Friday, 18 January 2019

making and breaking

Contrary to popular belief January is not named after the two-faced Roman god Janus. However I believe the month invites us to take a glance at the year we've just left behind, as well as the one opening out ahead of us. I don't make New Year resolutions, however in recent years I've written myself a short manifesto – a list of aims and hopes for the months to come. And every January I look back and see how much of what I aimed for a year ago I've actually achieved. It's interesting to see where I've succeeded, where I've failed, and where the aim no longer seems so important. It helps me to chart the things that stay true as well as those that change. I split my manifesto into different sections relating to different areas of importance in my life – and of course I have a section for Zentangle. I might list new techniques I want to try, old techniques I want to revisit, new tangles I want to step-out and share with the community. There were eight things on my Zentangle list last year and I achieved five. There are 10 on my list this year, and I'll have to wait till next January to see how many I managed to do! But it's not about merely ticking off achievements for me – it's about thinking about my practice, engaging with it, developing it and keeping it alive and inspiring.

As part of this reflective patch I thought I would look back over all the tiles I tangled last year. I decided to pick out 12 of my favourites and share them here - as much to remind myself where I'd been as to show you. Favourite sometimes means a tile that I really like the look of, sometimes one that was a delight to tangle, sometimes one that has particular significance or memory attached to it.  Different colours, different shapes of tile, different styles and a fair dose of classic black-and-white Zentangle magic. I wonder what a similar collage of your year would look like?

2018 - a year in 12 tiles
a strange kind of tarot - reading tiles instead of cards - decoding the past not predicting the future -
 examining what did happen rather than what might

Turning my attention from the past to the future, Adele Bruno recently invited us to start our String Thing adventures with a string based on the number 19. I didn't get my tile finished in time to send to her (a theme I'm continuing from last year!) but I thought it would fit well here as I talk about the year to come.  Do have a look at all the tiles that others created using the same string.
IAST #274 - featuring Centipede and Lex

Annette, curator of the wonderful Mosaik Project that I regularly talk about here, recently launched a new endeavour - Zendala Moments. She is not classing it as a challenge so much as an invitation to explore the fun that can be had when working on pre–strung Zendalas. She provides a template and then allows us to post links with our results. She plans to host monthly Moments – a great addition to fill the gap left by the Bright Owl.

Zendala Moments #1 - weighted Printemps and aura

As soon as I saw the string I knew I wanted to use a weighted Printemps technique that I'd seen fellow UK tangler Jo Quincey use a number of times to great effect in recent weeks. I also felt instinctively drawn to a regular sized square tile - which of course Annette's templates were not designed to fit. No problem - I just cut the template in half, flipped the halves, and transferred the design to my tile. Pleasant hours ensued, lost to the calm of repetition, of rounding each and every corner, of dark, of light - of getting sucked out of the morning and all the large and small worries that circled me, and down into each and every spiral. I drifted at times, but the pen always pulled me back. Again and again and again.  The end result is not how we expect a Zendala to look - but if we can't break the rules here then where?

Thursday, 10 January 2019

these darkening days

For the past couple of years I have worked on a tangle project over the festive period. I've given myself limited materials and focus and have been pleasantly surprised by the results. I planned to do the same this year but things didn't turn out quite as hoped. In addition to my injured tangling arm I also had severe back pain which left me unable to do much beyond lying down, moving occasionally and tentatively, and trying to keep hold of the Christmas spirit while substituting a gin and tonic for a handful of painkillers!

Christmas and New Year wasn't what we planned or hoped for, but despite that I wouldn't say we had a bad time, we found gentle pleasures in unexpected places. And while my tangling wasn't quite what I planned, it wasn't a failure either.

I allowed myself only a handful of supplies - pen, pencil, tortillion,
plus a dark grey watercolour brush pen, and a water brush

True, I only produced two tiles in two weeks, working just a tiny amount each day, before needing to take a break. But the tangling still felt absorbing and helpful, and the results look pretty good too.

Tangles used – Divi, Diva Dance, Mooka and Twile

I've been playing with the scrap of an idea for a while - of working in a palette and style in keeping with the seasons. I'm not sure if I'll keep exclusively to that for a full three months, but it's something I want to revisit again and again, as I like the idea of having a body of work reflective of the time it was made.

Tangles used – Divi, Diva Dance and Bask-It

These two tiles start my Winter Inklings, as I think I'll call it. They are stark but striking, cool but somehow comforting. Broken branches and fractured ice, heavy woollen blankets too.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

the five-panelled finish line

All began well with my attempt to tangle along with the Zentangle team's Twelve Days project.  I shared an unshaded sneak preview when I'd completed four days.  And then it all went wrong, and I hurt my arm.  But slowly and surely it's getting better.  Still a little weak but, wonder of wonders, I'm able to tangle again!  After a couple of days of warming up on Bijou tiles I returned to my Zigzangle alternative to the official spinner.

It may not spin but it wends back and forth in a most pleasing manner -
especially went winter lighting illuminates only every other panel!

In my opintion ZTHQ did a very clever thing this year by not introducing new tangles or new techniques.  But instead taking us hand in hand through a glorious retrospective of those old and dusty, true and tested tangles that we all learned in the beginning, and some of whom we probably now rarely use.  I'm loving reacquainting myself with Festune, Umble, Jonqual and Betweed as well as meeting new friends in the shape of Fracas and Quabog.

Some watercolour along the borders and an Eye-wa type string

I managed to fit most of the tangles from the project onto my Zigzangle - although it was a bit of a squeeze and a couple of the days (6 and 12 if you crave details!) had to spread themselves out across the entire length.  But it's affirmed my pleasure at working on these long and winding tiles.

And so that brings me to the end of my last blog post for the year.  I'll won't be spending much time at my computer for the next couple of weeks.  In the last few months I've fallen into a more steady rhythm with my posts and have enjoyed the momentum that gives me and I have lots of tangle posts pencilled in for next year.  So, whoever you are, where ever you read this - thank you for sharing this strange world of black ink and graphite with me.  Best wishes for your festive season and see you next year!

Friday, 14 December 2018

It's starting to look a lot like Zentangle!

I had all sorts of wonderful tangling plans for this week and those ahead.  I started strong on Monday throwing some seasonal style at a couple of Persian Mosaic triangles (please take a look at my previous post if you want to know more about the Persian Mosaic scene).

Cobalt and Deep Scarlet Pitt pens, gold pen, graphite and white chalk - and lots of Baton

But life had other ideas when I hurt my arm on Tuesday morning.  I've rested it since, and today was the first time I picked up a pen, holding it far more tentatively that usual.  I had grand plans for a Poke Leaf Wreath (trying saying that in a hurry!) for the Diva's Holidaze challenge, but needed to scale back my plans.  Instead I managed to tangle a Zenbutton on some suitably deep green pastel paper.

Tangled with Sistar fragment, Mooka, Tipple and perfs

The wreath will still be there, for another week, another year - the good thing about tangled Pokes is they never wither however little you look after them!


When I tangle I mostly tangle for tangling sake. I rarely 'use' my tiles for anything, and I hardly ever tangle objects. When I see other people making things with their tangle art I'm suitably impressed, but that's not what I want to do on a regular basis. For me the pleasure and the benefit is tangling with no destination in mind.

But there are occasional exceptions - and I thought I'd share a few festive pieces from past years as the build-up to the Christmas season gathers pace.

I've dabbled in Zentangle inspired greetings cards for my nearest and dearest. I've cut out Baton tangled holly leaves, with vaguely Bunzo berries. I've stacked various tangles on a large parcel label and mounted it to a card. But my favourite Christmas card is this one - where I used Distress Inks to colour a tile graduating from green into red. I then tangled using the unintentionally festive LitBee alongside my own tangle Tira.

There's always a tile in a simple frame that sits on a shelf in the room where I tangle and write these posts. It's usually a recent tile, one that I'm particularly happy with - it inspires me and guides me on those inevitable days when the line wobbles and my shading smudges. Sometimes I'll frame an additional tile suitable to the season and put it on a shelf in our lounge.

Any tangle takes on the Christmas spirit if you want it to!

But last year I took the plunge and tangled a set of four coasters for use on our Christmas dinner table. I coloured tiles with Distress Ink, and then tangled in black and complimentary colour with shading and highlights. As well as varying the tangles I made sure to repeat some over all four coasters to bring the set together. These tiles were then sealed inside a set of glass coasters that I found on Amazon. A pleasingly personalised addition to our tableware, and one that we will be pulling out again this year.

Friday, 7 December 2018

celestial happenings

The year is running away with me.  The list of things I need to do, let alone want to do, is longer than will fit into the days that are left.  I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way.

I don't want to totally sacrifice the things that calm and refresh me, things like Zentangle.  This is just the time when I need them most, to charge me up to keep going.  But what I can sacrifice is any unnecessary pressure that attaches itself to my tangling.  I can particularly dispense with worries about deadlines.  I've made a habit of being fashionably late for Zentangle challenges all year, so why worry now!

There were a couple of challenges that caught my eye last month - but which I only finished today.  One was Adele Bruno's It's a String Thing #269.  She introduced an idea she learned at ZenAgain from Maria Thomas.  That of starting at one corner of your tile with a tangle drawn large and then the same tangle smaller from the other corner and letting them meet in the middle.  Adele suggested we try this with Soluna.   It was a great choice and the time I spent on this tile was so relaxing, steadily drawing one orb after another, embellishing some more than others, not worrying about any orbs that had an odd shape, as the later crescent auras and shading would smooth out any inconsistencies.  I love the depth in the finished tile and I know it's an idea I'll visit again.

IAST #269 - Soluna over a very old tile coloured with watercolour pen

I also couldn't resist joining in with the most recent of Hanny Nura's wonderful Full Moon Mosaics.  These are based on Instagram and there will be a new one starting quite soon.  She dreams up the most delightful ideass and runs each one to time in with the phases of the moon.  The last one involved a circle of Marguerite Samama's Madama in the middle, and A-dalfa around the edges and a tangle of your choice in between.  I chose Nik and used lots of dark auras and repeating lines to pull it all together.

Tangled on tan paper, with touches of Wine coloured ink

Like many others in our community I'm currently joining in with the Zentangle Twelve Days project.  I'm enjoying watching the videos, sucking up the enthusiasm of the team, and being reminded of some great older tangles that had been gathering dust.  I'm not working on a Project Pack spinner though -  I don't get on with large ares of paper.  Instead I've decided to do the Twelve Days as one of my Zigzangles.  It doesn't divide neatly into 12 sections, or more, so I'm cramming the tangles in how and where I can!  I've left some spaces in the centre of each panel, I don't know really why, but I'm hoping that something will crop up on later days for me to go back and add to the spaces.  Or not! 

I don't usually share unfinished pieces, and I won't shade until the end because I'll only get covered in graphite on future days, so I'm feeling a bit exposed with only my naked line work for you to see! 

Friday, 23 November 2018

something frosted this way comes

Strolling back through my blog archives shows significant differences in my tangling practice through the years.  In my second year of tangling, 2014, I blogged 66 times in a year - that's more than once a week!  In my two quietest years I posted only 19 times in each.  This year looks set to be somewhere in the middle.  But when I look more closely at the posts I realise they have changed a lot.  Back then I often posted a single tile, with just a paragraph of text to accompany it.  Now I tend to write longer posts, I give greater thought to what I'm trying to say through this blog, and I include multiple images.  And that's just the blogging.

Old news - three tiles from the archives - Diva Challenge responses from 2014

My tiles have changed too.  They are far more complex these days, even the minimal ones, and they take much longer to tangle.  Which is not to say they are necessarily better, nor is blogging less inherently worse.  It's just different.  This is where I am right now, in my tangling and my blogging.  But comparisons are interesting and useful as we can see where we were, how far we've come, and know that even when we feel like we are stuck in one place, we're actually always moving.

Finding our own way on and through sometimes involves finding new ways to work with old tangles.  Sometimes to be inventive, sometimes just to get on better with a tangle we struggle with.  Laura notes this in her Diva Challenge posting for this week - she says she feels better about Pokeroot when she draws it larger.  I used to feel the same way, and then I preferred it with lots of rounding, but lately I've liked drawing a stripped back version, with lots of tiny Pokeroots along simple black-line branches.  Which is what I did this week, weaving in and around a slender shiny Fengle, with more Pokeroot in the border.

Winter approaches - first frost on Pokeroot

One more tile to share today - I started this last Friday afternoon, and finishes shading it today.  I tangled as the light steadily left the room, the day and the working week.  Minute after minute it became harder and harder to see what I was tangling.  My tangles pulled closer and closer to each other, leaving just that space of brightness in the middle.  I need to accept that it gets dark early.  I need to move my tangle time to earlier in the day.  I need to embrace the way the year changes everything, the trees, the light, my tangling and me. 

My kind of twilight - a tight cluster of lots of different tangles

Thursday, 15 November 2018

four quarters of an overcast Thursday

I've always found wisdom in unexpected places.  Fiction guides me more than faith, poetry soothes more than prayer.  And when I'm tangling and truly absorbed in the process so many little lessons slip out from between those seemingly meaningless lines of black ink.  I don't need to hang on every word of the gospel according to Rick and Maria, as eloquent and entertaining as they often are.  I just need to embrace this thing they created and within it I might find whatever I need at that moment.

Tangles used - Flux, Ynix, Opus and Mooka

I haven't tangled much of late.  I'm stuck in one of the gristly bits of life, and it's taking most of my time and energy and focus to chew my way through.  I'll get there, but not just yet.  My tangle-hand feels rusty, my lines are a little more wobbly than usual.  I'm a bit jittery, distracted.  But a window of time opened today and I wanted to make the most of it.  Rather than getting lost in the choice of which project to resume I reached for this week's Diva Challenge - where she invites us to make a mosaic from 4 tiles.  I knew I wouldn't have time to make 4 full sized tiles, so I reach for Bijous.  I then (somewhat stupidly) decided it would be easier to cut my tiles and switch parts, rather than drawing strings.  The resulting pieces didn't fit together that well, the sections didn't line up smoothly and I didn't feel that hopeful.   I almost abandoned it altogether.

I added a black border at the scanning / adjustment stage
to hide the ragged edges, I may be the Ragged Ray but there are limits!

But then I started tangling... adding just 4 original tangles, some perfs, ink, graphite and white pencil.  The imperfections slowly started to fade (they're still there, but only if you choose to notice them).  Each tile has its own personality, its tangle, its quirks.  Each little tile looks good on its own, but stands stronger as part of the whole.  With patience, effort and compromise something apparently hopeless stands a chance.  All of which is true for life, as it is for my tiles.  Wisdom enough for one week I think!