Thursday, March 14, 2013

Don't Fence Me In! (or why I don't do zentangles)

So here's the thing. I don't like rules. Or rather...I don't like other people's rules. Especially when they make rules about something I've been drawing since the 5th grade. This colorful group of floating oddities were drawn and colored in last March when I was playing in an Art for Healing Center run by a hospital in Bakersfield, CA while I was working a contract there.

I had signed up for the online course Legendary Life, taught by Shiloh Sophia, and was wondering what in the world made me think I could paint? ! ? !   So I went to this center on an open studio day and decided to do an old doodle of mine that had always been in black and white, and then see if I could play with color.

Usually, my longstanding doodle looked like this one, which I drew this morning. By the way, I think once I publish this, all pictures are clickable so that you can see details.

Here are the Rules which I made up myself, and which evolved naturally out of my chaotic brain:

 1) The shapes must not look like letters or numbers or anything recognizable. (Notice that at my advanced age, I've managed to put an 8 in the one above. My mind is slipping)
2) They must all have holes that aren't related to the shape of the thing the hole is in. (you might have to read that one slowly) In other words, no triangle can have a triangle shaped hole, no round shapes can have circular holes,  etc.
3) Other shapes must be seen through the hole.
4) they must be shaded to make them seem less 2 dimensional

In my youth, I always started in the center of the page and kept creating new shapes which appeared to be behind the shapes I had drawn before.  This caused the shapes to appear piled up, so much later, I started to have more than one center.

I found myself answering "No, this is not a secret alphabet" a million times in high school. My Latin book cover was the one most covered in this doodle, so the question about the secret language is a bit understandable.

The one I did in color had an additional rule: only 4 colors could be used for the whole piece.

Which I immediately broke when I did one single yellow one. NO, it is not the sun. I read long, long ago that a map only needed 4 colors and there would never be a need to have a countries of the same color touching.  Must have drawn a thousand maps of imaginary worlds trying to disprove that, and I never could.

Go ahead and try. I'll wait.


The other doodle I did a lot was to aimlessly allow my pencil or pen to draw a line that looped and crossed each other at will. Then I filled in the spaces that were formed, with the only rule being each kind of filler had to be used at least twice. I did one this morning, and it looks like this:

This is NOT a zentangle, since I've doodled this doodle for decades and when I saw the copyrighted "zentangle", I had to go online to see what was up.  Then, being the bookaholic that I am, I bought a book of zentangling and tried one of my own.

I started out with the instructions, which said to make a dot in each corner of the small card...whoops! Already broke the rules by drawing it in my 9x12 sketchbook. Sternly, the instructions insisted on a pen because this was a "zen-like meditation process" that needed no erasing. ( Don't GET me started on all the things called "zen" that are not in any way zen. ) "Well!" I huffed to myself, "I'M using a pencil! So there!" The wandering line was easy for me to just let happen, since I've done that many times already, but when I was shown only THREE copyrighted fillers with little names that I was to use to fill in the shapes, I started to twitch. Little bitty circles are a copyrighted pattern called "tipple"?

In my attempt, the little circles that looked like heads to me were filled in with 2 of the official fillers: "tipple" and "crescent moon". Well, that was the end of me following directions. (as if I had followed them very much in the first place) I used a quilting technique called "echo quilting" to fill in what looked like arms to me and if you click on the pic to enlarge, you'll see that at some point in the joined creature, the echoes naturally separated the creature into two. That made me grin, and also made me think of the dangerous habit in our culture of thinking love makes two people into one. "Joined at the hip" is what came to mind and as I filled in the rest of the shapes, I pondered past silly expectations of relationships that were not healthy. This is NOT zen awareness, this is more monkey mind.

But I digress. I filled in their "legs", which are kicked up to connect their pointed "feet" and "hands" and then drew a favorite shape up the left side. For years I've drawn these tears, flames, drops of blood....however they manifested to me. Or the viewer! This time they looked like flames to me, though one viewer told me she saw tears. I finished off with the stars drawn like a child would draw them...all wonky like a freestyle star quilt I made in a quilting retreat once. (Thanks, Keddy for telling me to draw  inspiration from my quilting, btw)

I was calm and happy when I was finished. There were dancers dancing between flames and stars, which could be heaven and hell, which could be this plane of existence. And though they are joined in the dance, they are separate beings, which is the only way I want to dance with a partner if I ever risk that scary dance again.

If this were truly a zen meditation (which does not require pen or pencil or paper or copyrights) my mind would be blissfully free of busy monkey mind instead of deeply touched by this message from my subconscious.

Soon I'll paint this, and who knows how it will morph when I try this with brushes and paint. The message this gave me is still swirling around in my monkey mind, complete with international dance steps, and this particular monkey is enjoying the music.

I think my buddhist nun is too.