Sunday, August 9, 2015

Imitation, flexibility, and individual style

Flower designs from Lisa Congdon's placemats

Several days ago, while copying some flower designs from a placemat to create a tile (left), I really got how tangles are merely templates that provide only basic forms. I also got how the artistic vision and style of these basic templates are unique to their creators. That said, it's a good practice when drawing to copy a pattern initially, but after that, to run with it -- use patterns as enticements, as voices encouraging you to realize and develop your own unique style and vision. 

Crescent Moon, for example, is one of the classic Zentangle patterns. I teach it to just about every beginner I work with because it's fun to draw, relatively easy to understand, and representative of a few basic principles of non-representational forms. Crescent Moon always features the half moons (or lady bugs or pills -- pick your image) drawn on the inside border of a string area. Auras are always drawn around the lady bugs, built up from smallest to largest. Often, though not always, a separate shape is drawn around the periphery of the innermost limit of the auras. 

To the right is a picture from the journal entry I'm revising to write this post. Crescent Moon is the second black-and-white image from the top. It's a lovely little tangle, one of my favorites, but I will readily admit that in drawing it so many times, I've fallen into a Cresent Moon rut. That is, when I decide to use this tangle, my mind does not bother to go beyond the basic template. I might switch it up a little, like adding more lady bugs after a few auras have been drawn, or adding Tipple to the middle part, or connecting the creases of the auras to form Crescent Moon glow worms (using a principle from Carole Ohl's Puf), but most often, certain basic design features remain untouched, e.g., drawing the lady bugs along the inside border of the shape, and building up from small to large.

As the flower designs in my journal entry show clearly enough, elements of Crescent Moon can be used in other, visually exciting ways to create new designs. These flowers are taken more or less directly from placemats designed by Lisa Congdon (who, by the way has a pretty interesting website:  In 1 (the first colored flower to the left), I drew the auras for the half-moon shapes from the outside in, a small but significant tweak -- significant for mental flexibility, that is. In 2, following Lisa's design, I drew the half-moon shapes around the outside of a circle. Fancy that! They look good that way, too. In 3, the half-moon shapes are drawn around the outside of a circle, which is itself enclosed in an oblong shape. The style of the flowers is not my own, but I can learn a lot from drawing them and thinking about how they are constructed in order to nourish the style that is my own.