Cheshire Cat's Grin

The Zen of Impermanence

An Inspiration

The Zen-Turtle I published for Wordless Wednesday this week was inspired by my friend Carmen’s drawing she called a “zentangle.” Here’s a link to her beautiful black and white drawing: Zentangle by Carmen.

On her blog, The Sensitive Storm, she said, “I draw them and give every single one of them away. It’s like a mandala for me, a lesson on impermanence if you will.”

My first impression when I saw her drawing was, “Oh wow! This reminds me of the art in Yellow Submarine! My second was, “I can’t wait to try this in multi-colored sharpie on ceramic tile.”

And so I did. The other morning I came to my studio eager to get started.

A cell phone camera shot of the Zen-turtle in progress.

A cell phone camera shot of the Zen-turtle in progress.

What would I draw? My little stained glass lamp fashioned as a turtle caught my eye. Perfect! Her shell is already in sections, so she would lend herself well to the zentangle concept.

I spent about 2 hours painstakingly outlining a turtle on a 3″ x 6″ tile, then filling her sections with colorful designs. By the time I had her all filled in, I was pretty excited. She looked awesome!

But something was missing…oh yes, a background would be nice. So I started to outline a rolling landscape in sections, until it was time to stop and get some “real work” done. I planned to come back to it the next day.

“What the ____ happened to my drawing?!?”

The next morning I was back in the “studio.” I sat down to finish the drawing I’d started the day before, but something was wrong. On the back end of my Zen-Turtle near her tail was a pattern of clear, shiny, raised dots, about a square inch or so in area.

Closer examination revealed the dots were in same pattern as the texture of our paper towels. But what was on the paper towel that had rested, if only for a moment, on my drawing? I gingerly touched one of the dots that was outside the lines of the drawing. Sticky.

The truth was sinking in. If I couldn’t find a way to remove the sticky stuff, the piece would be ruined. Removing the sticky stuff might also ruin it. Problem is, we think of Sharpie as permanent, but on ceramic tile, it’s not, until it’s sprayed with fixative. Until then, the drawing is subject to being smudged or smeared by any little thing. Most oils and liquids will break down the ink, so I was horrified.

A few inches down the table from my tile rested a paper towel, a knife with peanut butter and jelly on it, and quite a few bread crumbs. So it was jelly on the Zen-Turtle. Aha! There’s only one person in our home who eats PB&J, and it’s not me.

Crisis Averted

Boy, was I furious with my spouse. Charlie apologized, but pissed me off again when he suggested our multi-purpose table is a dangerous place to leave my artwork lying around.

He was right. It’s a pretty small table. Still, I fussed, I fumed, I cried. Yes, it was rather childish, but then Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way that our inner artist is a child. “MY Sharpies, MY tiles, MY drawing. I’ve spent so much time on this. How could you ruin MY beautiful Zen-Turtle?”

Ultimately, the crisis was averted when I discovered a hot lamp was beginning to evaporate the jelly. The hot lamp action, alternated with some careful dabbing with a damp q-tip, restored my drawing and I was able to finish.

After I calmed down, I recalled Carmen’s words about zentangle being “a lesson on impermanence,” and began to see the irony here. Even children need to learn that nothing is guaranteed to last forever.


The finished product.

The finished product.



One thought on “The Zen of Impermanence

  1. Carmen

    You had laughing with your fit and after all…lessons on impermanence. Those guys know just the right time to slap you in the face huh? I have yet to stain or mess up a tangle but I’m waiting for it. I almost threw this particular tree away several times as I didn’t like it. A friend said “just keep it and wait” so I did and I finally got to a place where I wanted to let it develop. Now I’m giving it to a friend that has cancer. Love you! Thanks for sharing and for being led to invoke your inner tangler!

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