Tiny Tiles – Zentangle Inspired Art for Random Acts of Kindness.

Click on this link to view the accompanying video on YouTube.

I had an idea. It may not be a great idea. It may not be executed in the best way today. But it’s a start, but first, some background as to how this idea came about before I explain myself.

Last week, I went to a local café for a late lunch. So late that it was almost tea time! The first time I’ve been out for lunch by myself since the start of the Covid pandemic. I’ve had lunch out three times with a friend in this time, but I still rarely leave my home for such things.

It was a lovely lunch, broccoli and stilton soup with a large pot of tea. The people working in the cafe were lovely and helpful. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. I was made to feel very welcome there.

So, it took a few days, but yesterday I woke with an idea. Why don’t I do some tiny artworks to leave for people to discover. Little notes to thank those who run a café or restaurant. Little notes of kindness, inspiration, or compassion are on the back for strangers who may need to read them. Little notes to brighten up someone’s day. And maybe put my email address/blog address on there. Maybe. I’ve not decided if that will be a thing, yet.

So, the first step was to see what sizes of little envelopes I could buy. I really wanted glassine ones, so the tile is protected but visible. But the only tiny ones I could find were 6.5cm square (that’s 2.5″). So some have been ordered, and some watercolour card has been cut into pieces 6cm square, ready to use! The tiles in the image are 6cm square in size. So quite tiny!

The others I found are so sweet. They have a heart fastening on the rear flap and are made of kraft paper. Perfect! That way, what’s inside will be a surprise and, hopefully, a pleasant one for those who find it. These are a bit bigger at 10.5cm x 7 cm (approx 4.13″ x 2.75″), which is about the size of a gift card, business card or credit card. So, I cut paper to 10cm x 6.5 cm to fit these envelopes.

For this morning’s video, I decided to use two of the small squares. I started by colouring one side with Distress Inks. Then I drew the designs with various black fineliner pens. Next, I added more colour with Inktense pencils and a water-brush. Finally, highlights were added with white gel pens and a gold gel pen on the Aquafleur design. Not sure the gold pen was a good idea; I might have been better off using a dip pen and gold ink. It’s all a learning process!

Then, it was time to hand-letter a message on the back and decorate. This is where I think things went a tad to pot. In hindsight, I wish I’d coloured the reverse of the tile too, as, the white looks so stark. But they’ll do. My hand-lettering isn’t the best, but again it will do. My biggest problem is not letting the ink dry fully before erasing pencil lines and/or adding Inktense pencils. But they’re not too shabby…possibly.

What I may try doing, as these are test pieces, is using some Microglaze to seal them. Not only will it seal the Distress Ink, but will give a glossy finish that will bring out the colours more. The problem with Micro glaze is that it smears the black pen lines. But as these are test pieces, if that happens, I’ll learn not to do it again in the future, or use different kinds of pens. I wonder how the Dokumentas in the Twisbi’s will react to Micro glaze? That is an experiment I need to try out!

My only problem once I’m happy with this, apart from learning how to take better photographs of my work, is finding the courage to leave these things. The intense embarrassment and shame I know I’ll feel will be great. That will come out of the old fear that no one will like what I do or appreciate it or understand that it comes from a place of unconditional love and gratitude for our connections. And this is the reason why I’m dithering about whether or not to include my email.

I’ll work it out. I usually do, eventually! Until then, I have a small pile of tiles to decorate, Micro glaze and different pens to experiment with, and how to put messages on the back… part of me thinks printing them out and glueing them on could be a way to go. I have actually turned one of my hand-lettering styles into a font! Something else for me to think about.

Distress Inks and Tangle patterns

Last night when I arrived home after an absolutely visit with a dear friend, I found the postman had delivered a set of mini Distress Ink pads in the new colours released last year! It was way too late to do anything with the inks, so I decided I’d have a look at them in today’s video for YouTube.

I started by trying blends of the colours. My instincts were not to mix the salmony pink Saltwater Taffy with the other colours – Villanous Violet, Blue Ribbon and Salvaged Patina. Orangey tones with purple, blue and/or pale green-turquoise colour, would make mud, my instincts told me.

However, when I used them all for one background, I was really surprised by the colours that resulted. They were lovely! No mud! Just lovely, aged, vintage-ish colours. What a wonderful surprise!

After spraying water to create water stains, stencilling and another spray of water drops (drying in between each procedure), I edged each paper with Hickory Smoke. Then, it was time to draw!

I used an 0.1 and 0.3 Molotow fineliner pens for drawing. They’re new to me and so was keen to try them out. The ink is lovely! But, I found the pens rather light and awkward to hold. The natural place to rest my fingers was way too high up the pen to be comfortable.

I’ll use the pens until the nibs are wrecked or they run out of ink, whichever comes first. The ink is very black and very opaque. The nibs do write really smoothly on the paper I used. But, they’re just not comfortable for me to hold, and that comes down to personal preference! Otherwise, they really do seem to be great pens!

I started drawing with the tangle pattern ‘spoolies’ to the left. This is where I noticed how the grip I had on the pen was uncomfortable and making it really difficult for me to draw smooth, precise lines. I ended up doing a mash-up of spoolies and diva dance!

The pointy leaves (or shark fins or points of crescent moons, depending on how you want to see them) actually echo the pointed part of spoolies. These then were replaced by the tangle pattern swirl, which is very similar to spoolies. Finally, the pointy leaves/fins/horns of the moon returned.

As I wanted to lift these off the background, I used a crosshatch pattern to darken the spaces between them.

Then, in my not-so-clever wisdom, I decided to help the illusion of volume and layers along by adding colour using Distress Inks as watercolour inks or paints.

I’m not at all sure about the end result, which wasn’t helped as I decided to splatter gold paint over it.

I often ask myself what on earth was I thinking and will I ever learn. This is another of those occasions. I kept compounding the problem as I tried seemingly good ideas.

As I said, I wonder if I’ll ever learn …

No matter what, it was lovely to be sat drawing just for enjoyment. Even though I’m not happy with the end result, I learned a lot about these new-to-me Distress Ink colours. Also, I’ve learned that a spray of water really can make the background lovely. And it’s OK to repeat sprays as more colour or stencilling or edging colours are added.

But perhaps the most important thing is that sometimes the process, the enjoyment of creating and learning is more important than an end piece that I’m happy with. Perhaps, in the coming hours, days, weeks or months, I’ll be able to look at this with fresh eyes and see it as not as bad as I know think it is!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Today marks the Lunar New Year celebrated in China and other Asian nations. It is the year of the Tiger.

I thought I’d draw a design based on some of the symbols associated with the New Year celebrations held by Chinese and Asian communities worldwide.

To start, I used various Distress Inks – fossilised amber, ripe persimmon, spiced marmalade and aged mahogany – to colour a 14cm x 14cm (5.5″ x 5.5″) piece of Canson Imagine mixed media paper. Tigery colours!

After marking my border guides in pencil, I drew in the outer border of stylised plum blossoms.

Next, a layer of coins, all with the square hole characteristic of Chinese coinage, but many with imaginative patterns within.

I then realised I hadn’t put a tiger anywhere! So, I popped a cute and whimsical tiger head at the centre, all smiling and happy.

Finally, as far as drawing was concerned, I put some bamboo overlapping in a Zentangle Hollibaugh manner to fill the space.

Then it was time to tackle adding colour. The part that always vexes me. I used watercolour pencils in this instance. I discovered I liked working in a loose, just let the paint and water do what they will, kind of way. I got some interesting textures and patterns, particularly in the spaces between the bamboo.

I’m not entirely sure this was all a good idea, mind you. Part of me really wishes I’d drawn this on plain paper, or maybe coloured paper, but left the colour at that. Some shading.

And I’ve just realised that I haven’t really done any shading in this design! It would be awkward now as I’ve added gold and white gel pens to the design. Oh well.

I’m not all that happy with this drawing. I may spend some time doing a version of it, but on plain white paper. Just to see the difference.

There’s always something to learn from each drawing that is done. Always. However, I don’t always learn those lessons, such as how I feel I struggle with colour when it’s traditional media or the importance of contrast/shadow to bring depth and dimension to a design.

I definitely need to make a list of things to consider when drawing in my commonplace book.

How I pre-colour paper for my sketchbook

Today’s vlog is a little bit different. I had a query about the coloured paper I use for my pattern explorations sketchbook. When I said I coloured it myself with Distress Inks, I was asked if I’d make a video of the process, so I did today.

Here’s a list of the materials I use:
* Distress Inks, though you could use any other ink pads
* Cut ‘n’ Dry foam and blending/make-up brushes
* Stencils
* Paper – today I used Canson Imagine mixed media paper, A5 in size
* A spray bottle of water if you want to create a bleached, grungy kind of finish.

The video shows, far better than I could put into words, how to colour the paper. And the techniques I show are but a start!

Why do I colour the paper?

White paper is just fine for drawing on, but it can be a tad stark, clinical. I think having a background colour, with some texture to it either from the unevenness of colour or stencils, gives some life to the drawing right from the off. I find it a more visually appealing way to start drawing.

It’s also a fun and fascinating thing to do. You never quite know how it’s going to turn out. Each colour combination gives a different ‘feel’ to the background, as do the stencil patterns that are used, or stamps, or methods to further distress or increase the texture.

The colour from Distress Ink can be subtle or more intense. I prefer the more subtle, mostly. What tool you use to apply the ink can help with this, but it’s all still a bit random, and I like that! Mind you, that randomness may be my way of applying the inks; I’m not interested in a perfectly even application – I want the variation!

I do find it easier to get a more subtle effect with the blending brushes. They pick up less ink than the cut ‘n’ dry foam. The cut ‘n’ dry foam is useful for adding ink around the paper edges to create a darker border.

Do I have to use Distress Inks? What about other media?

No, of course not! There are many other ink pads available. I personally prefer the dye-based inks for paper I’m going to draw on.

The only pigment inks I’ve used are Distress Oxides and the powdery nature of the pigment particles clogs my pens up quite quickly. I’ve not used other pigment inks to know whether this happens with them. I know pigment inks can take a goodly while to dry, though you can speed this up using a heat tool specifically for craft work, though the heat can warp the paper.

Other media? Of course! You can colour the paper with whatever media you have in your stash or that appeal to you. Watercolours or watercolour pencils would work brilliantly! I would, however, consider the paper you use for this. You’d need one that wouldn’t be damaged by the quantity of water you’re planning on using.

There’s many other media that could be used, I’m sure. The supplies available to both mixed media artists, card makers, paper crafters as well as artists are multitudinous!

I stick to Distress Ink, with the occasional very controlled spritz of water, because I don’t like working messily. I like the color palette available and the more grungy, aged, vintage, distressed effects that can be achieved with them.

Does it affect other media used later?

Yes, and no. It all depends on the coloured media you’re using and also how much ink you’ve used to colour the paper.

If you use watersoluble media, the Distress Ink is likely to dissolve in the water. That means you may get a blended colour, particularly if there’s a lot of Distress Ink on the paper or it’s one of the darker colours. This isn’t a problem for me, generally.

If you’re using dry media or alcohol markers then the Distress Ink isn’t affected. However, as alcohol markers are transparent, there will be some visual colour mixing.

Are Distress Inks Archival?

Distress Inks are acid-free, so they don’t affect the paper. However, they are not light fast and will fade/discolour in time when left in bright light. This doesn’t worry me as this is for sketchbook work, kept out of the light in book form. Even when I use this kind of paper for other artwork it’s fine as I tend to scan the artwork to use in a digital format.

Here’s the video:

Inktober Tangles 2021 | Day 3

This Zentangle tile contains the first three tangle patterns of the Inktober Tangle 2021 prompt list. They are Lunar Flux, Naaki and Dewd, by Debbie New CZT, Nadine Roller CZT, and Zentangle Inc. respectively.

I’ve used Lunar Flux in a similar way to my tile for Day 1. I just think it’s lovely as sprigs of foliage. Dewd works well as a filler pattern behind Lunar Flux. Finally, I used Naaki in the square to create a border.

A 15cm x 10.5cm (approx 4⅛” x 5⅞”) piece of Bristol board coloured with Rusty Hinge Distress ink was the base for the design. The line drawing was completed with a 0.3 Unipin pen. Pastel pencils added colour and shadow to the drawing. Finally, Sakura Souffle and Sakura Metallic Gelly roll pens were used to add highlights in white and gold.

A monochrome colour scheme of warm and cool browns was the way to go here. They worked harmoniously with the Distress Ink background colour. For highlights, I didn’t use a white pastel pencil as it didn’t make much of a difference. Instead, I went with dots of white.

It’s all a bit wibbly and wobbly; well, I did draw it sat in bed whilst coming around from a deep night’s sleep.

I do have a couple more sketchbook pages of explorations of Naaki from yesterday. I do want to do similar for Dewd. I’m finding this an interesting experience. Creating variations and iterations of a pattern or motif isn’t something I’ve done much of, but I’m sure I will be doing so going forward with lots of art.

There’s also the question of whether I tackle today’s official Inktober 2021 prompt, which is “vessel”. I dunno. I’ll see how I feel about that later today.

Hello October and Inktober!

The first day of a new month, and the first day of Inktober to boot!

This year I’m definitely going to the Inktober Tangle 2021 prompt list of Zentangle patterns. I’m going to try to combine the official Inktober 2021 prompt list with them.

Today, I’ve managed that. ‘Crystals’ is the prompt from the Inktober list. The tangle pattern for today is ‘Lunar Flux’ by Debbie New CZT.

I dug out a piece of paper coloured with Distress Inks from my stash of such paper. It’s a rather grungy kind of green, which appealed to me first thing this morning.

0.1 and 0.3 Unipin pens were used to draw the design. Next, a variety of green and white chalk pastels were used to add colour, shadow and highlight to the design. Finally, embellishments were added with white Sakura Soufflé, yellow/gold Sakura Stardust, and clear Sakura Glaze pens.

There were a number of times through the process where I wondered what on Earth I was doing and was going to give up. The first was when I started to dislike the coloured paper. The next was when I thought the pen work wasn’t looking too good, I didn’t have the space to add a third stem of lunar flux (I like groups of odd numbers). Finally, adding colour with the pastels felt like I was making a bad job worse.

I’m glad I didn’t give up. I’m actually quite pleased with the finished drawing. There’s some volume to the elements, and a sense of layers too. The highlights and shadows really helped to lift the colours and the design.

It’s been a lovely, if a tad frustrating at times, way to spend a couple of hours this morning.

Yesterday evening, I spent some time playing around with the basic idea of Lunar Flux and came up with a sketchbook page full of variations. I’ll show this in tomorrow’s Sketchbook Saturday vlog.

For now, I’m going to get a fresh mug of mocha, and spend sometime drawing, making use of Lunar Flux. I’m still not feeling quite right after my upset tummy Wednesday and yesterday. I had a horrible night’s sleep, with two vivid nightmares that had me wrenching myself awake from them. I have no idea what caused them, but the unease and fear they provoked in me is lingering today, along with a sense of exhaustion too. So, self-care time is very much needed today for sure.

Chameleon Color Tones Coloring

Link to today’s vlog on YouTube.

After filming yesterday’s vlog, I decided to try using marker pens with a drawing I’d done on a Distress Ink background. The drawing on the left is the result of this experiment.

To add colour, I used Chameleon Color Tones marker pens. I chose colours that would be similar to those in the background.

I really enjoyed adding colour to this drawing. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy using the Chameleon pens and the ease of achieving gradients with these pens.

I completed the drawing with embellishments of white and yellow Sakura Soufflé pens, muted Sakrua Gelly Roll Moonlight pens, and some shiny areas of clear Sakura Glaze pen.

I was so happy with the result, that I started work on the drawing to the right, some of which I do in today’s vlog.

I really love the way that the background tones down the brighter colours of the marker pens. Which shouldn’t surprise me as marker pens are transparent! But it did surprise me!

Something else that I was struck with was how similar using markers is to how I add colour digitally. I haven’t made that connection before, but it is likely to inform me on my way forward in adding colour to my artwork. I may be trying to force water-soluble media and coloured pencils into behaving like markers, which is something that they’re not meant to do. I find it hard to work with the looser, possibly more chaotic water-based media, even though I love the effects that other seem to achieve with them. No matter what I do, I’m never totally happy with the end result, something I’ve blogged and vlogged about an awful lot.

Working with alcohol markers has shown me that I can work well with colour, with the medium that matches my artistic style – precise and controlled. The more chaotic, loose, aspects of this work come from the Distress Ink coloured backgrounds.

Now, if only I can accept this and focus on using markers in my work more than other media. Well, apart from digital coloring that is!

Sunday Morning Entangled Art

Link to today’s vlog on YouTube.

A late summer, rather cool and sunny start to the day is something I’m luxuriating in, and that means arty pursuits.

I’ve completed one drawing, which I kind of review at the start of today’s vlog over on YouTube. I’m not too happy with the colour I’ve added at all. I started with Ecoline watercolour inks, but they felt too bright and jarring with the distressed, grungy, quite dark background. So, I then tried out distress inks, but I’d already gone down the rabbit hole of poor colour choices. When I’d finished adding colour, I had some rather dull, uninspiring colours that really didn’t fit in with other parts. So, I tried using coloured pencils to lift the colours, with not much success. Finally, I tried some chalk pastels, which helped somewhat. Finally, I added embellishments with a variety of gel pens,w hich helped to lift the colour somewhat, bu kind of seem over the top.

So, to shift my disgruntled arty mood, I thought I’d go back to an earlier drawing and use a really simple set of colours – cerise and purple – to add colour and shadow to the drawing. And white to help bring out highlights if needed, though I will use various gel pens to embellish this when I’m done. This is the drawing you can see at the top of the post.

I’m liking what’s happening with this drawing. I do have to layer the chalk to get an intensity of colour when using the tortillon to blend the colour out as well as working the chalk into the paper. I’m enjoying the way the different colours will blend nicely with each other. And I like the simple colour choices too.

I keep saying I’m going to complete drawings with monochrome, or nearly monochrome colour palettes. And I keep forgetting to do this when I leave a host of colours near me!

I shall persevere with this particular drawing, and see how I feel about once it’s all coloured.

As to the other one, well it’s being put to one side for a few days so I can return to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind. Perhaps I’ll see it in a different way then.

Saturday Sketchbook | A Week Ink Art

Link to today’s vlog on YouTube.

My vlog today is a flip through of all the art I’ve been doing in the past week, both in sketchbooks and on paper.

The image above shows my bedtime drawing last night. I’m not happy with it, but it is what it is. Finishing the drawing followed by the addition of colour and shadow/highlight may change my mind about it. As may the passage of time and a fresh view of it.

This is but one of quite a few drawings done this week. The rest can be seen in today’s vlog.