Zentangle Inspired Chair by Blanche Nicols

Zentangle Inspired Chair by Blanche Nichols

“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”  Dr. Seuss

This post is a tribute to a couple of First Chair Awards.  The first is a nod to my grandson, Jack.  I’ve been pushing him to practice his trumpet more at home in the afternoons.  Since he is living with us right now, this involves the sacrifice of the entire family’s ear drums in addition to the nagging from me.  He got confirmation of the value in these solitary moments with his trumpet when he achieved First Chair status for the first time this week.  If you have ever known anyone in band, this is no small accomplishment.  Jack was absolutely beaming with excitement when he got off the bus.  Good job, my buddy!

The second First Chair Award goes to my student, Blanche Nichols.  Blanche embraced Zentangle after taking a basic class from me some time back.  She bravely decided to tangle an upholstered chair.  Blanche had sent photos early in the project and I hadn’t heard from her in several months.  I was thinking about Blanche and her chair when lo and behold, I get this note (shared with her permission):

Kathy,

Finished at last.  My son says it’s his heirloom.  I love the outcome.  I tried not to use all of my favorite zentangles more than once.  It was hard to try to use all different ones, but it pushed me to the next level.  On a whole they are all different.  

Many thanks for all the photos and tutorials from CZT’s posts.  What an inspiration when one sees all the beautiful works of their art, how they used it.  Especially when I took your class and saw the zentangled Fashionista Girl on the tote bag.  Totally hooked.

Even better, she shared some images of her very amazing First Chair project.  I hope you are inspired, as I am, by Blanche and her wonderful chair.  Enjoy!

 

One of my favorite quotes.  Work in progress or done?

One of my favorite quotes. Work in progress or done?

“The muse is not an angelic voice that sits on your shoulder and sings sweetly. The muse is the most annoying whine. The muse isn’t hard to find, just hard to like – she follows you everywhere, tapping you on the shoulder, demanding that you stop doing whatever else you might be doing and pay attention to her.”  Harlan Coben

This quote resonates with the creative side of my personality.  I would imagine it is true for most people often defined as: creative, artistic, or even right-brained.  It is a piece of who you are and not being able to express your creativity nags at your consciousness like a mosquito.  Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing – never going away and just too fast and erratic to capture.  Most recognize it as a temporary block and trust that if they can quiet themselves it will eventually return.  The elusive muse.

For others, it’s not that their muse has gone on a temporary vacation.  For these people, something often happens that destroys that muse as they know it.  It’s like they have lost something vitally important and are forever trying to find it. Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting two wonderful ladies who have been struggling to find a way to express their artistic side.

I talk a lot about the benefits of Zentangle when teaching a class, sharing various anecdotes throughout the class.  I mentioned that my granddaughter’s neurosurgeon was watching me tangle over an extended period of time and we began to discuss how I started.  He told me the fact that it helped me cope after her accident was really not surprising.  He described it as a “reset” of my brain patterns – well documented with those listening to specific Baroque music.  After a class in which I shared this story, one student came to me with tears in her eyes.  She said she was a singer and had lost her ability to sing with a brain injury several years ago.  The story resonated with her.  While she was tangling, for the first time she felt that artistic “muse” she had lost so long ago.  “I think I needed that reset.  Now I have a way to be creative and express myself again.”

Work in Progress: Journal began at CZT Retreat in Dallas

Work in Progress: Journal began at CZT Retreat in Dallas

The second woman described herself as an artist at the beginning of class.  I was a little surprised to see her struggle with several of the simple beginning tangles.  Clearly getting stressed and frustrated.  We did a little “one on one” and worked through it by the time the class ended.  She was optimistic about moving forward and started looking at some examples of my work after class.  Suddenly, she exclaims “THIS IS ART!”  My student became very excited about the possibilities.  She shared with me that she was getting ready to get rid of all her art supplies.  She hadn’t done anything in years and every time she tried she was stressed and upset.  Explaining that everyone I know who practices Zentangle comes with a unique story about why they do it, her eyes filled with tears.  “Mine is Hurricane Katrina. I haven’t been the same since. But I know this; I’m NOT getting rid of my art supplies now!”

Tiny Tangles from Dallas Retreat

Tiny Tangles from Dallas Retreat

Some people wonder why I teach Zentangle.  After all, I have a very busy and demanding job, full family life and struggle with my own personal health issues.  Every student has a story, some as simple as a bonding activity for mothers and daughters or a break in the day for a new mom staying at home with her baby.  But every one of them is important to me.  Sometimes the gift of Zentangle is a small token and others it is much bigger and harder to define.  I’ve always loved to give gifts and this feeds my need to give and make a difference in my little corner of the world.

Celebration

Celebration

“Do not take anything for granted — not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed.” ~Terri Guillemets

I am happy to be here searching for the words to share my relief and gratitude.  My biopsy results came back negative!  Upon hearing the news, my husband let out a huge breath and with a very shaky voice told me how afraid he had been, but didn’t want me to know.  What a blessing to be able to once again go about the business of living our lives though with a heightened sense of how precious it is once again.

So many of you wrote personal notes, comments and sent thoughts and prayers for me and my family as we waited for the news about how our lives would proceed.  I cannot express how grateful I am for the caring hugs from so many people who only know me through my little blog.  Thank you from the bottom of my tangled heart!

The piece I am sharing today is my Celebration piece.  It is also in response to the Diva Challenge to use something for a stencil to form your string.  I ended up using a huge eraser shield bisected with a French curve that I had forgotten about having.  Since it was so large, this piece is done on 12” x 16” Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel paper.  I added a little stain around the outside to mask my smudgies from left handedness.  You will notice a great new tangle as yet unreleased to the public – contact your local CZT to get the drop on the general public.  Other tangles are Dragonair and Mooka plus the ever-present Tipple I just love to use.

I am thinking this one will be framed and be given a place in our home as a reminder to never take anything for granted and that I am blessed to have so many wonderful, caring people in my world.

Derwent Inktense pencils were used for the color on the pearls

Derwent Inktense pencils were used for the color on the pearls

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” Daniel Boone

The past few weeks have found me in a bit of a fog as I deal with the uncertainty around my health.  I just can’t seem to concentrate or retain information very well no matter how hard I try.  My visit with the surgeon last week didn’t do much to alleviate my brain fog.  Even the little information he was willing to commit to was a bit fuzzy around the edges.  “Two masses that look like one… Moderately suspicious with elevated risk factors.”  There was some peace of mind to be found though.  I am scheduled for biopsies this week and should have answers early next week.  That’s good concrete information for now.

The good news is you, my faithful readers, will be the benefactors of my brain fog.  I found myself waiting for my husband to return a rental car on a very busy Saturday morning after his first week on his new job.  As time dragged on, I pulled out my portable Zentangle kit (really a portable hard drive case from Office Depot) and started a new tile.  Once I finished the string of pearls, I wanted to try the tangle Leaflet by Helen Williams. I had watched her video last week for how to draw the tangle and thought I had it down.  Ah, not so, not so.  The brain fog you see.  I realized pretty quickly things were not progressing as they should, but in true Zentangle style, I just kept going.  In the end, I like what emerged and I think it may very well be a new tangle.  In that spirit, I recorded the step-outs to share with you.  This is a tangle that looks better if it is a little “wonky.”  Spacing can vary and the curved lines in step 2 do not have to match – don’t you love one like that?  A little bit of Leaflet, a dash of Betweed and a whole lot of my brain fog went into this one.  I call it A-fog.  I hope you enjoy and I would love to see what you do with this one.

Tangle A-Fog

Tangle A-Fog

 

My Dad and stepmom

My Dad and stepmom

Lost Dog: 3 legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated, answers to the name of “Lucky”

It’s an old joke, but it always makes me think of my Dad.  If he were a dog, this would describe him pretty well.  He’s been through a lot and is still here to tell the tale.

Dad was born in 1940 in west Texas.  As he says, only God and the jackrabbits would want the place.  He got a tough start in life, contracting polio when he was just a toddler.  He has a few memories of being in an iron lung at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas.  His parents were too poor to go with him, so he remembers riding the trains with the soldiers and they would give him nickels and see him safely back and forth to the hospital.  On one trip home, he and some other boys were playing with matches.  His t-shirt caught fire burning up the side of his torso and past the elbow on the inside of his arm.  One of the other children put out the fire with a mop.  Back then, the country doctors didn’t know much about treating burns and would let the burn fuse and then cut it apart.  He eventually went back to Scottish Rite for proper treatment of the burns.  Casts and many skin grafts over several years left him with a massive scar and healthy respect for fire.  At the age of 13, during a surgery to put a plate in his foot affected by the polio, he died on the operating table.  He was revived and refused to have any more surgeries for his leg.  That plate is still in his foot today.

Don’t think all this held him back.  He was forever in trouble and full of mischief.  As the youngest of three boys, he got into everything his older brothers did and a little more on his own.  He and his cousin Alan were particularly prolific.  He tells about convincing Alan that they should give each other Mohawks.  Alan went first – and dad backed out of the deal once he saw the results.  His aunt was not happy with Alan’s new hair style.  In another prank, the boys stuffed some old clothes to make a dummy and put it on the toilet for Alan’s mother to find.  Needless to say, it scared her to death.  She thought a bum had gotten in the house and was using the bathroom.  Or the time the boys found a box of balloons (condoms), blew them up and tied them all over his uncle’s model T.  His teenage years were no better.  I think he had 97 speeding tickets the first time he lost his license.  His mother made the mistake of taking his car to the store and was pulled over before she made it around the block.

If you’ve ever met a polio survivor, one of the things that stand out about them is an incredible drive and strong will.  They were taught that if you don’t move it, you lose it.  My Dad personifies this trait.  Daddy has always been a hard worker and one of my favorite memories of him as a young child had to do with him taking me to work.  He drove a delivery truck all over Texas and would sometimes take me along.  We would sing “Hit the Road Jack” and he would buy me Cracker Jacks and YooHoo to drink.  I would stand on side of him with my arm around his neck and think I was the luckiest little girl in the world.  Always my champion, he still brags about the best “bowl” cake he ever ate.

When I decided to go to college for the first time at age 32, my dad and my husband were my biggest cheerleaders.  Just 2 days after the start of my first semester at LSU, my Dad suffered a massive heart attack.  He barely survived and would have several more over the next few days.  Stints were put in and blockages cleared.  By the time it was done, he had only 1/3 of his heart working, but he was still here and saw me graduate college with honors.  Within a few months of my graduation, he was diagnosed with a massive abdominal aortic aneurysm.  He was a poor candidate for surgery, but came through with flying colors though he says we better never allow him to be put on a machine again.  It’s been nearly 20 years since then.  He was there for both daughters’ weddings, graduations from high school and college, and the birth of both of my grandchildren.  He is a great-grandfather 6 times over.  He’s a master farmer on Farmville and loves doing jigsaw puzzles on his computer.  I get regular calls from my stepmom “tattling” on him for something or other.  The most famous incident was flipping his riding lawnmower and having to wait for the gas to run out to get out from under it – because he disabled the safety feature that would have shut off the engine. Some things never change.

Whenever I want to getaway and truly relax, I go to see my Dad.  When I’m with him, even at the age of 52, I am the luckiest little girl in world.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  I love you with all my heart.

Dad trying to cut a birthday cake I made for him.  I frosted a cardboard box.

Dad trying to cut a birthday cake I made for him. I frosted a cardboard box.

Dad and my youngest daughter.  I'm sure he was telling about her cheating on computer games.

Dad and my youngest daughter. I’m sure he was telling about her cheating on computer games.

My dad and his brothers - he's the cute one in the middle.

My dad and his brothers – he’s the cute one in the middle.

June 13 _03 “But God really did bless me, you know? He really said, All right. Come on. I’m still waiting for you. Get over here. Get over here.” Liza Minnelli 

It’s been an interesting few weeks filled with travel, work, life, an anniversary and my annual round of medical tests and doctor visits.  Much of it has been pretty ordinary with a few surprises along the way.  More about those surprises in a bit.

My husband and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary this year.  It’s hard to believe it’s really been that long.  He was offshore this year and I took some time to put together a nice post for Facebook that day.  As I scrolled through all the photos I have in digital format, I was struck by how few pictures exist of the two of us.  Especially in the early days of our marriage and there’s nothing from when we dated.  Considering the wealth of images available of my daughter and her husband, we seemed like real slackers.  But as I pondered this, I remembered something very important.  We came from the era of FILM.  You had to buy it, usually fairly inexpensive, but then you had to bring it somewhere (or mail it in) to be developed. Developing was always an expensive proposition and we were pretty poor in those early years.  Nor were our families big picture takers either – once again the expense was problematic.  What little money we did have to spare for those things focused on capturing our children.  The other thing that struck me was just much I change my hairstyle.  I tell people all the time that I am a poor candidate for tattoos because I can’t even settle on a hairstyle for longer than a few months.  I now have visible proof of that fact – at least a twenty year span of photos with no hairstyle the same.  A good many of the comments about the photos were about my ever-changing hairstyles.   I believe it’s mostly because I get bored, but maybe I’m really very vain.  After all, I am a Southern woman.  My husband pretty much looks the same.  After all, he’s a Southern man.

Surprises have been good and not so good.  After eight years with the same company, an incredible opportunity for a new job came knocking on my husband’s door.  Within a week, the deal was done and he’s very excited to start on this new adventure next week.  I am so happy to see him this excited about his work.  After 38 years of work in his field, that really is a rare thing. 

On the not so good side of the coin, there was a bit of unexpected news from all those routine medical tests.  Something was found on my mammogram.  Additional tests this week revealed a “cluster” and a referral to a breast surgeon next week.  Nurse daughter doesn’t like what she’s hearing and baby daughter is outraged that there is “no sense of urgency” from anyone. My granddaughter says it’s time to get busy with Zentangle. I’m taking the view that whatever is there won’t change in the next week and if it is bad, it’s very early stage.  I am choosing to embrace my quote for this week and know that God has blessed me, really he has. 

Fairy Garden entered in Tangled Fashionista contest.  Fairy and butterflies are from Tangled Fashionista.

Fairy Garden entered in Tangled Fashionista contest. Fairy and butterflies are from Tangled Fashionista.

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.”  ~Steven Wright

It’s a bit of a random thought day.  It seems that every day is some sort of holiday, so I took a look to see what obscure event I might be missing this week.  So…who knew May 3 is Martin Z. Mollusk Day and just WHO is Martin Z. Mollusk?

It appears that M.Z.M. is a famous hermit crab from Ocean City.  For more than 37 years he has been appearing on the beach in Ocean City on May 3.  Why is this significant, you may ask?  Because if he sees his shadow summer will come one week early, of course I knew that.  Or maybe I was thinking about a groundhog with similar duties in February named Phil?  If memory serves correctly, his record was pretty poor this year since many areas around the country had snowstorms this week.  Maybe Martin does better; after all, he is quite old.  He also has a 100% accuracy record, gets annual physicals and lives in an assisted living Crustacean Condo.  To learn more about Martin Z. Mollusk and the special activities planned for May 3, check out the Ocean City, NJ website .

The whimsy associated with Martin Z. Mollusk Day carries through in the Zentangle Inspired Art pieces I am sharing today.  I had a great time at Tangle University, learning quite a few fun techniques from my fellow CZT’s.  Meredith Yuhas taught tangled gardens on toned paper and Marie Browning shared a fun technique with Tombow markers in a workshop she called Dr. Seuss’ Garden.  Sandy Steen Bartholomew sponsored a contest that challenged CZT’s to use images from her book, Tangled Fashionista.  Since my new skills were top of mind, I used them to finish 2 entries for Sandy’s contest.  Wonder of wonders, I was a runner up with my Fairy Garden.  I hope you enjoy the results of my little flight of fancy.

Diva Challenge 107Quandary

Diva Challenge 107
Quandary

Quandary: a state of perplexity or uncertainty, especially as to what to do; dilemma. From Dictionary.com

A fitting word and tangle to describe the past week for me.  No matter which way I turned, I was confronted with another quandary as I tried to meet a big deadline.  By Friday, my shoulders felt as though they were touching my ears from the stress.  Time to tangle and see if I could relax a little.

I haven’t done the Diva Challenge in a while, so I thought it would be nice to work on the latest from Laura Harms.  Quandary again!  This time it was in the form of the new tangle, Quandary, from Zentangle.  As I tackled Quandary in my Tangle-A-Day calendar, I quickly understood how it came to be named.  It reminded me of another tangle, Tripoli, which has always been a struggle for me.  With Quandary, your eye bounces back and forth with the need to create the triangles and the flowers that emerge as you build the triangles.  I got lost several times with less than stellar results.  For me, it seems the secret is in the scale.  I do much better with the larger scale.  I tell my students all the time to play with scale when learning a tangle that they seem to struggle to master but sometimes forget to do this myself.  With my new awareness, it may be time to try Tripoli and Assunta, but much larger in scale.

I also took some time to “finish” a few things.  When teaching, as I did last weekend, I often start a tile or demo a tangle on one and move on.  What’s left is a pile of really random tiles, some with only a tangle and no strings, others resembling most of the tiles I do in a basic class since I keep the string and tangles fairly simple.  These are a challenge to complete and I’ll tackle a few from time to time just to see what I can do with them.  While working on my Diva Challenge, I realized a previous page in my calendar had never been shaded so I thought it might be interesting to share the before and after on my blog.  Shading really is a personal preference and there are tangles that I never shade, and others that change dramatically with a little bit of pencil strategically applied.  To really learn more about shading, take a look at Made in the Shade by Cris Letourneau.  Cris earned her CZT along with me in 2011.  This book is a deep dive into the world of shading specific to Zentangle and is well worth the investment.  You can see more of Cris’ work here.

Give Quandary a try and I hope you enjoy the fruits of my various dilemmas.

Example of same page from Tangle A Day calendar - unshaded and shaded

Example of same page from Tangle A Day calendar – unshaded and shaded

My finished tile from Feb. 17 class at LSU

My finished tile from
Feb. 17 class at LSU

Demo of Cadent from class with Mi2 added

Demo of Cadent from class with Mi2 added

Student Class Mosaic from Feb 17 class at LSUBasic Zentangle

Student Class Mosaic from Feb 17 class at LSU
Basic Zentangle

Mardi Gras and King Cake

Mardi Gras and King Cake

“King Cake: A party staple from January 6 through Mardi Gras day, the cake is named for the three kings who visited the Christ Child and whose feast, the Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas. Traditionally, the cake is a brioche pastry baked in a circle, suggesting a crown (although for convenience, large ones are oval). They are sprinkled with gem-like sugar crystals in the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. A plastic baby (symbol of the Christ Child), or in some cases a bean, is baked inside. By custom, the one who finds it throws the next king cake party. Lately, the brioche recipe has been supplemented by a coffee-cake ring alternative. French settlers brought the gâteau des rois to Louisiana in the 18th century. Their original round, flaky pastry pie filled with almond crème and topped by a paper crown, is now making a comeback in the French pastry shops around the city.” from New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau website

I’ve never been a big fan of Mardi Gras parades, but I love the history and lore associated with the holiday.  My particular favorite is the King Cake.  Just about every grocery store and bakery has their own special version with a variety of flavors ranging from plain (a little cinnamon) to Voodoo and Praline.  Heated discussions revolve around where to find the best King Cake in the state and everyone has a favorite flavor.  Natives lament the fact that the baby is no longer baked into the cake (liability now that they are shipped around the world, you know.)  King Cake parties are frequent so everyone can get their fill because these treats are only made from January 6 through Mardi Gras day.

Since I have celiac disease and food allergies, King Cake has not been on my menu for many years.  Each year as I run the gauntlet of brightly colored boxes stacked as high as my head and savor the rich aromas, I feel a little twinge of longing.   This is one of the few times I miss being able to eat something on my “bad” list.  I can watch dinner companions eat fresh bread, biscuits, cornbread and more without batting an eye but when it comes to King Cake, it’s another story altogether.  That all changed this year.  I learned last week that a local bakery/deli specializing in gluten-free, allergy friendly foods would be making King Cakes.  Oh Joy!!  I skated close to the deadline, picking up my special strawberry cream cheese King Cake yesterday afternoon, but I will eat King Cake this Mardi Gras season!   In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to create a Mardi Gras/King Cake inspired Zendala.  The tangle Brayd fits my purposes perfectly as the dough of a King Cake is braided and decorated with Mardi Gras colored purple, gold and green sugar.  Add beads, a crown and masks and it’s Mardi Gras on my tile.  Now I am off to enjoy these last few hours of Fat Tuesday and my first taste of King Cake in years.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Heartfelt thanks to Eric at Truly Free Bakery for creating my special treat! 

Tangle A Day 2013Mardi Gras(unshaded) Rain, Socc, Print Temps

Tangle A Day 2013
Mardi Gras
(unshaded) Rain, Socc, Print Temps

Image

Auraknot and Bunzo
Diva Challenge 102

“The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.” Judith Regan

So here I am, another year older.  I’m happy to report my birthday was much more relaxed than last year.  I spent most of my birthday week with my work team mates at a regional meeting.  Connecting with my friends and colleagues and sharing ideas and catching up are the best part of these meetings for me.  I have a long list of “stuff” and ideas to implement prompted by the diversity that always breeds creativity. My birthday itself was a long and very productive work day (thanks to that list of “stuff”) followed by a lazy evening with my husband at home.  Much better than the hospital waiting room where I spent my birthday last year.

For the last few years, my husband has been using the occasion of my birthday to gift me with a special Zentangle related trip just for me.  It started with my first certification seminar with Rick and Maria in 2011.  This was a much needed break from the chaos in our lives at the time and a chance to heal my spirit.  Just as my work meetings allow me to reconnect with friends and colleagues and refresh my thinking about my work; these trips offer me the opportunity to refresh my creative spirit and connect with my Zentangle friends.  This year it will be Tangle U in Northampton, Mass.  I am sooo excited to have this opportunity to meet so many of the rock stars of the Zentangle world I have only admired through their books an blogs. 

I’ve never been one to make very much of my birthday.  I think it’s because my birthday falls just after Christmas and seems pretty anticlimactic. I have friends and family who begin announcing and celebrating their big day weeks in advance.  Other are so caught up in the number, fudging what it really is, to the point they lose track of their real age.  To each his own.  I’m okay with the number, 52 this year, and I rarely raise the subject of my upcoming birthday.  I had to think a few moments when asked by a team mate about the date last week.  Being remembered with a little note or simple “Happy Birthday” is great, much more is a little embarrassing.  What I DO celebrate is one more year to enjoy my Dad, treasure my children and grandchildren, and thank God for good health and a sharp mind.  And be grateful to have found my other half so early in my life.  He’s my polar opposite, preferring sports and numbers, early mornings and a “do it now” attitude.  The man possesses no inclination toward creativity, though he appreciates art and beauty and has the sensitivity to encourage me to explore and enjoy those things he doesn’t understand. What more could you ask for in a mate?

Image

Zendala Dare 40

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