I Dare You 'To Be Negative' Challenge with Zentangle® step-by-step #ZentangleAllAround #Zentangle #StepByStep

Every Wednesday at the Zentangle All Around Facebook Group, there is an 'I Dare You' challenge.  The group requires that there always be some tangling in any work they post.  This week I'm a guest challenger, and my challenge is for the members to create a tangle work that uses negative space.

Even if you aren't a member of the Zentangle All Around group and don't intend to share your work there, I hope you'll enjoy the three step-by-step examples I've created here, and possibly try this out for yourself.

Think of a photo negative, where the objects are white, and everything is black around it.  That's sort of what you are trying to do.  For a demonstration showing a way to create a negative space object, check out this one minute video of Robert Burridge painting a pear.

The negative space method is simple, but layering mediums (colored pencil, pen, watercolor, etc) can get tricky.  I've written up a list of tips at the end of this post.

Don't get too invested in your drawing or tangles.  You'll be covering up a lot of detail.

EX. ONE: Working From Black & White
Step 1: Draw your Tangles or find an existing drawing that you don't particularly like and want to 'save'.

I used a Pigma Micron .03 for the line work, and shaded a little with the grey ink end of a Tombow Fudenosuke pen.

The tangle patterns used are: All Boxed Up by Alice Hendon, Equerre by Genevieve Crabe, 5C Aura by Ina Sonnenmoser, Carpet Daisy by Erika Kehlet, Field of Flowers by Melinda Barlow, and official tangles Betweed and Diva Dance.

Step 2 (optional): Use a pencil to lightly outline a pear or whatever shape you want.  Keep it simple, especially if you are working small.

Step 3: Color around your shape.  You can use any medium you wish, as long as it has a see-through quality.  I used Derwent Coloursoft Lemon Yellow, Bright Orange, Deep Fuschia, Purple, and Lime Green.  Coloring lightly, working around the pear shape, I kept adding color making it darkest around the pear so it would POP out.

I added a touch of color to the negative shape, and darker shadows around the pear, to make the pear stand out more.

EX. TWO: Working From a Color Base
Step 1: Color your background or find a colored drawing you want to 'save'.  The colors should NOT be too dark.

I used Tombow Dual Brush Pens-Sky Blue, Orchid, Periwinkle, Pale Yellow, Deep Olive and Blush.  I added some lettering just to add detail.

Step 2: Draw your tangles.  Again, don't get too invested in detail or perfection.

I used tangles Matu by Karin Klang-Meier, Nocera by Ina Sonnenmoser, Ripped Screen by Alice Hendon, and Leaf Explosion by Samantha Mitterer.

Step 3 (optional): Draw your shape in lightly with pencil.

Step 4: Color around your shape. Use mediums that are, semi-transparent (see-through).

I used Daler-Rowney Graduate Acrylic paint in Metallic Brown. Then, I shaded around the flower with Derwent Coloursoft Bright Orange, Red and Lemon Yellow pencil.  I also shaded a bit inside the the shape with those colors and used Electric Blue along the stem.  You'll note in my cautions below that colored pencil doesn't always work over acrylic paint, but these two brands do work together.

EX. THREE: What If Your 'Save' Needs To Be 'Saved'?
It happens. Especially if you've tangled on your work, or used a background that is too dark.  Your negative shape may not stand out.

You could try coloring around it with a lighter color.  That's the simplest solution, but if your negative shape is confusing to the eye, it may not fix the problem.

The second solution is to keep layering and possibly even creating a whole new negative shape.

Here's a 'save' that I messed up and re-'saved'.

Step 1: Color your background or find a colored drawing you want to 'save'.

This was an 8x10 inch drawing that I started early one insomiac morning and messed up.

Step 2: Add a colored background.

I used Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pads.  The kind you use to ink up your rubber stamps.  I just took off the lid and dragged the whole stamp pad across the paper.  This is a really fast method to get color over a large area.  On some papers, you get streaks though.  I used 'Tea dye', 'Wild Honey' and 'Shabby Shutters'.  To add a little more detail, I inked up some alphabet character stamps and stamped here and there on the page.

Can you see where this is going wrong? I've said that you should keep the background colors light. Still, I had a plan.

Step 3: Outline your shape.  So far, so good.

Step 4: Add your tangles.  I used Bolus by Anita Kieboom, Storybrooke by Alice Hendon, Gemma by Dorte Seupel-kor, Fleuri by Genevieve Crabe and my own Geared and Gembrace. 

Step 5: Color around your negative shape.  

I used my Derwent Coloursoft pencils again.  I should have stopped here.  But, no.  I had a plan.

Step 6: Add small details.  Not content to leave well enough alone I used a white Sharpie water-based marker to add some detail.  My plan was to add just a little detail, just a teeny, tiny bit to bring out the shape. 

However, the Sharpie SPIT a huge white blob on the girl's face.  

With the colored pencils I blended the white and gave her face something approaching skin tone.  But it looked really funny, color in the face and not the rest of the shape.  What followed was an attempt to balance things out.  And I kind of hated the result.

Step 7: Layer some more and create a whole new negative shape.

I turned the whole page around to landscape so I could completely escape the girl shape.  

I painted around my cat shape with Daler-Rowney Graduate Acrylic paint in Metallic Green.  I really like these paints for this kind of work.  A 37-ml tube usually costs under $2 - at least here.  The metallic colors pick up well on the scanner, and are surprisingly translucent.  You get an almost 3D effect with them.  AND, they aren't as slick as many brands of acrylic paint.  Many brands of colored pencil will work on them.

I used the colored pencils to even out the white areas, and used a yellow Sharpie water-based marker to add highlights designed to take you away from those lighter areas. If you look hard, you can still see the girl's head sticking out the cat's butt.  *sigh*.  But probably, if I hadn't mentioned it, you wouldn't have noticed.

By this time, I had torn up the paper a bit, so I added the eyes.  They look a bit odd but better than the dark blotches that were there before.  Overall, the color is more opaque than I first planned, but you can still see detail from the layers below.  

The moral of this story is - with this method, if you don't like what you have, keep layering until you do like it.  

If you want to see more examples, you can find some of my 'saves' herehere, and here.

If you aren't used to layering different types of Mixed Media, I recommend looking over the list below.  Knowing what works with what and when to use each one can save you a lot of frustration.

Things That Might Cause You Problems
The idea behind this kind of mixed media work is to have some degree of 'see-through' in each layer that you apply.  You do lose some detail, but some of the color and linework from layers below should still show when you are done.  

Here is some information to help you chose your art supplies and know which products work over others.
  • Color pencils are usually transparent, but...
    • Color pencils tend to be waxy and will clog up your pens and markers
      • Watercolor pencils aren't as waxy, but still may clog pens and markers
    • Best to use color pencil as the top layer only, unless you are using acrylic paint.
  • Alcohol markers are often transparent
    • Markers like Sharpies or Bics are not transparent
  • Some inks and markers will smudge or bleed if they get wet.  Unless you know your ink is waterproof, be careful what you layer over them:
    • Don't use watercolor 
    • Don't use watercolor pencils (unless you use them dry only)
    • Don't use watercolor markers
    • pigment ink pen/marker (Micron, etc) may work if color is transparent
    • india ink pen (Pitt pens, etc) may work if color is transparent
    • Don't use water-based markers
  • Don't use alcohol marker over any ink
  • If you don't know what kind your markers are, test them by drawing several lines of your ink and then using the marker over them to see if they smear.
  • Acrylic paint may be too slick for colored pencil or some pens to write on.
    • I've had good luck using ink pen over Daler-Rowney Graduate Acrylic paint
When I'm 'saving' a work, there is no telling how many layers I might have or what mediums I will use.  With my practice pages, the mediums are dictated by what new products I buy or am given to review.  

However, if I'm starting from scratch I usually have three layers.  I like to use a water-based marker such as Tombow Dual Brush pens or Tim Holtz Distress Markers for my bottom layer.  The Distress Markers create a darker base that will have to be adjusted for in later layers.

My second layer is usually colored ballpoint pen, such as a Zebra Z-grip or pigment pen such as the Pigma Micron or Tombow Fudenosuke.  The pigment pens have water-proof ink so I can choose to use a 'wet' medium later, such as watercolor or more water-based marker.  For this layer, I would do any tangling, or doodling if I want to have something like that included.

My third layer is most likely to be colored pencil.  Occasionally, I use some less opaque like fountain pen ink.

If I'm unhappy at this point, I create a fourth and possibily a fifth layer using transparent acrylic paint and more colored pencil if necessary.

I think I've said this before - if you aren't sure how transparent the products you have on hand are, experiment before starting your negative art. Better to use what you have than to run out and buy more!

Go to it, and have fun!