new year, new ideas (and familiar ones too)

As the old year closed and the new one circled around with more daylight (and a lot more snow here in Wisconsin), I decided to broaden my Zentangle experience. In addition to my usual black ink and graphite on white tiles, I tried brown inks and colored pencils — and the new Zenstone — on the new brown Renaissance tiles. I also experimented with water soluble graphite and colored pencils on regular white tiles. And then, just to mix it up a little, I went back to the old, familiar white tiles with black ink.


Tangles: flux, tipple, tripoli, a hollibaugh variation, sez, lanie, and eye-wa.

First, I used a really dark brown pen on a Renaissance tile. I also used some Prismacolor pencils, and, in the flux tangle along the top, I highlighted the leaves with my new Zenstone, which I love. It adds a light tone (not quite as white as the white Prismacolor pencil which outlines the tripoli triangles, below the flux), and it is remarkably strong. When I hold it, I am aware of its squareness, and it looks translucent, not like it can produce such a nice light effect.


Tangles: copada, crescent moon, borbz, prestwood, and flukes.

Next, I experimented with colored pencil (the blue and green in the copada) and with water-soluble graphite (Derwent Graphitint) that has just a touch of hue for all the other shading.


Tangles: shattuck, betweed, quandary, well, elven, knase, copada, keeko, and an oval pattern I’ve been working on.

On another Renaissance tile, I used the Sakura Pigma Micron lighter brown ink (more of a sienna than their super dark brown, though when I filled in larger areas the ink really got dark). Then the Zenstone and some Prismacolor pencils. Aside from the ink, I haven’t tried any water-based media on these tiles. They are a little more fragile feeling than the white tiles, and felt like they wouldn’t take water well. They really soaked up the ink to the point of getting really dark.


Tangles: opus, striping, krli-qs, warble, nzeppel, borbz, verdigogh, and flux.

For this tile, I used a water-soluble graphite wash as my string, and tangled on top of it with the dark brown ink. It is really close to black. Then I went in with dark brown and white pencils to add shading and highlights.


Tangles: a variation of well, knase, hibred, meer, shing, striping, festune, and a leafy form like sampson.

Inspired by Margaret Bremner’s houses, I wanted to try some house-like structures, only with a little more abstract quality. Where hers are whimsical and delightful to look at, I wanted mine to be about surface planes. I live on a hill and look down at rooftops. I like how they blend together with the landscape. This tile was still a bit too realistic for me.


Tangles: a variation of florz, dansk, meer, lanie, sanibelle, tipple, nzeppel, and striping.

I returned to the old black-and-white to work on a string made of the forms that suggest the planes of walls and roofs. More abstract; more me.


Tangles: flux, emingle, ynix, knase, tipple, flukes, sez, striping, prestwood, dribbetz, divadance, crescent moon, a variation of chillon, and a variation of bucky.

I added a few more organic elements to the planes and like the results.


Tangles: eye-wa, sand swirls, knightsbridge, warble, sez, and meer.

This one got a lot more flat, and doesn’t suggest landscape as much. It’s more about filling large areas with pattern.

Sometimes a change, or trying something new, doesn’t have to be a big, huge shift. Just a different background, or a dollop of color are all it takes to keep things lively and fresh.


a challenging combination

As someone who has studied, taught— and struggled with— composition for a while, I like how Zentangle allows the drawing experience to flow without a lot of thinking about the elements of composition. Sometimes, there are decisions to make, like the scale of the patterns. Should I make it big? Balance large with small? Or value: where will the pattern be light, or dark, or middle gray? Usually, ideas about composition just happen; other times it takes a little more planning.

The challenge issued by the diva this week was to use pea-nuckle and well, two tangles with about the same level of complexity. So, I called on my composition-brain to add some variety.








I drew pea-nuckle down the left side and in the upper right, at two different scales and one with a darker background. The well tangle is at a very large scale in the center, and much smaller at the lower right.

The resulting tangle grouping is not one of my favorites. I think it is not as fresh and immediate as usually happens for me. I’ll chalk it up to experience. Next time… less thinking and planning, and more letting go, letting things happen.

drawing blind

This week’s diva challenge 116 involves closing your eyes to draw your string. I liked it, and thinking in the usual Zentangle fashion… when have I closed my eyes to choose a path in life, and what happened (what did I make of it) when I did?


I used these tangles: équerre, betweed, vigne, striping, onamato, tipple, crescent moon, copada, and shattuck. Oh, and at the top, one of my own that I call kitchener. I’ll get the step-out drawn soon (though I think you could figure it out).

analog to digital continuum

I just saw the phrase, “analog to digital continuum” on one of the blogs that I follow. I enjoy being one of the many who can claim existence in both worlds, and by default have been an active participant in the transition between them.

My career in graphic design and marketing communications began with a traditional fine arts degree, learned by standing at an easel and squishing paint colors together on a palette. My boyfriend at the time stole a cafeteria tray from the student union for me to use. Ever since then I have used old, worn out cookie sheets as palettes. Total analog. Squish out color, mix it, paint it onto a canvas. If you want someone to see your work, you invite them over or get a gallery to hang your work. I usually opted for the former, because I was so busy working for a paycheck that I didn’t accumulate enough work to hang.

So then I landed a job as an office manager with a print broker, and the rest is history. They asked me if I had used computers before. “Yes,” I said, thinking about the computer game I had played with the kids when I was a nanny/housekeeper, on their amazing contraption called an Apple. Could I type? ”Yes,” I lied, ”35 words a minute.”

They hired me on the spot, and I spent the weekend before work began learning how to type. On a typewriter. So I could go to work and use a computer. See the transition? There it was. A little bridge between analog and digital happened right there, in my life.

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just running their office, I was designing things with a page layout program. Leap ahead two years, I was designing things for a newspaper. Then I owned a design business, and soon I was working with four-color photographic images, getting them ready to be printed, going directly from a computer file to a printing press.

And now? Well, now I can type about 75 or 80 words a minute. I use computers all the time. In fact, I just used a digital camera to take a picture of an ink drawing I did by hand. I connected a wire from the camera to my computer and transferred the image. I opened my software (Photoshop) and adjusted the image saturation, the levels of dark and light, and the size and resolution of the image so that it not only looks a lot like the original, it can be shared, quickly and easily, with you.

It’s really amazing, when you think about it. I know when I link this image to the CZT diva Laura Harms’ blog, people from all over the world will see my interpretation of this week’s challenge, using the tuxedo tangle. It’s like I just invited you all over to see something I did by hand.

And that is the biggest thing of all: I did the drawing by hand. Because we all need to return to that kind of immediacy and wonder: that of seeing the ink flow out of the pen onto the lovely paper tile. The immediacy of my cat jumping up next to me and making my hand jump a little. The surprise and wonder at creating something new. Sure, I can do it a million times over on the computer, but when it is ink on a little piece of paper, it brings me back to why analog is important:

There is just one, I did it just now, and I cannot do it again. That is life.

Here is this week’s tile for the diva challenge #112:


I used tuxedo, mi2, knightsbridge and tripoli.You can check out the challenge and everyone’s work at the diva’s blog.

amazing feats of scheduling

My mom, at least as long as I have known her, has always been impressed by people who have super packed and hectic schedules, racing from thing to thing to thing to thing… yet they get it all done and accomplished. I’m a lot like my mom in this regard. Those people amaze me, but I like to take my time with things. After I take some time, I like to think about whatever it was I did, or saw, or made.

Lately, though, I’ve felt a little crazy inside, as if I was taking on too much, and not giving things their due amount of time and thought. So, I gave the crazy-inside-feeling a little thought, and came up with a list. It’s a list of things I do, frequently or not, that are important to me in my life (in no special order):

1. Commute about one to two hours a day by mass transit
2. Work eight or so hours, with a half-hour lunch (Zentangle!), every weekday
3. Draw… mostly Zentangles, these days
4. Paint when I get an hour or four
5. Teach Zentangle classes
6. Participate in a virtual book club about Zentangle (drawing, blogging)
7. Participate in the Diva’s weekly challenge as I’m able (drawing, blogging)
8. Keeping track of and writing the odd post on my blog, other than book club or diva challenge
9. Exercise, both aerobic and weight-bearing (half to one hour daily)
10. Spend some much-enjoyed time with my mom, dad, any siblings that are around, and my wonderful daughter (parents and daughter are an hour away, sibs much farther)
11. Pat the cat, do the laundry, run for groceries, and soon… yard work, finish building my stone wall, and paint the rest of the window trim!
12. Spend time with friends.

Wait a minute. Did I just say, a few paragraphs ago, that I wasn’t one of those people who make a mad dash through everything?

Despite the list, I think I am still one of those one-thing-at-a-time people. But I think I figured out a key thing: scheduling. Oh, sure… I have always been able to write things in a calendar… but this is about scheduling appointments with myself to be able to participate fully in the things I love to do.

There are, of course, things like work and laundry that simply must be done. There are other things that I can slot into my schedule, not on a daily basis, but weekly, or monthly, or quarterly. Or in the case of the yard work, plant native prairie plants that don’t need a lot of work, but look good and attract cool animals.

It can all fit if I don’t expect to work on it all at once, every day.

Anyway, I just finished a couple of fun weeks of teaching Zentangle. So now I can jump into a diva challenge like no. 111: a monotangle of mooka!

I took a few moments to think about all the mooka I’ve seen around, and wondered, what if mooka was less curvy and more straight-lined? What would happen then? Here’s what happened for me:


Enjoy, and I’ll see you the next time around.

a new experience in every tile

One of the many fascinating aspects of Zentangle is that such a vibrant array of interpretations happen despite a certain degree of conformity. Same small tiles, same patterns, same pens, same basic steps— but each new creation is different. In each small tile lies infinite possibility.


In this tile I used courant, quandary, vitruvius, sedgling, and lilypads, a tangle by Margaret Bremner. I created the tile for day seventeen of One Zentangle A Day, the book by Beckah Krahula and for the virtual book club that is experiencing OZAD together.

organic tangles

Day fifteen of the virtual tangling book club was a favorite of mine. The chapter introduces three more tangles (all three are favorites) and introduces tangled journaling and the idea of carrying Zentangle materials with you all the time.

I have been carrying sketchbooks with me for a long time. I added two small Zentangle sketchbooks to my bag when I first discovered Zentangle in July of 2012. One is to record new tangles that I learn, and the other is to draw ZIAs (Zentangle Inspired Art). A small stack of tiles comes along with me now.

I can’t say whether I prefer organic or geometric tangles. I like both ends of the spectrum, and I like using them together for interesting contrasts. Beckah Krahula introduced yincut as an organic tangle. I think of it as a geometric tangle because it’s drawn into a grid, but agree that it can take on an organic flavor.

Here is day fifteen’s tile:


The tangles I used for this tile were mooka, onamato, flux, tipple, yincut, locar, and verdigogh.

planes of decoration and value

When I was teaching at our county technical college in the graphic communications program, I heard one of my colleagues describing the layers that we use in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. “The layers are stacked up like pancakes on the page,” she said, “The top pancake is closest to you, and the bottom pancake is farthest away. That means your page is the plate.”

I think this is similar to what Beckah Krahula describes in the introduction to day fourteen in her book, One Zentangle A Day. Through shading (or the value levels of the tangles we choose), we indicate our top, middle, and bottom pancakes.

There are other visual indicators we can use to signify what is in front and what’s behind, but using shading and value tones is a biggie.

And, I think she is right. We aren’t drawing a vast depth of space, with foreground, middle ground, and background, in Zentangle. Our abstract patterns keep us pretty close to the surface. We might be able to get to several pancakes of depth, but not thousands.

In my Zentangle tile for day fourteen, I used dyon (one I hadn’t tried before), chainging, tipple, keeko, crescent moon, and khirkee.

day14You can see what others are up to on day fourteen of the virtual book club here. Ha! I am posting this on March 10, and the original book club post was February 20. That means I’m about eighteen days behind the pack, and still plodding along.

drawing out depth

Beckah Krahula gives a quick tutorial on shading to create the illusion of depth in day eight of One Zentangle A Day. The information is good, and some knowledge and recognition of the way light and shadow can be used to represent form can be quite helpful in creating Zentangles. I think some basic drawing exercises would really help beginning tanglers understand the effects they can create on a tile. And practice. Lots and lots of practice. That’s what makes the shading part of the Zentangle process so enjoyable.

Here’s my tile for day eight. Also enjoyable: getting to use purk and vega. I also tossed in some crescent moon (a tangellation), printemps, knightsbridge, and striping.


You can follow what other people have created for day eight here.

out of the journal and onto the canvas

If you have been following my artist’s journal escapades, you’ll know that I’ve been drawing on my iPad during my commutes in and out of Milwaukee. What you don’t know is that I have been painting whenever I can at home. Painting often takes a back seat to work, commuting and other responsibilities. When I really want to paint, visual journaling must step aside for a time. I’d love to do it all, but I have to be realistic.

You might also think that I grabbed onto a visual image from my artist’s journal… and you would be, well, partially right. For this painting, I latched onto more of a concept, built out of many things… some recorded in my journal.

I recently found the work of Mandy Budan, an artist from near Toronto, and got inspired to use more landscape elements in my paintings, which have been historically non-objective for the most part. I have ventured toward using landscape as a resource on several occasions, but keep coming back to complete abstraction, which has not been very purposeful, or really very fulfiling, lately. Time for a shift.

I find the light and repetition and color of landscape a wonderful resource… so why not use it in my work? Also, I have been intrigued by pattern— or breaking things down into smaller, repetitive parts. So, I decided to work with small forms building into the larger whole.

So, here is my work in progress. I photographed a wall of trees outside my home in late October for a reference image, and began using small, flat shapes to describe the space. Very Budan-esque, you could say, though I think my process is more all-over (she works from area to area), as well as my motif, which is little squares and linear forms.

First, the photo, then the painting: