Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cheers to 2016!

Ringing in the new year with an evening of tangling these cups. But the best part was filling them with the delightful drink to toast with. It's hot chocolate laced with amaretto and topped with whipped cream (not from the can!)

May your bellies too be warm and full and the year 2016 hold lots of great surprises and creative inspiration for you!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bah Humbug! - NOT

"Oooh-whee!" exclaimed my German husband as he opened the door to my classroom/studio to bring me my afternoon Jasmine tea and gingerbread. You've got a Santa's workshop down here." "Looks more like last night's 70-mph winds whipped through my room, I replied." I was having so much fun creating, with Pandora music blasting from the other room and Bellina at my feet (no, ON my feet) that I hadn't noticed the time or the mess. It was good to sit back and reflect.

Just after Thanksgiving, I went into kind of a funk. I had decided to say Bah Humbug! to Christmas. But last week thoughtful small gifts from my friends at work prompted me to rally and reciprocate with my own little gifts; my usual custom.  To combat my otherwise sad feelings, I decided to make some whimsical notecards. My friends are often the recipients of my botanical illustrations in card form. But I wanted these to be more fresh, more fun! I didn't have much time so I used some of my "Tangling with Stamps" images that I had prepared for last weekend's class. And as if I don't have enough art hobbies, I started carving my own stamps and used some in this series of cards. Coupling the whimsical images with fun phrases like, "A hug in a cup," "Head over heels for you," and Apple of my eye,"  made for some cheerful greeting cards that I thought my friends could use for Valentines. Not works of art, but I hope these will bring a smile to someone's face. The whole process cheered me up, and I'm back in the Christmas spirit!

A hug in a cup
Apple of my eye
Also apple of my eye!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tis the Season

Well it's official. If you let yourself get caught up in the bustle of the holidays, it began yesterday. With family members slowly trickling back to their homes after feasting and fun, my frosted mountain home is nearly empty again. Today's falling snow-globe snow put me in a creative mood, and the quiet allows me to reflect on the time spent with my loved ones; rather rambunctious. But the settling peace compels me to tell you about a craft project I finished months ago; one that could be a nice gift for you to bestow on your friends and family. If you've read my Tangle Teaching Tree posts, you'll know I like to tangle birds. I wanted to see what one would look like in 3-D. So I began creating paper mache birds to hang and set around my studio and tree mural I painted for my Botangle Studio.

With minimal tools, you too can make this paper finery. I was inspired by Mollie Greene's Sweet Paper Crafts. Instructions on how to make the "Percher Bird" are clearly laid out with wonderful illustrations in her book.

After completing the frame, I painted my cheerful swallow a plain white and used my trusty two-pointed Identipen to tangle on the patterns. Here is just one bird shown in different angles so you can see what fun it is to use the body planes created in the construction as your established string. So many Zentangle patterns work perfectly for feathers, tails, wings, head, and breast. Have fun experimenting with your ideas! And just imagine how fun it would be to make some colorful ones as well. My two dictionary birds shown last are waiting to be embellished.
This percher hanging out in my teaching studio.

Breast view
Under belly and wings
My "Word Birds" waiting for another layer of embellishment, or not . . .

Sunrise over our neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tangling with Stamps

I love the versatility of Zentangle patterns; like combining them with rubber stamps. Getting ready for my upcoming class at Two Hands Paperie in Boulder called Tangling with Stamps, I use various rubber stamps as contours or "strings" to fill with patterns. Completing the vignettes with shading, color work ( either colored pencil or watercolor) and gel pens is so much fun. There are no creative boundaries!

Here you see some fall-themed ideas, but the holidays are upon us and using stamps themed for them could yield beautiful Christmas and Hanukkah cards. This class will certainly help you unwind and de-stress before the holiday season rush and help you get a head start on card and gift ideas. You can also fall back on the Zentangle method of drawing any time you need to catch your breath. I will provide everything needed to create a miniature stamped art piece for class, but you are welcome to bring your favorite rubber stamps to work with. As you will see in my samples, the stamps need to have generous open spaces to be able to fill in with tangle patterns.
"Time, time, time, see what's become of me. . ."

"As I look around, for my possibilities . . ."

"I was so hard to please . . ."

"So look around, leaves are brown, and the sky is a hazy shade of winter."
"Look around, leaves are brown, there's a patch of snow on the ground. " Do you remember these lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's song?

Apple composition waiting to be tangled.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Masks and More

Had a fun Halloween this year with my own "tangled" mask. Here are pics of "how to" and the mask in action. I started with an inexpensive paper mache mask from the kid's section of Guiry's art store in Boulder. I simply painted the mask with a base coat of acrylic paint. Then I got out my black Identi pen and went for it! I used some of my favorite tangles; Mooka, Nzeppel, Betweed, Perfs, Auras, a touch of Beetlejuice and Crescent Moon, and the ribbon one that I call "Hills and Valleys." Not sure what the official name is and or who created it. Sorry. Most of the other tangles are from Rick and Maria.

After the fun of tangling and watching my mask take on a life of its own, I shaded with carbon dust and sprayed it with a matte varnish. The final touch; adding glass beads (with a glue gun, of course) and ribbons for fastening.

I can't wait to make more. Want to have some ready for Mardi Gras!

Could be Carnival in Venice!
This was a pretty poor quality photo to begin with so I "Photoshopped" it for a better look.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My “Wicked Plants” Entry: Tangled Toadstool

Enjoy the “darker side” of botanicals at the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists’ exhibition, inspired by Amy Stewart’s book Wicked Plants. The exhibit is at the Aurora Cultural Arts District (ACAD) Studios and Galleries, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, Colorado. It runs for the rest of the month ending with a special reception on Halloween.

I chose to illustrate my favorite fungus that has captured the imagination of cultures and is widespread in art, literature, and culture worldwide, the Amanita muscaria. Commonly called the fly agaric or fly amanita in English, it is the quintessential toadstool because of its audacious appearance and active botanical properties. But it's the person who flies when intoxicated by consuming even small amounts of this spotted toadstool. Bright orange to red with white spots, this mushroom screams "beware!" Though classified as poisonous, the fly amanita rarely causes death when eaten except by flies. Slices of the mushroom were often soaked in a dish of milk to attract those pesky insects to their death after they savored the sweet treat. But the fly amanita is most noted for its hallucinogenic properties, with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the Southern Hemishpere. 

This illustration is meant to be fun, rather than a serious, botanically accurate piece. I sought to convey the mushroom's hallucinogenic properties that the snail is experiencing as it nibbles on the bright magical cap. And what works better for that than the swirling Zentangle patterns that fill the background? It was quite an artistic challenge to mix the two completely opposite styles: traditional scientific illustration and the Zentangle drawing method. It took a lot of colored pencil layering on top of the pearlescent liquid acrylic by FW that I applied with different nibs and a quill to integrate the two styles. I sought to make the patterns take on an antique quality, and to do so I also distressed the surface. 

As a teacher, I am all about the process and show you with a series of photos how I got from a botanical illustration to my final "Botangle." I hope you enjoy its wickedness!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pretty Pumpkins!

Can you believe it’s already October? Where did the summer go? I hope these "tangled" pumpkins get you into the mood for Halloween. It’s one of my favorite days of the year, holding a special meaning for our family. Our American kids moved to Germany at ages seven and nine, and they weren’t about to give up the ghoulish fest just because Germans didn’t celebrate it. No worries, Grandma and Grandpa sent seeds from Illinois, and we gave them to local farmers to grow for us. By fall we had our big bright orange “Kuerbise,” and all was well.

We got together with our American friends and carved our exotic produce (in costume of course), and the kids even went door to door for treats, explaining themselves as they went. Our German neighbors were wonderful, and adapted quickly; always eager to pop a milk chocolate bar or other goodies from their pantries into our homemade sacks. From year to year it got easier – no more explaining and better treats! I can’t help but wonder if we started something because it’s now customary to celebrate Halloween at least in Bavaria where we had lived.

So when the air gets crisp, the Aspen gold starts to fall, and fog snakes through our valley revealing only the mountain tops, I know I better get to decorating my pumpkins. No matter how busy I am, I carve out the time!

Grab your double-pointed (fine and large) Identi.pen and tangle right onto your pumpkins. Sharpies work as well. I wash my subjects first with mild soapy water so the ink takes nicely. The mini and pie pumpkins are especially fun to do, and gourds really lend themselves to the Zentangle style.

Spray your finished pumpkins with a mat varnish or sealer of some kind (all over). Then they hold up for quite a long time if you don’t let them catch a hard frost.

Don’t forget to get the kids involved!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Celtic Knot Tangles

I'm back after a long break. Have been teaching wildflower sketching, preparing for upcoming Botangle/Zentangle classes, and just had to try something new to share. Every September, Estes Park (where I live) hosts the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival, and I thought it might be fun to offer a Celtic knot drawing class this September in my new home classroom studio. Sooooo, as if I don't have enough to do, I decided to teach myself to draw Celtic knots. It's really not that different from learning to draw Zentangles, "one step at a time." Here you can see my quick and dirty "step outs" for a super simple basic knot. Then I enlarged it (but incorrectly 5x5 dots instead of 4x4.) However, the results were surprisingly pleasing.

So I took the two basic patterns and did a little tangling on top. It's really fun - obviously endless possibilities. You can see I was using a dotted paper from a pre-dotted "Moleskin" journal. The paper quality is not great so my added watercolor made it buckle. But it's great for learning the knot patterns.

Next I'll try a few with a more refined hand and good paper.

My basic Celtic knot "step-out" notes. Had fun with making a border and adding color.

"Step out" page

My self-taught Celtic knot turned Zentangle.

Close up of the smaller Celtic tangle.

Close up of the larger Celtic tangle (my mistake knot that actually worked!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ink Wash, Airbrush, or Diluted Paint? - NO – Carbon Dust

Check out my shading demo!

Thanks to all who responded to my shading question challenge. Ink wash, airbrush, and diluted paint were some good answers, but that's not how I shaded my Tangle Teaching Tree. Congratulations to tangler Amy Broady whose answer was almost spot on! She said, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you utilized a powdered medium to achieve your gorgeous shading. Loose graphite, perhaps? Something that could be applied and blended with your fingers as well as a variety of tools, from brushes to sponges, cotton balls to cloth."

Answer: Though a bit generalized, Amy guessed right. In botanical illustration (remember that's my art background) we use the traditional medium carbon dust. So it's not graphite, but definitely a powdered medium. I made my own by sanding charcoal sticks and charcoal pencils with a fine-toothed paper. Pretty messy!

This video clearly shows how I brushed on the carbon dust to give the magical illusion  of dimension on the flat surface. Hope this helps some of you out there who are still timid about shading your Zentangle creations.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Big "Z" or My Tangle Teaching Tree

Finished at last! I have been remiss about posting on my blog because it seems that my every waking minute outside of my full-time job was spent on completing this wall mural. I call it my Big Z, being the biggest Zentangle I've created to date.  It's also my Tangle Teaching Tree and trademark of my new home studio/classroom. Now classes can commence, and I want to share with you the progress of this 4-month project with a few photos. Read the whole post and see my challenge question that could win you a prize!
I finished the mural on Memorial Day 2015.

In February, after surface prep, I had a blank slate to work on. Kind of terrifying!

This is the "string" or sketch based on my favorite cottonwood tree located in Hygiene, Colorado at Pella Crossing. The sprinkling of nine birds are imaginary.

The focal point of my wall includes some of my favorite tangles, Betweed, Mooka, Poke Root, Nzeppel, and an owl whose contour was totally inspired by Ben Kwok's artwork.

Proof that I labored evenings after work until I was just too exhausted to continue. Good thing that I always had my rescue dog, Bellina at the ready!

The four-bird branch on the long wall. I was pleased with my use of "Organza" to symbolize birdsong.

Detail of the main tree trunk. Notice the little surprise; the polymer clay beetle I made last summer at a workshop I attended during the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators annual conference in Boulder, CO.

I love this undulating texture of this portion of the tree trunk. It illustrates the importance of shading your Zentangles. More of that topic to follow in a later blog. Watch for the video of my shading demo.

Here another example of the depth shading brings. NOW MY CHALLENGE TO YOU. I will send a prize to whomever is first at guessing my shading technique (obviously not done with a pencil or I would be there another year working).  HINT: some of my botanical illustrator students may be familiar with the technique. Send me an email to my with your guess. I will reveal the answer and winner in a new post. The prize: my favorite Zentangle book, "The Book of Zentangle" by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, founders of the drawing technique and worldwide movement.

I look forward to many hours of rewarding classes in this space.