Strings and Patterns

Thoughts on Choosing a Pattern

by Tricia Long

Recently on the Tangle It Pattern Club Facebook page there was a discussion on, “How do tangle artists choose what patterns to use?” With the plethora of patterns to choose from it can be overwhelming at times to decide on a pattern. It is very easy to spend hours of time just browsing Pinterest, Facebook, Google, etc. (not to mention our favorite,, just looking at patterns.

It was suggested that someone should deconstruct a tile and explain the thought process involved in choosing the patterns. This idea piqued my interest.

The easiest way to decide on what patterns to use is to narrow your selections. Instead of looking at every pattern you can find maybe do a tile with patterns designed by one artist such as this mandala using a template by Genevieve Crabbe and only using patterns designed by her.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Something I have enjoyed doing is a monotangle. A monotangle uses just a single pattern but you manipulate it. Make it bigger, smaller, lay it on its side, stretch it, embellish it, etc. Here is an example of a monotangle using Dorothy Allison’s Buddy pattern.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Looking at this tile you can see that it only uses one pattern but each block of the string has been treated differently. On the left I just placed them side by side. The top was treated like the pattern Hollibaugh but using Buddy. One block has a single Buddy with a stem and the last block I changed the shape of the pattern and placed it on a checkerboard background. I pulled everything together with the use of color. Grays for the background and multiple shades of pinks for all the Buddy’s.

One more example of a monotangle but keeping it the traditional black and white is the one I did using Queen of the Nile . I started with a string. In each segment created by the string I filled it with just one Queen of the Nile pattern. Each was made to fit the space and each is a different variation. This is where you can let your imagination run wild.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Sometimes when I have “tangle block” I’ll just do a stacked tile. A stacked tile is simply one pattern placed on top of another. Your string can be as basic as horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or wavy lines.



Artwork by Tricia Long

A stacked tile can also be done as a circle.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Ina described this well…”Let’s take Tricia’s stacked circle above. I like that she used a dense pattern on the outside, then continued with something dramatic. The third from the outside is playful and the lovely flower in the middle grabs your attention.”

Let’s see how you can apply that analysis: Begin with a dominant flower or orb pattern in the middle. Pick one from the patterns sorted by Framework on pattern-collections. Move on to the next row. You like something playful/delicate. Browse the patterns listed in the Ribbon category for a similar pattern. Next one – black and white. And the outside a pattern that creates this grey shade. Now this was just an example to actually understand your own taste! Try to analyse in a similar fashion any artwork that really gets your attention.”

If you’re really feeling creative try a stacked feather.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Sometimes after filling in a string I find there is too much white space left or I need some way to pull everything together. This is a good time to use an all over grid pattern. The tile below illustrates this. The string was a “D” and “A” for Dorothy Allison. The patterns used were designed by her. Another option is to use a nice lacy filler as a background. This way we are not always falling back on Tipple. (Though I really do like Tipple.)

Artwork by Tricia Long
Now I will deconstruct a tile that I did earlier this year and try to demonstrate my thought process.

Jane Eileen admins the Facebook group Zentangle: Tangled & Journaled, Too! This year she has her Tangles on Tuesdays in which she reintroduces seven patterns every Tuesday. At the time I did this tile there were only 35 patterns posted. Enough patterns not to be overwhelming but should be enough to offer some variety. I used a traditional 3 1/2 inch tile but what to use for a string? Well it just so happens that Alice Hendon is admin of the Facebook group Zentangle All Around and every week this year posts seven new strings as part of her String Symphony . I chose String #27.

Image 8

One of the patterns I have to choose from can be adjusted to fit perfectly in the triangular space on the right. Here is Queen of the Nile by Shellie Lewis (with a few embellishments added.)

Image 9

Looking at the string I can see that Podzles by Chris Gerstner fits in nicely on the left. Tipple is part of this pattern but I will hold off doing this until later.

Image 10

Looking at the space available on top I think I will use Pines by Poppie (Lila Holter). It is a leaf-like pattern fit inside of a zig-zag line. This is where I can make the pattern fit into the space by using curved lines. I will do more details later.

Image 11

I can see that I have one remaining line from the string and by adding another line I will have another triangular section for another Queen-of-the-Nile if I adjust the pattern to fit in the space.

Image 12

Two remaining spaces left. So far each pattern has the shape of a flower petal so I think I want to choose a pattern that does not have that shape so as to add more visual interest. I decided on essess by Chris LeTourneau. A pretty, loopy pattern that will take you back to your penmanship class in grade school. I will embellish this later.

Artwork by Tricia Long

In the remaining space I feel I need to use a pattern where I can create some depth so I will use Alice Hendon’s pattern Bow Petal. Circle patterns are good for layering on top of one another to create an illusion of depth once shading is added. I have already used some circle shapes in the first pattern so this will go nicely with it. I will only draw the circles for the pattern for now as I also want to start filling in with some Tipple. Notice that I will overlap some of the Tipple on the Bow Petal to add that depth.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Now it’s time to finish Bow Petal, add some details, and fill in with some black ink to add some contrast.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Aside from shading this is how my original tile looked. Looking at it now I see that other areas could use some black coloring to help balance it out and to offer a little more contrast. Podzel could be striped with highlights, circles in Queen of the Nile could be striped or filled in, and random Tipple’s could be filled with black. Since this is the second time doing this tile I will try a few changes and you can decide which you like better.
Here is the tile after adding a little more black. At this point I think there is enough black and it is now time to add some shading to add some definition and depth.

Artwork by Tricia Long

Shading is completed. The tile on the left was the original tile I did and on the right is the new tile with some additional coloring and shading.

Artwork by Tricia Long

In conclusion I’d like to suggest that you visit the various Facebook groups and analyze what you like about the work you see and join in on the challenges. Narrow down your choices of patterns. Think about what will add contrast and tones of gray and while the tile I did used every inch of space sometimes having white space is nice. It gives the eye a place to rest. Contrast is more than just the tones of black and white but also the texture of the tangle; light and airy, the structure of a grid, geometric, round, loopy, etc. is always a good place to go for inspiration and patterns.

Happy tangling ; )

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