Optical delusions

A few weeks ago I posted about art. Admitting I could only see what I couldn’t get ‘right,’ I felt, for a long time, art was something I let down, due some mysterious defect. This attitude limits not only what I think I can do, but what I attempt. Basically, if I don’t try, then I’m safe from failure, of which I am intimately acquainted. It stings a bit.

It’s funny how I think that way about art, but I could paint before I could read and being late to that game never prevented me from thinking I couldn’t invent stories. Should know better, shouldn’t I? If a story-teller is not limited by illiteracy, should an artist be similarly limited?

Maybe writing is something to hide behind. Authors speak through narration, whereby the story is told by a constructed authorial voice, which is a performance. There is thus distance between reader and writer. Art seems more personal or immediate. My hands, my pencils on the paper, my eye. Is there less artifice in art, even with more technology? I used to draw faces and got sick of being asked so who’s that then? I didn’t have an answer. It turns out inventing characters is easier.

It’s not just that there was the pressure of inheritance. My mother had a talent. Under utilised and only somewhat recognised late in her short life, but still. She had ‘it’.

For a thimbleful of what she had.

Yet, for all her ability, my mother lacked confidence and worried formal study was needed to lend legitimacy to her works. What I know now, after all the qualifications I have, is that some people are qualified anyway. I wish I could tell her that.

Never mind.

It was in the spirit of casting aside limited thinking, and reconciling past ambitions with my own abilities that I went to an art lesson. Also, I will always be a sucker for a class and this two-hour gig at the Abbotsford Convent looked the ticket.

I went in noting it was advertised as something anyone could do.

So I did.

If you don’t buy into the Zentangle vibe that’s ok, because I’d never heard of it before. The point is, this class was fun, and what you need to be able to take part is minimal. At the very least the requirements are paper, fine point pen, pencil, and tortillon (paper smudge stick).

It’s about doodling with meditative intent. Yet that does it a disservice, the patterns are mesmerising and even simple ones become quite interesting, because of the repetition and shading. It means some have a 3D look. Even a casual visit to Pintrest reveals the quality they can achieve.

Zentangle by me. An early effort.

Zentangle by me. An early effort. Nice if  you squint a bit.

What I liked about the class was there was an emphasis on the fact there is no wrong. There is no eraser. It’s not about replicating the work of someone else, or replicating lifelike structures. We didn’t see what we were ‘aiming for’, just given instructions, and in following them as we each could, got to a point that revealed itself to be a thing. A complex, abstract thing, each the same and each unique.

I am the sort of person who loves to spot a pattern. Even when my phone takes a photo when I'm not looking.

If  you’ve read this blog, you’ll know I’m the sort of person who loves to spot a pattern. Even when my phone takes a photo when I’m not looking.

This kind of doodling is something probably we’ve all done, on the phone maybe. Now a couple of Americans have formalised it, put a philosophy behind it, named and branded it and constituted a course for teachers. It’s now a movement. This is both odd and cheering – capitalistic and hippie. For once, I don’t feel like I’ve been duped by a sales pitch.

Regardless of whether you buy into the philosophy, the class was successful in that because no one left feeling like art was foreign or impossible, or what they were wrong. Somehow, this zentangle enables. It’s both pointless and pointed. Nothing needs to be done with what you create, or as some have done, you can build a career out of it. It can be a casual stress reliever or a passion. I’m yet to decide, but I can see the possibilities in it for a writer.

In the end what our teacher magically got us to do, deliberately and simply, was to break down the ‘I can’t’ barriers. Just by expecting us to follow her.

I’m glad I did.

Patterns from long ago, seen in a new light.

My patterns from long ago, seen in a new light.

4 thoughts on “Optical delusions

  1. Yeah.. an Australian who knows what Zentangle is!! I stumbled across this art form earlier this year and find it very relaxing and creative. I would love to do more with it, like go to a CZT training session – but sadly they aren’t available in Australia. Where did you go to your class? (Just re-read your post and realised maybe you aren’t in Australia.. but I am pretty sure that’s what I read on the Zentangle newsletter blurb that led me here 😉 )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.