Draw, Erase, Shade, Erase…

Lots of new toys arrived in yesterday’s parcel delivery. Two books I ordered from Amazon over a month ago were finally published and shipped. The Official Zentangle beginner’s kit ordered from Zentangle.com arrived, along with the book Zentangle Primer. And a few assorted drawing tools finally reached me from China. Oodles of fun for countless hours of occupation. Although I live on a beautiful small Caribbean island, I was never much of a sun worshipper, and find myself indoors far too often. 

Part of my excitement over the packages was that I have been finding loads of lovely patterns to tangle on the Zentangle Mosaics app, but had trouble finding “step-outs” on how to draw them efficiently. The Zentangle Sourcebook was like an answer to my prayers, showing me step by step (hence “step-out”) how to recreate the difficult patterns–exactly the ones I was having trouble with! So I picked up sketchbook and pencil, made certain my Micron and white Gelly Roll pens were handy, burrowed out my ultra-thin eraser, and practiced, practiced, practiced. 


As I was drawing, I thought about the official Zentangle admonition about erasers and, I suspect, using white pens to “correct” ink mistakes. In Zentangling, there are no mistakes. Officially. But I cheat sometimes because of my hand tremor or lapse of concentration. And that thinking led me to another thought. 

A friend who is a wonderful professional artist asked me last year if my drawing teacher was teaching me “the eraser method.” In fact, he asked me that multiple times. Each time my response was that I certainly use my eraser a lot. 

Now, I have no idea what the eraser method is, but I suspect it has something to do with using an eraser to create highlights and soften shading where needed. That makes me think that Jimmy is probably a purist, insisting that highlights should be part of what is left white on the drawing paper and not going back and erasing areas to create those highlights after the fact. 

Both the Zentangle ban on erasers and Jimmy’s indignation about “over-using” erases are, in my mind, strongly related. Both are admonitions. And I tend to be a bit of a rebel when I’m told I can’t or shouldn’t do something, especially when I can’t find a strong enough reason not to do it. With Zentangle, I do make mistakes–sometimes due to carelessness (lapse of concentration), and sometimes due to uncontrollable tremor. When drawing, I don’t always see the highlights soon enough in the process, or draw shadow too heavily; these are corrected with one or more of several different kinds of erasers in my drawing tool box. For Zentangle mistakes, I use white gel pen to fix black ink lines on white backgrounds, and black ink to fix white lines on black tiles. For drawing, I use my arsenal of erasers as tools, much as I would use various softness of graphite. To me, that’s all part of enhancing or cleaning up a piece. Erasers and black and white ink pens are my friends and help me with my art. To me, fixing an error, redefining a line, or erasing for highlights  can be as meditative as the actual application of medium to paper (or canvas, or board, or tile…). Fixing is a part of the process.

Certainly, I don’t set out to make mistakes. But if they occur, then I have a solution that will leave me satisfied and the artistic work resolved. Isn’t resolution the goal of meditation, particularly if one is working out a problem during the meditation? 

When we write, most of us go through the process of wording a difficult sentence or substituting a better synonym multiple times in any work. We fix what we can and move on. Sometimes, we fix a word or sentence later. Sometimes, we get carried away with the fixing–in writing and in drawing/painting–only to create a bigger mess. After a while, we learn when to stop fixing before we reach that messy point. Other times, we revert to the original or delete the offending passage altogether. That, too, is part of an artistic process. It’s part of learning and creating. All of that leads to growth. 

So don’t throw out the erasers, and don’t hide the white pen when drawing black on white. Instead, keep your tools handy, whether in the form of an implement such as a pen or eraser, or in the form of a resource like a thesaurus, a book of quotations, or the backspace key. Tools. They are all tools of the trade. They are there to help us create whatever form of art we are producing. 

Draw. Erase. Shade. Erase. Draw…

Happy creating!

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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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