Category Archives: Blog

Afraid to Shade?

This article was originally posted on my old website in 2017.

“I love my tile the way it is – I’m afraid shading it will mess it up!”

I’ve heard that comment often from my students.  While shading adds a whole new look to your tile, it is another area where uncertainty lies.  How will you know you like it better when it’s shaded?

First thing to remember is – it’s pencil.  Pencil can be erased.  I know, there are no erasers in Zentangle, but if worse comes to worse, you can always go back to the original tile as long as you’ve shaded in pencil.  It’s your art.   Nobody will tell on you!

Second rule of thumb is to shade in layers.  Start lightly, laying down a small amount of graphite and gently pulling it down to create a shaded line.  If you use the side of your pencil and shade gently, there will be no hard line to blend or to dig into the paper.

Third suggestion is to use the side of your tortillon or blending stump when you’re shading and move in small strokes.  This gives you more control over where the graphite is going.

Is the shading still not showing?  Go back and add another layer of graphite in the places you want a bit darker.  Blend again, and keep doing this until you have the effect you want.  Depending on the paper and the tangle, and where it is in the image, you might add more graphite in some places and less in others. 

Worried about smudging?  If you lay down too much graphite all at once it can look too heavy, giving the whole tile a greyish look.  Keep a light touch, and be aware of where your hand is so that it doesn’t trail the graphite where you don’t intend.   

Go slowly.  One stroke at a time when drawing with your pen, and also when shading and blending, too.

It’s important to remember that shading isn’t something you tack on at the end of a tile.  It’s part of the whole Zentangle process and that means it deserves the same attention as your pen lines.  Take time to look at your tile, admire it, turn it, and see if you’re drawn to a particular area.  Add your shading slowly and carefully, and enjoy the simple strokes and calming effect of working slowly and carefully.

Remember too, that there is more than one way to add shading.  Depending on your tile you might want to shade the overall shape, add detail to a tangle, or create depth to your piece.  You don’t have to do it all. 

Finally, if the idea of shading the original tile is still causing anxiety, you can always scan in your tile and make copies.  Then you can experiment until you find the look you want.

A CZT can provide more details, techniques and examples, and there are a number of different shading techniques that can be fun to explore.  Join me online for ‘Draw the Shades’, an online adventure into all the ins and outs of shading in Zentangle. ‘Draw the Shades’ is Nov 7th from 1:00-3:30pm PST and you can register online here, or contact me for more info.

Simple shading can make a tile jump to life.  Try these suggestions and see what happens!  

It’s just a practice piece

Taking an art class doesn’t have to be intimidating!    

Have I told you what happened to me when I took a silk painting class?  I couldn’t wait to try out the technique and I knew exactly what I wanted to do for one of my scarves.  The instructor showed us what to do for the first scarf; drop some colour onto the scarf and let it blend over time.  I pictured a lovely scarf with sunset colours, orange and green and red.  I could see it in my mind.

I picked up the red ink and dropped some colour onto my white scarf.  Hmm.  It looked like blood drops.  Well, okay, it will get better.  I looked over at another student who was dropping greens and blues onto her scarf.  It looked luscious already.  Well, I thought, I’ll just keep going and see what happens.  I picked up the yellow and dropped it in places around the scarf.  Now it looked like some kind of pus or infection. And the red was spreading out.   The whole thing looked a bit like a crime scene!  What to do? 

Before Zentangle I probably would have started to panic and worry that the whole thing was ruined.   But actually, I started to laugh.  I decided to call my scarf Dexter (remember that show?) and set it with the others to continue spreading the colour throughout the scarf.  It doesn’t matter – it’s just a practise piece anyway.

Onto the next scarf.  After stretching it on the frame, we were shown how to add resist lines to create an image.  I pictured a scarf full of giant poke roots and poke leaves in purple on a blue background.  Again, I could see it in my mind.  As it was the first time using resist, I worked slowly and carefully, but there were still places where the resist didn’t get right onto the fabric and when I added the colour there was a little bleeding.  When I looked around, I could see some of the other scarves and they looked perfect – colours all in place, lines clean and neat, and overall effect quite stunning.

But here’s where it got interesting again.  Instead of comparing my efforts and feeling discouraged, I found myself saying, okay, this worked here, but not there.  Next time, I want to ….   and I was enjoying the parts that I liked and analyzing what I would do differently next time.  I was thinking of this as my practice piece.

And that makes so much sense!  Once I let go of the idea that I was going to create a perfect scarf in this very first attempt, I gave myself permission to risk trying other things, experimenting, and analyzing as I went along.  It’s just a practice piece.

And in true  Zentangle fashion, when both scarves were done, I was very happy with the overall results.  Dexter was a beautiful splash of orange, yellow and red – not exactly sunset looking, but bright and cheerful and quite lovely.  And my pokeroot scarf goes perfectly with a dress I sometimes wear. While it’s not perfect, the effect is quirky and charming. 

So the best lesson I learned from taking this class is to embrace my own learning style, and enjoy the process.   Others may ‘get it’ the first time around, but I don’t have to.  I can just have fun learning about the process, trying it out, and just messing around and figuring things out on my own from there.  The result might not be perfect, but it’s me!

I’m not going to pretend I never succumb to ‘comparanoia’, but when I do, I just think of my Dexter scarf and smile. 

“Art is in intention, not perfection.”

A Tale of a Tile

In my daily tangling practise yesterday, I pulled out this blue watercolour background tile.  The splotches lent themselves to three different areas to tangle, so I selected three tangles at random and began.

As I tangled, I thought about various aspects of the patterns – I started with the grid area, thinking I’d use Cubine, but changed my mind decided to use Dex, after I’d outlined each box so it would have a coffered look.  

Once Dex was finished I looked at the area where I’d planned Shattuck.  I decided to go for the curvy version to balance the boxiness of Dex.  It looked a little too light, so I used black on the lines and in each corner to give it a little weight.

Now on to the Jetties.  I wanted them big; I usually draw small Jetties so the larger version appealed to me. Making the bands all black seemed like it would look too heavy, so I opted for an airier, echoism-type tangle to fill them in, and used black bands to mirror the Shattuck bands.

Now for the shading.  I picked up my graphite pencil and tried shading. I was in the living room watching TV and my pencils were in another room.  It wasn’t long before I realized graphite was not going to be the look I wanted, so I left the tile until the next day when I could shade it in the way I wanted.

The next day, with my full array of coloured pencils, I went in and softened the graphite look by adding several shades of blue in the shading and finishing with some white coloured pencil for highlights.  As I was shading I realized I’d made one band of Shattuck different from the others – there were three ‘fans’ in a row going in the same direction instead of alternating.  Interesting.

In Zentangle we talk a lot about ‘no mistakes’. I thought this tile was a really good example.  Did it turn out exactly the way I had originally pictured?  No.  Do I like it?  Yes, I’m happy with it.  And one of the things I like best about it is that I can look at this tile and say I learned quite a lot!  I learned about graphite and blue with regards to shading.  I learned that I need to pay closer attention when I’m doing Shattuck – just like Knightsbridge, it’s when you’re doing something ‘easy’ that your brain drifts.  I learned that it might be fun to try Shattuck exactly like that – with all the fans going in the same direction; an idea I wouldn’t have thought of.  And I marvelled yet again that rather than ‘hating’ a tile and being discouraged, I quite enjoyed the ‘oopses’ and the challenge of how to incorporate them into the tile.

As an artist, I try very hard not to point out my mistakes to people.  Often they don’t even notice them, and even if they do, it’s rare that it will be something jarring for them.  It’s my own ego that wants to point them out, as a way of saying – ‘you see, I know this isn’t perfect so you can’t point out my mistake’.  And yes, I’ve had tiles where I couldn’t appreciate the ‘oops’ or I didn’t know what to do with it and couldn’t continue.  That’s when I put it aside and fish it out months (or even years) later with fresh eyes and a little more experience.

As a teacher, I want to point them out to you so that you can experience the same thing in your own work.  It’s okay to make a goof, and you really don’t have to tell anyone.  Eventually, the sense of challenge will arise when something like that happens, and you can honestly enjoy those moments.

And there is no rule that says you have to show any work to anyone else.  This is just for you!

I post my tiles every day as a way of encouraging you to keep trying.  Some are more appealing than others, but don’t let that stop you from creating.  That’s what’s truly important.

Classes in July 2020

Summer has always meant time in the garden, barbecues with family and getting out to enjoy the great outdoors.  Even though we’re restricted more than usual this summer, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get out there and take advantage of the season.

For that reason, I’m going to be changing my class offerings for July and August. I don’t usually teach over the summer months, but because we can now meet online, I’m happy to continue offering Tangled Tidbits, and Zentangle private and semi-private lessons.

Tangled Tidbits is a small group that meets weekly for an hour (Fridays from 1-2 pm PDT) and we try different ‘tidbits’ of ideas, tangles, and so on.  This class runs on a monthly subscription, so this is a good time to join us for the month of July.  There’s always room for you in this class if you have already taken a Zentangle class with me (Art Bites counts).   You can find more information here, or contact me for details.  Cost is $35CDN/month.

(I’m also open to setting up another Tangled Tidbits for those interested in a different day/time, who are not alumni from my classes, or who want to start up as their own group.  Just let me know!)

Zentangle on Demand is my online version of Zentangle 1-2-3. In short, we can arrange a private lesson, or a small group lesson if you have a friend or two you’d like to tangle with. This option is great for beginners or experienced tanglers alike.

Beginners are welcome!  We’ll start with Zentangle Basics and have you tangling in no time.  And for those looking for follow up classes or individual attention, I’ve amassed a large selection of classes I can teach and you’re welcome to check them all out here.   You’ll need to have the materials (I can help you figure out what you need) and we’ll set a mutually agreeable time and place.  Cost is $40CDN for a private 2-hour lesson, or $30CDN/per person for a 2-1/2 hour class.

If any of these options appeal to you, contact me for more information.

Whether you take a class or not, I hope Zentangle will be part of your summer relaxation plans!