Thursday, 24 April 2014

better late than never

I intended to do a second tile for last week's It's a String Thing challenge - I'd laid down some watercolour pen in the shape of the string - but, running out of time, I never got round to tangling once it was dry.  It sat in a little tin on my shelf - looking a lot like a featureless Loch Ness monster. 

Earlier in the week I noticed the latest Diva challenge - but no ideas immediately came to mind, and also I was short of time. 

Today I had some time.  I went back to that coloured tile and started to lay down a lighter variation of Bunzo, and a lighter version of Bubbles - or perhaps equally a larger, looser version of Tipple?  And as I was drawing curve after curve, as the shapes were meandering across the tile, as the pen crossed and recrossed the borders of green and brown and blue it came to me...

Somewhere beyond the sea

Here was a tile perfect for the Diva's Earth Day challenge.  A small precious something you can hold in your hand and your heart.  A place where boundaries blur, where colours mix together into new and wonderous forms, a place where things can all look alike but each be unique.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

his 'n' hers

I've said before that I liked the way Rick and Maria let us learn to draw Rixty ourselves.  Whilst they would like us to take a class, they also trust us, they trust our intuition.  This is great comfort for a self-taught tangler such as me, my nearest CZT is some seventy miles away, but I'm in no way locked out of this creative scene.  I had fun figuring out the steps and seeing my results.  I was also quietly pleased when they recently released their step-out to find it matched mine!  Although I've since started messing about with a different way to draw it.   

A Rixty lattice - with basic shading on a stubborn
but beautiful cream Tinted Bockingford Watercolour tile
When this week's Diva Challenge asked us to play with Rixty I was more that happy to spend further time with it.  I've started to notice how some / many / all tanglers have their own unique style.  I'm not sure if I've found mine yet, but hopefully I'm on my way - and perhaps it's easier for others to see it rather than me?  But I always notice and love the differences in the tangling styles between Rick and Maria.  At a vastly reduced level Rick is more angular, Maria more flowing.  It's these contrasts that compliment each other - no doubt in their relationship as much as their art.

A jaunty angle - a loopy Rixty
inexpertly coloured with Zig Clean Color brushpens
In my first tile I kept it plain and simple and straight and Rick-like.  Six strings of Rixty weaving over and under each other.  Good practice at the tangle, and visually effective too. There's an element of prison bars, or caging or fencing in this - but the bars are so ornate I'm not sure I would mind being contained - and I feel sure they would tinkle in the breeze.

For the second one I went in a more Maria direction.  Looping and branching and developing a more natural shape.  I bordered using Sue Jacob's Ditto - which is so simple to bring to three-dimensional life with the most basic shading.  I'm still a little tentative about drawing Rixty going behind itself but I think this would look even better with more layering.  But even these few tendrils and flowers have enough zest to be bursting free from their frame.  And my perpetual peripheral vision has been busy again - as I was browsing some Art Nouveau designs in the morning, and I think they had their say when I drew this later in the day!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

telling stories

Some might say I like the sound of my own voice. But I prefer to say I love words. The way they come together into sentences, paragraphs and pages. I like the things you can persuade them to do, I'm surprised by the places they take me to.

In my day job (if you can call it that) I am a writer. I spend a lot of time with words, reading them, writing them, cursing them. Sometimes we need a break from each other. And that's where Zentangle comes into its own for me. It allows me to make marks on paper which have no meaning, no connection to anything beyond themselves. I can draw lines and squiggles, and curves. I can darken areas, shade or colour others.

Phantoms of the opera - Crescent Moon, Cayke and Chillon
Then I can step back, out of the tile, into myself. And often at that moment back into the writerly me. I can look at my tile and see all the things I was unaware of while I was making it. Sometimes the tiles don't have much to tell me. They are tight-lipped or secretive. Perhaps they are confused as to who they are. But some are keen to speak to me. To show me their story.

Like these two that I drew for the It's a String Thing challenge #35. Just one string and four tangles - and suddenly I was back to those dancing girls from my last post. But they'd left the stage. Something had gone very wrong in this theatre. A gaping hole had opened in centre of the stage. Everything and everyone was being sucked in. The draped curtains, the scalloped cornicing, the padded plush seats. Before long there would be nothing to suggest a place of entertainment had ever stood there. Nothing but the echo of their heels.

Also starring Cadent
A more homely setting emerged from my second tile. Perhaps a memory of my mother's kitchen. Her passion for fancy curtaining - a childhood recollection of phrases such as Venetian blinds and swags and tails. Plaited corn dollies and polished horse brasses. Little white dishes of shiny black olives.

Zentangle gives me a welcome break from writing, but hands me back raring to start again.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

the curse of the black pearl

My peripheral vision has a lot to answer for. Last week I made a couple of tiles that had little black pearls scattered throughout them. I had no idea where these had come from, but there they were. Perhaps I'd seen them in one of the many tiles I view online...

... yesterday I turned to Day 25 of One Zentangle a Day and was introduced to Perfs. And they they were. Those little black pearls. I'd obviously seen them coming in the book but not realised. 
I had great fun playing with them, and their paler variants. Like the other Tangle Enhancers they really add extra life to the area they inhabit. Extra movement, extra darkness or light, balance, shape. I know they will come in very handy when I have that 'something's missing' moment.

Featuring - Flux, Fescue, Rain and Snag
In the first tile I used a sanguine pen to draw the meandering Flux.  I'd been drawn to this pen, and it's sepia counterpart but not been 100% happy with the results - but I think perhaps using it alongside the black pen creates a more pleasing look for me. 

The band of plain Perfs around the base really anchor the tangles for me.  I might have used Tipple there, but this way works better, creating a sense of the whole image being seated, but without it darkening.  It's almost like the Perfs are a pale shading.

Featuring - Onamato, Aquafleur, Verdigogh, Echoism and Flux

For the second activity Krahula asks us to use colour in place of a string.  This was fun and challenging to do.  I didn't have traditional watercolours to hand, so worked with my Zig Clean Color brush pens.  They do blend out like watercolours but not as willingly - but I think their idiosyncrasies are to the benefit of the image.  

The fact that the colour went where it wanted to, more than where I wanted it to, made me surrender control over the string.  When I went back later to draw over the top I had to work with the shapes I had, and I think it encouraged me to put all thought aside and laid down whatever tangled worked with the colour.  Presumably to avoid the always risky act of shading over watercolour Krahula asked us to shade using stippling.  Time consuming but always satisfying.

The result is clearly different than my usual tiles - as I don't think my more conscious drawing would have put that selection of tangles together.  But I love it.  It reminds me of dancing girls - corsets and feathers, high heels and pearls.  I spent the rest of the day thinking about the Moulin Rouge and singing 'I am what I am'!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mooka loopy

Perhaps people are divided into two classes - those that can draw Mooka, and those that can't. I fall into the latter. I love how it looks, but I get into such a mess drawing it that both Mooka and I look jumbled by the end.

It's the bit at the base that goes wrong, so I've had it popping out of holes before, which works, but how many holes do I really want in each and every tile. I looked through some of the tangles I know to see if there were others that Mooka could emerge from.

And I think I've found a decent handful to start with. I practiced each in my sketchbook, giving Mooka itself a slightly different look each time.

Top-left - a ferny spiralling version of Mooka emerging from the holes in Nipa. Although the stems are levitating rather strangely here! A light and airy feel.

Top-right - a bulkier Mooka arises from between the parallel magic of Hollibaugh. This is a striking combination - lots of dark and light.

Bottom-left - a simple Mooka appears from the comparments in Cubine. This one is interesting because of the contrast between the geometrical boxes and the soft curves.

Bottom-right- slender Mooka strands finger up from the centre of several Festune. I hardly ever use Festune, and today I wonder why - it's lovely and versatile and stacks beautifully to suggest dimension.

Next time I fancy popping Mooka onto a tile perhaps I can feel more confident knowing I can anchor it to another tangle.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

in a maddening loop

My Remote Zentangle Mentor (as I see her!) chose to include my first tangle Snag in the selection for her String Thing challenge for this week.

First the thrill, then the fear - what if people don't like my tangle. What if they can't do it. What if it's no good. Rush to pen and paper - play with the tangle myself - find I love doing it, find something so satisfying in those repetitive loops. But then the realisation that they don't always come out that neatly, that evenly.

I do a tile to test the theory and it's true. It's a wobbly old tangle that I invented. How apt from this wobbly old inventor of tangles and other penned meanderings. But perhaps it also embodies one of the things I like best about Zentangle - it's forgiveness of wobbles.

My starting grids are rarely straight. My Snag loops are sometimes small, sometimes large. But once I've looped back and forth across and around the tile - choosing different angles, and meeting points for the Snags. I can go back and fill some, leaving other, shade and shape and slowly something pleasing emerges.

A quote (from a popular song) I often chew over asks 'Do you want the truth or something beautiful?' And perhaps only within Zentangle can you have both. The truth of the wobbly lines, the mistakes, the smudges, the experiments or ideas that didn't come out quite how you hoped. But also always a beautiful result. Beautiful because it's made by you, beautiful because of the pleasure of the process, beautiful because of those truths.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

learning on the job

I really like the thing Rick and Maria did with their new official tangle Rixty. They decided to show it to us, but not tell us how to draw it. Obviously a cynic would say it's to make us pay to take a class, but I like to think there's more to it than that, as they suggest themselves. It's for us to find our own way to draw it, to work out what works for us.

And that's what I've done. I played with it a couple of weeks ago. I had an idea in mind, of a rusty chain, so I laid down some watercolour tracks - but then forgot about it. Well, rust does take time to develop even when you live by the sea!

But today I went back to the tile, and laid Rixty over the colour. And I learned a few more things about the tangle as I did so -

  • that it's hard to keep the central 'spine' line even
  • that I'm not yet feeling confident to tackle the closely bunched Rixty
  • that I'm okay at dividing the line to take the chain in two ways, but it got messy when I tried to join two together
  • that my links tend to splay at their base, which makes it look like one long reticulated object rather than individual links.

At the moment I'm wondering if these will be problems that are ironed out by the eventual step-out - or if they are just those individual quirks, the unique Zentangle handwriting as it were, that each and every one of us has?

But surrounded by a little Tipple it certainly catches the image I had in mind. An old chain laying across a beach. The rust is spreading and staining the stones that touch it. Each link and stone has a slightly different colouring, making it stand out from the millions of others that surround it.

spoilt for choice

One thing I struggle with is trying to hold all the tangles and their names in my mind. When I started learning, and only knew about 10 tangles I was fine - I could sit at a blank tile and bring up which ever one I wanted, knowing how to draw it and what it was called. Soon after my memory banks became overloaded, and apart from a handful of favourites, or recently learned tangles I now tend to struggle. I look at a tile and know I want a curvy one or a filler or a wispy one but struggle to bring the tangle or its name to mind. I then resort to looking at books or websites to find one - which somehow feels like cheating, or at least bringing myself out of the Zentangle mindful place.

But on reaching Day 24 of One Zentangle a Day it seems I'm not the only one to struggle. Krahula gets herself in a bit of a mess on this day - calling Mooka Mocha and introducing a tangleation of Pepper which to me is surely a tangleation instead of Zinger?

I liked the Zinger variant - it allowed it to be a bigger, heavier tangle and also offered more shading potential. She also taught us Striping, which looks better in practice that in theory. I kept my tile simple - with a bit of bulging on the dark stripes. 

 The result wouldn't be out of place on a 70's mantelpiece.

For the second activity Krahula asked us to make a tile using colour, watercolour. I used my Zig Clean Color brush pens which blend and disperse like watercolour. Using colour is new to me, and I'm making it up as I go along, which feels fun and also right. I challenged myself to use colours I wouldn't normally tend toward - the warm bright ones!

And I'm pleased with the result. It's a little messier and looser than my pen and pencil work but it's inviting and colourful and I liked using the spaces in Echoism for other tangles. It also looks like it would be right at home hanging on the wall above that 70's mantelpiece!