny white highlights helped unify and simplify the finished piece.

As the last leaves fall and darken in our puddles, autumn waves goodbye.  Winter lingers on the threshold waiting to be invited in. It can't be stopped whether you welcome it or not, but I plan on making friends with it through the next few weeks with my final seasonal Inklings.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

the legacy of a leaf

With just over a month left in this year I find myself tangling less. There's limited daylight to tangle by and I often have one eye on Christmas planning.  I'm spending less time with pen and tile, but that makes tangle time feel all the more precious.

'Nzeppel fills a band of Shattuck and a section of Spoken.
I worked on Strathmore tan toned tiles, trimmed to regular size.

I remember meeting 'Nzeppel - how my first use of it coincided with my first experience of using an official Zentangle tile. And of how it reminded me of fishnet stockings! I don't use it often, and when I do it's usually just a small fragment of Crazy 'Nzeppel.  But I was interested to see how the tangle would fare in the full glare of the spotlight. (While you're at it be sure to check out some of the wonderful ways Margaret Bremner uses this tangle!)

A mostly regular 'Nzeppel fills a Bales string.
No highlights but gently built up shading (using a 4B pencil)
makes Bales rise from the tile.

I used other tangles as if they were strings, and then filled only with 'Nzeppel.  It's a relaxing and forgiving tangle that really comes into its own once you add simple shading.  I considered adding white highlights all over the tiles, but in the end just stuck with a tiny pop of brightness on those two graphite gems.

'Nzeppel fills an Aquafleur - and two thin 'Nzeppel ribbons
add a finishing touch.  A grey gem adds a little shine.

I'd been toying with the idea of trying something different with 'Nzeppel for a few months and I'd imagined tangling these tiles during my Winter Inklings (I pictured fracture ice and frost patterns).  But then I reached for three tan tiles, and noticed how they grew to resemble the dried leaves of late autumn. All colour mostly faded, leaving behind only the skeletons of who those leaves once were.