Wednesday, 31 July 2019

monochrome rainbows

Shading is one of the aspects I enjoy the most when I work on a tile - but last week I barely shaded at all, and I realised that often, particularly at the height of summer, I tend to forego my pencil and work with ink alone.

I decided to continue to leave my pencil to one side, and this week I worked on some Notan style tiles. In brief Notan is a Japanese artistic technique that uses only black and white to create striking and varied images or patterns. It's a style that lends itself to Zentangle. There are a handful of tangles that Linda at Tangle Patterns groups together under the tag of Notan - including a few Zentangle originals, of which we're all familiar, and probably use quite often in our work.

Whilst Notan tangles look great in black on white tiles, they also delight on more colourful backgrounds. I prepared my backgrounds by blending three shades of Distress Inks (Crushed Olive, Peacock Feathers, Dusty Concord) on a piece of Strathmore Bristol Smooth. I then cut this into two 4x4 and 4 2x2 tiles to fill a page in my binder.

I set to tangling, choosing a handful of my favourite Notan tangles. Filling in large amounts of black ink can feel time-consuming, but I find it quite relaxing. If it seems daunting to you then try working small as I did on these four Bijou size tiles. I used a 01 pen to draw the initial tangle and then filled using an 02.
Tangles used -
on the Bijou (top to bottom) - Dyzzee, Knightsbridge, Strircles, Flontrast
on the two large tiles (top) - Chloë & Ozzie (bottom) - Blaw

It's worth taking a little care as you move from section to section. It's easy to think that it such an easy tangle that it doesn't need much focus - sometimes a wicked sprite seems to whisper in your ear telling you to jump ahead and fill in a section, and suddenly you've messed up. Or you slip and your pen crosses from an area of black into white. No disaster, just a chance to add a little flourish or change of direction. There is no need for these tangles to be considered stark or boring, in my examples I've added little tweaks - frames, or perfs, lines or bulges.

While I played with other Notan tangles I started to devise one of my own - loosely based on the structure of Bales. It's my pleasure to introduce you to Blaw - named after a contraction of the phrase 'black and white'.

Just a few steps to build the basic frame, and then fill as you desire.

It's easy to underestimate Notan style tangles, to think they can be nothing more than their bold black and white selves. But there's subtlety to them if you choose to look for it - as can be seen here.

Detail lines, rounding, and auras, or a a combination of these -
all add interest and variety to a Notan tangle

And that's without the power of shading which of course could be included too! Margaret Bremner takes the Notan concept even further and twists it in all sorts of interesting directions.

I look forward to seeing what you do with Blaw - please let me know if you use it, and if you like it.

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


  1. So cool! I love your work so much! It's funny because I do not like to shade at all, but I love the outcome so I do it anyways LOL Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks you Artzy. Some people like shading and some find it a chore. But few can deny what it adds to our work! Maybe it's about finding what kind of shading you prefer. I like graphite best, and find colour shading a chore, but many people prefer that. Also some people shading with pens rather than pencils. Also there's hatching or stippling that give the effect of shading. Maybe you should try a different way and see you if like it more!

  2. Wonderful work!
    Your "Blaw" is a wonderful tangle and it just looks great on a coloured background. I will add it to the Musterquelle. I hope it´s ok?
    Thank you for this valuable and inspiring post.

    1. Thank you Annette! Of course you can add Blaw to the Musterquelle - I'm honoured!

      Off to work on my Mosaik tiles now!

  3. Hi Jem! Fun tangle! I want to fill up some string with it!

    1. Thanks Heidi. I look forward to seeing what you do with Blaw!