Friday, April 8, 2016

I'm a New CZT#22 (and it rhymes!)

Wow, what a week!  On Saturday, I headed to Providence for Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) training.  As you know, I went to a Zentangle retreat a year ago and really began a regular art practice (most of which is just in my sketchbook.)  I realized I could learn more techniques and improve my skills by taking the official course with founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas; I only vaguely thought of teaching regularly.  It was more for personal edification because I really enjoy it.  So when the course offerings for the year were listed, I signed up.
Oops, upside down.  Or proof that there really isn't an upside down!

And it was wonderful.  Now, in the very beginning of the course, we agree not to share any details so as to keep the surprises for the next class of CZTs.  See, Zentangle is copyrighted, trademarked, and even patent pending; it's a business.  So, I will speak about my specific skills but none of the teaching activities, class materials/supplies/etc., or neat touches.  (I will say you will lack for nothing during the course either in the way of accommodations/meals or the class itself, and that, if you are tempted to go and can manage, definitely try to.)

For those of you who don't remember my talking about Zentangle, it's a fun and easy-to-learn method for creating beautiful artworks by drawing repeating and structured patterns (I paraphrase from various Zentangle materials.)  It's really all about encouraging people, particularly adults, who don't believe they can be creative or artistic, to give drawing a try without the pressure to create realistic or representational pictures.  As we say, there are no mistakes here.  The method--with its dots and border and strings and patterns (Tangles) and tiles (little square projects)--helps people avoid anxiety and being overwhelmed by choice by giving them clear and simple steps to follow.  If you can make an "I," "S," "C," and "O," you can do this.  Just ask my mom.  She isn't usually handy and doesn't particularly enjoy making any crafts, but she took to Zentangle when she visited last year and was surprised at the beauty and creativity of her tiles--she's really good and has the hang of it.  It was really touching to see her joy and pride (and we are going to have such fun when we go to Kripalu to take a Zentangle class together!)   And I was pretty much the same way.  After 15 years of academic art history, I would have said I couldn't draw; now, I have changed my perspective.  I especially like the combination of art and mindfulness, the way you enter flow, to borrow a term from Mihaly Csikszentmihaly.  Zentangle couples well with my meditation practice, especially on the days I just can't sit.  Think of it all as one step beyond all those lovely adult coloring books.

So, keeping CZT training itself a secret, I will mention the improvement of my own practice:

  • The biggest technique for me was shading.  I was never much of a shader.  I hesitated to rub gray pencil on everything, especially since there was no internal light source in the piece, it being non-representational.  But if I think of shading as part of the pattern . . . .well, it makes all of the difference!  
  • I also really started turning my tiles as I drew so that I always worked circles and spirals counter-clockwise and drew lines towards me, not away.  By moving the tile around and not my hand position, I am able to keep a steadier, smoother line.  I still work way too fast.  But I'm slowing down.
  • I feel like my composition also has better flow--I can follow or ignore borders and have a better handle on which patterns flow into others seamlessly.  My tiles look more like organic wholes than a bunch of different Tangles together. 

But the best part was the people!  I know, cliche.  But it was true.  I sat in the very back with three other wonderful women who encouraged and inspired each other.  We came to call ourselves the "Back-Row Brigade."   I would get ideas from their tiles and (hopefully) vice versa.  It was nice to have a little cohort, making the 110-member class a little less daunting.  I'd say the class was mostly women (except maybe 3 men), mostly older middle age (with grown children), mostly from the US but also from 14 other countries including China, Taiwan, South Africa, England, Germany, Switzerland.  There were several Texans and even another woman from Connecticut who attended the Zentangle retreat last year (though we didn't really remember each other.)  I'd say I got to know about 10-15 other students during our meals and breaks and evenings.  I look forward to keeping in touch with them, made so much easier with email and Facebook.  

And so now what?  Many of my friends have commented very kindly and supportively about my tiles and training on FB and some have even asked about taking a Zentangle lesson.  And so, I probably will teach a few local classes--at the library, maybe through church, and probably mostly at informal house parties.  For myself, I'm drawing a tile a day, a little creative meditation to start my morning. . . . and to remember my wonderful week in Providence.

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