I'm starting a new, irregular feature here at Four Rooms -- the Saturday Review. There are so many wonderful resources that I come across that I'd love to share with you all that I've decided to institute a series of book reviews, to be written as the mood strikes! The first book that I'd like to share deals with the artistic habit of Zentangles. If you haven't heard of Zentangles before, they're a kind of formalized doodling created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas ..... check out the Zentangle website and blog to learn all about this wonderful art form. Sandy Steen Bartholomew is a Certified Zentangle Facilitator and an artist who has added her flair to this new craft, and created a how-to book that goes in new directions. In her book, Yoga for the Brain, the basic forms of Zentangling are enhanced with ideas on how and where to find patterns to incorporate into your tangles (hint: nearly everywhere!) and ideas on how to use this technique in new ways -- for example, in portraits, for transfers, printmaking or to decorate your journal pages. It takes the contemplative notion of zen doodling and adds some alternate routes for creative expression. I admit, I like Zentangling. And so I read this book with keen interest. The only problem I had with it was that I read it in e-format. It's not great in that format; I wanted big pages with colour, pages that I could flip back and forth as I explored and cross-pollinated ideas. So I am pretty sure I'll be searching this one out in regular old book form -- it's one that I think I'll be referring to for a while! It is fun, colourful, cheery and rife with possibility. I love to see Zentanglers adding their own touch to the basics. This book is recommended for those who already have some familiarity with basics of Zentangling.
When I first heard the term, Zentangle, I thought, "How fun and creative! I've just got to learn more about this." What I soon discovered, is that Zentangles are merely a form of doodling (an art form that has been in existence for centuries), in which you put together various doodles to create one, more complexed piece. The key, and the reason for the term, Zentangles, is that by incorporating various doodles into one piece, you are exercising the brain in such a way that it literally helps you become more calm and relaxed de-stressed. So when I heard about the book, "Yoga for your Brain" I was excited to see just how various pattern-drawings can work together to help the brain relax, calm down after a long day, and de-stress after a an emotionally trying experience. Sadly, I learned none of these things. "Yoga for your Brain" isn't about showing you how to use various pattern-drawings during various situations in your life, and it explains absolutely nothing about the Zentangle method other than a brief recap of what a Zentangle is (which is located in the beginning of the book). But wait! The book's not a complete loss. If you are familiar with Zentangles (which the book presumes you are), and you already understand its concept, then this is a great follow-up book. It takes you step-by-step through 60 new pattern-drawings. In the book you get a quick refresher course on the basics of Zentangles, how to use shading to enhance a pattern, how curves help accent a piece, and how to use small boxes to break down a complicated pattern and make it manageable. There's even a few tutorials on how to create a circular mindmap, transfer images using Sheer Heaven, create foam plates, use foam plates for printmaking, and make sculptures out of rocks that have been drawn on. And the best part is that it is full of sketches and photos, making the process of learning these 60 new pattern-drawings a breeze! Based on the contents of the book alone, and not what I had hoped the book to be, I could say that it's a book worth purchasing if you're ready to take your doodling to the next level, that is!
When I first saw the book and the pictures, I immediately thought of quilting. I am a quilter and many of these patterns (bales & botto) match patterns in quilt tops or blocks (Pumpkin seeds & Drunkards path) and in the quilting that joins the sandwich of the quilt. Bellaposa is very much like a quilting feather pattern. The main difference between Zentangles and quilting would be the small detail lines that only a prize winning (read insane) quilter will sew into a quilt due to the time it would take. The author does mention quilting as a source of inspiration for her "Ballenchain" taken from the "Wedding Ring" block/pattern. The author makes an assumption that if you're reading this book, you already know the basic Zentangles, which I didn't. She does cover some of the basics but also uses terminology for beginning designs that I haven't seen to know what she was talking about. There are oodles of references to the doodles (Zentangles) in previous publications. I do like many of her names for her Zentangles - Ballenchain (Ball and chain based on the wedding ring - bad marriage experience?) and Pingline (penguins in a line). The reading is easy and light. The author's style is fun and whimsy. She covers more in this book that I first realize. Beyond drawing fun patterns, she discusses ... - shading - finding and copying new designs - ways to track your designs - journaling - ways to develop new ideas for patterns - how to use drawing to clear your thoughts and track your to do's - how to transfer your Zentagles onto other surfaces with useful tips - printing your design multiple times - using alternate materials - drawing on rocks instead of paper Extra items in the book that I appreciated is an index to find an example of that design and even more, explicitly mentioning what product or tool she used to achieve the shown Zentangle with URLs to the products. Very helpful if I wanted to achieve the same look. I'd recommend the book to long-arm quilters and doodlers who want to up their game.
Zentangle is meditation achieved through patternmaking, allowing you to focus, relax your mind and boost your creative confidence. Zentangle is the perfect exercise to keep that big muscle inside your skull flexible. Yoga for the Brain pages are jam-packed with Zentangle ideas, tips, projects and 60 new tangles.
With a name like "Yoga for Your Brain" I expected it to be some sort of guided meditation and brain workouts - more of mental mind games, or visualizations. Well, it's pretty visual, but it's more active than I expected. The book takes you through making "Zentangles " which are quite neat works of art. The author's, obviously, look wonderful and are mesmerizing. Mine? Not so much. I have a good eye for art, but terrible hands for creating it. But that's not the point - the point is the process. If you like the idea of meditation for relaxation but are unable to really clear your mind of external thoughts, try this book. By thinking about the art you're creating, you really do lose sight of other stresses. If you already do meditation but want to try something new, or you love creating art and want to get into meditation, this book is perfect for you too.