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 (theraggedray@gmail.com) 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.

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.