Wirewoman’s Weblog

February 11, 2008

Z-tile adventures

Filed under: Uncategorized — wirewoman @ 1:55 am

These came from another of my blogs; you’ll need to print them in reverse order, or something.

Z-Tile Adventures, part 12 – More Tips

·                       Feb. 10th, 2008 at 2:32 PM Around Wednesday, I began to notice a sort of strained painful feeling between the third and fourth fingers of my left (dominant) hand.
It didn’t hit me until Friday what was causing that strain – the z-tile obsession I’d been entertaining for a week and a half was taking its toll.
Damn, I’m just not 25 any longer – I have to pace myself. And I’d been doing very complex z-tiles every single day, for at least 2 hours per shot.
I have nearly 70 of these things now, plus an entire envelope full of z-bits (small ones, from 1.25 x 1.25 to 1.25 x 2.25 inches). That’s a lot of detailed drawing, and with the small-diameter pens I’m using, it does strain the hand.
I mention this to warn everyone not to overdo it. This is supposed to be fun, and for me it IS fun – but I have to lay off a bit since I’ve been hit with piano parts that need learning in the next 7 days.Also – you haven’t LIVED until you’ve done z’s on 300-pound hot-pressed watercolor paper with a .01 and .03 black Pigma Micron. I mean, that is the absolute Rolls-Royce of z-tile production.
I bought a sheet of 22 x 30 300-pound hot-pressed watercolor paper on Friday evening, sped home and very carefully measured and cut it up (using the grid ruler and my 12-inch Fiskars rotary paper cutter). Easy to do, actually – I just drew a line down the middle and, moving cutting mat underneath, cut it to 11 x 30 with a utility knife and steel straight-edge. Then I had no problem chopping it into small squares with the paper cutter. Easy does it, BTW. Make many medium- or light-pressured cuts and not a couple of wham-bang roll-downs (or you’ll break the plastic in the paper trimmer and ruin a perfectly good $55 tool). When the paper is cut about half-way through, it will just snap apart when you take it out of the paper cutter.

After cutting into squares (48, to be exact: that’s about 25 cents per tile), I just gave them a single corner clip (very close to the corner) with my sharp scissors. Bingo. Done.
This was a sheet of Arches very pale ivory hot-pressed 300-pound watercolor paper, nearly 3/32 of an inch thick. I mean, awesome. And the z-bits (I saved every single big from this cut, I can tell ya) were small and thick enough to be made into jewelry. I just might do that: put rivets in them and make a few into pendants or earrings.

I experimented with watercolor brush pens on more of the 140-pound WC z-tiles. I didn’t put any color on the 300-pound z-tiles. They looked so cool with just the deep concentrated black ink of the waterproof Pigma Micron. And on hot-press paper, the ink doesn’t spread.

Remember, print-making paper is WAY more absorbent than watercolor paper – on both sides. Keep that in mind when doing your z-tiles.

And now, I will go, for I have music to practice and I ‘feel it’ when typing.


Z-Tile Adventure Part 11 – Great site, Z-bits, Cutting WC paper

·                       Feb. 6th, 2008 at 10:39 PM ·                       Wow, this person is a pattern-maker par excellence – have a look here and really study their images:http://art-frenzy.blogspot.com/2008/02/been-doodling-some-more.htmlWhat are z-bits?
They’re z-tiles done on tiny pieces of left-over watercolor paper!
I made a few last night with the super-fine tip Pilot Hi-Tec C .03 pen. They measure around 1.5 inches square around the outsides, the picture part is 1.25 inches square. It’s amazing what you can z- if your pen has a fine enough point. I worked on the ‘smoother’ side of the wc paper.
A z-tee is just a larger z-bit, say around half the size of a bookmark. My z-tees are about 1.5 x 2.5 inches. Same procedure, but the old Pilot G-2 and Uniball micro worked just fine here.Remember me telling you to save all of your left-over watercolor and printmaking paper when you cut the z-tiles? Now, you know why.

Oh – one other thing – buy your 140-pound watercolor in an 11 x 14 or 11 x 15 inch pad. For just 2 dollars more, you can double-plus the number of tiles you’ll get from 12 sheets of paper.
9 x 12 paper – you can only cut 6 tiles from each sheet, 3.5 x 3.5 inches.
11 x 14 paper – you can cut 12 tiles from each sheet (3 across, 4 down).
Same with 11 x 15 paper.
So, from one 12-sheet pad of 9 x 12, 140-pound cold-press watercolor paper – you can cut 72 z-tiles.
From one 12-sheet pad of 11 x 14 or 11 x 15, 140-pound cold-press watercolor paper, you can cut 144 tiles.
That’s twice the tiles for only $2 or so more per pad.
Can’t beat that.


Z-tile Adventures Part 10 Additional Information

·                       Feb. 5th, 2008 at 8:56 PM Filing z-tiles in 4 x 6 plastic NDX box instead of disc box – file sideways, like records, so when you open the box all you see is the edges of the tiles. A 4 x 6 NDX box will hold at least 150 tiles. Make dividers from NDX so you can keep all of the tiles together.
For Inspiration and also a close look at what makes this process more than ‘mere’ doodling: go to the mama site (the Zentangle site run by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas) and look in the section “ensemble.” (http://www.zentangle.com/products-ensemble.php#)
Click on an image to get it by itself, copy and enlarge it in WORD, print it, and study the tangles, shading, use of distortion, etc. These are z-tiles done by the originators of the Zentangle process. I feel reasonably certain that the entire repertory of ‘tangles’ depicted on their Zentangle Legend tile is right here in their ‘ensemble’ tiles.
I counted 27 different tangles in one z-tile and 32 different tangles in the other. That’s a lot of tangles.
I will likely compare the patterns of these two ensembles with those of the Legend tile depicted here on their site (and don’t bother trying to enlarge it to make the lettering intelligible; you can’t, not really – anyway, the important thing here is the tangles in those teeny squares):
I noticed another thing when I looked at them tonight. I am rounding the corners of my z-tiles with an arc that is wide and shallow. The corner arcs of the Zentangle tiles (the ‘official’ ones) are narrow and deep – just a tight curve around that corner, a right-angle turn compared to my more leisurely swing.
When I make a mosaic, there is a good-sized curvy diamond shape missing at the intersection of 4 cards. I’ll have to correct this. I like the tiny rounded corners and the subtlety of the deckled edge in the original z-tiles (which is, by the way, die-cut to look like that).
For a gift z-tile, I’d probably round the tiny corners and run this cool little scraper thing down the edges of the tile – it’s a scrapbooking tool that makes paper look all worn and tumbled around the edges. I hope I still have it – where IS that thing??
More pen reports: the Sharpie super-fine point paint marker (which does NOT reek!!) is such a rich and concentrated black. It’s their finest point in that make of pen, but it is not really much of a fine point for z-tiles. It would be fun to color large areas with it, though.tatafona

whoa – just a minit – let me try something:

YOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (sound of earth breaking open beneath my feet) – this changes things.

Z-tile Adventure Part 9 – Resources (yes, actual links!)

·                       Feb. 4th, 2008 at 5:24 PM Okaaaaay….Here are a few of the many dozens of z-related links I have turned up in the past 5 days online.NOTE: Go to the mama site first and pay close attention to the zentangles of Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Then, when you cruise other zentangles, z-tiles, and z-designs, you can see how other people have riffed on the basic idea. It’s probably a good idea to make a number of ‘classical, strict ‘ Zentangles first, before taking off with your own take on it. This isn’t an elitist comment, but an observation regarding the transmission of essential information. If each person who takes this technique gets their knowledge from someone who tweaked knowledge that they got from someone who tweaked knowledge that they got from someone who…well, you see where I’m going with this – the old “gossip” game once again…(Hey, that’s how mythic stories come to us, but I’ll save my sermon for another entry)…

Why not consider doing what I have been doing – visit these blogs with either a nice full printer or a pad of plain paper beside you and take notes – draw tangles (patterns) that interest you and notice how they’re used. Pay attention to the shading process (if there is one). Notice the use of distortion to give a three-dimensional look to an image. If you love something, analyze it! Find out what makes it so attractive to you. Is this a technique that you can keep for yourself? If you don’t like something, analyze it! Find out what doesn’t appeal to you, and try to find out why you don’t like it. In different tangling context(s), might this technique work for you? How?
Und so weiter…

A link to the galleries at the mama site, zentangle.com (Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas). I love their description of the Z process as ‘painting with patterns instead of colors.’ Indeed!http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?wo=2006034240&IA=WO2006034240&DISPLAY=CLAIMS
A treasure trove of technical information about the original Zentangle philosophy, process, and materials.
zentangles from someone who purchased the kit. Notice the correspondence between the tangles here and tangles up at the zentangle.com site. Also notice the interesting borders. I like the bowed sides – will definitely do a few that way.http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahyingmui/2238842376/
Not a ‘zentangle’ as such, but a z-inspired embellishment of a paper strip. A great thing to do with the strips of WC and printmaking paper left over after your z-tile trims.

nice set of tangleshttp://findingjimmy.blogspot.com/2008/01/atcs-zentangles-shmentangles.html
a nice set of z-inspired tangles, a couple of them done on colored paper.
more ‘zentangles,’ apparently done in a sketchbook. I like this idea!!http://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?exhibit=90201
z-tiles by high school students: some interesting colored and colored-paper z-tiles, plus a section of something called “digital zentangles,” which IMO kinda defeats the whole purpose of the thing.

The second one is gorgeous. I love the use of curved line.
One thing I’m noticing now, after a week of very intense z-tile and Zentangle making – it’s becoming easier to look at a seemingly complex bunch of tangles and figure out how the patterns were done, step by step. I de-construct unfamiliar wire constructions in much the same way. Nice to know that learning transfers in the brain!
A couple of examples on this blog – I have included the link to show once again some of the patterns given by the Z folks in their classes and kit.
More neat z-tiles, with very nice use of color in a couple. I’m still not sold on colored paper/color/colored ink works actually being ‘zentangles’ (in the strictest sense), but I do like these.http://bitze.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/mr-zentangles/
Another experience with z-tiles and Zentangles – interesting.
Nice zentangles here, and the black background she photographed them against gave me an idea for making z-tile albums!! More about that later…http://bitze.wordpress.com/
z-tiles with colored patches applied after tangle was laid down

Z-tile Adventure Part 8 – A Weekend in Tribble Country

·                       Feb. 4th, 2008 at 3:57 PM Whoa.
I mean, just – whoa.
Finally, after The Madness released its grip upon me – after a partial day and two rather ‘full’ days of intense z-tiling – I counted my harvest and found that I’d made 55 z-tiles since Monday, January 28.I must run an errand in 5 minutes, so I’ll be brief – perhaps I’ll elaborate later tonight, when I get to the scanner.

1. Faceted corner clip – a workable way to attain ’rounded’ corners without risking the life and limb of a nice pricey corner rounder or wrestling with toenail clippers and pennies.
Use teeny tiny sharp-blade scissors. Cut the initial triangle with a and b sides measuring around 3/16 inch. Then make tiny little sliver triangles from the peaky points (do this first, and you’ll immediately see what I’m talking about). Done with tiny sharp scissors with the paper held over a dark-colored work surface, it works quickly (much quicker than trying to force the paper through the commercial punch, and quicker than the toenail clips and pennies). It also produces cards that are surprisingly uniform round their faceted corners. I cut a few NDX into 1-inch squares with the paper cutter and practiced until I had a feel for this.

2. Color – I began this adventure as a z-tile purist (Black on white only!!! Thick white! No exceptions!) – but my watercolor box and a bag of brush pens were lying around on the worktable yesterday, so I decided to give color a whirl. I did this 3 different ways on different cards:
a. Color areas or the totality of the tile first; then put in your string and tangles with the black pen. No pencil used.
b. Put the string on the card first, making sure to use waterproof ink. Once ink is BONE DRY (test! particularly on W/C paper) – fillin colored areas with different brush pens. Then, put in the tangles. I used pencil first, to give me a guide – then after ink was bone dry, erased it with very gentle light swipes of the art gum before laying the tangles down.
c. Draw string and tangles onto the tile first, using a pen that’s moderately waterproof. Then drag the huge point waterbrush over parts of the drawing to produce a lovely variegated grey shading. (I liked this best, even though it was done on a manila file folder – the largest honkin’ complex doodly I’ve ever done).

Watercolors will need fixative after the tile is done. I used a very light single coating of Rust-oleum clear enamel sprayed about 12 inches from the tile.

I have also experimented with black ink on colored paper: kraft cardstock (from trash at Reprographics) and manila folder (yummy ivory, but flimsy). I want to do more experiments with colored paper next.

A note: Although I used color on the tiles, I did not color in any portion of the tangles. That is, I didn’t hand-color them in various shades. I let the tangles either sit on top of a colored base or I colored the base around the design. I like both versions.

However, black on white is still my preferred method of making z-tiles.

I also experimented with a ‘deckle’ cut – trimming a card to 3.5 square with deckle scissors and then doing the faceted corner clip to round the corners. It looked okay. I prefer the straight sides, actually – but I had to try the deckle cut to realize this.

I have outgrown the converted video box and am now toting my z-tiles (done and undone) in a 2 inch thick container originally designed to tote floppy discs. I made little dividers to keep things separate inside.

I think it would be cool to do a journal this way. Or an oracle deck. Or even a bunch of mosaics (“puzzles?”).

My 55 z-tiles include three mosaics; one 4-tile mosaic and two 9-tile mosaics (one of these done with colored areads between tangles). I like them all.
And they were not done in pieces (apart from the couple I did Friday while waiting for various buses). The original instructions specify that each z is to be done in one sitting. I have been faithful to that directive even with the 9-tile mosaics. Whoa, what a rush.

The surprise came when I thought I was tiled-out for the weekend – my hand kept circling as I read “Lasher” for the umpteenth time (!), so I pulled the clean new manila folder from under the book (it was protecting the worktable surface), got out my Pilot G-2 .05 pen, and got to stepping.
I now have the largest complex doodle I’ve ever done. It’s awesome. I photocopied it at .95 this morning. I can’t believe I actually did the entire thing myself, in just over an hour and a half. Totally…

Well, it’s 1613, gotta run with that errand to get it in by 1630 – I’ll be back with elaborations if I have time. If not, perhaps I can get to the scanner before I have to lie down.
What with all the tribbly z-tiling Saturday and Sunday, I kinda left sleep off the schedule. I did other things, too – plenty of other things. But the dominant activity Saturday and Sunday was z-tiling.

It feels soooo good!!!!


Z-tile Adventure Part 7 – Mosaics Don’t have to be Square

·                       Jan. 31st, 2008 at 7:44 PM No, they do not!
I’ve indicated where the borders should go.
Be sure to indicate, on the back of each card, where it should be placed in the arrangement. What I do is this: I draw a tiny schematic on the back of each card in the set and just color in the square where a particular card goes.

Z-tile Adventure Part 6 – Rounding the Corners

·                       Jan. 31st, 2008 at 7:02 PM After a bit of experimentation with three tools, I have found the best way to round corners of the thick paper z-tiles.I began by taking a penny, putting it down in each corner of my card, and tracing a corner arc round it with a pencil, making sure that the beginning and end of the arc was perfectly oriented. This is difficult to describe, but if you get a penny and a piece of card and try it, you’ll see what I’m getting at.Papers used:
1. 140-pound watercolor paper (rough finish)
2. “Cosmo” “Blotter” printmaking paper, which feels about 160 or 180 pound weight

A. Cuticle scissors (cost $5.99)
B. Toenail clippers (cost $1.99)
C. Fingernail clippers (cost $.99)


1A – Worked okay. Not as easy to control accuracy on curve, despite the curved scissors blades.
1B – Worked beautifully. Held the clippers in my palm like a squeez-y thing. Took 2 cuts to make the corner. Can’t do it accurately with just one cut. You have to line the clippers up with one end of the arc, cut, and slide them along the arc to cut again.
1C – Did not work well at all. Paper too tough for these little clippers.

2A – Worked okay, but was even tougher than the watercolor paper.
2B – Again, worked beautifully, with just 2 cuts per corner.
2C – Did not work at all – couldn’t get the clippers to cut straight through without extreme hand pressure. Almost as bad as the corner rounder punch.

So, the verdict is in: Round your thick stiff paper corners with a penny, a pencil, and a pair of toenail clippers held in your palm like a squeeze thing.

This does add time to the tile-making process but it is meditative, accurate, reliable, and will save your expensive and delicate corner rounder punch. My Marvy (a good, well-made model) is broken; I’m out $7. I bought a cheap pair of toenail clippers for $1.99 and they worked just fine, as you have read. If you want to get a better grip on the cheap toenail clippers when you hold them in your palm (you’re essentially going to be squeezing them rather than the grip you would use when cutting your toenails), just get a few thin rubber bands and wrap them around the “handle” of the tool.


 not exactly off the z-topic, but not part of the z-series

·                       Jan. 31st, 2008 at 6:17 PM Just an incipient rant here.Cruising for bits of z-related information that escaped my first few big sweeps, found this:http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=7455548

Hey, don’t EVEN get me started about the whole “ATC/ACEO tiny art for sale that was originally designed to be exchanged without money” rant. I’ve ranted at length about this (to me) deplorable – dare I say despicable? why not, it’s my blog and if anyone takes issue with my language, they can hit the effing BACK button) – I won’t rant here, but just an observation made with an enviable degree of calm:If you’re going to charge $6 for a 2.5 x 3.5 inch doodle, you could at least erase the supporting pencil lines before photographing it.Nothing personal against the individual who made this and is trying to sell it.
I am taking issue with the principle of the ACEO thing.
I am proud and happy to say that I have never sold a single ATC. And I have distributed some that were incredibly complex, requiring quite a lot of labor in design and production. I have made ATCs that beat the pants off 98 percent of the stuff I see online. And I gave mine away. Because I had an inferiority complex about what I did? Because I was a Keanu about marketing myself?
I gave them away because ATCs are Artist Trading Cards. The operative word here is, “trading.”

End of rant – back to regularly scheduled programming.
I save my strong feelings for important issues, but this happens to be an important issue for me. If anyone has a problem with this post, they can keep their problem to themselves. I won’t read dissenting remarks past the first few words, and I won’t respond to them either.


Z-Tile Adventure – Part 5 – Helpful Resource Information

·                       Jan. 31st, 2008 at 12:01 PM Generating those nifty patterns – looky here:Principles of Pattern Design
by Richard Proctor
Dover Books

Incredible, and exactly what I need!!!!
I confess that I didn’t look for this book online. I looked for it at home. I bought my copy in 1997, in the throes of a different project.
I want his ‘Pattern Design’ book now. And that Jennifer Lew is some kinda pattern master.
Here are other uses for the z tile process
1. Made earrings from Polyshrink last night – started with a 3.5 square. Had to use white ink on black. Will get white PS this weekend and use the hair-thin pens to mark.
2. Doodled stationery page embellishments on my things-to-do list. Top left and bottom right corners. Absurdly easy, calming, centering, and way cool looking.
3. You know, if you can z-tile Polyshrink and stationery, you can z-tile, er, um – ATCs. And tags. And you can carve a negative-image stamp from a favorite z-tile (the lazy person’s stamp-carving method: just transfer the design and carve the lines out with your tool. You’ll wind up with an uncolored design against a background the color of whatever ink you use).
4. Well, dang – you can z-tile just about anything flat. The Zentangle folks have posted pics of z-tiles and z-tiling all around their house. Cool teapot! Nifty digital camera! Have Sharpie, will travel!!!!!
5. The polymer clay workers have also done interesting things utilizing z-tile designs. Go to Polymer Clay Central and have a look around, if this floats your boat.
6. I think it was Artpal Annette on PI who alerted me to use stained-glass patterns as the ‘string’ for z-tiles. What a fantastic suggestion! This would work especially well with a mosaic. Imagine a 16-tile mosaic reproducing a Celtic pattern…the mind absolutely rocks and reels. Ohmmmmmmmmmmmm……………
Y’all, I’ve thought long and hard about the ethics of doing a tutorial for this process. I think that right now, I’ll just let the LJ posts serve as my tutorial. The posts begin on Monday January 28. They are labeled and numbered. This is post number 5.

MATERIEL NOTE: Fingernail/toenail clippers for rounding the corners of really thick paper – Yes, they work fine! I tried both kinds with some NDX on the bus this morning (couldn’t wait!) The curved-blade cuticle scissors work best. You still have to draw an arc before cutting. Use a penny (the curvature is just right, and it’s not ridged like a dime).
Your cards won’t be totally uniform, but no cards cut with a paper trimmer are truly uniform.
If you want this to look really cool, cut your cards with the paper trimmer, go round them with deckle scissors, and then round the corners with the clippers. It will take more time, but ritual preparation is what this is all about, yes?
I spent $9 for two clippers (f’nail and t’nail) and a pair of cuticle scissors. The punch I broke cost $7 years ago. It’s worth this investment, if you want to make lots of z-tiles from the proper weight of paper. And, your corner punch will remain unmolested.

Z-Tile Adventure – Part 4 – Reflections

·                       Jan. 30th, 2008 at 6:24 PM Just what is it about the Zentangle ™ process??In the three days since I opened AP Jodie’s fateful email referring to a $50 ‘string doodle’ kit, I’ve become captivated by the Zentangle and the process of its creation.
(Note: From now, I’ll refer to it as ‘Z,’ or I’ll be typing all night and strain my left-hand pinkie beyond easy recup…)
I went over the Z mama site (http://www.zentangle.com) with a fine-toothed comb, looking hard at every single page, taking notes, downloading images. I went to nearly 100 other sites that Uncle GOOGLE pointed me to (“Zentangle”) and checked out the images, accompanying text, and links.I cut four very different types of paper into z tiles myself and experimented with z creation using this paper and several different marking/filling instruments.I now have a clear idea of the process and the rationale behind that process. I have created z tiles that would look just fine up at the z site, along with the tiles of people who did spend $50 for the little kit. In fact, I’m quite proud of my z-tiles. Acquiring the specific context knowledge to do them took time and effort. I could teach this process, and I believe I would be teaching correct information and process.

Sure, I could do what so many others (who didn’t buy that $50 kit either) are posting on their blogs: just make sectioned-off doodles on small pieces of thick card (any old kind of card, any old kind of black pen, even adding color if I feel like it – and that, BTW, is NOT a Z…); I could call my doodles “zentangles” – but I’m a curious kinda fella. I want to know what distinguishes a ‘zentangle’ from a mere (hah!) ‘doodle.’ Why ‘zen?’ Why ‘tangle?’
I really deplore the postmodern tendency to justify laziness by calling it “intuitive re-creation.” Hey: If you’re too lazy to do a couple of hours research in order to really understand a process, don’t justify yourself by saying, “I just do what I feel, and it’s still a z.”
I sound like a dogmatic hard-ass here; but I DID do my homework. I even found the Z patent application – ONLINE. No special passwords required. I found it because I knew how to look around, and I had an idea what to look for.

I call Z ‘doodling’ in my early LJ posts on the subject (January 28 and 29), but after making around two dozen Z in the past three nights, I know that it is not just ‘doodling.’ In fact, I’ll have to invent a term for the actual process (the Z marketers were strangely remiss on that point – although they did rename and re-frame everything else).

I have been captivated with Z ever since the very first one I drew: a quickie done with Uniball micro roller pen on a cut-down 4 x 6 NDX. Last night’s mosaic (what the Z folks call ‘ensemble’ – a 3 x 3 grid done from a single complex ‘string,’ or scribble) – absolutely blew my mind. I had done the z tiles one by one, not in any particular order – doing a tile, turning it over, placing it in the ‘done’ stack and reaching for the next tile. When I finished the ninth tile and referred to my diagram for re-assembly, I almost fell out of my chair.

A process this powerful (even to jaded ol’ me) simply deserves respect and evangelical effort. I’m totally jazzed by what I’ve done with it. I want to share the detailed knowledge of this powerful process with many people.
Many of the people I want to share this knowledge with are not financially well off. I suspect more than a few of them give the term ‘starving artist’ a true and stark meaning.

A process as powerful and useful as Z should not be limited to the few people willing or able to plunk down $50 for a basic kit and similarly large sums for replacement supplies and accessories. (If my blog and exchange surfing are any indication, lots of other folks out there agree with me…)
There are many ‘z’ images online. Not all of them, according to the information I’ve researched and collected, are ‘true’ z designs. There are specific things that make a z different from a doodle.

Over a dozen years of very limited income (spell that “P O O R”) have taught me the value of bricolage and improvisation. The ‘poverty experience’ has fired my passionate desire to make art available and accessible to EVERYBODY. Making art is something that helps us to realize our full humanity. Poverty, particularly in a city as money-, status-, and electro-toy obsessed as Seattle, can be terribly humiliating and absolutely dehumanizing. Art isn’t optional for the poor. Art is ESSENTIAL. When you are poor, art can help you maintain your sanity, preserve your humanity, and point you towards a better future.

In sum: Poor people need art, just like everybody else. And they need involvement in art, however modest, as creators. Anyone can consume. Most anyone can create – but few people choose to.

Lest it seem that I’m dissing the affluent, I must also mention that I read a few rather cynical and caustic remarks about the Zentangle folks, on several blogs. From my examination of other posts on these blogs, it was clear to me that the cynical folks weren’t cash poor. They just didn’t want to spend $50 on what is essentially a drawing kit with about $6 worth of art supplies.
The Z folks’ claim that Zentangle doesn’t have a high cost is, in my opinion, totally disingenuous. Just look at their store. Zentangle creation (as outlined on the Z site) is EXPENSIVE – unless one does what I did: take careful notes, search the nets for more information, thoughtfully put all of this information together, and experiment.

Here’s the word: If you have the imagination, the ability to do in-depth online research, and the tools, you don’t NEED that $50 kit. Put your z stuff together for free or for cheap and use that $50 for something more important to your overall state (groceries, perhaps?)

So, what’s with the z thing? What draws me to it so strongly (other than, like ATC, the crack cocaine of paper arts, z came to me at just the right time in just the right way) –

1. Naming: The z people have re-named everything about this process (except, oddly, a name for the process itself). You don’t use a pen, but a ‘drawing instrument.’ You’re not working with a square of thick paper, but a ‘tile.’ You’re not doing a preliminary scribble to guide your patterns, but a ‘string.’ You keep a record of frequently used patterns on a ‘Zentangle Legend’ tile, not on the back of a discarded envelope.
The z people have even named all of their twenty basic patterns. That’s brilliant: using the association between an unusual name and a visual pattern.
2. The tiles are a wonderful size: 3.5 inches square, with rounded corners. Thick smooth white paper makes them tactile. Rounded corners help to protect them during transport and viewing. (The Zentangle site’s tiles are die cut into a deckle pattern along their edges; a detail I’m not too fond of – good thing I don’t own any, eh?)
3. I love the starkness, severity and formality of black ink on white paper. My manila folder paper z-tiles are neato, but they don’t seem as powerful as the ones done with black on white. The use of color (ink OR paper) in this case is not only superfluous; it is counter-productive. Think ‘zen’ again: black cushions, spare meditation halls, wabi-sabi interiors, raked rock gardens…
4. The z process is ritual; it is somewhat formal. The z folks know that we humans love rituals, and they have shaped their process accordingly.
The ritual of selecting a blank tile, drawing the border and string with a soft pencil, meditatively choosing patterns, applying the patterns with a permanent pigment pen that glides smoothly over the paper, working slowly and deliberately with attention paid to each stroke of the pen – signing/dating/numbering the tile when finished…I love the ritual of z. The process/ritual is formal but not closed; undoubtedly there are many z users who add their own tweak to this format: music, incense, hot tea, comfy chair, etc.
5. I love the emphasis on process. This is no mindless doodle or half-attentive scribble. This is a formalized, deliberate process with its own guidelines and special materials. Yes, you can do your z tiles on a cut-down NDX (I certainly did the first day; I was too hot to wait hours to get home and cut thick WC paper) – you could use a ballpoint pen…but this is such a small and subtle pleasure – why not treat yourself to a nice pen and quality paper? Once you know what kind of paper is best, you can obtain it yourself in quantity (and at a vastly lower cost) and invest time in trimming and rounding it to z tile shape (yet another ritual activity!)
6. I love the way that small things become large, complex aggregates of almost overwhelming intricacy. Today, one of the folks I showed my mosaic (who has studied biology extensively) told me that certain parts of it called to mind the intricate and eerily beautiful things she sees when she examines tissue specimens with the microscope.

All of this said, let me propose a name for the process – but first let me re-cap what’s already been re-named and re-framed by the Z folks, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts:

a.Zentangle: the object created.
b.Tile: the paper ground for a Z. In this case, a 3.5 x 3.5 inch square with a border of ¼ to 3/8 inch round the design.
c.String: the penciled basis for the z design, drawn first with a soft pencil and very light line.
d.Tangle: the area inside the string sections; the design.
e.Pre-strung tile; a tile with string already drawn in. The Z site sells a collection of these for people who may feel diffident or shy of drawing their own strings (at first!)
f.Zentangle Legend; the source card for z tile tangles; a tile with 20 named Z patterns illustrated and numbered. The Z site sells this with a 20-sided die; one can use the die to select a pattern at random.
g.Tangling: Drawing the tangles inside the string. This is the nearest I’ve found the Z people to come, in naming the z creation process.

I am now at the end of my remarks, and I haven’t found a suitable term for the z-tile creation process. The terms ‘tiling’ and ‘z-ing’ have come to mind, but they seem somehow lacking. I will continue to think about this. It’s good for things to have names. Names have power, and z is very powerful. The process itself (from start to finish) deserves a good name.
I’ll think of something. (zentangling?)

In the meantime, enjoy yourself, and do let me know what you do with this.


Z-Tile Adventure – Part 3

·                       Jan. 30th, 2008 at 3:08 PM Well, I was a Z-makin’ fool last night
The picture above this text is my step-by-step illo of creating a zentangle card.
First, you begin with the 4 corner dots and light pencil line connecting them.
Then, you do the ‘string’ – this example is a lightly penciled yin-yang symbol. On one site, I read that the ‘string should touch all four sides of the paper at some point – but even the zentangles at the mama site didn’t seem to follow that rule – but the essence, I think, is that you are creating a framework for the patterns and that this is NOT ‘just’ a doodle.
Well, then I went around the basic outlines of the string with my trusty Uniball Micro black pen.
Then, I got busy.
The last one is the result. Cool, eh?
The totally cool-est thing about this is that you’re not really ‘consciously’ aware of the interconnections between patterned sections, until you finish the design. For instance, I did not see that I had drawn wing-like extrusions from the centers of my yin-yang ‘commas’ until the piece was finished.
Neato kateeto.
The paper I used was new – I stopped by UW bookstore on the way home last night and picked up a sheet of a printmaking paper called Cosmo Blotter – it was 24 x 40 inches. The store no longer cuts papers, so they rolled it up and I took it home and cut it into 66 perfect squares on my 12 inch Fiskars rotary paper cutter.
How did I do that, you may ask.
You may ask.
It’s super easy, once you know the trick. Nope, not today – I’m in a hurry. I’ll divulge at a later time.
My big clue is this: DO THE MATH first – what do you want to cut from that big sheet? How many pieces? What size? How many pieces ‘across’ and how many ‘down? When you fold the sheet in half lengthwise, what size have you thus folded it down to?
Another clue – Be careful when cutting these thick papers. The Cosmo was a bit over 150 pound weight and I had to cut it one layer at a time (without removing the paper from the cutter – I just cut the top layer and flipped it up)…
BIG CAUTION: You should be rounding the corners of your tiles. I hate to say this, but you will need to use the old penny/pencil/nail scissor trim method, not the corner rounder punch. I broke mine last night while working with the printmaking paper. It was simply too thick for the poor punch. And this wasn’t a cheapo thumb-press punch either. This was a $7 Marvy corner punch. I’ll have to finish rounding the rest of my tile corners with a penny, a pencil, and a small sharp pointed curved nail scissor.
I wonder if nail clippers or toenail clippers would work as well? Worth a try…I have a few strips of all my papers left over from the trimming and cutting process…
The printmaking paper was interesting. I’m not sure if I like it better than 140 pound WC. It was vastly more absorbent, although with a much finer smoother surface than the 140 pound rough WC. So absorbent that even the 01 Pigma Micron was spreading quickly as I drew my lines. I had to move the pen faster than I’d like, what with this being a meditative deliberate process and all. I’ll try again tonight with the .3 and .25 Pilot Hi-Tech C pens I bought at Uwajimaya. They make lines that are so thin I can write my three-letter first name on one side of a dry lentil.

Okay, onward – now this is something wayyyy cool.

On the mama site, I saw something they call ‘ensemble’ (9-up or ‘mosaic’ for the rest of us). I’ve done this with ATCs. It’s super-easy, if time-consuming. You cut a piece that is the size of the completed mosaic. You draw your design or do your collage or whatever on the big sheet, and then cut it up and indicate on the backs of the cards how to assemble it again.
I draw Tic Tac Toe diagram with a line round it, forming a 3 x 3 square grid, and just color in what “square” is represented by the card.
My string was nothing special – just a random scribble with loops in all four corners, etc. – I had NO IDEA it would end up like this after I finished doing my patterns and putting the cards together. I was absolutely blown away by this.
It’s 10.5 inches square, so it didn’t fit completely into the scanner. You do, however, have enough to see what I’m getting at here. Amazing. Simply amazing.
And the more I look at it, the more interesting it gets. I showed it to two other people and they were finding all sorts of visual unity and correspondences between cards (oops, ‘scuse me – tiles!) that weren’t next to each other.
When I did this one, I just filled in the sections of each card’s string one card at a time. I didn’t look ahead. I didn’t look at a card once I’d finished it. I didn’t do them in order. I didn’t look at any of it until I had finished the final card and followed my diagram to place them.
This is the kind of stuff I so love – that Theo Ellsworth-type stuff. Now I see that I may have stumbled upon a clue to the amazing variety and complexity of his work. And then again, maybe not. He is working on actual sketches, not random scribbles. But he’s a master pattern-maker – it’s one of the things I adore about his work. I’ve seen pics of his studio on his website (artcapacity.com) – the originals aren’t huge.
Anyhow – moving along again, here’s the tote box I devised for carrying my stuff. I made it from an old black video box. I used pliers to pry out the tall round thingies in the lid and to mash the short round thingies down to the level of the lid. I then made a divider from a piece of thick cardstock (just folded it and slipped it into the box and stacked the ‘done’ and ‘undone’ cards on top of it). I popped my pens in and that’s all she wrote. You can see the three I’m using now: Pigma Micron 01, Uniball Micro, and a mechanical pencil with a .05 HB lead. I need to cut my art gum down and slide a little piece in here as well – it erases way better than the lead in the pencil.

Total cost of this most enjoyable excursion:
Paper: Four types – cut up NDX (cost $0), manila folder (cost $0), 140-pound rough watercolor paper ($6 for enough to make 72 tiles), 160? pound printmaking paper, one big sheet (enough to make 66 tiles – $2.75)
Pens: One more Pigma Micron ($1.95 plus tax); Uniball, mechanical pencil, and art gum I had already.
Total – $10.70 plus tax, plus scrounging for the stuff I had in Chez Chaos.
Not bad, eh?
I have over 150 tiles cut and ready to fill.
I think I’ll carve me a little chop stamp for the back of the cards, something 1/2 inch square. That will cost $0, as I already have plenty of dollar-store polymer erasers and the tools AND the $1 stamp pads I bought a couple of weeks ago at Top Ten Toys for another purpose.
Go thou and have fun!
Do visit the Zentangle site (http://www.zentangle.com). It’s informative, interesting, and plenty of “correctly done” Z tile images.
Many thanks to the folks who put these concepts together. And may they make a satisfying amount of money for those $50 kits ($60.75 with shipping) – from someone else.

Z-Tile Adventure – Part 2

·                       Jan. 29th, 2008 at 3:19 PM I have added “zentangle construction” to my artsy resume.
Full and detailed explanation follows.
I will see if the scanner’s available – then, I’ll post images of the Z’s I did last night.
Well, what the hell – I’m typing now – may as well give you the lowdown.
Okay – I went online and researched this thing for about an hour. Among other interesting information, I found their international patent/’intellectual property rights’ petition application thingy, which gave me crucially important data.
I won’t bore either of us with the details, but here’s what you do if you want to make Z’s without spending $50 for what’s essentially a doodling “kit” utilizing $6 of art supplies.

What kind of paper should you use for the tiles?

MT and RR’s patent application specified Tiepolo paper by Fabriano (it’s a smooth-finish printmaking paper weighing in at 290gsm, which is slightly under 140-pound). I was in a hurry, so I got a pad of 140-pound watercolor paper. It’s best if you can find hot-pressed (smooth surface), but I did my Z’s on 140-pound ‘rough’ (professional grade) and they look just fine. A pad of 9 x 12 paper (12 sheets) will cost you around $6.

Cut six 3.5 inch squares from each sheet. You’ll wind up with 72 square tiles and a bunch of cool bookmark-sized slips left over. (which you can cut into squares for making mini-tiles, or ‘serendipity squares,’ as some folks say). Then, round all of the corners with a corner rounding punch.

UPDATE JANUARY 30 – Don’t use a corner rounding punch if the paper is over 90 pound weight (if you’re using a light-weight thumb-operated corner punch) or 140 pound weight (if you have the sturdy Marvy punch). Punch only one sheet at a time and GO SLOW. I broke my Marvy on Jan. 29 with thick printmaking paper. Now I will have to finish rounding my tile corners with a penny and a pair of sharp nail scissors. WORD TO THE WISE.

The Z people make a big deal about the cards being die-cut from molded 100% cotton archival heavy paper, yada yada – but the truth is – don’t get too hung up about this element. What you want is a nice stiff, heavy paper that isn’t too toothy. You want the ink pen to just glide over it. The finer the pen tip, the harder it will be to work on a toothy paper. If your pen tip isn’t hair-breadth fine, even rough watercolor paper works. The smooth paper will of course work better with very thin lines (like those made by an 01 Pigma Micron). The rough 140 pound paper worked beautifully with my Uniball Micro, which makes a line thicker than the .25mm Pigma line.
But remember – it’s doodling. So don’t become a specialist in high-sounding minutiae. Know what the essence of your desire is, and just go for that.

The official Z ’tiles’ have a red rectangle (the Zentangle logo) printed on the reverse side, with 3 lines for the creator to sign and date the tile (In the lower right hand corner, there is, of course, the URL of the clever and canny “inventors”). Making your own reverse-side format: if you want an official logo of sorts, why not carve a little personal logo stamp (with your monogram, say – or make up a ‘chop’) and use it to sign and to identify your Z on the back side…

Marking instruments: You need a waterproof black ink pen with very fine tip, something archival if possible. (One source said that the Z ‘creators’ specified either brown or black ink, but I like black best – HOWEVER, I haven’t tried dark sepia on creamy ivory smooth hot-pressed paper yet…).
I used three pens yesterday, and the two I liked best were the Uniball Micro (by Sanford) and the Pigma Micron 01, which was dynamite. MT and RR (the “inventors” of doodling via Zentangle) recommend the Micron, and it’s a good recc. You also need two pencils: a plain ol’ HB and something much softer ,like a 4B or 6B, for shading. You need a little pencil sharpener. You need an art gum eraser. And you need an old floppy disc carrying box (the kind that holds 5 or so discs). This is for toting your tiles. If you want to drop everything into one of those poly plastic boxes for 4 x 6 NDX, everything will fit.

Okay. Now, let’s actually draw a Z.
Using the HB pencil, take your tile and make a dot in each corner, pproximately 1/4 inch from the edge. (Another Z site, with posting by someone who bought the kit, says that the border is closer to 3/8 inch. Your call.)
Take the HB pencil and very lightly draw lines connecting the dots, so you have drawn a border.
Take the HB pencil and make the ‘string’ (a kind of scribble inside the border – not too many sections. Go over to the Z site if you need to see examples of this – or maybe I can post a few when I add images to this text in the puter lab).

If you can’t think of a suitable “string,” ask Uncle GOOGLE to show you “string figures” (yup, the kind you make with your fingers and a loop of – string – ) and get some inspiration. All of the string figures I saw at the Z site were closed in some way. There were no loose lines. And none of the sections delineated by these ‘strings’ were itty-bitty. You need space for your doodling.

Now, it’s time to doodle! Using your pen,fill in each section with the repetitive pattern of your choice.

The most attractive Z’s I saw were done with a certain amount of distortion inside the sections of their strings. Circular sections were filled in with repetitive patterns that reflected this, so they looked more like spheres. Oval sections had contour in their filler, and so on.
If you’re not sure how to do this, use the HB pencil to lightly draw a distorted grid inside the section and guide your repetitive design accordingly.

One other thing – I found last night that when doing the repetitive designs, it was best to do all of the tiny bits in the design one step at a time. So if a design called for repeated triangles with a V filled inside, I drew all of the triangles first, then drew all of the outlines of the V’s, then filled in all of the V’s. It made for more uniform looking designs and was more soothing than trying to do one completed bit at a time.

I use the same principle whenever I’m making a lot of something. I finish one step at a time on ALL of the ‘somethings’ and then go on to the next step, which I then do on ALL of the ‘somethings.’ This is way better than doing one ‘something’ from start to finish, then picking up the next ‘something’ and doing it from start to finish, etc. I learned my lesson well with chain links, Egyptian link necklaces, and the Great Wedding Bubble Wand Caper…

Here we find another clever idea of the Z inventors: they created something they call a “Zentangle Legend” : a Z-sized card depicting 20 repetitive patterns printed in tiny squares. Each pattern is named. If I read the patent application correctly, the names of the patterns, and the patterns themselves, are reminiscent of folk art from specific geographical areaa around the world.

This means that if you have a pattern book (one of those Dover jobbies that collects folk-art designs), you can generate an infinite number of cool patterns yourself. If you want to really be cool, you can make up names for your patterns. Or at least number them. And you can make little “legend” Z cards to remind yourself of your basic pattern bank.
You’ll find yourself gravitating to particular configurations if you make several Z’s in a row – and it’s nice to have a choice of many possible patterns to break incipient monotony.

When you’re using a pattern, ask yourself what its elements might be. Break it down! What part of it should be drawn first? What’s the sequence of steps? You will to employ that sequence to fill the string section with that pattern.

Analyze the Z patterns you find online. Make samples of them and incorporate them into your own pattern vocabulary.

The Z cards I saw on the Zentangle website were obviously created using the Zentangle Legend. And here is a vulnerable point in the Zentangle system, I think. In the strictest sense, if you use only the Legend’s 20 patterns, you aren’t really creating ‘original’ art. You’re working with a finite number of patterns (with perhaps little tweaks here and there) and their ‘string’ figures (which they sell in a set for your delectation).
I analyzed the designs from all of the Z-related sites I visited and made my own little sample card. I didn’t name the patterns, but I do know what they are, and last night’s Z-making session gave me some great ideas for tweaking things.

Returning to your own unfinished Z: Now – you just keep drawing and so on until you’ve filled in all of the spaces. You want to draw slowly and meditatively (the ‘zen’ of ‘Zentangle’) – and don’t plan too far ahead of what you’re doing. Just breathe, calm down, and enjoy the pen dance.

When you’re done, let the ink dry COMPLETELY (particularly if you’re using the watercolor paper!)and gently rub the pencil markings away with your art gum.
If you want to shade portions of the drawing, you may do so with the 4B pencil, rubbing lightly with a finger to distribute the shadings.
Put your little monogram or chop on the front side. Turn the tile over. Sign, date and number it.
That’s it!
Pretty simple, eh?

The fantastic thing about this doodling technique is the overwhelming effect of all of those little doodly sections in juxtaposition. It looks so effing COMPLICATED!!!!!! I am so loving that aspect of the technique. Like a doodly quilt. And it kept tickling my brain – until I realized that I am creating doodly work that reminds me of one of my most favorite linework artists ever – Theo Ellsworth!!!!
I absolutely swooned over the magnificent complicated and complex work in Theo’s zines. What I produced last night actually came close to some complex stuff. I will definitely continue with the Z process. It’s a great idea and I thank Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts for putting a few previously un-combined ideas together.

Another thing I noticed: Z-making is really intriguing when done with the non-dominant hand. I made one Z with my right hand last night. I’m including with the other scans. I was amazed by the detail it produced. And like all of the drawings I’ve done with Right Hand, there was a quality that I can’t verbalize, but love to see in my own work.

okay – here goes…
UPDATE – Here are my Z scans for Z2 through Z7. Read left to right, top to bottom. You’ll notice a crinkly-looking Z – that one was done with Right Hand.
Cool, eh?
I think that the concepts of (1) setting a frame/boundary for the doodle, (2) sectioning off the image and working one section at a time with a rhythmic, repetitive design, and (3) ritualizing the process with specific, high-quality, standardized materiel are just ingenious. Not worth $50 for the kit, by any means – but ingenious ideas.

If you compare the Z’s online at various blogs (just ask Uncle GOOGLE for “Zentangle” and click webpage refs or go to the GOOGLE ‘Images’ and head out from there), you’ll see that many of the so-called Z’s are just doodles, not Z’s at all (if the criteria of repetitive patterning and sectioning are essential to the concept “Zentangle”). And the use of color, while intriguing, does seem to defeat the purpose for me. I like the stark simplicity of black ink on white paper. I guess I’m a Z purist.
Although the multi-colored Z done with Prismacolor on black CS are really attractive – they aren’t really Z, in my opinion. They’re just colorful doodles.

My opinion, okay – anyway, who am I to be a purist, when I just raided the Z stock for specific information!!!! I’m not going to get into Z wars. Prep your cards, draw your things, and have fun.

Here’s my image, finally –


January 30, 2008

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