Tropical Depression

I live in the tropics. It has been a disappointing day. It’s a tropical depression. 

Thank goodness tropical depressions don’t last long–just long enough to regret a Zentangle. 

It’s Day 24 in One Zentangle a Day. Today’s new tangle patterns are Striping and a tangleation of Pepper. Except that the tangleation looks less like Pepper and more like Zinger. But the author was taught the Pepper Tangleation by one of the founders of Zentangle, so who am I to say? Today, besides the new tangle motifs, the lesson discussed combining ink and watercolor. So basically, the work should have watercolor over the drawing, and then a thicker black pen is used to emphasize areas of the tangle. 

Today, I would not make the mistake of shading my tile with graphite pencil before adding watercolor. Today, I would shade with Koi gray watercolor brushes. 

After drawing my string, I drew tangle patterns with the 01 Micron pen. As usual, some lines are clearly shaky, as I didn’t use a ruler or French curve to guide my hand and pen. I was almost finished filling in the black parts of the tangle when my pen nib dried out–or the pen ran out of ink for a little while, maybe from an air bubble or something. (Here on the island, it is best not to leave ink pens out for any length of time as they tend to get leaky very quickly. That’s also, apparently, when air bubbles get into the pen.) I grabbed a different pen from my pencil box–a Pilot Precise V5 that I often use for practice in my sketchbook–and finished up. Only then did I think about the new pen’s colorfastness. Testing it with water on scrap paper, sure enough it ran a bit. Not much, but just enough where it ran into the water a bit. The pen mark remained sharp, but the water turned gray. Not good. Oh, well. I would work around that problem.

Next, I grabbed a watercolor pen in the lightest gray and shaded my tangle. Of course, the brush slipped once or twice, so I guess my hand shook. After letting it dry, it was obvious I also needed a darker gray in the nooks and crannies. So I added more shading with the medium gray.

Before I added regular watercolor, I thought I should let the grays dry thoroughly. To me, the tangle was finished. It could have used more shading, I suspect, but I was fearful that I would mess it up more. 

Once the grays were dry, I used straight watercolor paint to tint the tangled “flowers.” Next step: a watercolor wash. Now I was getting nervous, as I am just not crazy about watercolor washes. I never get them right, and always manage to mess up a perfectly good piece of work. While the flowers were drying, I thought about my options and went to the dentist’s. Just for a cleaning–no root canal work or anything drastic.

As luck would have it, the power outages we had today (and probably those of the past several days) messed up the community’s electronic gate. I had to back up a quarter of the road to turn around to go out the entrance (one-way drive), no easy feat when your spine is crunched up with arthritis. That took ten minutes and got me on the road just late enough to get into a traffic jam. On an island only 17 miles wide that doesn’t sound like a problem, especially since one is going only 5 kilometers into the main city of another country (I love this island!). But there are five round-abouts between my home and the dentist, and plenty of tourists trying to negotiate them. A ten-minute leisurely drive can turn into a frantic 30-minute stop-and-go race in moments. The gate incident messed up my timing by just enough to make me late. But it gave me plenty of time to think about my watercolor wash problem. 

An hour later, I was home and the watercolor applied earlier was dry. One thing about watercolors–once the paint is dry, it is pretty much permanent. That’s why a wash can be applied over a painting with little fear. That fact does not make me braver in the face of watercolor washes, though. I still cringe whenever I need to apply one. And the fact that the second pen’s ink smears when exposed to water didn’t help me feel more confident. My decision, made on my way home, was to use water-soluble color pencils wherever I needed to apply the background color, and then go over the areas with a moist brush. 

Now, I do not use the official Zentangle tiles. They are far too expensive, and most of the work looks good on cheaper tiles from a good company. I have no idea how the expensive tiles work with water, but I already know that my tiles warp as much as many good watercolor papers do. I hoped that a damp brush would help with that problem. It probably would have except that more water was needed to produce a watercolor wash effect from the pencils (Prismacolor Premier water-soluble–top of their line). And I evidently didn’t apply enough color in some areas (or maybe it flushed out), as there are areas of the wash that are almost clear. 

Note that I used two different yellows to complement the different “flower” colors in the string divisions. Note also that I did not use a wash on the black and white portion. I was afraid the ink from the Pilot pen would pollute any color I put over it. In all, the tangle came out OK. I probably should not have put Pepper so close to Striping, or maybe I should have left the white space between Pepper motifs. And I definitely need to find a colorfast pen to fill in large areas of black better. However, I am not unhappy with the overall effect–except for that small area where some red ran into the wash…

Tropical depression cancelled. Temperatures  are a few degrees cooler, and my mood has improved.

Happy tangling!



About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
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