Zentangle Practice: Like Starting from Scratch

Zentangle Practice: Like Starting from Scratch

I’m trying to ease back into daily Zentangle practice without making a huge mess of my desk or unpacking too many supplies. So I picked up a Zentangle tile yesterday and today to test out some new-to-me media that came in the CZT supply kit.

It turns out that I’ve lost a lot of dexterity in my dominant hand being away from making videos for basically an entire year. So I’m exploring how to embrace shaky, inconsistent lines. At least until I can improve upon them. Accepting wobbly line work is the easy part.

The difficult part is stopping my eyes from rolling around in my head when I look down at the paper. It helps a lot if I keep the tile away from me a bit, but my habit is to nearly put my nose on the paper. I like to really get in there for precision, which isn’t a great habit for filming anyway. Unless I want to cut a whole lot of the back of my head from the footage. So breaking the habit will be to my advantage.

But can I do it?

I do have the old portable drawing table my brother gave me to elevate my drawing surface and get a more suitable angle, but that’s also packed away. It would help my posture, and since I don’t have the overhead camera angle to consider for the webinar, it’s potentially a good idea to ease some of the stress in my neck and shoulders.

I’ll decide whether or not to have Dan set it up for me when it’s closer to training next month. Right now I just want to take a few minutes each day to hold a Micron again. But, also, considering how I want my desk set up isn’t something that I can put off until the last minute. I’m slow. Made slower by constantly having to pivot when something no longer works for me.

Amazingly, my YouTube channel has kept growing during my year-long chemo hiatus. I’m approaching 13,000 subscribers despite saying the police suck at wellness checks and noting how Trump bungled our COVID response—and on a platform rife with complete jerks.

Watch out for more Tangled Talk episodes. No telling who I’ll piss off in the future.

So. Maybe it would be 20,000 subscribers by now if I was willing to color inside the lines. Can you imagine though? If I stop ruffling feathers, that’s how you know I’m dealing with some stuff.

For now, I am content to spend more time blogging, but after we move, lookout YouTube. Speaking of the move, Mom told me this morning that she’s going to be more selective about the pictures she sends me so the big reveal will be more impressive. She did text me this and gave me permission to share it.

Seeing how she sent a picture of a window being installed where one didn’t exist before, the overall impression I’m getting is that really dramatic things are happening.

Also, I gave her the fundraiser status, and she was pretty impressed. I feel like being a professional beggar is how I can contribute. Cancer gives you all kinds of new life skills. Who knew? (Spoiler: literally everyone who currently has or has ever had it.)

Thanks to all of you for helping out. Enjoy your #Caturday.

What Has Two Thumbs?

What Has Two Thumbs?

What has two thumbs and is in a really good headspace today? I’ll give you three guesses.

I don’t know if you can relate, but I’m a little reluctant to announce stuff before it actually happens because…what if it doesn’t, and I just look like an ass? 

Well, I’ve decided today I’m gonna share some good news, however prematurely, because I’m excited and can’t keep it in. I’m attending the online Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) training this September!

I promise I’m not going to give you an “I’d like to thank The Academy” speech—I’m not that full of myself…yet—but I would like to acknowledge that it wouldn’t be possible without a lot of people pulling for me. Some who had no idea I even existed a few days ago.

In the interest of privacy, I’m not going to drop names here. But I want to tell you about my Zentangle friend. I’ll call her ZF to make this easier.

ZF isn’t just a fellow enthusiast, she’s a CZT who’s had cancer. When I mention towns most people have never heard of, she says, “I know where that is!” She checks in on me when I’ve been quiet. She encourages me to keep going. She even asks about Izzy, my cat.

When she called to give me the news that I’d be able to attend the training, she reminded me I was loved and to keep going. 

And, if you’ve ever been diagnosed with the big C, you’ll probably appreciate what I’m about to say: encouragement from people who’ve capital-B-capital-T Been There just hits different.

ZF will give others the credit, tell you she didn’t really do anything, that so-and-so* actually made this happen. It’s true that other people could have stopped this train at any point down the line, but she got the thing to depart the station.

So I guess what I want you all to know is this:

My bad days are real, and I will no doubt face more of them. I will blog candidly about them when I need to, but the only way I know they’re bad days is because I have good days to compare them to**. 

And the reason the good days exist is because of the goodness of people. People like my Zentangle friend.

Moral of my story: I believe sometimes paying it forward is simply saying the good stuff out loud. I don’t have money or the greatest health, but I have hope and purpose. Maybe it’ll help someone out there to know one of the reasons why.

*Not their real names either.

**I know so many others have made this point before and have done a better job too. So thanks for indulging me. 

Too Much of a Good Thing

Too Much of a Good Thing

Too much of a good thing?

On Sundays, my phone tells me how much time I’ve used it compared to the previous week, and today it told me I used it 16 more hours.

That’s almost exactly how many hours’ worth of watercolor tutorials I’ve watched on YouTube in the last 48 hours.

I had that migraine, as I mentioned, and I was wrapping up another week of chemo. So I spent a lot of time in bed with my phone in the overhead articulating arm watching Sarah Cray’s video tutorials on the Let’s Make Art channel.

Guys? These tutorials feel so accessible. I want to paint all the things, and I’m trying to figure out how to subscribe to the boxes. They’re pretty reasonably priced, but I really need to give up $40 worth of something to be able to afford them. 

This fixed income shit. I tell ya.

Shakes fist at cloud.

But also—and this is the real issue—I packed away all my other art supplies so I wouldn’t be tempted to make a huge mess that I don’t have the energy to clean up. I need more art stuff right now like I need more tumor cells.

I’m not being mean to myself, either. I’m genuinely trying to be kind to myself by not making life harder with moving on the horizon.







I know I’ve mentioned this before, I just don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here: When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to take an art class. 

The 2D art class was a prerequisite for all other art classes. So naturally it conflicted with another class I also really wanted to take that was only offered at one time: fourth year German.

My counselor was like, “Well, I’ll put you in 3D art and see what happens.”

What happened was on the first day of 3D art, the art teacher asked us to raise our hands if we hadn’t taken 2D art. Like a damn honest fool, I raised mine.

“Please go to the office to change your schedule,” she said.

For many years, I was bitter. And I’m still not entirely over being forced to make a choice, but I did make a choice, and I chose German.

Why? Being inducted into the National Honors Society and getting some other embossed decal on my diploma required four years of a foreign language.

If I had it to do over, though. I’d have made a different decision. Those academic things got me nothing. I failed out of my first semester at the University of Evansville because I didn’t attend classes and I didn’t officially unenroll.

When I enrolled at IUPUI seven years later as a “non-traditional” student, admissions didn’t give a rats’ ass about my high school transcript or my UE transcript. In fact, I got a full-ride scholarship.

Which I don’t share to brag, because looking back I see some serious privilege, but I do share it for the young. To let them know life after high school is so incredibly hopeful, even if you feel like a screw up.

Where the heck was I going with this?

Oh, yeah.

I really like art and I like adding color to my Zentangles and I like learning new things. And Let’s Make Art is not just like, here paint this. It’s more like, this is how you can achieve this look if you want.

…and by the way, here’s how to render 3D attributes on a 2D work

…and here’s some color theory

…and did you know Van Gogh wasn’t a “sucessful” painter while he was alive

…and here’s where you get the free outline because we just want you to experience the joy of painting

… and OMG! Do you see that bloom? Do. You. See. It?

Anyway, some people have giant stacks of books to be read. My Dad had an entire basement full of model trains. I have coloring books and Zentangle tiles and sketchbooks and art supplies just waiting for me to have a good enough day.

Because joy. Because when it comes to art, I can’t have too much of this good thing.

Chemo Week 2 Update

Chemo Week 2 Update

The only reason I’m writing this is because I need to stay upright for a few minutes. I skipped the ondansetron (anti-nausea) this morning thinking I would be just fine…

And I was wrong about that.

On Monday I saw the oncologist and learned that I am not on a 28-day course of temozolomide. She would actually like to see me stay on chemo indefinitely.

“Like 5 years?” Were her exact words. She was wearing a mask, but I could tell by her eyes she was smiling. Her voice was upbeat. I appreciate that about her. She sees cancer patients all day long, and she can still pull off hopeful every time I see her.

I don’t know if I can do chemo everyday for five years. But I do think I can do it every day until November when I have my next MRI and re-evaluate. Maybe, as she suggested, we might have to lower the dose. I’ve also wondered about the possibility of having the weekends off at some point down the road. So I have something—anything—to look forward to.

I also said, “Maybe I’ll be able to tolerate it better after my body adjusts.” Honestly, I think I was possessed by the ghost of toxic positivity when I said that though.

As I tweeted earlier today, one of the things that keeps me going is knowing that I have chosen chemotherapy (at my oncologist’s recommendation) and I can unchoose it at any time. Any morning, I can just wake up and say “Not today, Satan.”

But I do sort of need to not live the rest of my life in bed. I tried to Zentangle yesterday, and it didn’t go well. My hands still don’t have much in the way of grip strength and the weakness leaves me with shaky, uncontrolled lines. The double vision also frustrates me. So I don’t know… I want to get back to posting the occasional video on my YouTube channel but I will have to figure out something. Because the old way of doing things, with significant editing, just isn’t going to work for me right now.

In other, happier news, I am kind of excited to report that I’m getting this robot vacuum tomorrow. I am fully embracing that I can’t vacuum anymore. And I can’t expect Dan to do #AllTheChores around here. As I’ve mentioned he has a disabling chronic condition too. So fingers crossed the vacuum will help us out some. I don’t get any peace at all looking around the house and wishing I had the energy to make it cleaner.

So how does a couple living off of one person’s disability income afford a robot vacuum, you ask? They don’t. They get help from people who care. My sister-in-law did the research on which one might work best and cost least, and then she and my brother contributed funds to help me purchase one, which gave me the guts to push my GoFundMe and Amazon wishlist again, and you know what? People always come through.

A lot of how I adapt to being on chemo long-term is wrapped up in me finding solutions to make things easier. In non-pandemic times, that might look like me hiring a cleaning service. But on active treatment in a world where people think wearing masks infringes on their freedoms more than them not wearing a mask infringes on my freedoms? Robot vacuum it is.

Anyway, I am once again getting too tired to keep thinking of words. If there’s something you want to know, ask me in the comments. Until next time. If you’re in the U.S., Happy Labor Day weekend. I hope you have some time off to relax.

The Divine Dove Zentangle

The Divine Dove Zentangle

Things have been going…well, I guess just going here Iately. Father’s Day is tomorrow, and I have lots of feelings, but I don’t feel compelled to write about them. I decided I’d try the Divine Dove Zentangle.

I’d rather Zentangle.

So, I wasn’t intending to, but I accidentally got the June 2021 “Ethereal Desert” subscription box from Archer & Olive. (Get 15% off at A&O with my link.) The box included an A5 notebook with kraft paper in it. There’s no grid or lines printed on the pages, so I thought maybe it would be a good art journal. A place for me to test things, make notes about what I like, have a little therapy time without the burden of posting and editing video, and come up with some ideas that I might turn into my own tutorials for Patrons.

Wanting to put something down on the toned paper immediately, the first thing I drew was some Zen-scribbling with a white Gelly Roll pen when I was feeling all moody about cancer.

And the second thing I drew was the Divine Dove by TangledYogi 333—a tangle she designed that is a celebration of life. Fitting for me in this moment. I think I have mentioned this before, but I have been really into her YouTube channel since I took the Jesse Lane art class last month and learned more about using my Prismacolor pencils because she tends to color instead of shade everything with graphite.

In the tutorial, she colors the background between the dove and the flowers where the random tipple orbs are floating. I opted to leave that section untouched. I do love using the white colored pencil to highlight and add dimension relatively effortlessly.

TangledYogi 333 works on a hexagon tile. So I sketched in a hexagon lightly with pencil and later erased the guides. (Tip for creating a hexagon: draw a circle, mark points on the circle every 60 degrees, then draw straight lines connecting those points to close off the hexagon shape.)

I used the colors she uses in the video, but it’s neat to compare the difference in the appearance of the colors on the white paper she used versus the kraft paper I used.

The lighting is weird, but this is the color key I drew in the same notebook, so I could easily refer to them if I want to use them again for another tangle. (Btw, I have a colored pencil board on Pinterest if you’re looking for inspiration for your Zentangle art. Some of the pins include reference pictures with the specific Prismacolor pencils used—which is super handy.)

Materials Used

Archer and Olive A5 Kraft Notebook
Helix circle maker and ruler (for setting up the hexagonal guides)
Graphite pencil (for sketching the design)
Kneaded eraser (for lifting graphite without damaging the paper’s surface)
Micron black 05 pen
Prismacolor Premier pencils (PC 909, PC 1100, PC 1008, PC 1009, PC 1001, PC 930, PC 912, PC 1006, PC 1065, PC 938)
Gelly Roll white 08 pen

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