Fear of the blank page. 

It’s why we buy notebooks and sketchbooks and never use them.

It’s why we always think about what we could create, but we never actually do it.

It’s why in Zentangle, we start with four pencil dots in the corner of a tile.

Before we start, our page, our project,  is perfect.  Once we put something down, we are committed.  And what if it isn’t the right thing?  What if we wreck it?  The only answer to that is to take the plunge.  Just start.

I’ve been practicing the Zentangle method for over three years now.  Over that time, a blank tile has much less significance for me; I usually see it as an adventure because I usually have no idea what I’m going to be drawing.

But I admit that I can still get frozen by a pre-coloured or pre-strung tile, or at the start of a ZIA project.  That’s because there’s something already there, or in the case of a ZIA project, there’s a predetermined outcome.

Recently I taught a class where we tangled on fans.  I needed to create a prototype so I could show what they would look like.  And I found myself hesitating before starting.  What to do?  Going back to our Zentangle tiles, the answer was to start with a pencil line – then create a string or series of strings.  Once that was done, it was a matter of taking a few deep breaths, relaxing and just starting to tangle.  The hardest part was taking that plunge, but as is the case with most things Zentangle, taking your time and enjoying the process makes it fun and satisfying.  My resulting lines and tangles weren’t symmetrical, weren’t perfectly spaced and weren’t always even, but I’m always surprised at how these imperfections disappear when you see the end result.  I think my students felt the same way.

In the case of a tile with a watercolour wash, it often looks so pretty I’m not sure how I can add to it.  The interesting thing is that once I put down that first line, I’m usually okay.  I look at the tile, let my mind relax, take a couple of slow, deep breaths and let my mind relax.  Before long, something comes to mind, and I’ve learned to just go with it.

The tile shown here was one of a set I did when I first got my Brusho Crystals (these are water-colour crystals).

I wanted to try out all the colours, so I wet a number of tiles, sprinkled different combinations of crystals over them, spritzed them with water and waited.  This tile came out a lot darker than I anticipated (I don’t know what I expected; the crystals included dark brown and black!).  Too dark, I thought, to tangle on.  So this tile went into my stash for months.  From time to time I pulled it out, but it wasn’t until recently, when I was thinking about going from black-to-white  (and why couldn’t you do both on one piece) that this tile came to mind.

The point here is that I still didn’t know how the tile would turn out.  While there was colour on the tile, it was still a ‘blank canvas’.  What should I do? Okay, let’s keep it simple.  Let’s make it a monotangle.  What’s a favourite tangle I could use?  Why not Flux?

Deep breath.   Start somewhere.  Black ink is familiar, so I’ll start with that.  Draw one Flux shape.  Then another.  Stop and take a look from time to time.  Maybe I should move to white gelly roll now?  Turn the tile from time to time.  I just kept going.  And then I stopped when I felt like stopping. 

Dot, border, string?  I didn’t do that for this tile, but starting somewhere and letting the tangle grow was just as freeing.  I didn’t add shading because I liked the tile the way it was.

As with most things, if you look at the overall piece/project/task, it can seem overwhelming.  But you know how to take the plunge.  Start with just a pencil dot.  And then another.  And then a line.  And then you pick up your pen…..