Monday, 2 November 2020

the wisdom of snails

I can't say that this year has seen me thriving, but I have been striving to keep up with the things that matter the most, and that in turn offer me the most solace.

When I finished the mammoth Zen-untangled project which kept me busy for the first six months of the year I lost my tangling way a little. I drew bits and bobs but struggled to find proper engagement. When Inktober was first mentioned I couldn't believe it was already that late in the year. I planned to spend time choosing a theme and preparing the required tiles and materials... and then October got closer and closer and I felt less and less ready or able to join in.

At which point I remembered one of the key principles that Zentangle teaches us - the elegance of limits. Our lives feel limited in all sorts of negative ways this year, but tangle limits were my saviour this October.  I chose to work small on tan Bijou tiles.  Just two square inches a day for each tangle. I limited my other tools too - working just in black ink, graphite for shading, and occasional white highlights.

In no particular order - one half of the tiles I tangled for Inktober 2020.
I worked from the list curated by Stephanie Jennifer.

When I started I felt rusty, out of practice and unsure. But day by day I felt my tangle muscles loosening up, both the lines and the inspiration coming more easily. Once again I am warmed to discover that Zentangle is a patient, loyal and undemanding friend who is always there for me despite occasional periods of neglect.

Limited tools allowed a simple way to create a cohesive collection.
Some tangles took me in very simple directions, others more complex.

Who knows where the next weeks and months will lead us. Who knows how much or little I will tangle, but for now I have 31 new additions to the small path of tiles that mark my way, steadily but shakily through this most bumpy year.

Monday, 20 July 2020

taking flight

The global pandemic has made vast and small changes to most people's lives. Personally I've found that I prefer to largely withdraw from the world, limiting communications and connections, focusing on mindful concrete activities to get me through my days. As such I haven't blogged in many months, but that doesn't mean I haven't been tangling.

There was a patch near the start where I felt too anxious and unsettled to pick up a pen, and then when I did I felt uninspired and lacking in ideas as to what to do with my urge to tangle. Thankfully I had the perfect project still on the go – the one I started at the very beginning of the year when few of us could imagine how this year would unfold.

Week after week, month after month I've been adding to my stack of ATC cards. On each appears one or more of the core Zentangle official tangles. The project is the brainchild of Alice Hendon, and she's led us through it lovingly for the past 25 weeks! And through 170 tangles. Which I've inked onto 65 cards and placed into my little tin which is now threatening to burst!

It's been a pleasure to meet tangles I love, tangles I really don't care for, tangles I use often, and many I've overlooked. I've liked noting their similarities, and encouraging them to play nicely with one another. I've moved back and forward between the surprise of colour and the elegance of black and white. And in the process I've realised how far I've come in my Zentangle journey - revisiting tangles that I first learnt perhaps eight years ago. Tangles which were hard to control or unfathomable to recreate now come with relative ease as my penmanship and understanding of patterns has become stronger and more instinctive.

My little tin has become a precious receptacle of tangle wonders – a great resource that I can dip into time and again whenever I'm stuck for what tangle to use next.

With this project complete I'm ready now to let myself drift into uncharted waters, following where my pen will lead me. I've got e-books, swap tiles, and simple scraps of paper with rumoured ideas - plenty to keep me occupied in the months ahead. Who knows how long it will be till I visit here again – but in the meantime listen to the right people, stay safe and take care of yourself and those you love.

Friday, 6 March 2020

territorial jottings

I go through phases of working a lot in my sketchbooks, gathering new tangles galore, and playing with ideas, colours or techniques.  And then for no apparent reason I'll just stop... spending less time inside these pages, and instead working straight to tile.  Then I'll start again.  Perhaps it's about filling the book with inspiration which sustains me for a while and then I need to top up again.

Here's the latest batch of pages from my sketchbook - the earliest one was started last summer, the most recent one was started in December but I tucked a couple of tangles into some gaps just last week.

Points of interest -
White ink on black - showing that I was playing with Project Pack 6 around this time
Comparing Dealys with Aura-Leah helped me to appreciate their differences
Hanamar which seems to confuse me less than similar tangles
A new take on Finery (middle right) and Dewd meets Mooka (middle left)

Points of interest -
Using a Doodah as a zipper - a Maria Thomas' idea I really love
Ravel - endlessly relaxing to tangle
Trinity - a tangle that doesn't come easily but always rewards my efforts
Una which I just remembered when looking at this page - almost looks like it's knitted

Points of interest -
A couple of delicious Ela Rieger organic tangles (top left)
Hollis - which really demands me to slow down
Tangent - which is a really quirky tangle and so much fun, I need to use it more

Points of interest -
 Blue ink comes onto the page as I play with Zentangle's Project Pack 07 ideas
Experimenting with Afterglo was fun
High Stakes is a great tangle for when you need a handful of excitement to finish a tile

Points of interest -
More blue fun from Project Pack 07 - Day #8 giant decorated Cadent was a pleasant surprise
Two bands of Elegan - which took the tangle world by storm recently.  I was trying out colours ready for Valentangle - I really wanted to be brave enough to work with purple, but retreated into the comfort of grey in the end!

Points of interest -
The end of Project Pack 07 - Day #10 organic bouquet was comforting to tangle
Sun is a mesmersing spiral tangle, and seems to play very well with Hollis. 
And Nana is a great new find for when you need a hit of dark drama on your tile

I've just started working on two new pages in my sketchbook - which I'll no doubt share with you some way down the line.  On one I'm playing with the ideas introduced in the Project Pack 08 videos from Zentangle HQ.  On the other I'm exploring the technique known as Whatz-Its. I've bought the course (which is offered by my friends at 7F5R Studio) - but you can get a free taster of the technique (which is a lot of fun and very versatile) by watching their free preview lesson, which gives a heap of inspiration in itself.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

a handful of tangles

I was captured by Alice Hendon's Zen-untangled idea as soon as I saw it.  I knew there was something precious and important about spending time with the core Zentangle patterns - once I'd found a way that would work for me.  I've embraced each and every card, even the challenging ones, and I'm gaining so much on the way. 

I'm getting to know new tangles I've never met before.  Some of them are a lot less elaborate than those we are used to seeing from ZTHQ these days - but each has a certain charm and potential once you start to work with them.  It's also comforting to know that even Rick and Maria started somewhere quite basic!

I'm revisiting old tangles that I used to struggle with, that I can now tangle with ease - which is a comfort and reminder that we all develop and improve the more we do something, even if we don't always notice.  I'm also re-discovering tangles that I love, that I'd forgotten, and have been inspired to use more.  In addition, needing to fit a few onto an ATC often provides a great way to encourage tangles to play together.

There's a bit of a backlog to catch up with, as I've been preoccupied with Valentangle - but here are my last 3 weeks worth of cards.

A handful of organic tangles Fescu, Springkle, Zinger -
filling spaces defined by Doodah.  On a Distress Inked tile.

Marvellous Mooka - tangled in the styles I favour.  As a border, with
Melting Mooka and Easy Mooka - on a dark grey tile.

Hollis cups Moonpie, and sprouts from Tagh
clustered corners.  Watercolour and graphite on white.

Similar tangles share space on this Distress Inked
tile - Drupe and Fracas with a Dyon background.

A speckled grey background and a bit of imagination
helped 3 initially uninspiring tangles to enjoy their
moment in the spotlight - Ibex, Facade and Xircus

Beautiful basics - Crescent Moon and Knightsbridge -
I bought in white and subtle colour to this tan tile.

I've never been a fan of Enyshou - but omitting
the 'hat' and having it sprout from Festune made
me like it a lot more!  With a band of Hibred on
a gently watercoloured tile.

Huggins meets W2 - passing through a Crazy Huggins
stage on the way.  Sometimes this kind of woven tangle
is a delight to work with.  On a very orange tile for me!

That's me caught up to date so far.  46 of the 170 official tangles worked into 19 ATCs!  It's going to be a delightful deck to shuffle through one day, but making each card is an exciting creative oppurtunity in itself.

Friday, 14 February 2020

a whole lotta love

For the past two weeks my tangling has been wholly heart-shaped as I've been joining in with Margurite Samama's ValenTangle – now in its fifth year. I took part for the first time last year in an effort to overcome my aversion to heart-based tangles. It worked – as I can now see them as just another geometric shape, ripe and ready for tangling.

ValenTangle 2020 - pencil and paper and ink and love

Last year I worked in blue, this year I decided to warm things up, but just a little. I'm still enjoying working on grey tiles, so as well as grey papers I coloured some of my own tiles using a simple watercolour technique. Take a grey water-based marker (I used Tombow on these), scribble it on to a plastic sheet, spritz with water and plonk your tile onto it. A little trial and error to find the right amount of water, but when you do it works a treat, and the tiles almost look like marble.

As well as black ink and graphite I chose a Signo metallic gel pen in bronze and a
Derwent Metallic pencil in Copper. I have no idea why I didn't buy a matching
bronze pencil – but there you go, and I think the mismatch actually works quite well!

I shared my tiles each day in the dedicated Facebook group, but for those of you who weren't there, or would like to see all my tiles in one place, let me lead you by the hand through a fortnight of love.

Day 1 - playing with V & A, a new border tangle by Marguerite

Day 2 - Trinity variation with hearty versions of Beadline and Sandswirl

Day 3 - Exploring Minstrels (a variation of Demi)

Day 4 - exploring Marguerite's DoubleHeartZ fragment

Day 5 - having fun with Starsky, hidden in a Phroz-type
framework! With added Tipple, hearts and black ribbons.

Day 6 - Marguerite offered a mosaic-friendly string
and invited us to explore it on Bijou tiles. 

Day 7 - the suggested tangle was Jackstripes - which I used as a
frameworkto fill with lots of organic tangles.

Day 8 - one idea for today was to adapt existing tangles in a hearty
way - I chose to do that with my Divi tangle and Marguerite's Madama

Day 9 - playing with the tangles of Tomàs Padrós in a hearty way.
I used BlindMembranart, B-Leaf and Fortuna.

Day 10 - tangle the 4 corners of your tile and enjoy the space.
Trenthwith hearts joined by Melting Mooka.

Day 11 - organic tangles and the contrast between a dark pen and a light.
Marasu frames and then lots of pale grey botanical tangles.

Day 12 - tangle a Khala knot (I used a pencil, I admit it!) and then
glorify with hearts.  Arukas hearts made another appearance!

Day 13 - revisit the ValenTangle string but on in a larger space. 
This is 4 inches and mostly filled with a Bunzo variation and Heartline.

Day 14 - Marguerite asked us to decorate an envelope and write
a note to ourselves to put inside.
A hearty Zenith, Cubine and embellishments on my black envelope.

I've mentioned before that committing to a tangling event that invites daily pieces (not insists of course, but it was hard to resist such good prompts!) takes time, energy and commitment. It's not something I do often, but sometimes it's worth that extra push. I like to see a cohesive collection at the end of the journey. I like the days where I'm in my comfort zone - Days 1 and 10. The days I struggle with are quickly left behind - Day 3! And I especially like the days that take me by surprise, when I initially feel uninspired by the prompt or tangle, but then find the process and my result one of the most satisfying - Days 5, 6, 7 and 8.

It's been a journey taking in bends and dips and corners, a steady stroll about the perimetre of a heart. Now we've reached the end I feel gently warmed and not just by the copper and bronze.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Gallery #1

In my last post I talked about changing things a little on my blog.  As well as posts where I explore a theme or style or technique I want to have posts where I simply share the pieces I've worked on recently, with minimal commentary (by my standards)!  A guided tour through my tangle gallery if you like - and this is the first of those posts.

I'm in an opinionated mood today, so bear with me, and just enjoy the pictures if you don't like what I have to say.

Time to say goodbye -
(Arukas, Mooka and Fescu )
Pigment ink and graphite on a Distress Ink coloured and stenciled tile

I tangled this tile today - the day that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. This is not something I wanted, not something I voted for. But I understand, with a heavy-heart, that I have to accept the workings of democracy, and the so-called 'will of the people' - even when I think their choice is short-sighted and will leave our country poorer in so many, many ways. I feel sad today, and scared about what lies ahead. I want to reach out to my European tangle friends and tell them I'm not letting go.

I'd rarely choose to work on a such a bright blue tile and with yellow stars too - but sometimes how things look isn't as important as what they represent!

AusTangles Part I
(S-Vine, Veezy, Gottago, Leaflet, Remo, Sevy)
Pigment ink and graphite on a watercoloured postcard - 6x4 inches

Over the past 2 weeks I've joined in with Austangles, hosted on Facebook by Yvette Campbell. She picked a daily tangle by an Australian tangler and invited us to join in however we wanted to. It was great to work with some new and old tangles and I had fun weaving them all together on a pair of postcards - one to represent the warmth and richness of Australia's natural habitat and culture, the other for the cooling waters that surround it.

AusTangles Part II
(Trimonds, Appease, Mak-Rah-Mee, Swimz, Oddballz, Brax)
Pigment ink and graphite on a watercoloured postcard - 6x4 inches

Australia has been suffering in recent months with devastating wildfires causing significant death and destruction. It's hard to know how to help when you're many miles away. I don't personally believe in prayers for rain, but I do believe in what we can do as individuals. I can donate to charities that are helping those affected. I can read to stay informed and educate myself about what's happening and why - which is undeniably related to the worsening state of our climate. I can make sensible and necessary lifestyle choices that might limit my negative impact on our climate. And I can vote for those who properly respect our world and are willing to do what needs to be done.  I can also spend time reflecting on these things as I tangle using along with others all around the world, and hope that a little connection can go a long, long way.

Lastly and with no agenda whatsoever -
these are the next 3 tiles for my Zen-untangled tin (a project to explore the full set of Zentangle official tangles).
On the first - Molygon, Nipa and Bumper
On the second - Verdigogh, Locar and Pepper
On the third - just Ellish

I'm about to dive into this year's ValenTangle - a two week celebration of connection and love, carefully designed and hosted by Marguerite Samama.  I had a wonderful time last year, and came a long way towards conquering my dislike of drawing hearts.  Join us if you'd like to, and I'll be back in a couple of weeks to share my results.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

getting to grips with a new year

At the start of a new year I like to take a little time to reflect on where I've been in the past year, to better know where I might want to go this year. In terms of tangling I like to look through the tiles I created and pick out some of my favourites.

Last year I worked on a year long project to tangle according to the seasons. At times it felt challenging, but I feel a great sense of satisfaction having done it and it's wonderful to flick through my album and see the colours fading through the spectrum in tune with the seasons.

12 of the best from 2019
Admittedly my favourite pieces come from a fairly limited part of the year's palette!

This year I want to do things differently - I want more freedom. I have a long list of things I want to do. Some are new things I've never tried, techniques I've read about but put aside for the time being. I have e-books (speaking of which) I want to work through, devoting the time and focus they deserve. I also have a long list of things I want to revisit - things I enjoyed but want to spend more time with, to dig deeper thereby getting more from them. I also want to linger over the things I love doing often and regularly. I want to strengthen my weaknesses and have wild times with the things I feel I'm good at.

I want to spend more time doing and less time reading and thinking and talking about Zentangle. I blogged 42 times last year. I might blog less this year, or the same, probably not more. But the style of my posts might change a little. There will still be themed posts where I share a cohesive body of pieces and talks about the techniques I used. But there might also be simpler gallery type posts where I share a snapshot of the things I've been working on, without as much wordy padding! Hopefully my blog will still remain interesting and attractive!


To start this year I've joined in with Zen-untangled which is the latest collaborative project from Alice Hendon. She talks about it on her blog as well as uniting many fellow tanglers who are doing it on her Facebook group Tangle All Around. Simply put, Alice is inviting us to get to know the 170 Zentangle core tangles. She encourages participants to create a book, including step-outs and examples, which will become a wonderful offline resource for your own tangling and to pass on to others.

I was taken by the idea as soon as I heard about it, mostly because I love the official tangles - well, most of them anyway! But it's important to know and acknowledge what will work for you. And what won't!  I knew I wouldn't like doing Zen-untangled in the exact way Alice suggests. I don't like working in books on a regular basis and I knew I wouldn't enjoy drawing step-outs for every tangle either.  I'd rapidly fall behind and abandon the whole thing.  Thankfully Alice encourages us to join in whatever way we prefer.

At the moment I'm storing black cards and finished cards in the tin -
but I when I finish I think the stack of tiles will probably be too big,
so I might clip them together with a binder ring unless I have a better idea!

A bit of pondering and a dose of luck and I've struck on a way that works for me. My partner gave me this little tin for Christmas, and it's a perfect fit for ATCs, which is a tile shape I'm liking a lot these days. So I'm doing my Zen-untangled on ATCs.

On the left - Eye-Wa and Florz
On the right - Dex and Hurry

On the left - IX
On the right - Avreal, Ahh, Snail, Therefore and Tipple

On the left - Centipede, Ynix and Frondous
On the right - Echoism

On the left - Cubine and Ixorus
On the right - Flux and Hollibaugh

As you can see, on some days there's just one tangle on the tile, some days 2, other days more. I like the way I get to see how the tangles play together, I get to draw a simple version and some variations if I want to. I get to use colour in large or small amounts or just celebrate the beauty of black and white. And when it's finished I'll have a lovely deck of cards to shuffle through for pure Zentangle inspiration.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

shimmering beginnings

A new year of a new decade and what better way to kick off 2020 on The Ragged Ray than with a new tangle!

The fruits of my recent tanglings
The origins of this tangle go back many years – it started as one of the many scrappy ideas I play with but set to one side. In December I saw a piece by German CZT Stephanie Kiefhaber which really caught my eye. She'd used a repeating shape and acknowledged that she didn't think it was any named tangle. I told her that I'd played with an idea for something similar many years back but hadn't worked further with the tangle, drawn a step-out or named it. I showed Stephanie my scrappy notes and she encouraged me to develop my idea – and so I did. It's my pleasure to introduce you to Quin!

A small stash of tiles to play with
Quin clearly shares tangle DNA with official tangles Tagh and Centipede as well as with Adele Bruno's C-Perfs. But I think it has enough of its own character to merit its own name – do you agree? It's a tangle that asks you to draw slowly, and shade carefully, but it's rhythmic and mesmerising to use. Resembling scales or petals it adds texture and depth to any tile. I named it Quin for its resemblance to a string of sequins - and while I mostly tangle it without an the extra dot and dash, if you're in a representational mood they can be a fun addition too! If you find any weird angles or wobbles that you don't like when tangling Quin, simply darken them with your pen and you'll find they add character.

Before the festive break I cut and coloured some bright white Clairefontaine papers - one smooth and the other with some texture. I added a touch of colour using two Finetec watercolours (Blue Silver and Lavender) that my dear friends Debbie and Stephanie (a different one!) in Singapore sent me last year. It's hard to capture the beauty of these mica-rich pigment paints, which offer one colour when viewed straight on but another shade of shimmering magic when tilted to catch the light (you can catch a glimpse of what I mean in the photo at the top of this post). They bring a subtle but welcome shot of colour which plays so well with the white tile, black ink and grey shading.

And so, to the tiles -

Quin was too shy to appear on this first tile - but
Nvelope, Printemps and Mooka had fun among themselves!

I started this tile with Ixorus, and added a sunken section of
Quin, and some little Fescu-type tufts.

Two sections of Quin with Fescu formed a central space that I
started to fill with Bales, but which rapidly morphed into Puf.

Quin defined a strange shape and space on this tile, room
for a little Hollibaugh in the middle and more Fescu!

Lastly an arcing band of Panepinto (with Jetties) formed a space which
I filled with Sistar. A handful of Flux and Perf-topped tufts, and a single
line of Quin showing its resemblance to a string of sequins.

That's all for now. I hope your year is getting off to a good start. And I hope you enjoy getting to know Quin – please do let me know if you use my tangle and how you find it.

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