What is the one thing that prevent you from taking your creative practice to the next level?
As an experienced certified Zentangle® teacher over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed time and again that people struggle to know how to take their creative practice to the next level (and sometimes to start with step one – but that’s a whole other discussion you can read about in the article What is the Zentangle Method).
Here are the most common questions or objections I’ve heard:
- How do I mix patterns to create an harmonious result?
- How do I choose the next Tangle?
- How do I find the inspiration to go further?
As you start practicing with the Zentangle Method™, you learn the steps and this helps you know what to do next.
The Zentangle Method makes it indeed easy for people to know what to do. In fact, you don’t need to know how to draw you just need to know the steps. How magical is that for someone who always thought they couldn’t draw!
The more you practice, the easier it gets.
The same could be said for many things in life!
At the same time and I see this happening often, especially in the beginning.
People struggle with choice.
The beauty of the Zentangle Method™ is that it takes away a lot of decision making since you follow steps.
For example, you don’t need to know which color to choose next, since you draw with only a black pen (at least at first).
There is, however, one element of this practice that sometimes puzzles people: the choice of TANGLES
Once again, facing too much choice can make it difficult to choose.
Does it happen to you too?
Here are a couple simple and essential tips to help you, if you are facing this difficulty :
Tip #1 is repetition
Practice drawing ONE TANGLE over and over again. For 7 days or even for a month, every day, every week or as regularly as possible, draw that ONE TANGLE and discover what happens and how differently (or not) do you draw it.
Do you really draw it every time the same way?
Can you ?
Or does something happen and you feel like you want to change it, even a little bit, every time?
This practice of repetition – without looking for a specific outcome, is really important. You become free of expectation and explore the joy of discovery. You start to loosen the idea that your drawing has to be a certain way. AND this becomes a practice and not a goal in itself.
This repetition exercise with this freedom to explore, will help you develop your own creativity. It’s a way of taking your practice to the next level.
You can also look at it that way : who cares about what you draw, as long as YOU are enjoying it. In essence, how freeing it is to create for the sake of creating and not for whatever judgement we have about our creations!
Think of it as a practice exercise, not as creating art – although you’ll almost certainly create something beautiful in the end.
Tip #2 is playfulness
When we take things too seriously, we loose the joy of playing.
Why should your creative practice have to be serious and formal? Don’t you think that your art can be a source of joy and playfulness?
In a nutshell, I want you to pay attention to your thoughts when you draw.
Or in other words:
- What judgments do you put on yourself?
- What takes away the joy of creating?
- Does it have to only be this way or that way, to be creative?
You are often your own major obstacle to taking your practice to the next level.
Keep playing !
Tip #3 is exploration
The concept of exploration is very similar to the #1 tip Repetition. This is something I do in some of my class series. We explore different ways you can draw ONE TANGLE. Similarly to the repetition tip, there are many ways to play with exploration.
In addition, it is worth noting that both these tips are also about a mindset.
As you practice, you learn to ask yourself an essential question to any creative practice :
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO WITH THIS?
In short, the more you put this into practice, the faster you internalize this process, the more you expand your pratice.
As you explore your supposed “mistakes”, you discover more opportunities . As a result, this helps you take your practice to the next level!
I also recommend this article about the “no mistakes” philosophy from Molly from the brand Zentangle, called A No Mistake philosophy on and off the tile.
Let’s get back to these frequently asked questions:
How do I mix patterns to create an harmonious result?
As usual, I don’t want to tell you what to do, I want to help you find the answers in you. So here are a couple ways to practice mixing patterns or Tangles in a way YOU find harmonious.
- Find a balance between dark and light. If you have started with a pattern that has a lot of dark contrast, maybe it is worth exploring and finding a Tangle that will bring some light, that has less intensity and drama.
- Mix and Match. Find elements that works between Tangles so that there is a common ground between them. Find in your next Tangle something that respond to the one you just drew. Is there a round-ish shape in common? Or do they both have lines that can connect somehow?
- Compose your tiles so that the overall composition is balanced. Do you have a very busy part of your area, so perhaps you need something less cluttered for the rest? Do you need to leave a little white space, a little breathing space in your tile?
How do I choose the next Tangle?
In fact, it’s a very similar question. You can think of it as: “Do you want to choose a playful way of expressing yourself, or something a little deeper?
If you want to play, here are a couple ways to choose your next tangle :
- Make a list of favorite Tangles and give them a number and roll a dice to choose
- Open a book randomly and let your finger stop somewhere on the page, pick a Tangle that starts with the letter your finger is pointing at.
- Create a library of Tangles and pick one randomly or choose them in order.
- Follow the alphabet, today choose Tangles that starts with a letter A, next time with a letter B, etc.
- Use a random Tangle generator such as in the app called Art Raffle from Eni Oken, CZT
Finally, I’d also advise you to listen to your inner voice. This is one of those cases where you have to listen to what’s inside you.
What are your thoughts about what you’re drawing that will inspire the next Tangle?
Is there a name, a shape, something that comes to mind that might help you figure out what you’re going to draw next?
It’s all about trusting yourself and knowing that you have the answer within you. As with any practice, it takes time and patience. You may not find the answer on the first try, but eventually you’ll learn to trust what comes from you and your creativity.
What can you do ?
How do I find the inspiration to go further?
Another way to practice finding inspiration is to study a Tangle in depth. What happens if I change its scale? What happens if I change another parameter? How does it play with some Tangles I know already? As you get more familiar with a Tangle, you also train your brain to look for more possibilites and that helps with inspiration.
In this blog post, I have shared a couple pictures from one of the class series I taught about exploring in depth ONE TANGLE : CADENT. Look at each tile and how, even using the same tangle, there are many ways to play with it. Can you think of even more ways to explore this tangle?
If you’d like to put this into practice, you can sign up for regular Zentangle workshops in English or French, or even bilingual. Zentangle Workshops.
Whether or not you attend a workshop, take the next two weeks to try out some of these tips and let me know what they do for you.
However, if you have taken a class with me or have read some of my articles on that subject and already tried some of these tips, I would also love to hear from you in the comments too !
For those of you who don’t practice with the Zentangle Method (and it is totally fine), I am sure you have your own creative outlet (or at least I sincerely hope you do), please try and adapt these tips to your medium or practice, see what happens and let me know. Since, I am pretty sure this translate to any practice.
I covered some of this subject in this article but I am sure there are more ways to explore and take your practice to the next level.
I am curious though : is there one thing that still prevent you from taking your creative practice to the next level?
Let me know so I can answer that in a future article!