Zen What? By Linda Stiles Smith

smith_zentangle1Ever have the thought that because you can’t draw you aren’t an artist? Well, according to the newest craze spreading across the country, if you can hold a pen and make a line, you can draw beautiful pictures. Does this make you an artist? Maybe not, but just about everyone who has tried it creates at least ONE original drawing, often worthy of framing!

Last fall I was introduced to a drawing technique called Zentangle®. A friend found it online, I ordered the kit, three of us watched the video, tried it out and we were hooked! We each have different backgrounds, but we were each able to create a set of diverse and interesting drawings.

The premise behind the process is that you combine some Zen time, soft music and quiet environment with a directed type of mark making, and you create small, 3.5”x3.5” (8.8cm) drawings full of dynamic patterns and shapes. By engaging your right brain in this way anyone can draw some pretty spectacular designs. Zentangle® provides a way to shift your focus and perspective onto the process of what you are doing and away from the results.

According to Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the founders of the original Zentangle® program,

“Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity. Zentangle provides artistic satisfaction and an increased sense of personal well being. Zentangle is enjoyed by a wide range of skills and ages and is used in many fields of interest.”

Now I must admit that I had a hard time getting into this. Presented with a booklet full of patterns I couldn’t decide which one to use next! The creators have foreseen this however and included a pattern card and a die to roll to help you select your patterns. I found that I could do it if I just followed their initial instructions to help “shift” my brain to a different speed. It took me a while to let go and just do it, but now I have so much fun with it that I do one almost every day.

Then the light bulb went on! What we could DO with the drawings we made! Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Make a photopolymer plate from the drawing – both negative and positive.
  2. Transfer the drawing to a Speedy Stamp Carving Block (using graphite transfer paper taped to the block’s’ edges) to carve into a stamp.
  3. Transfer the drawing directly to dry clay and carve it out of the clay, using transfer paper and the Dockyard micro carving tools. This would work especially well in BronzeClay™.
  4. Transfer the drawing to an ACS Overlay Paste covered ceramic or glass piece and scratch out the design with a toothpick or needle tool.
  5. Transfer the drawing to a silver metal clay base and use the syringe to draw over the lines – you could even fill spaces with enamels, resins, paint, or colored pencil.
  6. Tape the ZT under a piece of the Teflon® non-stick work surface (thin enough to see through) and use the syringe to “draw” part of the pattern for openwork or filigree type of design.
  7. Gently transfer the drawing to a sheet of paper type clay and use a sharp cutting blade to cut out the ‘holes’ in the pattern, then appliqué the pattern to a base piece of clay.
  8. Etch the pattern into a copper plate and use as a texture plate or cut out the copper and use as part of your jewelry design with metal clay parts.

Several people have said that they used to doodle something like this in class when in school – my daughter admitted as much (which explains the grades!) But my random doodling could never have been described as anything but doodling. The process of Zentangle® is much more. Small (and large) squares of beautiful patterns which are alive with movement! My friends have already made some creative and different things with their Zentangles®…..but for many the fun is just discovering you can draw!

NOTE: You should never copy anyone else’s designs and use them to make jewelry for sale as this would be an infringement of their copyright and unethical. It’s more fun to make your own!

Zentangle® kits, papers, pens, instructions, newsletter: www.Zentangle.com
ZT Rubber texture plates: http://www.helenbreil.com/index.php?pr=Textures – a Canadian artist who currently has 15 textures available, www.shadesofclay.com
Photopolymer Plates: www.artclayworld.com
Graphite Transfer paper: online craft stores: Joanns, Michaels, Hobby Lobby
Speedball Speedy Stamp, ACS Overlay Paste: www.artclayworld.com

Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, translated from the Chinese word 禅 Chán to Japanese. This word is in turn derived from the Sanskrit dhyāna, which means “meditation”. Zen emphasizes experiential prajñā, particularly as realized in the form of meditation, in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct, experiential realization through meditation and dharma practice.

tangle (plural tangles): a tangled twisted mass

12081614_1074140589271626_1541019163_nLinda Stiles Smith  is a Senior Certified Instructor for Art Clay World Inc. and she is also a Rio Rewards PMC certified instructor. She teaches all levels of metal clay classes in her studio in Dayton, Ohio.  Linda holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree which includes a fellowship to Yale University School of Art. The best ruins of Linda’s experimentation in metal clay and polymer clay, as well as the unique tools she makes are available on her Etsy shop, https://www.etsy.com/shop/superfluityshop.


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