24 February 2011

"Finny's Florets" by Liz

Liz Selkirk, a new member of our family of Tasmanian Tanglers, attended an "Introduction to Zentangle" class (we call them 'playshops') just over 10 days ago.  Her first Zentangle, created at that class, is included here for your enjoyment. Isn't it beautiful!?

© Liz Selkirk, February 2011
That evening, after class, Liz was already drawing the night away – completely captivated by tangling.  She has already produced (in under two weeks!) many lovely Zentangles and ZIA.*  Liz has even invented a new tangle of her own (yes, already!). And – a real treat – she has given me permission to unveil it here on Dreamscribe Designs.  So, without further ado...

In this tiny piece of ZIA (approx 3 x 6 cm, or roughly 1¼ x 2⅜ inches) you can see the first appearance of Liz's new tangle (top right corner!) –  

Finny's Florets

Here is a close-up view from that same piece
Finny's Florets is in the top right corner. (Click to enlarge.)

Finny's Florets, step-by-step

Drawn by Liz Selkirk. (Click on image to enlarge.)

An example of Finny's Florets — in one of Liz's Zentangles.
Here are some other examples of Liz's use of this tangle in Zentangles and ZIA. Check out the beautiful, tiny monograms she created for the covers of photo albums (in which to store Zentangle tiles, of course!).  What a wonderful start to tangling – her very own tangle. 

Sandra Strait (who had a sneak preview when I was planning this post) says it best:  

"...it’s a killer combination, pleasing to the eye, and I know people will love it.  If [Liz] does up the steps, I hope she’ll post it in Freehand Doodle patterns!"  

...and we will, Sandra!

Congratulations, Liz!

You're off to a great start
in the wonderful world of

I know Liz would love to receive
comments and feedback 
about Finny's Florets
 from the Zentangle community. 

So, please post your comments,
and I will make sure they
are all passed on to Liz.

Thank you!

(Click on any of the images for a larger view.)

[My thanks to Sandra, for your invaluable assistance in publishing Liz's new tangle.]

*ZIA = Zentangle inspired art

23 February 2011

In-between places

Today I had a lovely afternoon at 'Tuesday Tanglers' sitting at the café tangling in-between two dear members of my tangle family,  Michele Beauchamp and Melissa Hughes.  Together with a number of other Tuesday Tangler friends, we chatted, sipped coffee, ate desserts, tangled, shared Zentangles and ZIA, drank more coffee, ate jellybeans, and tangled some more.  What a wonderful way to spend four hours!

That was a very fun 'in-between' place to be. In fact, when I began to ponder this week's Challenge (#10) from I am the Diva – entitled, The Space Between – I realised there are many 'in-betweens' in Zentangle land.

"In-between Places" – © Kit Murdoch, 22 February 2011.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
There's a moment between deciding to tangle and picking up a tile... between putting pencil in hand and touching it to paper... between thinking of a tangle and beginning to draw it... but (here comes another metaphor for Margaret) one of the most liberating 'in-between' places of Zentangle is that magical place we inhabit when we tangle – a place that is neither right nor wrong.  Zentangle is not really even 'in-between' right and wrong (at least, not in the sense that it is half-way between one and the other),

A Zentangle simply IS.  
  • No judgement.  
  • No right. 
  • No wrong.
  • No decision to be made one way or the other.  
Zentangle is a process that exists independently of the 'right or wrong' pendulum swing that seems to proscribe much of our lives.  Sometimes, more so in some aspects of life than others, things may appear to be very black and white. A is right, B is wrong. C is good, D is bad. Or perhaps: X is unpleasant (I experience aversion) and Y is pleasant (I experience attachment).

However, the more I learn about walking the Middle Path in my own life – the more I realise that equanimity (neither aversion, nor attachment) is an important step on the path to objective, self-aware living.  And the best way to achieve equanimity?  In my experience – to live in the present, to experience Reality, to
Be. Here. Now.

Zentangle helps us to live in the Present Moment.  Neither the past, nor the future – but betwixt and between.  When we worry about the future, or fixate on the past, we cease to live in the present.  How can we enjoy all that is real —right here, right now— if we mentally inhabit either past or future?§

For example, I have previously heard the word, fear, analysed in terms of the acronym F.E.A.R. = Future Events Appearing Real. So many of our fears exist only in the (not real) future, in the 'what ifs' and 'maybes' of..... okay – this is karmic in some way, I'm sure!

This Huntsman spider was over a hand span across, from one
leg tip to another. (Clicking image to enlarge is not advised.)
My partner and I just ran around the room (me squealing, at intervals, like a little girl) as a large spider ran across the carpet.  Once he was safely relocated to the outside world, I asked J, "so what wasn't present moment about that particular fear?"  He thought for a split second and replied, "It was clearly a fear based on 'what if the spider crawls on me?' – a future event that did not, in fact, come to pass." Okay... suitably chastened, and having to admit to you all that some future events seem a little closer (and therefore scarier) to the present moment than others, I shall continue.

Before and after shading. (Click to enlarge.)
The reason Zentangle helps us achieve moment-to-moment thinking is because, in the art of Zentangle, our world (our focus) narrows down to, and concentrates on a 3½" (9 cm) square... and then to the pencil string on that 3½" tile... and further, to a segment of the string of that 3½" tile. And then, focussing still more closely, we see just the tangle in that segment of that string on that 3½" square tile. And finally to each individual pen stroke of that tangle in that segment... And so on. 

Where – when our world becomes that simple, that focussed, that meditative – is there room for doubt, fear, worry, or tension in our minds?

All but This Moment in time disappears from our thoughts. The stress and worry we carry, the pain or suffering we push away, the addictions we crave, all of these things evaporate (the past that is gone, and the futures that do not yet exist) – when faced with the Now of tangling, as in meditation.

We reach a seemingly magical place, a place that defies the rules of the ordinary, where we are able to experience our Lives, even if just for a time, Moment to Moment,
BEing Here Now.

In-betweens are often magical places. In Celtic mythology, the in-between places were places of transition, neither one thing, nor the other. Doorways, shorelines, the forest's edge, dusk and dawn are a few examples. These were places of power, where the extra-ordinary was possible, and where the bonds of reality and the every-day were shed.  The transition from sunshine to rain, for example, is often marked by the magic and beauty of a rainbow.
Between sunshine and rain, a rainbow appears.
(Photograph © Kit Murdoch, February 2011. Click to enlarge.)
When I first discovered Zentangle, I was on just such a border between one part of my life and the next.  I didn't, at the time, realise how important that 'in-between' moment was.  But there are many moments of transition and change in our lives when it is a Good Thing to pause, to breathe, and to appreciate. (Does that sound familiar?)

Mary Jaksch writes,
In old houses there is a stone or plank at the bottom of the front door. It is the threshold and marks where ‘home’ begins. It marks the edge of intimate territory. The threshold itself is neither in nor out. It is an in-between place. When you inhabit the place or the moment that is betwixt and between, you inhabit a mysterious realm. Something new, something unknown, is about to open for you. The word ‘threshold’ is a poetic word which conjures up dreams and images and I want to speak of them in the hope that you in turn will begin to dream and that out of your dreams a new awareness will arise.
Begin to dream today.  Zentangle opened up a new world for me.  One more incredible than I could have imagined.  If I never receive any more from Zentangle than I have already, it is a bountiful treasure still.  And yet, I believe – in the deepest reaches of my heart – that my feet have only begun to tread this path.  I have crossed a threshold into the entrance way of Zentangle, and am Positively En-tranced (in the truest sense of both words).

And, this year (in October), I hope to cross yet another great in-between (The Pacific Ocean, between my home and the home of Rick and Maria) to continue on to new Zentangle discoveries, friendships, and family.

The Weepies - Can't Go Back Now (Walk On)
"Go where you want to go, BE what you want to BE!"

One of my fave songs about letting the past be the past... and
walking forward into our lives as they are now.
(Don't click on the screen – it takes you to another song.)


Having tangled away the day, I did not learn until this evening of the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand today.  I hold in my thoughts tonight all those who, after today's tragic events, wait in-between knowing and not-knowing.  Since I am, for now, unable to do anything other than hold them in my heart, I will – once again – tangle.  Let us hope that, for at least some of those who wait, there will be a rainbow's promise of hope between tonight's grief and whatever tomorrow brings.


*There is a book, Be Here Now – that is worth checking out for the illustrations, alone. And, if you find the ideas attractive as well – have fun exploring (you will soon discover that this book, like Zentangle, also subscribes to the 'there is no up or down' principle [grin]). From Wikipedia: "Be Here Now is a 1971 book on spirituality, yoga and meditation by the Western born yogi and spiritual teacher Ram Dass. The title comes from a statement his guide, Bhagavan Das, made during Ram Dass' journeys in India. The cover features a Mandala incorporating the title, a chair, radial lines, and the word "remember". The book is sometimes referred to as Remember, Be Here Now. The numerous illustrations, including the cover art, are not credited."

§The subject heading of this article amused me (Hobbies and Interests » Good Self Esteem), since it would seem to me to be more than a hobby or interest... but what Phillips writes, particularly in her two opening paragraphs, illustrates the problems of inhabiting the past or future quite well.

Jaksch, M. J. (1999). The threshold. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from http://goodlifezen.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/the-threshold.pdf

18 February 2011

zFlick - installation and use

This week, the Zentangle blog (in this article) wrote about a neat, free utility designed for searching through all the many images and photographs on Flickr.  This is an absolutely wonderful tool for browsing Zentangle and ZIA* on Flickr.  You can search for specific tangle examples, tangly themes, ZIA done with different methods and materials, and more.

I installed zFlick straight away on my laptop, and have been having lots of fun with it ever since.  So I decided to put together a couple of very short videos to show people how easy it is to install and to use. 

Note: if you have a slow connection, or the video keeps stopping instead of playing smoothly all the way through – just press the pause button and wait until the faint red progress bar§ has filled all the way to the right hand side before watching the video.  This is a useful tip whenever you are watching YouTube (or other online video content).  If the video quality is fuzzy on the blog page - click on the video screen where the YouTube logo appears to watch the video on YouTube, where it may be a little clearer.

First, a brief video showing the installation of zFlick   

And now, a video demonstrating it in use

Here are some fun searches to try, once you have zFlick up and running
  • zentangle watercolor (and 'zentangle watercolour' – since it can be spelled both ways!)
  • zentangle alphabet
  • zentangle bookmark
  • zentangle ixorus
  • zentangle artoo
  • zentangle calligraphy
  • zentangle christmas
  • zentangle quilt
  • zentangle mandala
  • zentangle ensemble
  • zentangle kit (of course!)
Go, install, search, and find all that tangly deliciousness, just waiting for you on Flickr.
Have fun everyone — I certainly have!

Wallpaper photograph in the video, © Kit Murdoch, 2010.
Videos show installation and use on a PC, using Windows 7. [A desktop-how-to video by Kit.]

* ZIA = Zentangle inspired art (pron. rhymes with 'mia' in Abba's Mamma Mia). 
§ the red progress bar's position is indicated with a yellow arrow in the image below (if you wait until it has filled all the way to the right, the video will play all the way through smoothly)

15 February 2011

Hug(gin)s for Artoo

This week's challenge from I am the Diva was to draw a Zentangle or ZIA using her brand new tangle called Artoo!  What fun this was.

Here's the finished tile, and then I'll tell you its story:

Click on image to enlarge.

I started playing with Artoo, just on its own – with just a teensy touch of green for the Artoo berries (you will see that I used Mimi Lempart's beginning of Cat-Kin for the 'branches'):

Then I thought that, perhaps, it might be fun to put Huggins into the background — since that would be like a hug for Artoo (an idea which I saw used last week in the 'hearts' challenge).  And so I started laying down a grid for Huggins... "in Sepia," I thought to myself, "so it won't overwhelm the Artoo tangle."

Unfortunately, when I finished drawing behind with Huggins, I felt it had done exactly that (overwhelmed my original Artoo tangle).  So I went back in and added more to my ZT [grin].

Now, this is the fun part!

With most of the art forms I have tried my hand at over the years – whenever I thought, "that's not right, I'll add a little more" – I often ended up ruining the whole thing.

However, with Zentangle, I've found that 'adding just a little more' sometimes not only changes the design for the better, but has the potential to create something entirely 'other' – a new design (not just a 'retouched' old design)!

So, while sitting across from Gillian at Tuesday Tanglers this afternoon at the coffee shop, we discussed the various options
  1. we wondered first, perhaps, if a little more shading behind Artoo might strengthen its impact.  And then, 
  2. having quite liked that effect, we further wondered if making the edges of that shading darker and stronger might bring Artoo 'forward' of Huggins.  Yes, it did!  
  3. I decided that I wanted to add a dark centre to each Artoo 'leaf' — not bad... and then, 
  4. of course, the 'branches' weren't quite strong enough for the leaves, so I thickened them just a touch!  
  5. Finally, I decided that it probably would be okay to add the tiniest amount of shading to Huggins (I hadn't done that yet).  
And that is how I got from Artoo to Hug(gin)s and back again!
From here...

...to here (with a tile rotate – isn't there always one of those?!).

Click on image to enlarge.

By the time I was done, the sun was beginning to set... such a pretty light over the city this warm Summer's eve.  What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  Thank you, Laura for your lovely new tangle!

And hugs from Australia for Artoo.

10 February 2011

Canada to Australia... sharing, caring!

A quick post today, just to share my delight!  

I was excited to see a tangled envelope arrive in today's post.  Even more excited to see that it had come all the way from Canada... from Laura!  Here is a photograph of the absolutely stunning tangled card she sent me (and there, in the background, you can see the view from my balcony).

(Click photo to enlarge.)
While I'm here - I'll quickly give you some links to a few more very special posts that I have been meaning to share:
  • Yet more wonderful tangle Pencasts from Melissa (Lone Creature) arrived yesterday! It's a real treat to be able to see (online) the tangles, as they emerge from her pen. (If you haven't yet seen these unique online tangle demonstrations, go check them out!  And peruse the rest of her blog while you're there.)
  • There was a most beautiful and inspiring post today called Open Hearts from stART, which seemed to me to fit perfectly with this next—
  • Gorgeous tangleZENtangle calligraphy by Alphabee Tangles (as a fellow calligrapher, I'm naturally drawn [pun intended] to tangled lettering!) and, since Catherine reminded me of the 'peace' theme—
  • A gorgeous 'peace of art' from Carole Ohl who, as it happens, is also the author of one of my fave posts entitled—
  • More Than a Metaphor – which includes the beautiful idea that "It's as if each stroke is a pathway to NOW."
Live in the Moment. Be Here Now!
Happy Tangling,
My own little 'peace of art' – published last year in the book
WordsWork : Calligraphy and Lettering Art of Australia and New Zealand 2009-2010
by the Australian Society of Calligraphers

09 February 2011

The Call...

This week the community of tanglers that was brought together – knitted together – by Laura's challenges, found out that Laura and her baby son, Artoo, are facing major life challenges themselves. The Call went out for us to create a Zentangle (or ZIA*) heart incorporating two previous challenge themes.  Laura wrote, "and maybe you could send your healing intent to our little baby as you do your entry." 

Well... that is exactly what has been happening this week. I have been visiting each heart-felt message, artistically expressed as they have been posted each day – and I have been moved to tears at times, by the great wellspring of Love and Community Spirit that is being sent out to Artoo, Laura and her family (Artoo's older brother and his Dad).

And so, with healing intent, I too answer The Call with this simple Zentangle. 

(Click image to enlarge.)
I used these two challenge themes: Breathe (since that's what Artoo is struggling to do for himself right now) and Simplicity.  The simplicity of a single tangle, Zander.** My heart felt so full of 'healing intent' – way too big to fit onto a single Zentangle tile, so that is why my heart design disappears off the edges.

I wished, as I drew this, that I owned a flask of Lucy Pevensie's cordial:
"In this bottle, there is a cordial made of the juice of the fire-flowers that grow in the mountains of the sun. If you or any of your friends are hurt, a few drops will restore them." [Father Christmas, from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis]
...for with a single drop of such a cordial, I could restore Artoo to perfect health.  However, although we don't have access to magic cordials in the 'real' world, the healing intent that has been brewed up by this tangled community for Artoo this week – in answer to Laura's Call – is surely magical.

And, as I thought about all these magic, tangled hearts – so full of healing intent – that have emerged in response to Laura's Call for our heart-felt support, I remembered the beautiful song that Regina Spektor sang (for the Narnia movie, Prince Caspian) called "The Call."  I played the song, as I tangled my heart... hence the title of this post.

Listen, Artoo – these hearts are our battle cry! 
We're fighting, in spirit, by your side. Holding you in our hearts.

With a heart and mind full of loving-kindness, I answer The Call, and send Artoo and his family metta:
I send them, with this tangled heart of mine, "...love that is firm but not grasping, unshakeable but not inflexible, gentle and settled, hard but unhurting, helpful but not interfering, giving more than receiving, dignified but not proud, soft but not sentimental."

*ZIA = Zentangle inspired art (see explanation here).

**There is no online instruction for Zander, that I know of... but there's a great example of it on Kass Hall's website here. Kass is a talented, Australian CZT, based in Melbourne. (Kass also describes her experience at the CZT training in October last year... which is very exciting for me – as I shall be following in her footsteps

02 February 2011

Just Breathe...

A little back story... 
In April 2010, I fell in love with Zentangle. It was, indeed 'love at first sight' for me... exploring the world of tangles: because of the infinite possibilities; because it was truly about what is Reality in any given Moment; and because it narrowed my focus down to a 3.5" square of reality. 

Meditation – being still, grounded, centred, and (imagine me using Nigella Lawson's voice to say this last bit), "deep, deep contentment." Zentangle improved my focus, concentration, mindfulness, and – an added bonus – all my other artistic endeavours benefited from time spent tangling.

At times I have found I'm almost watching my pen to see what will emerge from my creative subconscious. Not directing the design but, one pen stroke at a time, waiting to see what happens... and then developing that idea (a great way to avoid rules!). This is something I learned many years back, when I first started studying Chinese Brush painting. That art form never really clicked for me until I just 'allowed' the brush to make the marks it was designed to make and stopped trying so hard to produce a specific effect.

I haven't felt, these last ten months, any hint of hard slog practice with Zentangle – only Play! And the more I play, the more I want to. I breathe, relax, let go and I allow the Zentangle or ZIA to happen – not stifling it with any rules that it 'ought' to follow, or preconceived ideas of what it 'should' look like when complete. I believe that, once an idea (artistic, or in any walk of Life) becomes a dogma it ceases to grow. So I push at the boundaries constantly. 

Back to the topic of breathing... these last few months I have also made new discoveries about the way I draw. For example, my pen will draw more flowing, 'dancing' lines on an exhaled breath (it's true!) than on an inhaled breath. So, by becoming aware of my breathing as I create each stroke, the way I draw has been transformed. Here is the Zentangle (traditional format) that I created for the "Breathe" Challenge. 

(Click on image to enlarge.)
Being reminded (once again) to observe my breath, I found that I was creating a very playful design (some elements of which weren't really 'proper' tangles!). Once I'd finished, I finally coloured the Laced blue, as it ran through, across, and around the tile. This brought all the various elements together, to create a linked harmony to the finished piece – and I (yet again) changed the orientation of my tile.

A little more on my philosophical wanderings through Zentangle land?
I've also studied what I watch when I am drawing. For example, if I'm drawing a line parallel to another, I look at the line I'm following (not the line my pen is making). What else do I watch? When I was speaking with a wonderful Chinese calligrapher (a Master of his art), William Lai, he asked me, "What is the most important thing about a beautiful vase?" The answer seemed obvious to me, so I answered, "The empty space within." He smiled his unique and twinkly, wise smile and I knew I'd said the right thing (I was rewarded with a Chinese candy!). So, when making pen strokes, I'm nearly always watching the white space I am drawing 'around'. This, of course affects not only the way that I draw, but also the way I think about the way I draw. (How very existential that is!)

As I contemplated this week's challenge, my mind kept coming back to the chorus of this song by Anna Nalick, "Just Breathe." Of course, while actually tangling, the song in my head was replaced with beautiful, tranquil, silence (tangling being one of the few activities capable of stilling my mind!).

Just Breathe

Because I have received a great deal of feedback about my inclusion in this blog of all the tangles I use, I have included a digitally edited version of this week's Zentangle, naming each of the tangles (if I have any of them incorrectly labelled, CZTs, please let me know!). They are: Laced, Verdigogh, Printemps, Jonqal, Ennies, Pokeleaf, Pokeroot, Fescu, Betweed, W2, Huggins, Cadent (those last three used the same grid, and flowed from one to the next).

(Click on image to enlarge.)
Now that I've bent your ear... I'll go back to my drawing board. For, as much as I love keeping up with what others are creating and sharing inspiration and encouragement (the reason I'm on the Internet so often), I am not able to resist the siren call of my first love for very long — tangling with paper and pen.