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My mother-in-law’s first Zentangle. She only has use of her left hand after suffering a stroke several years ago.

“How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on. “ ~Zall’s Second Law

The past few days have been filled with preparations in advance of Hurricane Isaac.  We have been through many storms and have learned a few lessons over the years.  A big aha for me with Hurricane Andrew was the purpose behind filling the bathtubs with water.  I always did it because you are supposed to do that, but never knew why.  I knew I wouldn’t drink any water from the bathtub no matter how clean it was.   It’s not for drinking, it’s for flushing!  When the power goes out it can affect the power to the pumps that bring water to the house.  Thank goodness Andrew brought a lot of rain because two bathtubs for a family with three women doesn’t last very long.  We ended up capturing the rain in garbage cans to “keep the waters flowing.”  My family was the envy of the neighborhood after about three days.

One of the first priorities for my husband and his sister is to get his mom out of harm’s way.  She lives in a nursing home in a coastal area of the state that is vulnerable to flooding.  We make a point of getting her early and bringing her north to the Baton Rouge area.  Since my home is friendlier for her wheelchair, it makes sense to have her stay with us.  She had a stroke about 6 years ago and has no use of her right side, but likes to stay busy.  I’ve been doing laundry – you don’t want dirty clothes when the power goes – and she has been folding for me today.  Slow going, but she gets the job done.

Chores and prep are finished and now we wait.  It’s a bit surreal, waiting for a hurricane.   Time seems to stop, but you are on edge watching and waiting.  Perfect conditions to enjoy a little tangle time.  I have been working on some pumpkins I will be sharing later.  My mother-in-law has been fascinated with the Zentangle process as she has watched the transformation of these discount store pumpkins.  This evening she told me she thought she would like to give it a try.  “I like that you can’t make mistakes.”  We used regular cardstock and a Sharpie pen.  I demonstrated and then held her paper as she tangled away.  In the end she decided it didn’t look anything like what I showed her, but she loves it.  Seventy-plus years old, working with only with her non-dominant hand and still ready for a challenge, I’m always impressed by her spirit.  So I share with you her first Zentangle, created while we wait for Isaac, in the hope you will be inspired to try something new.


This is a page from my sketchbook when I was practicing the tangle “Mooka” Notice the difference in line quality when I changed from an very old to new pen.

“I like pens. My writing is so amazing there’s never a need to erase.” Todd Barry

One of the things I hold sacred when practicing Zentangle is the use of the very best tools possible.  High quality paper or Zentangle tiles and particularly my Sakura Micron pen.  You are worth it and so is your art.

To be fair, I have been a fan of Sakura pens for many years. I learned about these pens when I took a class from watercolorist, Judi Betts.  As many of my followers are aware, I like to add a little watercolor to my tiles from time to time. This may be done before or after I have done all my tangling.  Since the ink in my Sakuras is waterproof, I have the freedom and flexibility to follow my watercolor whim whenever it strikes.  As with most high quality pens, these are not the least expensive on the market but I can attest that they last for a very, very long time.

You can get better performance and longer life from these pens by ALWAYS storing the pen flat.  The pen has a sort of sponge inside and the ink is gravity fed to the tip.  Storing the pen vertically can pull the ink down quickly and you may find a capful (or handful) of ink when you open your pen.  There is nothing wrong with the pen; the problem is in the storage.  This can sometimes happen when tangling on a plane.  The pen will “drop” ink.  I think it must be the change in pressure.  To be sure, this doesn’t happen very often.  I tangle a lot when flying and have only had this happen once in about three years.  (See if you can find where this happened to me while working on one of the tiles for this 9-tile ensemble set.  Remember, no mistakes, we work from where we are.)

The other is to take care of the tip.  The finer the tip of the pen, the easier it is to damage if you have a heavy hand.  A close look into the end of the tip reveals it is a very fine tube.  This makes perfect sense when you remember the gravity fed ink.  Try to remember to hold your pen more upright and use a very light, deliberate touch when making your strokes – almost tickling the paper.  This helps enhance the “Zen” of Zentangle as well as extending the life of your pen.

Even if you follow all this advice, there will come a time when your pen really does run out of ink.  You will notice scratchy lines and some skipping – sometimes I like the look, but not always.  There is a way to get a little more mileage out of your Sakura pen.  Rick shared this tip with us in my first CZT training and I recently found myself in desperate need of just a little more purple ink for my Sakura Identi-Pen to finish a pair of Tangled Toms.  It works with both the microns and the Identi-Pen.  Below are step-by-step instructions.  I hope these tips and tricks prove useful and long live YOUR Sakura pens too!


Something new from CZT IX

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.  ~K.T. Jong

So…the shoulder injury didn’t respond to those less aggressive treatments and surgery was in order.  I could have opted for doing nothing and settled for extremely limited movement of my left arm, but since my left hand is my dominant (drawing) hand, surgery it was about four weeks ago.  I am pleased to say, my surgery was a complete success.  Physical therapy is ongoing, but the 3 weeks of 6-8 hours a day in a CPM machine are now over.  For those unfamiliar (as I was before) your arm is strapped into this machine and is automatically stretched up and out to increasing degrees.  Kind of like exaggerated waving.  Not much drawing going on, lots of reading and thinking and waayy too much TV.  Luckily, I was sprung about 4 days before the CZT Retreat in Providence, RI!!

There was no obvious reason for me to attend a seminar to be certified to teach Zentangle, I already have that certification.  It was a question I was asked many times by the “newbies” attending the seminar.  For me it was about touching base with what drew me to Zentangle.  Rick, Maria and Molly are such positive and enthusiastic presenters/teachers.  It was nice to be the student again.  I also got to meet so many wonderful new friends (now CZT’s) from all over the world.  I can’t begin to explain the energy and sense of renewal that comes with spending three full days with a group like ours.  I took some moments to “pick” Rick’s brain about how he draws Assunta.  I like the tangle, but I struggle with it.  He shared a few subtleties that really helped – maybe I’ll use it more often than just for Diva Challenges or Maria’s birthday.  Since our last day was her birthday, we gifted her with tiles using Assunta and celebrated with cupcakes.

Now that I’m back home, I have been taking time to finish all those tiles started at the seminar.  There were so many with the beginnings of tangles to learn techniques, tangle combinations a little outside the box and just half completed because we were moving on to something else.  Maria taught a cute little frame that I will definitely use over and over.  I’m showing the tile and a digital version with my wedding pic in it.  You will likely recognize a “new” friend in these tiles.  Be looking for the instructions in an upcoming Zentangle newsletter or if you can’t wait, find a CZT IX and take a class.  While I didn’t take very many pictures, my tiles serve as my memories for this wonderful time in Providence.  I hope you enjoy…

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