Thursday, December 13, 2012

Winter Trees

It can get pretty grey in Spokane in the winter time as the clouds settle over the valley.  But occasionally, the sun comes out and brightens things up again.  I decided that it's all a matter of how   you look at it. The first couple of years here were hard for me in the winter, as I was used to sunnier sky's.  I remember grumbling to a local one winter about all the grey.  His response:  Yes, well it's a bright grey! 

So, instead of looking at the sky, I have learned to find inspiration in other things in winter, like noticing something surprising that is usually obscured by tree foliage; or the color of red dogwood stems in the snow, or an interesting seed pod.

As an artist, I find inspiration just about every where I go.  Whether it's the grizzled look on the face of the tow truck driver last week who towed our car to the shop or a poem I hear recited on the radio.  One particular gloomy day, I heard this poem by Linda Paston on the way to the airport.  I then sat in the parking lot looking at and having a new appreciation for winter trees and how they weather the winter winds. 


Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
and skyscrapers.
But most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

When I got home that evening, I took out a Zendala tile and did this Zentangle which I call Winter Trees.

Then of course there is the Christmas tree. I started having other plans for this funky tree, but I'm pleased with the results: Pagoda Tree

If you are talking about trees, then leaves aren't far behind.  I was watching a movie with leaves as the theme this past week and completed another Zendala on that theme.  I was thinking while I was doing this about a line I read some where recently which said: The Earth Is Spirit and I love that, so the name for this Zendala stuck, Earth Spirit.
Taught some great classes this past week.  Last Saturday, I taught at The Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio in Millwood  introducing Zentangle to 15 wonderful women, who made this beautiful mosaic.  I was so jazzed, with all the good vibes in the class, that it took me until Sunday to calm down!  Thanks very much to Sara and Tamara for organizing and helping out with class.  Oh, yes, and David who packed my van for me after class!
Later in the week I taught Art teachers at Jefferson Elementary.  School teachers work so very hard, I was honored to be able to show them how they could bring calm to their days and pass on Zentangle to the children they teach.  I felt a bit daunted at first, but their enthusiasm carried me through.  We traded the tiles around the room, so different people worked on each section.  The one in the middle is mine from a different class, which was used to fill a hole. 
I end where I began, with the theme of trees.  Today, I was reading Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening and he also talked about trees with this passage of December 13th:
"We start out thin and green, and each time the sky grows dark, we think we will break, but the downpour makes us grow, though never straight, always twisting for the light, and strangely, the more we reach above the earth, the deeper something in us, fingers its way down, and it is this-our unseen fingers reaching for the core-that keeps us from blowing away."


Friday, November 30, 2012


I've had quite the week.  First off, I had the opportunity to teach a nice small group at Synergy Healthcare the basics of Zentangle.  Heard back that a couple of the students tangled late into that night. Sweet!  Here's some of the fine work from that class.

Every year, I am forced to revisit a particularly distressing part of my past and this year was no exception.  I try to keep it out of my mind, but the anxiety tends to grow the closer I get to the date.   This past Thursday morning, while I got ready to leave the house I sat in a chair and asked for guidance.  Not bravery, not strength, just plain old guidance.   I didn't have time to do a tangle before I left, but knew I would have time in the doctor's waiting room, so my kit was at the ready. 

It seems when I need the most steadying, I will notice "messages".  Don't know if it is because I am on high alert that I notice them and they would be there anyway, but I would like to believe that they are there for me and anyone else who needs them and if they need them they will be obvious to only them.  Kind of like my belief that Zentangle will be shared with those who need it most in their lives.  Anyway, I'm driving down town and I pull up behind a green VW bug at a stop light.  In the rear window, is simply written one word: "Forward".  That was all.  Yes, I thought, what ever happens I must concentrate on going forward and not getting stuck.

I then arrived at the doctors office feeling a bit better.  While waiting I started a Zentangle and I felt myself relax a little.  The nurse called me in and after we talked about Zentangle for a while, she took my blood pressure, bang on normal!  Usually under these circumstances it's too high. "Wow, this Zentangle stuff might really work!" I exclaimed to the nurse.  She then asked for my business card.

Then my doc walks in and immediately she noticed my kit on the floor and said "Okay, what are you in to now?"  So I gave her the schpeel.  She then said she had a nanny who after a particularly harrowing experience would color in coloring books until she felt better.  My doctor said "It was another way to heal for her.  Just mindlessly coloring."   It seems that if the mind is otherwise occupied, the spirit and body know exactly what to do to heal.

I drove slowly home along our beautiful Spokane River and at another light I stopped and noticed the sign on a oil change business who usually advertises specials and things like that, but on this day it said " Leave your worries behind."  So I did. 

Do you have a favorite Zentangling spot?  I do, it's on one of my wicker chairs in my bright south facing studio.  So while the bit of winter sun that we had today shone down on me, I created a tangle in my sketchbook of what I had experienced on Thursday, a nice reminder, to go Forward and to leave my worries behind.  What was that zipping by?  Oh, that was a worry, it's gone now, thank you!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recycling- Pedal, Pedal, Pedal

Darned busy week, but it's been but a fun one! 

If you recall in my previous post I had shown a tangle from my sketchbook, Unraveling.  Well, I had some old mixed media canvas blocks which were gathering dust in my studio for a few years and I found them this week and thought, yes, I can do a tangle like Unraveling on these blocks which already have good background color on them.  So that's what I did while listening to the blah, blah, blah of the t.v.  It was nice quiet evening time with family, which is so very precious to me.
I then continued to work on the leaves with the Strathmore Mixed media paper, this time with Acrylic inks over tangles with micron pen.  Here's the result which is mixed too.  The color was good but the movement of the inks was not as I would like it to be, but you have to experiment to find out these things.
So I am doing the same thing on Arches 140 hot press which I haven't used in a while.  I used inktense for an under painting which seemed to retard the spread of the subsequent watercolor layers and speed up drying for some reason.  This is a beginning stage.
Also taught a private Zantangle class this week. One student had tangled for 5 months and the other never before so was fun to teach.  Here are their tiles, well done!
The more experienced student had done some tangling on various surfaces including Gourds and Rocks and here are a couple of pictures of his beautiful work.
I have been loving adding Zentangles to my acrylic paintings which I started painting in Flora Bowley's Bloom True online class.  The elephant in this one emerged on it's own.  Elephants symbolise the Highest True Self.   This piece which may not be done quite yet, is called "Jungle YaYa!"  A Yaya is an old Greek Grandmother.
Quittin' time, more in a while. One more shot of the Studio Dog, Libby who is has had cast on for three weeks and is very, very, very bored!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Toasty toes!

Years ago, I worked where I couldn't always keep warm in the winter and, as I passed peoples cozy looking homes I would imagine warm toes by the fire a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.  Fast forward many decades and miles and I sit today with my toes toasty by the fire while the first snow piles up outside. I feel very grateful for such contentment.

I am also very grateful to have started to teach the Zentangle classes in earnest.  Many thanks to the folks at New Moon Family Wellness,, who hosted  our first workshop last Saturday.  It was a small class, but a mighty one and it felt so very good to get my feet wet and share this wonderful art form with others.  I have to remember that starting off small is okay. A few back country ski trips ago, we were passed by Sam, an octogenarian who, when asked how he had caught up to us going up hill, replied "I start off slow and work into 'er."  I always try to remember this advice when I feel tempted to leap out of the starting gate. So we are starting off small and working into more and more Zentangle classes.  Here are a couple of beautiful tiles drawn by students in the first Zentangle class for Spokane!

I continue to experiment with the Strathmore mixed media paper.  It has been a problem for me in that I don't like the way aqua media does not move much on this surface, even if I wet it first.  There may a trick I have to discover here.  Anyway, I played around with acrylic inks on a piece and will post when dry.
My body clock is not liking the time change and I'm not relishing getting up when it is so pitch black outside at O'Dark :30.   So this morning I set up a small lamp by my studio chair with the heater blasting on me and my dog, Libby, and worked on this new Zentangle called "Unraveling" in my scetchbook.  I used colored pencils on it too.
Keep Cozy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Falling Leaves....


We are having a Beautiful Fall here in the Inland Northwest.  I have a particular love of painting leaves, especially in fall.  In the past I've painted them primarily in watercolor and love the shadows they make.  Here's one I did a while ago Autumn Breeze #3 using just watercolor. 

I like the way the shadow colors overlap the Zentangle art form and wanted to experiment with that a bit. I went to my local art supply store Spokane Art Supply: and bought some Strathmore Mixed Media paper to experiment with it.  I also bought some Inktense pencils for even more fun as I had tried my Mom's Inktense bars this summer and liked them.  This is a study to find out what worked and what didn't for me.  As far as the Zentangle work goes, I found that the Sakura Sensei pens stood up to the surface of the paper better than the nibs on their pigma microns. 

The paper worked well with dry mediums, as in the dry Inktense pencils and the dry pastel pencils, but it really didn't care to get too wet as I found that the colors did not spread out like on a watercolor paper.  I plan to try acrylics on it next with less water to see how it goes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Fun Continues

Hello again!

I just had to add color to my latest Zentangle piece, it's in my blood! 

I used Inktense water soluble sticks and pencils to do the job and while I was in the middle of painting, I noticed that a photograph taken by my brother in law, Lorne, of the Peace River Valley at sunset, was peeking out beneath the drawing.  My subconscious mind must have noticed it first because the colors I chose just about matched the photograph!  I photographed it with the Lorne's Photo on top so you could see what I mean. 

Here's the finished work: "Peaceful Sunset".  My humble homage to a great river.

Don't forget to sign up for my Zentangle classes, first one is November 10th from 10 to noon at New Moon.  $35.00 for adults and $25.00 for kids under 16.  Contact me for details!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tangles for a Rainy Day...

It's a cold rainy day in the Inland Northwest and I've finished the ink work on "Rainy Day Tangles".  I love the bold graphic look and not sure if I want color or just shading or what.  So I'll let it hang around for a bit while I make up my mind.  It may the the largest Zentangle I've done to date at 8x10.  I did it on Arches cold press watercolor paper thinking that I would paint it with either watercolor or inktense or acrylic ink and this paper would accept it best.  What I did find was that because of the bumps in the paper that the Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 pen which has a hard nib, worked better on this surface than the Sakura Microns which got too wobbly when they hit a bump!  Now for a relaxing cup of tea and then back to work for me.

There are still places in my upcoming Zentangle workshops for all ages and all levels.  The first one is Saturday, November 10th at New Moon at 906 S. Cowley Street, Spokane, WA.  Contact me at 509-995-1647 to find out more and sign up for a workshop.  You can also send me an email at  Hope to see you soon!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Color Garden Zen - Something NEW!

This summer I was having a nice Chinese dinner with my family when I opened a fortune cookie and it had two fortunes which read:

"To reach distant places, one has to take the first step."

"A new chapter in your life is being written."

Turns out both were correct!

This spring I was struggling with life events and did not feel any real desire to paint, but my hands just have to do something.  By chance, I found on the Internet and it opened up a world of possibilities in a small manageable way.  Not only that, but I found that when I made these little 3 1/2 square drawings, my shoulders relaxed and I felt Calm and more able to handle what was happening in my life. 

 I felt compelled to do more Zentangles, and also to find out more and tell others about it.  I noticed (because that's what I do, I notice stuff), that when I shared this small easy art form with others, that they too found peace.  Hmmmm, I thought, there is something really deep that is taking place here, and I must pay even more attention.

Well, serendipity being what it is, I got into the Zentangle Certified Teacher seminar on a cancellation and before I knew it, I was in Providence, RI along with 97 other people from all over the world who wanted to learn more about this practice. It was a wonderful few days where I met so many nice folks from so many diverse backgrounds. 

We learned about how to teach the philosophy of Zentangle and the different patterns.  It resonated with me because my heart felt goal is to really help people through art in meaningful way and Zentangle fits the bill for all of that.

So now I am offering Zentangle workshops in Spokane and you can contact me via this blog to find out dates, times and costs or visit my website page: 

I am also available to teach private classes or group classes in your home or work place.

Visit for more information.

I hope you too can find some peace and well being in doing a Zentangle. 

All the best to you,


Here is a Zentangle which was completed at the seminar:

Zentangle by Loretta West