Wednesday, February 22, 2017

OLLI Winter Session, Meetings 3

Where does the time go? Our group has met two more times since my last post, on February 10th and 17th. Our mosaic from the 10th shows the tangles we practiced: Bales, Maelstrom, Puf, and Fife. The group learned Bales in meeting 2. I reintroduced it in meeting 3 because I wanted to show participants some interesting ways to work with that basic tangle by using different filler tangles in the center spaces.

In the following video, Ludmila Blum (Bunte Galerie) does her usual excellent job of showing how to draw Bales using the basic square filler shape in the center of the square space:

Long ago, I discovered how nicely Maelstrom works with Bales and have used these tangles together in many tiles. For those unfamiliar with Maelstrom, the following Zenpopper video shows the basic form:

I explained to the class that different versions of Maelstrom appear in Lesson 7, "Reticula and Fragments" in the Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas' book Zentangle Primer, Vol. 1. As Rick and Maria explain, a fragment is any pattern drawn in a small square, triangle, or circle that can be arranged in a reticulum (usually a grid of some kind) to form a larger meta-pattern. In the Zenpopper video, the fragment is drawn each time with upper and lower lines going in the same direction. In contrast, go back and have a look at the lower left tile of the class mosaic above. In the lower right part of that tile, Maelstrom is drawn in such a way that each instance mirrors its neighbor. Arranging the fragments this way creates a kite-like meta-pattern.

Following are two more examples of fragments (in the lower right of each card) arranged in reticula (a grid and spiral, respectively):

The other pattern we practiced was Puf, an extremely cool and interesting pattern that changes completely in the last step. The following video by CZT Melinda Barlow illustrates what we did in session three with Bales and Puf (at approximately 6:00). It also shows several nice variations of Bales:

That's it for now. I'll see what I can do a review post for session 4 tomorrow, or soon.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

OLLI Winter Session, Meeting 2

I met for the second time with the OLLI students at the University of Minnesota. We had a good time exploring the mysteries of Shattuck, and two other patterns, Bales and Jetties. I started drawing the first tile intending to use three or four different tangles in the usual way but decided quickly to do a Shattuck monotangle instead. I've noticed in past classes that Shattuck is a tangle that tends to trip people up a bit, so I wanted to try a different presentation to see if it worked better.

Here's the demo tile I drew showing Shattuck with straight lines, curvy lines, lines drawn close together, and lines drawn farther apart. I also demonstrated how the pattern can be drawn without the bars.

I did a little checking on the Internet to see if there were any tutorials showing the different ways to draw Shattuck. In fact, people do have very different ways of creating this tangle. Here are some links:

Sandy Steen Bartholomew's version
Ludmila Blum's (a.k.a. Bunte Galerie) version
Ellen Wolter's version

And there are others, I'm sure, but the main point is this: there is no one correct way to draw a pattern, except whatever works for you. If you find yourself struggling to draw a pattern you like, don't give up! Try other ways of drawing it. Does the tutorial suggest starting from the top? Try starting from the bottom. Does it show lines drawn close together? Try drawing them with more space between the lines. Does the pattern call for straight lines? Try curving them if that feels more comfortable.

Here is the class mosaic for meeting 2:

Tangles covered in meeting 2:

  • Shattuck (of course!)
  • Bales
  • Jetties


  • Different ways to draw Shattuck (or any tangle)
  • Shading of Shattuck
  • Putting a sparkle in Shattuck
  • Different ways to decorate Jetties
Looking forward to next week, everyone!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Back in the Zone: A Card for Skylar

Patterns used: Crescent Moon, Tripoli, Betweed, Paradox, Undu

I have a small pile of blank cards with matching envelopes and have decided to use these to send messages to friends and family. Making this card was just the way I wish doing Zentangle always felt -- I was in the zone, and I didn't spend much time at all deciding on which patterns to go with. Everything just flowed. Drawing Zentangle feels like this very much of the time, true, but when I'm learning new patterns or techniques, or if I'm feeling tired or scattered, sometimes I find myself a bit stalled and wondering how to handle a composition. It was nice to slip back into the zone and to produce something I really like with very little effort or planning. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

OLLI Winter Session, Day 1

On Friday, I met with a new group of Zentangle enthusiasts for the 2017 OLLI winter session. What fun we had! Here is the class mosaic:

We almost finished our first tile, but not quite. I gave everyone an overview of the Zentangle method, and that took time that under normal circumstances we would have had for drawing. In our remaining five sessions, we will devote each 1.5 hour meeting to drawing. After the group left, I stayed in the room to finish my tile (above, second from the left, bottom row):

I decided to add more Hollibaugh in the lower left to counterbalance the upper right. Florz (the little black diamonds) has pretty much disappeared into the Printemps (spirals) in the finished tile. I also added Tipple (the little bubbles) to more places in the finished tile, for balance. Finally, I added shading throughout. Shading usually makes quite a difference in the look of the finished tile. I recommend jumping right in with shading from the start to begin getting a feel for how it works best with different patterns. 

I hope everyone who was there on Friday will work a little more on the tiles we started, to finish them as I have done with mine. Bring them to our next session to share!

Overview: The tangles we learned in session 1 were Crescent Moon, Hollibaugh, Florz, and Tipple. The techniques we practiced and talked about were:
  1. Adding auras (as in Crescent Moon)
  2. Drawing under shapes and patterns to give the appearance of different levels of depth in the picture plane (as in Hollibaugh)
  3. Extending the reach of a pattern into an adjacent pattern to create more flow and connection between the parts of the composition (as between Printemps and Florz)
  4. Connecting peaks to create the appearance of a solid structure (the "tubes" in Crescent Moon)
  5. General shading tips
See you next week!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Math and Art

I saw this featured in the University of Minnesota Brief today:

Douglas Dunham and John Shier, "Fractal Monarchs"
30 x 40 cm digital print

Artists' statement: "The goal of our art is to create aesthetically pleasing fractal patterns,” stated Dunham. “This is a fractal pattern whose motifs are monarch butterflies. We modify our usual rule that motifs cannot overlap by allowing the antennas - but not the rest of the butterfly - to overlap another butterfly. For the randomly placed butterflies to exactly fill the rectangular region in the limit, their areas must decrease in size according to a precise formula: the area of the n-th butterfly is given by A/(zeta(c,N)(N+n)^c), where A is the area of the rectangle, and zeta(c,N) is the Hurwitz zeta function. For this pattern c = 1.26, N = 1.5, and 150 butterflies fill 72% of the rectangle."

The algorithm is completely mystifying to me, but the pattern is really cool. I was drawing shapes like these just the other day and feel inspired to draw from this image to extend my own sketching. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A few more tiles

 Three more recent tiles. Nothing fancy...just idle winter drawing.

Tangles: Paradox, Hurry, Munchin, Jonquil, Bales

Tangles: Paradox, Poke Leaf, Undu, Diva Dance (maybe...?)
fragments of Crescent Moon, Shattuck

Tangles: Flukes and other stuff...:)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Woman in a Quandary

This was fun to draw. The name of the pattern in the background is Quandary. The photo comes from a National Geo and shows a nun moving a round table top. I really like the combination of the real images and patterns.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One string, several possibilities

Usually when I teach an introductory course in Zentangle, each person uses the same tangles (the ones I teach that day) with a different string. The five tiles below demonstrate another approach: each tile uses different tangles structured by the same string (shown on the sixth tile). This might be an interesting exercise to do with an advanced group to highlight the role of the string in Zentangle compositions. I plan to try this with my OLLI starting at the end of January.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Family Tree

"Family Tree"

This composition grew out of a few different strands of inspiration, including #Undu by Daniel Lamothe, Padre by #Sandy Steen Bartholomewand a certain composition entitled "Family Tree" by artist #Walter Crump.

Undu resonates with me because it looks very much like weaving, which I used to do years ago. I did not put this together until I attempted to integrate Sandy's tangle entitled Padre (the little people) which she introduces in her book The Tangles of Kells into the spaces that can be created within Undu. As I drew the simple faces into the empty spaces of the tangle, I thought, Jeez, this is very much like putting inclusions in weaving. 

For those of you unfamiliar with weaving techniques, inclusions are small objects that the weaver incorporates into a wall hanging by embedding them into the woven composition, usually by passing threads of the weft through holes or natural spaces in the inclusion, to build it in as a part of the weaving. Sea shells are common inclusions in weaving, as are beads, feathers, and bells.

Artist #Walter Crump's beautiful work entitled #"Family Tree" has been on our walls in different rooms for ages. Many years ago (ca. late 70s to early 80s), my former mother-in-law Lillian Mones had an art gallery in Kensington, Maryland, where she showed a number of Walter's pieces. She gave "Family Tree" to my former husband David and me as a gift, and after we split up, I was the lucky one who got to keep it. When my own tangled "Family Tree" emerged, I was just following my instincts while exploring with Undu and Padre. Only later did I realize that Walter's piece had very likely left its mark in my imagination. I am intrigued by this new direction in tangling and really look forward to exploring it lots more. Many thanks to my collaborators Daniel, Sandy, Walter, and Lillian, who was a pretty awesome mother-in-law.

"Family Tree" before shading. A little graphite makes
a big difference, right?

"Family Tree" by Walter Crump

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


A few years ago, I noticed that at least once a year, I would experience "mandala madness" -- an overwhelming desire to find and color mandalas, usually around the Christmas/New Year's season.

Since learning to draw through the Zentangle method these past four years, I have graduated to drawing my own mandalas, which ironically enough, I only color sometimes. :)

Here is one I drew a few weeks ago:

This composition shows the thorny stem design I mentioned in my previous post -- I forgot that I had used it in this piece. This was so much fun to draw over a few days. I began wondering if it would amount to much at all and wound up liking it fairly well as it took shape. It is structured by a simple arrangement of three concentric circles, with various motifs built up little by little. This emergence of something from nothing is the most delightful aspect of this drawing process. Of course, gradually increasing complexity built up from simple structural beginnings is how we all do most of what we do in many different spheres of knowledge -- parenting, teaching, socializing, engineering, law, linguistics, medicine, music, architecture -- anything you can imagine. What I love most about drawing is the striking visual result of these cumulative layers of complexity. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Finding Flow in Composition

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2017 is a time of exciting creativity for all of us.

This year, at least to begin, I want to focus on flow and coherence in drawing. In the work of many artists I see online and elsewhere, the composition seems guided by a flow that seamlessly relates one pattern to the next. I've been noticing this for some time now and wanting to learn how to achieve similar results in my own work. Since starting to do Zentangle four years ago, I have pretty much stayed with the string as the organizing principle in the tiles I create, which has been incredibly useful, but now it seems time to explore other ways of organizing the elements of a composition. 

The most natural place to start in this new focus is with floral/botanical designs, as these seem to flow each to the next with relative ease. In the following sketchbook drawing, I've kept things very basic to begin: the entire drawing is one tangle, #Aura-Leah. I started in the center, worked out all around the page using a simple branching technique, and finally connected up the branches along the border. 

The movement in this design is an improvement from string-organized compositions.

I used some watercolor (mostly straight from the tube or slightly thinned) to add some color. A second focus I have for 2017 is using more color in my work, especially watercolor. 

Here is another sketchbook study using the same idea of starting from the middle and working outward. For this drawing, I followed a simple guideline from E. Gombrich's book A Sense of Order. He points out that many traditional decorative designs grow from a simple 2 x 2 open grid (an equilateral cross) seed structure. To make this drawing, I started with that. Here is some sketchbook noodling around this idea:

This thorny branch design is a lovely one, right? I used this in the sketch above, but it got covered over with embellishments. I want to use it again in ways that make it show better.

Friday, December 30, 2016


This triangular tile is the newest precut tile shape available from the official Zen tangle site. The height and width are equal to a 3.5 x 3.5 tile, but the shape poses an entirely different challenge in terms of composition. I drew the tile shown here during the November ZenAgain workshop, under the expert guidance of Molly Hollibaugh.

Here is an example of the fragment drawn within a reticulum. The fragment appears in the lower right of the tile. The design was created by drawing that fragment again and again in grid squares arranged in a spiral. That particular arrangement is called a reticulum (reticulum H1, to be precise). For more information about how this works, see Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, The Zentangle Primer, Volume 1. 

Here is another example of a fragment drawn we then a reticulum. In this case, the reticulum is a more common grid. As in the example above, defragment shown in the lower right was it drawn in each square of the grid. What is most interesting about working with fragments and reticula is the emergence of the so-called meta-pattern.

Me wearing a pair of beautifully tangled wings at ZenAgain in Rhode Island in November

The last three pictures show group mosaics from ZenAgain.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

“The winds of grace are always blowing, but it is you that must raise your sails.”

(Quote is from Rabindranath Tagore.)

From November 13th through the 16th, I did another Zentangle workshop with Maria Thomas, Rick Roberts, Molly Hollibaugh, several other members of their family (Zentangle is a family business), and about 215 other CZTs in Newport, RI. ZenAgain, as the workshop was called, was three days of intense practice in drawing, socializing, networking, and learning. I'm only getting to a blog post now because of Thanksgiving and job responsibilities -- and the fact that it takes me time to process intense learning experiences. We did so much it's hard to know where to begin an account of it. Most likely it will emerge over the course of a few blog posts.

The first image I want to share here isn't even from the workshop directly, though the inspiration I received from being there probably contributed to this piece:

Over the years, I have created about 25 of these cards, and I am so happy to add this new one to my deck. Here is a link that shows several of the cards I've made:

I haven't yet figured out what this man wants me to know, but it might be related to staying in contact with my inner fire as winter moves in. I may add more shading and color to this card, but I was so pleased and excited about having created the basic layout that I wanted to post it right away. Mentally and artistically, this represents a big leap for me. For some time now, I have felt a need to push Zentangle in a direction more supportive of story-making and story-telling without making the designs themselves representative of things in the real world. I like the way this card has turned out and feel deeply inspired to make more.

This will be all for today. So much more to share, but it can wait until tomorrow...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Surprising fun

I had a little extra time and energy this evening, so I tried drawing on a pair of sneakers I bought for this purpose several months ago. These pictures are only the first sneaker from different angles, but I plan to follow the same design for the other one.  This was surprisingly fun and easy to do.  I was expecting it to be lots more complicated somehow, and maybe on another night, it might have been, but things worked out with this little project. I might actually wear these.

I started by looking at the eyelets and thinking that some round pattern would work best with their natural design. Naturally Printemps called out to be drawn, and once I started filling in that area, it was clear that the best strategy would be to fill the entire side part on both sides with the same pattern. My next move was to add Jetties to the front part, an easy choice since I wanted to keep the circle motif going. My third choice was to add Ovulation to the heels. I love this pattern and categorize it under roundish patterns, so it came to mind because of that. This is the first time I have added the weights (darker areas at the ends of the lines) and I love the difference those make.  Scrolled Feather (on the side toward the front) is a new pattern for me. Bunte Galerie was a great resource for learning how to draw it. The last part I added were the leaves on the top front. I've used these kinds of forms previously in a few different compositions and always find them easy to control and relaxing to draw.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Found Object

A couple of weeks ago, I found the black and white image below in my collection of online phone pictures. I barely recalled drawing it and wasn't even sure it was mine for several seconds but then noticed the date, which is clearly my handwriting. Such has been the craziness of these past few months with our move from the north metro suburbs of the Twin Cities to Minneapolis. We're largely settled in now, but there are still a few boxes to unpack. I knew this drawing was in a sketchbook somewhere, but I couldn't remember which one. (For some reason, I have 5-7 journals lying around with Zentangle sketches and drawings. I don't quite understand why I find it hard to stick with one journal, as I do so easily with written journals. This makes it difficult to remember where sketches are.) To make things worse, sketchbooks were scattered among different, unpacked boxes. 

I made a copy and added some color -- a fun experiment. It seems like a good way to study color and I may try it again with another drawing. Apart from what it can show me as a color study, what I like best about this sketch is the movement it shows. Many of my drawings, I have noticed, even those that have a certain energy, lack movement. Not necessarily bad or good -- it's just something I've noticed, and I would like to enlarge the scope of my skills. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Zentangle Workshop with MELP

When I am not creating Zentangle tiles, I teach English for the Minnesota English Language Program at the University of Minnesota. On Friday, in an extra-curricular get-together, I led several curious students through their first Zentangle tile, as shown in the beautiful resulting mosaic above. What an awesome group of artists! I am continually inspired by the unique interpretations of the basic patterns I show participants at Zentangle workshops. Here again is an amazing array of different minds and personalities at work. I give a single set of instructions and show people how to draw patterns by having them watch me create a tile, one pattern at a time. All of these tiles emerged from a single set of instructions! How is that possible? A powerful ingredient in this magic, of course, is the string. It controls the underlying structure of the composition, which is tremendously important in the overall look of the piece.

After we finished our first tile, we did a little more drawing on a bijou tile. I showed everyone how to draw paradox (one of my favorites) and undu, another tangle I really enjoy.

I had a blast, everyone! I hope you did, too, and also hope we can get together again next semester to do more drawing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tipple sighting

Air bubbles in a mixture of liquid water and OFS soap.
Photo credit: Paul J. Dauenhauer

This just came in through my email. A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota has developed a "new soap molecule made from renewable sources that could dramatically reduce the number of chemicals in cleaning products and their impact on the environment." Whenever I show students Tipple in Zentangle workshops, I always tell them it looks like soap bubbles. Clearly, these researchers agree. :) Actually, the photo inspires me to switch it up a bit when drawing Tipple by adding auras, highlights, and shading.

For more information on this invention, click on the followin link:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tripoli Two Ways

Viewing these tiles side by side shows how much a single pattern can vary. Both pieces use Tripoli (the triangles to the right in the tile on the left, and the whole center area in the tile on the right).  The pattern looks very different in each tile because of the different patterns that fill its interior space. Playing with patterns this way is one of the coolest things about this method. A small number of elements can be combined to create such different compositions.

The following mosaic is really the very last picture I took with the OLLI workshop series folks that ended last week. We had so much fun on the last day with Tripoli, Undu, Betweed, Hurry, and Huggins. The colored tile above is shown below as it appeared while I was still working on it (to the right of the tile showing the red Zentangle logo).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Some recent drawings

This is a page from a sketchbook. Rick and Maria Thomas, the originators of Zentangle, observe that tangles (patterns) are comparable to paint colors that come right out of the tube. Tangles are only a starting point and are meant to be combined and reinterpreted. Easier said than done, but practicing to develop greater flexibility is lots of fun.

This is a bijoux (small 2 x 2) tile. Pretty amazing how much can fit on one of these little guys. The composition is structured by one tangle, Tripoli. Inside that tangle, I have put Paradox in the center part, and Hollibaugh around the edges.

More paradox. It's one of my favorite tangles.

This is kind of a strange tile. Undu is the fingerprint-like tangle to the left created by Daniel Lamothe. It's super fun to draw and comes out quite differently each time I try it. The Poke Leaf is hanging out in a protected, dark bubble. Some nice stuff going on to the lower right of the Poke Leaf. I'd like to experiment with those forms more. They seem to have some subtle movement, which I like a lot. For the rest, Pearls, Golvin, Marasu, and Maryhill in the lower left. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

OLLI Session 6

Today was my last meeting with the OLLI group. What fun we've had over the past six weeks, and it's hard to believe the class is over! As classes go, this group was a little more easygoing than others, which resulted in not finishing tiles by the end of each session. We worked steadily and learned a lot together, but the timing of each session was not precise, which had more to do with my teaching than with participants' drawing. It was a learning experience for me -- I have always thought it necessary to finish a tile each session, but it works fine to work on tangles and to let tiles get finished at the own pace.

Even though we did not have finished work to show, I asked the group to volunteer tiles for a mosaic at the start of the session today, and then again at the end. Here's the first mosaic:

Lots going on here, and this is so cool because everyone volunteered their favorite tiles. One participant said that the tile she contributed to this mosaic (the one right in the center) is the tile she is most proud of since beginning to draw zentangle. And what an interesting piece of work! It's a borderless tile with Tripoli filling the space as a kind of string, and interior areas showing Printemps and aura-ed lines. Love the roulette wheel in the upper right corner.

Thank you so much, everyone, for a very enjoyable six-week session. I was great fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

OLLI Session 5

This has been a very busy fall for me, so finding time to post has been a challenge. My last post was over two weeks ago -- wow! Where does the time go?

As these tiles show, we've been busy this session in our OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) workshop. Participants have been having lots of fun with Paradox (top row on the right is a great example), Tripoli (the pattern floating over the net-like in the center tile), Cadent (the net-like pattern), Cubine (3-D cubes in the tile in the middle row on the right), and a few others. Next week will be our last session together, but I hope that everyone will continue to explore the beautiful and endlessly fascinating world of Zentangle long after our formal gatherings end.

I'm looking forward to showing everyone at least a couple more patterns and creating one, final tile together.