Thursday, April 28, 2011

The great value of working small

I subscribe to Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Letter to artists. In a recent one, titled "Little Bets" there were a few sentences that immediately made me think of Zentangle, its small scale and its encouraging attitude toward "non-artists".

What particularly struck me was this:  "...when students are encouraged to do volumes of small items they become accepting-- even proud--of their failures and are more readily able to move on to ideas that work better for them. Simply put, and perhaps surprisingly, less commitment widens opportunity... even beginners are seen to produce gems. As the lady said, "It's better to have a small diamond than a large piece of glass."

I have felt this very frequently myself while creating a zentangle. I love the small size of the Zentangle tile. I love that it doesn't take me weeks to finish something. I love being able to mess up, create a dud, appreciate the lessons, and put it aside (or even trash it).

It's better to have a small diamond than a large piece of glass. There's another terrific metaphor that applies to Zentangle! I often tell my students that they are creating mini-masterpieces.

If you're interested, you can read Robert Genn's entire post here.

And just because I always prefer books with pictures, here's a recent tile:

Tangles: Caviar, Crescent Moon, Gneiss, Tipple, Ixorus (sort of).
I also used some gray ink and white ink over black. And pencil shading of course.

Notice a couple of sections in the upper left filled with tiny circles. I like using that as a filler, but I don't know of a name for it. A while ago I read something where it was referred to as "caviar" which I think is a brilliant name. Unless someone knows of a name for it, I suggest we call it Caviar.


  1. Caviar is a lot quicker to say than 'tiny circle fill', that's for sure :D Here's to many more small diamonds!

  2. Beautiful tile and I agree that there's a delight, release and attainability about the size of a tile.

  3. Your caviar looks a lot like my tipple. Wonder if I've been doing it wrong... Love the post.

  4. Wonderful post and tile! I really believe that the size of the tile has a lot more to do with the appeal of Zentangle then we give it credit for. To be able to create a small masterpiece in a short amount of time is very empowering!

  5. Cris, what I'm calling Caviar is all TINY circles.

    Tipple begins with a few very large circles, then some slightly smaller circles, then smaller and smaller circles, filling the spaces left between the larger ones.