Hi there, my name is Eni Oken (my first name is pronounced like “a knee”). I’m an artist with 30 years of experience in various different artistic areas. I started my artistic training at a very young age when my very insightful mother realized I had an inclination to the arts and put me in as many art classes as she could afford. My grandmother was a also superb craftsperson and taught me lace making and other fiber techniques.
Interestingly enough, I was not trained as a fine artist in college. Instead, I was influenced by friends who convinced me to go to architectural school, claiming those skills would be more commercially useful. For that twist of fate, I graduated as an architect and was involved in designing and shaping fantasy environments for video games for almost 2 decades, during which time I earned a number of awards.
So with the exception of my early artistic training, I’m pretty self taught when it comes to art. I’ve explored every technique and method I can get my hands on, including painting, drawing, illustration, computer graphics, sculpting, jewelry design, fantasy design, color theory, costume and scenery design, sewing and fiber techniques, miniature and modelmaking, window dressing, you name it!
You can say that I’m a “compulsive creative”, I just love to find methods and processes on how to create more beautiful art. I believe that art doesn’t need to rely purely on talent alone; on the contrary, there are rules and guidelines to good art that can be learned without hampering a person’s creativity and ability to create their own unique style. It’s not an immediate process and takes practice, though.
Very shortly after college I discovered I enjoyed writing and teaching about art. During my years in computer graphics I wrote hundreds of articles and also books in print on how to create better art using digital tools. I started writing and selling e-books in the late 90s soon after the web started. When I transitioned to jewelry design in 2004, I created a collection of over 100 e-books and tutorials on jewelry making, and also founded a very large community of jewelry makers called jewelrylessons.com, which carried over 3000 jewelry making tutorials created by over 300 different teachers.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer and found myself unable to create any art at all for quite some time. During the treatment and recovery years I started drawing again mostly because it was portable and easy to do from bed. My first drawings during that time were gruesome but cathartic; I drew small repetitive patterns and pictures depicting the various aspects of cancer treatment. That collection of drawings was called MuddyGlasses. My oncologist suggested I try to draw happier pictures as part of my recovery, and that’s when I found Zentangle® in 2013.
Immediately I knew this was special and different. Given all the experience I had with other artistic methods, I was very impressed by the elegance of Zentangle, and how easily it could be used by a person with no artistic training and allow them to experience all the magic moments artists can take decades to learn.
For health and financial reasons, I wasn’t able to become a CZT until 2016. The experience during seminar confirmed what I thought before, this deceivingly simple method can make almost anyone enjoy the Zen flow that is experienced by artists during creation.
Since becoming a CZT, I also became more of the purist believing that if you do not follow the method when you are first starting it is very difficult to produce quality art and experience Zen flow without any other solid artistic training. That’s why my advice to newcomers would be to FIRST learn the Zentangle® method meticulously as it was originally developed by the founders Maria and Rick, following rigorously the eight steps. Once you are comfortable with those eight steps and understand exactly what they do for you to grow as an artist, only then you can explore and branch out to other techniques and variations.
Every step of the method has a solid reason, including small details such as why you should name tangles with abstract names, or why does the Zentangle method does not create figurative and recognizable pictures.
Today I’m solidly involved in writing tutorials and e-books on art and the Zentangle® method distributed through my website EniOken.com and other online stores. Since there are so many beginners books out there, I focus on intermediate and advanced art techniques, especially related to shading, coloring and other artistic tools such as composition and overlap. Most of my books focus on art topics for people who are ready to explore beyond the original Zentangle® method.
As far as materials are concerned, I love using the inking pen and shading in black and white with graphite pencil. Ink and graphite were one of the first two classes I took as a young girl, and I find it very interesting that after all this time I came back to using that media.
I also enjoy coloring with Copic markers and Prisma color pencils. And finally, I also enjoy painting with gouache, watercolors and acrylics. I have a list of my favorite supplies on my website.
My favorite tangle of all-time is Crescent Moon, mostly because it is a pattern that seems to go inward instead of shaping outward. I also tend to favor other filler patterns which build organically such as Joki (Kim Aarts) and Jay-six (my own tangle).
My latest e-book is on “Echo Lines”, that is, a distant cousin of auras which form and grow beautiful three dimensional swirled shapes and can be used alone as a new type of meditative art or combined with regular tangles. Echo Lines are not a single tangle, it is a method of creating organic 3D shapes which relies on century old rules of perspective and foreshortening. In the book I include eight guidelines rules of how to create Echo Lines with numerous exercises. Echo Lines are particularly beautiful when combined with tangle patterns, and can enhance a Zentangle® tile in lovely ways. You can find the e-book at my website enioken.com and it is already becoming an addiction everywhere!
I also want to mention my book Zentangle® Magic Moments which was created for those who cannot take a basics Zentangle® class with a Certified Zentangle® Teacher. It explains HOW AND WHY Zentangle® method works, from my understanding as a CZT and experience artist. The book also answers many of the questions asked in my Facebook shading group. It is one of the only e-books I have for beginners — if you are just entering the Zentangle® world, that would be the one I would recommend first!
Thank you so much to the admins of Pattern-collections for inviting me to this Artist Focus, you are doing a wonderful job here!