Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is Anything More Wise than a Circle?

"Because we are bombarded with noise and images coming at us from the outside, we can lose our capacity for reflection within.  We can feel parched inside and our imaginations dry up and stop functioning.  We are drawn to the labyrinth because it replenishes our imaginations and restores our natural rhythms.  The literal path becomes the symbolic path leading us through life." - Lauren Artress

My friends, Tamara and David recently built a Labyrinth in their back yard and when Tamara offered the use of it for a Zentangle class, I jumped at the chance!  It seemed like a perfect marriage of two mindfulness practices.  So last Sunday evening we had the first Zentangle Class and Labyrinth walk  in Millwood, the proceeds of which benefitted the children at the Hutton Settlement, http://www.huttonsettlement.org/ .

In preparation for the class, I dug out two books which my eldest sister, Gwen, gave to me.  Both are by Lauren Artress; Walking a Sacred Path and The Sacred Path Companion.  http://www.laurenartress.com/  It was good to rediscover their pages again with perhaps, a more focused purpose this time.

 It was a lovely sultry evening.  Seven students arrived and we gathered in the cooling breeze on the front porch.  I felt the excitement of the participants, as many were trying something new.  We began as I usually do and I was careful to teach tangles related to the labyrinth, such as circles and Greek keys in preparation for the walk later on.  As everyone drew, sighs were heard, shoulders relaxed....the relaxed focus which is created when drawing the repetitive and rhythmic tangles had begun.

We drew a string with a loop in it to represent the circular quality of the labyrinth, and people had the option of filling in the hole or leaving it be. 
. A labyrinth is a pattern with a single winding path that leads from the entrance to the centre. All labyrinths are unicursal, that is, they have only one path. Mazes are multicursal. Their many paths present a puzzle which the walker must solve in order to reach the centre. - www.labyrinthnetwork.ca
After the class we headed outside to walk the labyrinth.  My husband and I had gathered rocks by the river for people to tangle on while they awaited their turn on the labyrinth.  It was a peaceful feeling watching the walkers on the labyrinth.  The whole experience felt very natural for me.
At one point, a large murder of crows flew above the yard and into a tree top over head.  They made quite the racket.  I like to think that they were attracted to all the calm energies being created and came to check it out, being such curious and intelligent birds. 
Zentangle inspired artwork, by Loretta A West, CZT
Like Zentangle, Labyrinth walking can be used as a meditation.  Any activity which allows the mind to slow down and become quiet can be meditative.
At the end of the evening, I felt relaxed and at peace and this light feeling carried into the next day as well.  Beautiful, is all I can say to describe the experience.
If you missed this Zentangle class and Labyrinth walk, no worries, there will be more.
"Everyone's journey to the devine is unique." - Lauren Artress

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finding Flow

Along the Columbia - Original Art by Loretta West

Rivers have been a part of me for much of my life.  The only time I didn't live close to a river was when I also felt as if I was a fish out of water.  Living near a river, or water has not been intentional, but must be elemental for me. 

Recently, the rivers of my youth have been spilling over their banks, causing much damage to human habitation.  Rivers can bring hard changes.   One recent flooding victim, said:  this is all just stuff, not really important.  We can begin again.  Here is a link to read how the artists are managing after the flood and how you can help.  http://calgaryisawesome.com/2013/07/11/yycarts-rebuild-amazing-stuff-will-come-out-of-this/

I read recently about something being studied after trauma, it's called "post traumatic growth".  I think that many of us need a shake up now and again to change and move forward.  Now there is a new name for it, who knew?  Here's a link to a heart warming story of a soldier whose experience created positive changes:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/magazine/post-traumatic-stresss-surprisingly-positive-flip-side.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

This also makes me think about how resilient all life is.  We need to believe in the processes of life, accept them, clean up if required and move on, just as the river does. 

This month, I received a package in the mail from The Netherlands.  I had signed up to share my art in a journal that is traveling the world.  Now that my pages are complete,  I will send the journal along to another person in Australia.  Also, in this way, the river of art, inspiration and good intentions will continue.  Eventually, over time, the journal will make it back to it's start in Pennsylvania, completed.  If you are interested in joining this Art River click on this facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/527086997334154/

As I was contemplating rivers, I thought I would use that as inspiration for the journal pages in mixed media shown above.  A long time ago, I heard a line on the radio, maybe in a song, can't recall, but it was "The current knows the River".  I wrote it down and tacked it over my desk.  I look at it often, especially when I am uncertain of my next step.  Trust the current, trust the river.  Keep moving, keep flowing as the river flows.

Another river came back into view recently; the Peace River, which I lived near as a young girl for a few short years.  My sister and her family still live along this beautiful northern river which is wide and swift.  On a recent visit, they arranged a trip by jet boat for us to take up another local river, The Smokey, a major tributary of the Peace river.  It was a fast and wild ride which took us about 35 miles from the town where they reside.  We stopped for a picnic on a sand bar and while the others looked around for fossils in rocks, I settled down for a nice painting session.  This jaunt was a real high light of our visit.  I even got to drive the boat for a while.  Not only was it fast but it had a smooth and slippery feeling, not unlike driving a vehicle through sloppy mud.

One of my favorite Zentangle Patterns is River.  I use it often as a first tangle in classes as it is so elemental to many people, is easy to draw and relaxing.  As I draw it I am reminded of how peaceful it is to just sit by a river and watch it flow on by.  Here is a tile I started on the plane this month using the new tangle by CZT, Cathy Staeven called Por Fin, link here:http://atangledplace.wordpress.com/tag/zentangle/
I had done the middle on my travels and decided on River on the edges just this week. I love how you can just drop art for a few days and let it perculate until something else pops in your head.  
Just his morning I rode my bike on the wonderful Centennial Trail near my home in Spokane and stopped several times just to admire the Spokane River which has turned it's usual summer blue/green.  It is a living jewel traveling through our city.

This week, I was going through old notes which I make on paper or electronically. They are literally all over the place!  I wasn't looking for stuff about rivers, but came across some lines of a poem I wrote which fits with this blog post:

He wears his pain as closed fists
Against the world
For forty years, I have watched his resistance
Constantly threshing his way up stream
Yet unable to stop and unfold into this great
Watery world.

A Near midnight shot of the Peace River by my
Bro-In-Law, Lorne Mann, QC, Mayor and all round good guy!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Planting, Growing and Healing

A few years ago I came across this quote from Elbert Hubbard and I put it to memory and still refer to it now and again as a guide for my life:

“The supreme prayer of my heart is not to be learned, rich, famous, powerful, or good, but simply to be radiant. I desire to radiate health, cheerfulness, calm courage, and good will. I wish to live without hate, whim, jealousy, envy, fear. I wish to be simple, honest, frank, natural, clean in mind and clean in body, unaffected - as ready to say I do not know, if it be so, and to meet all men on a
n absolute equality - to face any obstacle and meet every difficulty unabashed and unafraid. I wish others to live their lives, too - up to their highest, fullest, and best. To that end I pray that I may never meddle, interfere, dictate, give advice that is not wanted, or assist when my services are not needed. If I can help people, I’ll do it by giving them a chance to help themselves; and if I can uplift or inspire, let it be by example, inference, and suggestion, rather than by injunction and dictation. That is to say, I desire to be radiant - to radiate life.”

I often associate this prayer with gardening and art making and teaching and so many life affirming activities which help us to radiate Life.

This spring is the Garden Makeover and we have been adding new compost to the gardens.  In this process, I have had great help by my neighbor the Mighty Josh!  A tall strong teenager who has been shoveling and toting without complaint.  We have good talks about different stuff and I have been telling him about plants, biodiversity and how to build soils and a garden.  Many garden tips I had learned from my Dad, I now pass on to Josh.  I believe it is vital that we know how to grow our own food and  will be even more so in the future.  Perhaps one day, Josh will make his own garden and these teachings will continue.  
In addition to my regular artistic pursuits and teaching, I have been learning a new thing this spring from Book Artist, Timothy Ely.  http://www.timothyely.com/  It has taken over a year to get together so that he could teach me to make proper books, and the perseverance has paid off.  I am so grateful, not only to be learning from a master (or as he prefers, someone who is practiced) in this art, but just to hang out with him in his magical studio is so inspiring that words fail.  Here's a shot or two of my first ever book made with my hands and lots of help from Tim!

Zentangle continues to play a large part in my life and teaching.  In addition to regular classes at various venues in our area, yesterday, I had a unique privilege and experience.   For the past few years, Jill Smith and friends have hosted a group of women veterans at their horse ranch, The Cowgirl Co-op, http://www.cowgirlco-op.com/
in nearby Green Bluff.  It's a retreat for Women Warriors who have been on the front lines or who have offered support to those that did.   I volunteered to teach a couple of abbreviated Zentangle classes, but it had to have a horse theme. 
Though the day was cold and blustery and there was much activity about, I could feel these gals find a bit of calm and peace of mind while they worked on their little horses.

Then on a more personal note, I over heard a woman talk about  riding a horse for the first time that day, hence over coming her fear of horses to one of the organizers.  It brought up old emotions in me from when I stopped riding (I was a keen horse person) after having a very bad fall several years ago.  Yes, I went to therapy of all sorts from physical to mental, and thought I had dealt with it all, but hearing her story, made me realize that no, I hadn't quite healed from that accident. I still had work to do. So after the class I went to the fence and had a nice chat with a friendly white horse with light blue eyes.  Horses are good for that.  We decided that yes, I did need to get back on a horse again, but slowly and gently this time, in order to put these wounds behind me.   In short, I need Horse Therapy! I don't quite know how it will come about, but it's out there now, so who knows what will happen next?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Just returned from a sunny vacation in the Keys.  I hadn't spent much time there before and it was exciting to explore it from kayak and sailboat.  One of the things we did was visit the Sea Turtle Hospital which was very informative.  I have always loved turtles and had a few growing up.  It was sad to see the sick and injured turtles, but I was glad to know they were getting the help they needed to be rehabilitated and hopefully sent back into the wild.  The ones that don't recover are swimming in a large swimming pool happy as can be.

Here's one of the turtles recovering from a fungal infection which causes large cysts. She's had her surgery and awaits full recovery until she is released.  I, of course, loved her not only because she is a turtle, but because of those neat patterns she sports.  I feel a Turtle Zentangle coming on!

While visiting the botanical garden in Key West, I shot the lovely morning light on these palm fronds.  Also created nice patterns and certain watercolor material.
My latest Zentangle Workshop was at Mellow Monkey in Millwood.  We worked on the Zendala tiles with tangles from nature,leaves, peas, poke root, wheat (must have that in this area) and a little "rain" as well.  Here are a couple of the student tiles from that class:
I felt so inspired by other people tangling the outline of their hands, that I decided to give it a whirl.  I threw in a few of my life symbols, such as painting, and gardening.  I also put in the universe to represent uncharted territory for me.
Yesterday was very exciting as I had my first ever book making class (not the gambling kind) with Timothy Ely down in Colfax.  It was most inspiring to be in his studio which is just AMAZING with all his collections and other inspirations around him.  A magical place.  I managed to stop drooling over all the space he has and actually made the start of a real honest to goodness book!  It still has to be pressed and the cover completed but here's my start.  Yes, I am proud of it!
There's new Zentangle classes for April at New Moon and Synergy!  Check out my website at www.colorgardenstudio.artspan.com for all the details.
Here's what people are saying about my Zentangle classes:
"I wanted to say thank you so very much for the class today. It was wonderful! I didn't feel the intense spark to my creativity until after I left and was back in my studio next door. While I was working on my client I was consumed with thoughts of drawing, painting and doing tangles. My main reason behind taking your class today was to reawaken my creativity, which I have put a huge block in front of the past year and from many years past. Not only am I a healer and massage therapist, my first gift is my artwork. I need to be honoring my creative gifts and have not been able to do so for quite awhile now. I am grateful for this renewed spark of desire to draw. It is a good start!" - C.T.
"Very worth while class.  A great value.  Enjoyable, fun and rewarding.  Looking forward to the next class!" - L.C.
As always, your questions and comments are appreciated!


Friday, February 22, 2013

It has been snowing all day here, and just when I was thinking I would keep my eye on the garden for crocuses! Some years, spring can not come soon enough for me.  Though I have learned to make the best of it by heading up to Mount Spokane, and hopefully ABOVE the clouds for some skiing.   It has saved my mood many a dreary winter's day. 

The skiing will have to wait until tomorrow, so I thought I would make my own spring in my studio.  First I painted on some watercolor papers getting them ready for a intensive collage day.  I was thinking about all the spring bulbs which will come up in our garden. The intense blue of the tiny bulb irises, the pale hues of the crocuses,the pinks and reds of tulips.  Such a sensual word....tuuuulippps!  Which then made me think of bees and how they seem to come by the truck load to pollinate these first buds of spring.  They have such a burst of new energy! One of the papers made it's own painting while I was contemplating such things: Garden in Spring

Spurred on by the sunny weather, which we did have before the snow, I started to clear out my studio of all it's old, old, old stuff.  I can't believe how many art supplies I have purchased over the years and kept until now.  Many are now dried up lumps. I suppose they were bought on such a day as this to cheer me up.  As there is nothing quite like buying art supplies and then coming home to try them out.
 Then there was all the failed attempts and half done works which I thought I would get back to and "improve".  Well, they are now improving the recycle bin.  It feels good to go through the old and start again and it's been too long since I've done that.  I usually get derailed when I find a half finished piece and start working on it again or cut it up for a collage, and so the job of clear out never is quite completed.  Such is the life of this artist, constantly following different paths.  I have decided that it is okay.  All these different techniques I've learned show up in different ways. Some in new art forms. I can also pass on all this tried and failed and tried again knowledge to my students.  It all works out.
Soon I will be studying the art of book binding/making with the wonderful book artist Timothy Ely.  I am thinking that it will involve many of the skills I already own.  We've been corresponding by email for about a year and it has been a lesson in persistence to find out when we could both get together to do this and it has finally paid off!  I'm very excited about learning from this master artist and as a bonus he isn't too far a drive from me!  Here is a link to his exquisite work: http://www.timothyely.com/
I am working on the Zendala workshop at the Mellow Monkey on March 2nd, trying out different designs and tangles.  Here is one I did today in answer to all the snow outside. "For Spring"  It will be a fun class!
I leave you with the poetry of Mary Oliver. I love to read poetry and prose while  I eat my breakfast (I'm the early bird and it's usually quiet for b.f.). Lately I have been slowly devouring her book, A Thousand Mornings.  Here is the poem I read this week.  Yes, dispite the snow and wind today, for some things there are no wrong seasons.

It didn't behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn't stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn't
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

Think Spring!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hearts to Hands

The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about hearts and hands.  When I was a weaver I often felt a deep heart felt connection to the person for whom I was doing the weaving and would think about them often while I sent the shuttle flying back and forth.  The same thing can be done with Zentangles, if you have someone in your thoughts and heart you can devote a tangle or a book of tangles just to them.  Or if you need a little TLC, dedicate it to yourself.  Nothing wrong with a little reinforcement of self love.

Recently, a student, Kathy came up to me after a class with her sketchbooks.  She had been tangling for a while and had completed very intricate work.  She talked about tangling the hands of her loved ones and how she would put little meaningful tangles into each one.  For instance she drew tiny stick elk figures in her husbands' hand as he liked to hunt.  I asked to take a picture to share and here is her work of the heart.  Perhaps it will inspire you to take on such a heart felt project of your family or friend's hands...or feet, don't they count too?

On the subject of hands, right  after my Dad passed away a year ago I came across this excerpt from  Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh called Look into Your Hand:

"I have a friend who is an artist.  Before he left Vietnam forty years ago, his mother held his hand and told him, "Whenever you miss me, look into your hand, and you will see me immediately" How penetrating these simple, sincere words!

Over the years, my friend looked into his hand many times.  The presence of his mother is not just genetic.  Her spirit, her hopes, and her life are also in him.  When he looks into his hand, he can see thousands of generations after him.  He can see that he exists not only in the evolutionary tree branching along the axis of time, but also in the network of interdependent relations.  He told me that he never feels lonely."

Last week I lead the start of a monthly Zentangle class at New Moon in Spokane.  We were a fun and cozy group.  Since Valentines Day is coming I thought I would try to teach them the tangle Heart Rope by Bunny Wright from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.  It was a bit complicated at first, but many variations were discovered and it all worked out in the end.  I am working on a video of this tangle and as soon as I can get my Luddite brain around the technology involved, I'll do it.  Until then here are the step outs for Heartrope.  I've come up with a fun variation that I will also share soon.

I have been reading out of the Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo and some days I think he wrote it just for me, it's so spot on with what I am experiencing that moment.  While I was thinking about hearts and hands I came across this excerpt in the same book:
"If you place two heart cells from different people in a petrie dish, they will find and maintain a third and common beat. - Molly Vass
...Yet we often tire ourselves by fighting how our hearts want to join, seldom realizing that both strength and peace come from our hearts beating in unison with all that is alive."
My husband and I will be celebrating Valentines at a special place this year.  I hope the door to your heart flies open to love from unexpected places!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Color for a Winter's Day!


Compared to December, January feels like it is moving a glacial pace to me. 

Perhaps also because I am working on the year end books and my creative brain would rather do just about anything else.  So in between number crunching I've been working on my Color Your Zentangle Workshops, experimenting with different mediums to use with Zentangles, such as inktense, india inks, water soluble crayons and the like.  I could look it up on line to find out someone else's results, but I must see for myself what happens when one mixes the different ingredients together on a tile.  Sort of like life really, you don't actually "know" something until you have experienced it first hand. 

I started tangling on these a couple of these tiles last night and will take the rest to with me to do this weekend. 
I may have mentioned this before, but one of my intentions that I set for myself a while back was to have my art help people.  I didn't know at the time how I was going to accomplish that, but I knew that selling it alone, was not fulfilling enough for me, that I wanted to go deeper than that to touch others.  This came home for me a few weeks ago when I was in the waiting room at a spot where I also teach.  One of my students is a family therapist and I over heard her talking to a Mom and young son.  At one point she said to the little boy. "Remember that drawing exercise I showed you...you can use when you feel you need to calm down." 
I felt so grateful when I heard this.  Yes, I thought, my intention has come full circle.  What a gift it was to hear it!
I'd like to share this gift of peace with you.  I have some upcoming classes.  An easy Color Your Zentangle Class at Synergy in the Valley from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  We'll be doing some fun experimenting. 
There will be another Basic Zentangle Workshop at Spokane Art Supply on Saturday, February 2nd, from 10 am to noon.  Here's a link to the details: http://www.myartsupply.com/classesmonroest/specialinterestclasses.html
I'll also be starting monthly Zentangle classes at New Moon Wellness Center on the first Monday of each month, starting in February!
Call me at 509-995-1647 for info and to register.
In the mean time here is some Eye Candy from nearby Mt. Spokane where we love to cross country ski.
Deep Peace of the Setting Sun to you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Waiting for the Water to Clear.

I hope you had a wonderful Holiday and a Joyous New Year!  I know I did.  Since then, I have been keeping busy (was hard to give up the afternoon reading and naps, though) in order to bring on some more Zentangle classes for Spokane in January and February.  Send me a message via this blog  and I'll send you the dates and details!


I find that I am more introspective in winter and read this after a particularly unbalanced time prior to Christmas.  It was preprinted in a journal which I use and it is so appropriate for me as I know that I can be impatient with myself.
"Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?" - Lao- Tzu. I think I need to put this just about every where I can see it. 
Soon after reading this I realized that on a particular issue that I struggled with for a long while, that the mud had indeed settled and the water had cleared.  Some times we think pushing is the answer, when waiting will suffice. Things are usually made clear over time. 
I also did some fun Zentangles:
This one is called "Bridges" and uses ink and colored pencils.  It felt like a bit of a metaphor for my life at the time, where I was walking on intersecting bridges over many whirling vortexes.  Which way? Do I step off here and get involved or stay on the same path? 
Things felt more back to normal around New Year's and I created an affirmation Zentangle using the same themes:
I even tried my hand at jewelry, having bought the supplies before Christmas for gifts which I didn't get around to making, but now I'll be ahead of the game!
We had a lot of snow today (for here) about 6 inches had fallen and it is beautiful.  Our car is good in snow, but our hill is a little dodgy before the plow comes along, so I got to play inside today.  I continued to work on my  Goddess painting which I have been working on for a  while.  Here's a grey version which gives me a clearer picture of where I need to go next.
And now the color version, still a way to go:
I feel that as long as I have my art, which has taught me patience, among other things, that I can wait for the mud to settle and water to clear.