Wednesday, 24 July 2013

making and breaking

I was feeling a bit reluctant to return to the page after the last disastrous ATC – but I found it was much like most disciplines, sticking with it and practice do pay off. 

Today I find myself wanting to break the rules again – just like when I started overlapping my tangles before we were taught to.  I was like this at school, joining my letters together before we were taught how – making a mess of it, but knowing it was coming and eager to evolve. 

And I feel like the string contains me, or not the string perhaps but the border.  I look at some of the designs on the official Zentangle blog and they look borderless, perhaps even stringless.  A little image in the middle of the tile or spilling off the edge.  And so today I break the rules and tangle right to the edges – 

Today’s tangles : Vega - this is a great looking tangle – a strong and supple looking snake that can wind its way wherever it wants.  But I found it so hard to do.  I spent ages practicing and it’s fine as long as the curve is relatively straight, but the minute the bend becomes too bendy the pattern falls apart.  Thankfully a quick Google tells me that quite a lot of other people find the same problem!   Purk – fun to do and adds a nice sense of dimension to a tile – it really seems to jump out of the page and appear as if you would feel its weight and texture if you could touch it.  When I draw it I feel like I’m making Fabergé eggs.

Today’s tile makes me think of gypsy table cloths and vines taking over dilapidated painted caravans.  Of nature trying to fill every available space not yet claimed by man.

Monday, 22 July 2013

whether the weather

We are introduced to the concept of tangleations on Day 7 – the idea of making changes to a tangle to alter it subtly but significantly.  This turns a relatively limited palette of tangles into a far wider, perhaps even endless array to choose from.  It also helps to alter a tangle that doesn’t quite work into one that does.  In addition it allows room for a bit of individual imagination – this takes a step closer to real art, when you can feel like you are creating something new.

After filling a page of my sketchbook with various tweaks on my handful of learned tangles I embark on the second ATC –

and that’s where it all goes wrong.  Nothing comes out as I hope it to – everything feels awkward and looks wrong.  I finish, with a sense of dissatisfaction, and shove it away with little more time than it takes me to sign and date it.

When I come back to it a few days later, I realise I didn’t jot down my customary few lines having finished.  This was the one that got away – that held it’s hand up and flounced out with a ‘no comment’.  This is the one that I’ve taken against. 

Looking at it now I can’t tell up from down, and not in a good way.  It defies gravity.  It’s vaguely sea-based, pebbles and waves – but man-made too – structures attempting and failing to hold back the tide.  Strange thundercloud loops and little bits of lightning and a string of black beads that cast a deep shadow. 

And then I remember that the day I made this tile was hot and humid and we were waiting for storms that we didn’t know yet were coming – it seems I’m forecasting the weather within my tiles.  And realising this I come to like my tile a little more!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

flux capacity

Day 6 of this strange journey brings us to one stroke tangles.  These feel relaxing to make and using them seems to sink me further into the calm place that the act of Zentangling suggests is possible.

For every day when I struggle to see any progress I’m making I have a day when I notice areas of gaining strength.  I am getting better at filling the space.  Loosely allowing one tangle to cover another, and tying the whole together into a pleasing form.

Today’s tangles : Amaze – which looks like the surface of a brain and fills background space well.  Mooka – which are those loops which could be ears or paperclips.  Tricky to get right, but very versatile.  Flux – leafy vines which work great as borders, or bands to break up patterns and cast lovely shadows beneath them as they pass.

The tile I made today is my favourite so far – 

I wonder if the books I’m currently reading (Beacons and Edgelands) inadvertently influence the tile I made, or perhaps just my interpretation of the tile?  It looks like a battle – like nature reclaiming from man.  Roots breaking the surface.  Vines tangling girders.  Beauty in decay.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

hint of a glint

I’ve started using a #2 blending stump for smudging the pencil shading instead of my finger – and have found it very effective – much easier to control the shading, to move it where you want, and smudging the pencil it really makes it look smoother and more natural.

In Day 5 of One Zentangle a Day Krahula introduces the idea of sparkles.  These are a way of enhancing our images.  They are meant to be little spots of caught light and are achieved by lifting the pen as we draw. 

In today’s ATC (Artist Trading Card – a rectangle shaped piece of paper instead of the square) I’ve put sparkles in my Knight’s Bridge and also into my very wobbly Printemps waves.  I’ll admit that beyond this day I’ve struggled with sparkles a bit, and only remember to use them when I actively remind myself.

My image looks like a bird rising from the seas, or hanging down from a tree.  A bird stuffed full of bubbles of bright ideas or gassy responses.  A bird with a beak sealed by a curse - pledged tight to utter not a word.  A bird with concrete curls for hair - living beneath an insect's nest, each cell set to burst.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

say hello to the waves

I continue to do things my own way.  Not just copying but adapting, looking and taking in but interpreting too.  Not just the pattern but the process.  Some people seem to view them as casual throwaway creations but I want to take time with mine.  I want them to look cared for. 

I decide I want to round the corners of my tiles.  Today I like my darker blacker lines – I think they look cartoony!

Today’s tangles : Ischor - which I really struggled to get the hang of, but once I do it has a satisfying sense of texture to it, almost like the soft peaks of a whipped dessert studded with tiny berries.  Printemps - this is a lovely one to do, but tricky to get looking perfect.  Easy to get carried away and end up with messy spirals, but done right it really looks like waves, albeit those in the background on a theatre stage – ready and waiting for the puppets to perform!    

I start to break away from the idea of a square, leaving more white space on the tile.  Today’s creation looks like it should be held.  Like it could move of it’s own accord.  In one place a strange one winged butterfly has settled.  In another cartoon waves roll endlessly across a paper sea.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

these boots are made for walking

In addition to my niggle of yesterday, saying that the pencil line still showed on my finished tile, I’m not that keen on the result that my thicker pen has on the design.  My images look a lot less delicate than many Zentangles done with the recommended 0.25mm nib.  But I’m still learning to love them for what they are!  I’m also not keen on how they look on a screen, as opposed to in hand.  The scanner gives them a slightly pinkish hue (but if I turn them black and white they are too harsh) and every little defect shows up if you zoom in – so don’t!

Never satisfied – this is the tile I made today –

Today’s tangles : Shattuck – looks like a woven basket, or a sea urchin.  Nipa – which looks like a mouse has chewed through wood instead of cheese.  Jonqual – a more slanted take on Knights Bridge with great shading possibility.

I like the tangles that have more possibility – that can be done tighter or looser.  I want to keep making them if only to get to know them better.  They encourage me to spread beyond the spaced allocated to them by my string.  I like all the terms – the specific names the tangles have.  It makes me think of Buddhists and yoga mats and bells.  If you start using a set of unfamiliar terms you start to feel part of something bigger.

I find I have drawn an enchanted boot.  Cursed so that whenever the wearer stops walking, whatever they are standing on (and every surface has a least a percentage of living matter) will grow up and into and over them.  Die walking or die still.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

strange fruits

One of the key concepts of Zentangle is that there are no mistakes – no need to use an eraser.  This is quite daunting, but also quite thrilling too.  If you make a ‘mistake’ or at least a mark that you don’t like the challenge is to change it into something else. 

In addition to not erasing mistakes I suppose we are not meant to erase any ‘string’ lines (the vague borders you draw at the start to later fill in with the pen) either.  Sometimes these get tidily covered by the tangled patterns and any shading, but sometimes (perhaps because I’m a bit heavy handed with my pencil) they remain.  They look a bit awkward to me – but an important part of this activity for me is learning to love the imperfections.  Zentangling should be a pleasure not a chore.
Today’s tile looked like this – 

Today’s tangles : Poke Root – strange cherries that lay over one another and create a sense of depth as well as dimension when you shade them with the pencil.    Festune – which are like decorative lifebuoys and again appear rounded.  Hollibaugh – a lovely stacked planks design which is one of the best tangles for showing the massive impact that shading can have.

I had a buzzy mind while drawing and feared my tile was becoming intricate but cluttered.  I forced myself to leave a band of space running through it.  It could be a river running across the paper – the long Thames before they bridged it.  Or viewed this way up a winding path leading into the woods – with strange fruits and mushrooms – each promising to delight or harm but unlikely to declare which beforehand.  Trees with crossed branches casting strangely straight shadows from strangely straight limbs.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

the one that didn't get away

On most days Beckah Krahula teaches us a few new tangles and urges us to create a tile using those and any we’ve previously learnt. 

At the moment I’m making mine on some cut down blank white postcards of quite thin card quality, and I’m drawing with an Initiative Fineliner, which has a 0.4mm nib.  I’m shading with an HB pencil and smudging with my finger!  The results aren’t quite as precious as the recommended tiles and pen might achieve but I’m working under the premise of this being an artform than anyone can do anywhere!

This was my Day Two tile –

Today's tangles : Knights Bridge - the checkerboard one, a good way to quickly bang some dark contrast into a tile.  Nekton - the little lines, which I'm sure we had on a wallpaper when I was a child!  Fescu - the topped stems which work well to add a bit of movement into a design or can straggle from one area into another. 

I like the part where we rotate our tile at the end, deciding which way up we’d like it to be before we sign it.  This part always sets my imagination afire, as I see my tile morphing through many incarnations.  Although I start to worry already that everything I draw looks like a handkerchief.  That even in my most thought-free moments I’m mopping tears.  But then I turn it and see a kite.  Then a ray trying to get away, strange organs shifting within.  Those places within us all where the concept of swimming is stored – where we are always in movement even when still. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

in the beginning

I spend much of my time writing and reading.  I’m totally devoted to the written word, but sometimes, just sometimes I feel like I need a break from it.  Time spent with something different, something abstract and relatively meaningless.

I can’t remember where or when I first heard about Zentangle, but I decided to get a book about it, as I still prefer to read from paper pages rather than a screen.  I bought a copy of Beckah Krahula’s One Zentangle a Day. 

After a few pages of reading about all the ideal equipment I might need I decided to see what I could achieve with whatever I had to hand.  And this was the result – 

Today's tangles : Static - the zig-zags, which can tend to being more curvy lines if I'm not very careful.  Tipple - which could be named after bubbles in a favourite drink but which always makes me think of stones on a beach.  Crescent Moon - which looks like a sunken spider's web when done in larger areas. 

While doing it I realised I was probably thinking too much about the process to get much of the intended ‘zen’.  It felt somewhat strange to be using a pen for something other than word creation.  But liberating too!  Coming back to the written word afterwards felt a little peculiar. 

Whilst drawing the tile I found I liked the wavy lines more than the straight.  And I found that the tangle I liked least in practice I liked most in use (Crescent Moon).  It felt strange to draw lines towards me as opposed to pushing the line away as I do when writing.  Krahula urges a line to be drawn as if pulling it toward you, to give a greater level of control.  In progress this brought about a sense of taking in as opposed to giving out? 

To me my first tile looks like a ragged cloth, scrunched with emotion – bearing one big hole that might look through to a brighter day.