Wednesday, 17 April 2019

the taste of springtime

I was in my mid-twenties when I first tasted kiwi fruit.  A fussy eater when young, I continued to eye anything green with great caution for many years.  Imagine my pleasant surprise at the indescribably sherberty sweetness of those little furry fruits!  A similar thing happened with water chestnuts.  I tried one a long time ago and didn't enjoy the icy crunch, but accidentally ended up with a slice in my mouth just last year and found that I loved it.

Tastes change, and sometimes we wait a while before we realise what we've been missing.  And so it goes with Zen Buttons.  I first discovered them around this time last year and spent a pleasing Easter weekend tangling Bijou sized ones and then later moved onto larger ones.  But a couple of weeks ago I saw a triangular button, and then a square button, and realised I'd never drawn anything but round ones.  Time to revisit the button scene and rectify that absence.

No particular tangles to name on this pink button - I just made shapes, roughly repeating a sort of fragment and filling bits here and there.  A gem in the middle, a touch of pink watercolour and ink.  That moment where it doesn't look too good, and then the transformation that comes about when you add the graphite and the white chalk.

Things didn't seem to go quite as well with my green button. Sometimes that just happens.  I took longer with it, thought about it more, and perhaps that's the downfall.  I used similar corner tangles to the pink to help them be more of a pair, and the same Knightbridge style edging.  Then I used a LitBee fragment and some Diva Dance.  All okay at that stage, but the shading didn't seem to do the trick this time.  And I didn't know why.  Perhaps I hadn't smoothed the white chalk quite as well, or perhaps the shape didn't work the same, or the tangles didn't lend themselves to that three dimensional look that the Button relies on.  I left the tile overnight, sat dejectedly on my bookcase, and I looked at it now and then.  This morning I gave it a makeover - I softened some of the white, and then darkened the shadows using a black Polychromos.  And while it still doesn't sing to me quite like the pink, I'm happy to call it done!

The long Easter weekend is almost here.  I don't know what I'll be tangling, but I know I'll be reading books, and dozing and gazing out of the windows at the leaves that have suddenly dressed the trees.  There's rumours of sunshine so maybe I'll even go outside among those leaves.  But in case I don't, or in case you don't either, you can get a taste of spring from Annette's latest Mosaik Project results which she just shared today! 

It started with a leaf - Sand Swirl, Ginili, Snail

A number of times a year Annette provides a string and asks us to send her tangled tiles which she brings together into incredibly beautiful mosaics.  This time we were each invited to fill our leaf shape with green colour and tangle the rest in black and white.  I sent her this tile in response.  And this is what she did with my tile alone -

As if by magic - one becomes sixteen - becomes something wonderful

But the truly incredible thing is when she brings all of our leaves together.  36 tanglers, 36 green leaves in various shades - a hearty dose of imagination and a young forest unfurls itself and flutters in the breeze!  Please take a deep breath, take a look and enjoy the spectacle.  And think about joining in when the next one begins in July!

Friday, 12 April 2019

as the song says

There's a lyric in a song I've long loved that says 'All the things I detest I will almost like' (Somebody - Depeche Mode).

Some months ago I'd have found it inconceivable that I'd be contentedly working in shades of pink and yellow for the past six weeks!  I actively dislike pink, unless it's a very hot cerise, and while yellow is okay, and quite beautiful in natural settings, it's a bit too bright and lively for the way I like to work.  But the more time I spend with these colours, the more I get to know them, understand them, refine what works well with them and what doesn't. 

Marguerite Samama's Persian Mosaic original concept invites us to tangle with a cobalt pen, but is infinitely variable too.  Earlier this year I gave it the winter look and now these two 3Z tiles are showing off their spring style! 

In bloom - Dayzee-Mae, Auraleah and Flux
Watercoloured tiles, shaded with pink pencil and graphite

A rare work in progress image -
most of the line work is done,
and I'm starting to colour and shade
Quite a few of the backgrounds I've used recently have been made using the hefty hack technique.  Whereby you lay down some watercolour from a pen, spritz it with some water and then pick it up using your tile.  The interesting thing is the results differ every time, and not only because of the random spread and mix of the colour but because the paper you use seems to influence the spread and absorption.  On the 3Z above - I used the same pens, two yellows and one pink, but the colours mostly blended to a peachy yellow.  On the Zendala tile below the colours stayed more differentiated and created a wonderful design reminiscent of raspberry ripple icecream!

I used this tasty looking tile for the background to my piece for Annette's Zendala Moments #3 prompt.  I've not tangled many Zendalas over the years - in fact this tile bring my grand total to only 11!  I've no idea why really, perhaps just because their extra size makes them more of a commitment, or perhaps because I'm naturally drawn to the straight sides of the square tiles.  But every time I tangle one I love the process and the result.  The pleasure of picking a few favourite tangles and methodically working my way around the tile, the rhythm and repetition are mesmerising. 

A whirling dervish -
Diva Dance, Bunzo, Kaboom plus tassles!

I love how this Zendala turned out.  I went darker and darker with the shading, without ever muting that lively background.  I also added some tassles to further enhance that sense of movement.  It makes me think of genies escaping from confinement in bottles and lamps, magic cushions and hats spinning their way across deserts in Scheherazade's tales.

I'll be moving on soon, adding another shade to my spring palette, and while pink and yellow will never become my favourite colours I'm far less afraid of them than I used to be.

Friday, 5 April 2019

well I never did

Zentangle has helped me through all manner of trials and tribulations - various shades of pain, illness, concern and sadness.  It has proved versatile, familiar, friendly and faithful in recent years.  But I tested its limits these last few weeks!  Or rather, our boiler did.  Two and a half weeks ago our boiler went out.  Two days later the engineer fixed it.  Hours later it failed again.  Days later we had a new boiler fitted.  After a week of erratic success the pump failed and was replaced.  And now we seem to have a problem with the timer, thermostat or wiring!  The fix is still pending.  We've had days with no heating or hot water (and no alternative source of warmth!).  This shouldn't be much of a problem in Spring on the South Coast - but we've had unseasonably chilly nights - frosts even!  The company are diligent in trying to fix the problems, and we have heat now, it just can't easily be turned off once it's on, or vice versa!

This one reminds me of 70's comics -
pink and yellow watercolour hefty hack background
on  3 x 4 inch Hahnemühle bamboo paper
tangled with Well, Well, Well and Cubine -
black ink and graphite 

Eight visits in less than three weeks, countless texts and phone calls.  Noise, strange smells, anxiety and uncertainty are all demanding and distracting enough.  But the cold - waking to cold, going to bed cold and being cold most of the hours in between.  This was not conducive for tangling - I could barely feel my fingers at times, let alone my toes!

Spinning and springing and surprisingly warm looking  -
pink and yellow watercolour hefty hack background
on a 4 x 6 inch Khadi paper piece
tangled with Well, Well, Who and Printemps -
black and burgundy ink, coloured pencil and graphite 

And yet, little by little, when the blood was flowing through my extremities, one stroke at a time, I have worked on two pieces, and here they are - with less explanation than usual - but the hope that normal service will resume shortly.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

the rise and fall

Last week I said that I'd been making lots of backgrounds.  I said some had turned out very bright, others rather pale.  This week I decided to work on a couple of the pale ones.  I had no particular plans as to what to do on them, but some plans found me, and they turned out to be a rather good fit.

As well as creating a technicolour wonderland of inspiration on her blog, Alice Hendon runs the Tangle All Around Facebook group, which provides weekly prompts and a place to share our works.  At various times I've joined in with some of Alice's previous ventures, such as stacked tangling, and a summer of sketchbook tangling.  But these days I mostly lurk or pass through just to see what's happening.  I did that this week and saw that one of the weekly tangles to try was Sassanian by Neil Burley.  As soon as I saw it I thought it would look great on one of my pale tiles.

A touch of Art Nouveau - Sassanian with Msst

The tiles were coloured using blended Distress Inks in a couple of colours - I forget which (must remember to write these things down!).  I then applied an additional helix of colour through a stencil - this almost disappears once the tile is tangled but you can see bits here and there.  I tangled in black ink and with a Wine coloured Copic Multiliner. I put a few extra details in but didn't want to detract from the shapes the tangle forms - that wonderful sense of looking through the mist and rain to the soft spring days just ahead of us.

I dawdled a bit about what to do with the matching tile.  Then I noticed Hanny Nura's Full Moon Mosaic and knew that would be perfect.  Hanny devises Moon based prompts that she introduces on her Instagram account every month.  I'm not on Instagram - but that doesn't stop me looking and admiring her work and the responses of those who join her.  This month she gave us a string, asked us to use Irka by Alena Light, and only botanical tangles. 

Pale moon rising - with A-Dalfa, Irka and Flux, Fescu

I found myself unconsciously choosing tangles that mirrored that teardrop shape that Irka begins with.  I used a strange variation of an auraed Flux in the central V, with feathery Fescu poking through.  And while I'm not sure my A-Dalfa border is strictly botanical, I couldn't resist it. The resulting tile looks like it honours the sun as much as the moon, and could be an autumnal scene as much as one from spring.  But at the end of the day, those are the just names and words we apply to things that existed long before the words did.  The important thing is to focus on how they look, how they feel and the fact that they keep going, age after age after age!

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.