Fooling Around

Some days are for simply fooling around.


While I am “in the mood,” I thought I would pre-string a few Zentangle tiles. And maybe finally try out those brush pens I ordered. Break some rules for days when I can’t come up with anything to get me started. 

That brush pen set I ordered weeks ago was a disappointment, color wise. I was hoping for a full spectrum of primary and secondary colors. In a way, that’s what I got. But I really wanted a brighter yellow instead of the ochre that was in the package. So I set the pens aside for a while, figuring I would probably end up giving them away. But today, as I was pre-stringing some tiles, I realized that, because I won’t use  he brush pens for any other purpose, maybe it’s a good day to break them out and gain a feel for what such pens can do. One thing I decided to try is tangling with brush pens instead of with a micron pen. I won’t show you what the finished product in that pile of tiles looked like, because the combination of colors yielded truly garish results. However, it was fun experimenting, and I got a feel for what I can do with colors that I actually like. 

We all have days without adequate inspiration–or when our inspirations lead to less than satisfactory pieces, whether artistic in terms of the visual arts, or artistic in our writing. For me, today was a day when I could think of nothing to either draw or write. For hours, I stared at my art materials. Did I want to tangle? Did I want to draw or paint? Nothing called to me.

Turning to writing, I sat with my iPad on my lap in front of a blank post page. No title, no ideas. Just plain nothing. So I turned to my Kindle app and started reading. If I can’t write, reading is always a good substitute for feeling like I am accomplishing something. I had picked out a book that I hadn’t read in years. And while re-reading it, I started to feel like I wanted to experiment with drawing something. Picking up a stack of Zentangle tiles I had set aside weeks ago, I suddenly got the idea to draw some strings. After a few of those, my eyes fell on the brush pens, and decided to see what I could do with them as the only tools for a tile. As soon as I picked up the first pen, I remembered that I hadn’t worked with them since they arrived. Turning to some scrap tiles–ones that I had started in the traditional pencil and micron pen, but left unfinished and unfinishable. On the clean sides, I started to experiment with the pens. Net result: a horrible tangle. I suppose I could have just chalked up the experience to another bad art day. Instead, I chose to see the positive side of what I accomplished: I got a decent feel for working with those pens, even if I hated both the colors and the tangle itself. 

That inspired me to write this particular post. Basically, I was fooling around today because nothing “serious” was coming to me. For the past few days, I hadn’t posted anything because I had nothing to write about. But the fooling around gave me both practice with tools I hadn’t explored and an idea for something to share. 

Fooling around is never a waste of time if something is happening–an idea for a drawing, learning about an art tool, writing nonsense words and sentences, etc. I could have looked at the drawing experiment as a failure. Instead, I chose to view it as a learning opportunity. I learned how to control the brush pen to produce various effects for lines and curves, and for using it to fill in areas. I learned how thin or thick a line I could draw, how to use pressure on the tip in a manner a bit different from a watercolor or oil painting brush. These pens work like neither brush nor marker nor pen. Rather, they work as a combination of the three. Just like any other tool, they require practice and some patience to figure out what technique to use to get a desired effect. I spent maybe an hour playing with them, and I will need several more hours before I feel like I have mastered their use. But that’s all part of the learning process. 

Writing is the same way. Whether I write in response to a prompt or I try something new–like the poetry class I took earlier–each new technique takes time and practice to eventually get it right. There were a few things in the Intro to Poetry class that I chose to skip for now, but I learned something about them. Just because I couldn’t master a form or technique in the time allotted, doesn’t mean I will never master it. Yeah, OK. I will never be a poet, but I took the course to help with writing, not to be the next Elizabeth Bronte. I will keep trying the things I learned and the things I skipped until I feel more confident with the results. The class provided me with a structured learning opportunity, one which provided me with ideas that I can research more fully to feel more comfortable in further exploration.

Months ago, I mentioned that I thought there was a relationship between writing and drawing or painting. I began to explore Zentangling to help with the drawing. There is still much to learn about tangling, but I have a better idea about where to find ideas and inspiration, as well as new patterns. Taking the Intro to Poetry class gave me the same for writing. 

Bottom line: Fooling around is a fun way to learn. 

From now on, I will take more time to play. Maybe it will help my creativity…

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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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6 Responses to Fooling Around

  1. depatridge says:

    Reblogged this on Matthews' Blog and commented:
    Fooling around if indeed that is what it is, with intent to take in the beauty the environment and people could provide, is indeed a sure way engaging the mind along literary lines I thought. A good piece in my view

  2. Libby Sommer says:

    i just googled tangling and zentangling to see what it was you were playing around with. i’d never heard those terms before. would be good to know a bit more about it all. Libby

    • DrEMiller says:

      The nearest definition I can come up with is meditative doodling. It’s a patented technique it’s popularity has grown enough that several how-to art books are including Zentangle techniques. A good place to start is Zentangle.com. Recently, I blogged a whole series of learning about one quarter of the official patterns using a book called One Zentangle a Day. For me, it’s not a meditative process–yet–as I am too involved in getting the patterns to work. Hope that helps.

      • Libby Sommer says:

        i know that meditative colouring-in is ‘all the go’ and that a number of meditative colouring in books were on the top of the bestselling books list for some weeks, which was a sad fact for us authors. but am a great fan of creativity in whatever form, and mindfulness in particular. good luck with getting those patterns to work.

        • DrEMiller says:

          Thank you!
          Personally, I like the creativity inherent in Zentangling and zen doodling. But I can see why the adult coloring books are so popular. Not only are they relaxing, but there is the added bonus of creating your own color scheme–even if one is using the same patterns as a million other people, each work is unique in terms of color, shading, and embellishing. I can also see how the use of both the coloring books and creation of individual artistic pieces can help in self-knowledge and mindfulness. I must admit that creating tangles gives me plenty of time to explore myself!

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