Thursday, 27 February 2014

getting to grips with spring

Apt that in the week when the first of our crocuses and daffodils come into bloom I find myself working on Printemps - the French word for spring!

After discovering I'd been drawing it in equal linear rows I went back to the start and relearned it. And suddenly I saw how much more pleasing it could be. Noticing the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between Tagh and Printemps has made me like them both a fair bit more.

To celebrate I made a tile using only Printemps - the all new Printemps, in all it's free flowing glory.

I wrapped a couple of straps around a wobbly outline and filled it. Some of my Printemps are tight and tiny and have gaps between them. Others are larger but huddle closer together. I popped a bit of colour on two of the quarters.

I also took the opportunity to try out another contender from my paper sample pack. I'd seen a few people using coloured paper and fancied doing the same. In the pack there was a sheet of Cream Tinted Bockingford Watercolour paper (300gsm). It looked rougher than the paper I usually used so I worried that my pen wouldn't like it - but it gave me no trouble at all. However when it came to shading the pencil seemed to stick in the textured surface and refuse to blend. I resorted to a technique I've seen others use and shaded a little with a pen instead.

To me it looks like a shore based gift. Someone in a rush to get to a party, having forgotten a present, picks up something from the sand - a rock, a sponge, a salty something. And if the recipient was me, that would be a wonderful gift to receive.

Monday, 24 February 2014

the first sign of madness

My tiles are often influenced by my mood. A bad day often leads to me declaring I've made a bad tile. And much like today, my tile for Day 22 of One Zentangle a Day didn't come out how I hoped.

The tangles jarred with one another and looked uncomfortable, and the whole lacked elegance, fun or interest. But that doesn't particularly matter - it's not the end result that matters, so much as the process - which was methodical, calm and pleasing.

And it led me to having a sort-of conversation with two tangles - which went something like this -

ME Tagh - aren't you ultimately the same as Printemps only filled differently?

TAGH (slightly offended) Not really...

ME But you are. Okay, your shape is a bit more upright and squared, and you have a darkened dot, not a spiral, but other than that...?

TAGH I'm sure I'm different to Printemps.

PRINTEMPS (interjecting) It's true. We are different... It's just that you draw us the same.

ME Me? are you blaming me for your failings.

TAGH & (at the same time) Umm... yes!

ME (dashes off to find original learning of Printemps... only to find I draw them in rows, all of the same size. I got it slightly 'wrong' from the off and never noticed. Each time I used it I compounded the original error.)

ME Why did you tell me?

PRINTEMPS (sheepishly) I didn't like to!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

one for the faint hearted

One of the steps that Krahula encourages us to take whenever we practice Zentangle really appeals to me. She says 'Appreciate the paper and tools'. And I do. I take a moment to look at them, touch them, line up the ones I know I'll need. It's like pausing for a moment before the magic starts to happen. Knowing that these humbles sticks will move, sometimes seemingly of their own accord, and make a little picture. Maybe the one you planned, maybe something entirely different.

If I had taken a photo before today's tile, to capture that moment of appreciation, it would look like this. 


As it was the photo came afterwards. When I knew that I would use that pale grey Stabilo Fineliner to draw Jellyrolls that you can hardly see, but somehow still need to be there. But alongside it are the usual suspects - the old pencil from a shop that no longer trades, the Derwent 2B (I had no idea that pencils, even those of the same solidity rating could behave so differently, but they do!), my grubby stump. And my faithful Micron 01, marked with a cuff of washi tape so I don't grab one of the wrong thickness when I'm in a hurry. I also like to tape my tile to my sketchbook to keep it still while I work (although I turn the entire contraption when the stroke dictates).

And along with a little help from me this was the tile they made. Using some of the left-over tangles from this weeks It's a String Thing challenge


Thursday, 13 February 2014

the ones that got away

Some weeks there is only one tangle assigned for the It's a String Thing challenge.  But other weeks there is quite a wide selection to choose from.  I pick ones that appeal, ones that work together, ones that excite or challenge or comfort me.  But sometimes I feel a bit sorry for the ones I didn't use, the ones I overlooked or couldn't find a way to squeeze onto my tile.  With a three and half inch canvas you learn to be selective!

For this week's challenge I decided to do a second tile, using the tangles that didn't make the first cut.  I struggled to see how to fit in Efilys - so for this tile I took that as the starting point, whacking one big one down to fill the entire tile.  All the other tangles would have to work around her. 

And they did.  With Eke setting us off along those arms.  Into the bend and then handing over to Ennies - a peculiar but seemingly versatile tangle happy in this instance to take the place of the flourish at the end of the Efilys arm.  With a block of four Emingles in the middle, grounding the whole but also setting it moving a bit in the eye of the beholder. 

It looks like it could take off given enough wind.  And if it did it looks like it could take your head off!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

factory reset

I've had a few unsatisfactory attempts at tangling this week. Ones that don't look bad, but don't provide that glow of satisfaction so needed in a week where the rain barely stops.

Then I think about all those gatherings of beginner's tiles the CZTs show. All those little squares looking a lot alike but hinting at where each artist might take this new form they are learning.

I remember my first tile. And wonder what it would be like to go back and do one again using only those first three tangles. Whilst of course having the technique and confidence that about eight months of tangling has given me.

And so I do. And this is it -

And in it I can see some of what I've learned. About the contrasts of light and dark, about auras and rounding, greater control of the pen, confidence in shading, and that better materials do pay.

This felt a worthwhile exercise, and something I could do every so often. A kind of revision. A reaffirmation. A visit back to the start of the maze – only to get ready to get pleasurably lost all over again.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


As a second part of Day 21 of One Zentangle a Day Krahula challenges us to create a sepia tile.

I decided to carry on my practice of Rick's Paradox and B'tweed and tried them in a simple grid and border form.

I had a sepia Faber-Castell Pitt pen to draw with. I was surprised at how even a slight increase in nib size (the Pitt is 0.3mm compared to the Pigma Micron 01 which is 0.25mm) feels different to work with. In addition I didn't have anything that matched that well to create sepia toned shading. I improvised (Zentangle seems to encourage that!) using a ZIG brush pen in Dark Oatmeal which I blended out with a water brush pen.

And I like the result. It has a more loose feeling to it than many of my tiles. The pen strokes are less precisely laid and the brushed shading builds on that. As a whole it looks quite rustic – and from a distance resembles a vintage ceramic tile or perhaps and old coaster, stained by all the cups of tea that have been placed on it.