Monday, October 22, 2012

Line Play, Zendoodle and Baby Steps

When I was in college for visual art at a Buddhist university, one of my favorite professors gave me this assignment that he called Line Play. The assignment was to take a black pen and one sheet of paper and to explore making lines. He said he wanted us to work for at least one hour on one sheet of paper with just one black pen, playing with the idea of lines and how they can combine.

Such a simple idea, but the papers that were shown in class the next week? Each one was intricate, detailed, amazing and unique to each person. Great art is often born from simple ideas.

When my piece came into the classroom, there were dots in the picture. My professor asked me about them. Since this was a Buddhist university, the kinds of interactions that were allowed, there, were quite different than the state school I had attended earlier in life.

"Dots? Why dots?" my professor asked me. "Sir," I replied. "The assignment was to play with lines, correct?" "Yes," he answered, "Lines. Not dots." "Sir," I said, again, "what are dots but lines that haven't gone anywhere, yet?" My professor looked at me and smiled. These 'ah-ha' and surprising moments born of art education were the ones my professors and I lived for.

I loved that university. We had a class called "The Use of Gunpowder in Art" and we were always playing with ephemeral art which is art that is made, but that goes away or decays. Ephemera is art that is not permanent. It helps you distance yourself and not get your identity too wrapped up in your creations. Create, then release.

The head of the art department always said, "Surprise me! Sure, I give you assignments, but I want you to surprise me with what you bring in. I want you to take assignments and make them your own. Find your own style and do these assignments as only you can. Shake me up. Deviate. Play around with words and concepts."

This week, I got a new set of Bic Mark-It Permanent Markers . I was playing with them when my professors' Line Play exercise came back to me. "That's what Monday's inspiration for the blog is about," I thought. I did some research and I found this fun system called Zentangle. It is a teachable system uses lines and color blocks to create amazingly detailed pieces.

Look at these wonderful Zentangles that I've found around the internet. This first one works with lines, dots and symmetry for a very visually interesting piece.

This second has more black coloring in of spaces added to it. The above look is fine and complex while this look is more bold.

Finally, an example of how this type of intricate line work can be incorperated, maybe, into the art you might already be doing.

Isn't that just neat to look at? I know it looks hard and complex, but it's not. I used to doodle in my sketchbook like this all the time in high school and beyond, never knowing that there was a technique name for it until recently.

When you look at the whole piece of this kind of line work, it's really complex It makes the eye dance from section to section and your patterns become almost like visual texture. You can integrate this excersize into your life and that's what I'd like you to practice with, today. I know, it looks complex and hard to do. But all you have to do is start small. Start one little section. Only worry about that one little bit before moving on. Even the process of writing a blog seems a bit daunting at first, until you realize that you only need to write one post at a time. You don't need a year of content in your head at the beginning, no. All you need is one post to get you going. Just one. And that one will lead to one more and so on.

Baby steps. That's how I get things done. Baby steps and micro-movements and in pieces. It makes things not so overwhelming for me. My daughter is learning to walk, so the importance of baby steps is being played out right before my eyes. She didn't go from a little newborn who couldn't even lift her head to the toddler going across the living room unassisted for the first time, overnight. Who could expect her to? Why do with think that the entire project we've got in our heads, we need to have fully planned out before we even begin? Think like that and you'll never get started on anything.

So, this Zentangle and Zendoodle stuff can be a great life lesson. Baby step by baby step, we can make something amazing. If this Line Play idea sounds neat to you, here's a video tutorial that I found to get you started.

Other tutorials can be found around YouTube. Just search for "Zentangle" or "Zendoodle." There's also a whole series of books dedicated to this technique to continue to inspire you on your way.

Play with this in your sketchbook journal this week and see what you come up with. Maybe, if you decide you like it, you can start playing with line and color.

As you go about your week, I want you to remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel!

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