01 April 2011

"...see the crazy gypsy in my soul"

This week I am the Diva challenged us to tangle using "only curved lines. A curved string paired with curved tangles and curved lines..." and to "explore how this challenge made us feel after last week's angles and straight lines."

Rather than creating a traditional Zentangle (black and white, on a 3.5 inch square Zentangle tile), I opted for ZIA (Zentangle inspired art). I drew this challenge in my Moleskine watercolour art journal, so the original is about 205 x 130 mm (8 x 5 inches).

I was surprised that it wasn't as 'easy' as I thought it would be. Last week's challenge evoked such a strong emotional response in me that I assumed I would feel much more comfortable not being 'confined' to drawing with straight lines.

Well... Laura did talk about 'balance' – and the principle held true. What I discovered, as a result of participating in both these challenges, is that my favourite curvy tangles are enhanced by straight lines and vice versa. Just like the principles for shading a Zentangle, it's contrast that really makes tangles dance!

Challenge #15: Love your Curves, Baby
I didn't shade this piece. I decided I preferred the beauty of the stark black and crisp white, as a contrast to the curvy design. Of course, by the time I'd finished, I appreciated the difficulty of avoiding straight lines completely (and, particularly looking at the area of Nightsbridge, I'm not sure that I succeeded 100%).

This challenge did, however, send me off on a philosophical tangent (another of the existential ponderings I seem to be 'drawn' to exploring!). Before I continue, however – having just read through this post, I would like to begin by thanking Rick and Maria for Zentangle (again).

And now, on with this week's musings...

As I was appreciating the 'wandering' nature of the delicious curves I'd drawn in this ZIA, I began to reflect on the wandering path my life has taken in leading me to this particular art form!

Last week, in Sydney, I had the luxury of a long conversation with Chinese and Western calligraphy Master, William Lai (of Will's Quills). We discussed the best tools (nibs, inks, and paper) for tangling with a pointed calligraphy nib. We discussed the philosophy of art and the artistic process (as we always do), and the difference between 'making' art and 'allowing' art to happen. I could happily sit at William's feet (and yes, I mean that quite literally) for days on end, learning from him.

Will's Quills website - Click here to visit this wonderful store.
William's views on art, the artist and the artistic process are "Zentangle wise." Talking with him is like receiving the gift of a Life lesson. However, I've never really felt like I'm trying to comprehend some obscure artistic principle that he attempting to teach. Instead, I always feel as though he is showing me the truths that I already carry within myself. This time, I came away knowing that I can trust my instincts about my art (even more completely than I have in the past).

At one point during our conversation, William asked me, "When did you know that this [Zentangle] is what you have to do." I answered, without hesitation, "April, 2010." It wasn't until later that day I realised the significance of both the question and my answer.

In asking that question, William clearly and correctly intuited that I have to do Zentangle. And, by answering with such certainty and without stopping to think, I was not telling William a date (that was not the point of his question, of course). My answer gave me the gift of knowing that I know that Zentangle is what I have to do! (How's that for existential?)

Being a Zentangle artist was not, for me, an impulsive or casual decision, "Hmm... I think I might do Zentangle." In fact, it wasn't really a 'decision' at all. It was a sure and certain knowing that

This. Is. Me.

Yes, of course, I'm a partner, sister, daughter, calligrapher, graphic designer, and many other things... but each of these is a label, whereas Zentangle feels like Home. I cannot think of a different or better way to express this.

My entire life has been leading me here. Graphic design training, life science illustration, desktop publishing, watercolour painting, calligraphy... and even web design and counselling: each of these points on my journey has been bringing me home to Zentangle.

Before I found this place, I felt that my soul was nomadic in nature. I wandered from one chapter of my life to the next, never really knowing definitively what I wanted to be when I grew up (if I ever do 'grow up', of course – I have yet to be convinced of the wisdom of that, but that's a story for another day).

My life has been, and continues to be, a wonderful adventure! I've been exploring – certainly. And experiencing and appreciating all that life has brought my way. But from here on in, whatever direction my life's journey takes, I know where I belong. The "crazy gypsy" in my soul has finally sunk her roots down deep.

Billy Joel, You're My Home

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home

If you're wondering about the practical outcome of my visit to Will's Quills: I brought home some new pointed nibs and a pot of Chinese ink called Yuen Chung – Heavenly Origin (Extra thick SUMI black ink).

While I can't personally vouch for its origin, it most certainly smells heavenly! Those of you familiar with that beautiful and unique smell of high quality Chinese inks will know what I'm talking about. If you haven't yet played with Chinese ink... I strongly encourage you to do so!

Yuen Chung ink stays glossy and sleek black even after it has dried. It shines and glistens like the twinkle in William's eye when he has a chance to philosophise about the artistic process.

In answer to questions likely raised by the photograph above:
There is just one more part of my conversation with William that I would like to share with you.

William explained that there are always four key components in making an artistic mark: the paper, the ink, the tool used to apply it, and the artist (which includes the artist's spirit, intent, ability, mood etc.).

He also suggested that, whenever you try out a new tool, or paper, or ink, (or all three!) – keep a detailed record in a notebook of all four of these factors. This is how you learn what works, what doesn't, and how to replicate an artistic mark you created years ago (and may otherwise have long since forgotten).

Just for fun...

Here are a couple of photographs of my bird friends in Sydney.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Kookaburra's Breakfast

(You may recall that I promised a post of Zentangles and ZIA from our Tuesday Tanglers group. This is still 'in the works,' and still on the way! My internet connection is less than reliable right now... hence the delay for this week's post. But everything should be sorted out and working properly soon.)


  1. Very nice post on your journey in this artform. What a blessing to have a friend like that to discuss these things with. Just as an aside: my niece just moved from Ohio, USA to Sydney to work with her company there for an extended time. She is loving it and thinks the people are wonderful all around her. It's been fun seeing her posts and pictures from the area. You live in an intriguing place!

  2. Beautiful zentangles. It is amazing how you find yourself wanting to do lines or curves or whatever else the drawing seems to demand.

    It's interesting to here your thoughts on zentangle and what it means to you. I'm so glad you found your way here.

  3. This post completely stole me away from my morning routine...it captivated my soul...I found myself nodding my head...understanding. How fortunate you are to have had this life confirming time with Mr. Lai. Blessings...Robin ~v*

  4. "...my favourite curvy tangles are enhanced by straight lines and vice versa..." had the same discovery but didn't find the words until reading this. Zentangle chose me - never saw it coming but so glad it found me. Love the post.

  5. Very nice, both the post and the discovery. :) I found the same thing, about how my favorites combine straight lines and curves. It's all about achieving balance. I do understand what you learned from Mr. Lai, too. I think I'm still on the journey of discovery myself, but I know that every new thing I learn teaches me as much about -myself- as it does the technique I'm using (and sometimes more). Thank you for sharing :)

  6. Your drawing is amazing.I like how the reflection is like part of the drawing. I like the rest of your post. Seems Zentangle is for you what weaving is for me.Just something we have to do and the feeling we never want to stop or give up.

  7. Kit you have articulated (and most eloquently too) my Zentangle journey exactly! Just like you, the very moment I happened across zentangling I felt as if I had found myself a home. No other art or craft form I have ever tried, and I've dabbled in EVERYTHING has ever spoken to my soul like this

  8. So fun to read your posts.....what an adventure. I am envious of your opportunity. I haven't used my calligraphy for so long I wouldn't know who I would want to see it....but a true calligrapher is amazingly wonderful and I would love you see some of yours. Your tangle is very beautiful!

  9. Splashes of white ink flowing together over a rainbow of tangles! There is a merging together of your two favourite art forms which slip and slide into a comfortable space of magic and delight which ofcourse is perfectly right!

  10. Wow, Kit. A lovely tangle and a very inspiring post. I think many of us feel the same way and you have put it into wonderful words. Creating zentangles is going into a different zone. A place where there are no worries. Time sits still and is very peaceful (until you look at a clock and get very confused how time just FLEW on by while you weren't looking). Thanks also for sharing a little bit of your home environment (beautiful birds!). It's fun to get to know people through Zentangle. Yay!

  11. This challenge was just right for a ZIA. It's beautiful. I like the contrasts.

  12. Kit, I completely understand: your journey is much like mine is with lettering. And expressive drawing. Isn't it great when you have done lots of things and you finally realise when you have found your 'home'?
    Wonderful blog, too!

    Nicoll xx

  13. This by far is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. You wrote from your soul and it came shining through.


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