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A Renaissance Awakening

A Renaissance Awakening

Whenever a tangler is having trouble mastering a certain tangle, I always suggest taking a break from that tangle or tile for a while and focus on familiar tangles that bring you comfort. After a period of time passes (could be hours, days, weeks, or months), try the tangle again. Sometimes all you need is a fresh set of eyes, a cleared head or new perspective to finally achieve that “Ah-ha!” moment.
This advice is not just for tangles – it can be used for anything new, like techniques or new materials. I was scrolling through the Zentangle Mosaic Waterfall recently when I came across one of my tiles from 2015. I wrote about my newfound love for Renaissance in a comment. I remembered this tile well as it was when I first had that “ah-ha!” moment with renaissance tiles. A Renaissance awakening - A Renaissance renaissance if you will. 

My renaissance journey begins in June 2014. I had been tangling on and off for years and I had been working at Zentangle HQ for a few months when I was sitting in the classroom at Hotel Providence becoming a CZT. It was the final day when I took my seat to see those beautiful renaissance tiles in front of me. I had never worked on them before (I considered myself a bit of a purist) but was excited to give it a try.
I remember the class vividly. Our first tangle was well and let me tell you, well did not go so well. We were using both the brown and black pen, switching back and forth, and I always felt like I was using the wrong one (I know. I know. No mistakes). The next tangle was marasu, a tangle I had never done before and it wasn’t that much more successful than well. Nothing was clicking. I was frustrated. I don’t remember what other tangles were used because I don’t think I got that far. I told myself that it would all come together when I shaded. It did not.
I can’t say for sure, but it is safe to assume I did not contribute my tile to the class mosaic. I remember feeling frustrated and disappointed, and in that moment, I decided “I didn’t like renaissance.”
So, I left providence a newly minted CZT and went back to my job at HQ. I was tangling more than ever, just not on renaissance tiles.
One day in the office, I mentioned to Molly how I didn’t like the renaissance tiles. She asked why and I said I just didn’t “get” them. She sat down with me and gave me a mini renaissance lesson, showing me how to use the different tools to add layers. We talked about how the process will go through stages and that you need to trust the stages of the process. Layering takes patience and time. Renaissance invites wonderful shading opportunities that transform your tangles and if you can hang in there until that stage, you will be so surprised by the results.  I also finally connected to the magic wand that is Generals Charcoal White. Since I wasn’t frustrated or stressed, it was easier to explore these techniques and tools. It was a breakthrough afternoon for me.
I recently found the tile I completed that day. I remember feeling so proud that it had all clicked! I had that “Ah-ha!” moment that feels so good!
Over the years, I have fallen in love over and over again with renaissance tangling and working in layers. The rich brown micron and the creamy white charcoal. I decided to recreate the that first tile, not looking for “improvement” but progress. Over the years, my style has changed and evolved, and it was fun to see that play out on paper.

I also can’t tell this story without mentioning marasu again. I had the same attitude about this tangle post-seminar that I had with renaissance tiles – it was frustrating. I thought to myself, that’s fine, there are many other tangles that I can use.
One day I decided to revisit marasu with fresh eyes and a better attitude and well… if you know me or my work, you know the it is my favorite tangle – my mac and cheese tangle – my go to. The only thing better than marasu is marasu on a renaissance tile.

So, next time you find yourself frustrated with a tile, tangle or technique, just take a break. When you’re ready, re-visit what was challenging you and you may be surprised to find that it is not as hard as you once thought. If there is a tangle that you didn’t “get” before, try it again with an open mind.

Julie Willand


  • Julie, I just read this again for the fourth time since it was posted. It’s inspirational on so many levels. Thank you for reminding us that looking with fresh eyes and being patient with ourselves allows attitudes to change and perspectives to broaden. I just read a quote today, attributed to Charlie Peacock – “It’s not just about creativity. It’s about the person you’re becoming while you’re creating.” (Also, to Mindy: I can relate!)

    Peyton on

  • Thank you for this Julie, it’s just what I needed today. Haven’t been happy with anything I did today, very frustrating so I’ll follow your advice and take a break. Marasu is on my list of challenges as well and I’ve just added Lapwing, it looks so simple but I just can’t get it right.

    Something on another day or week.

    Michele Couture on

  • Hey Lady! You were so positive during CZT36! With all of us . Hard to imagine your struggling with anything! Thx so very much for all you do! I remember during Seminar it was said that the Renaissance tiles drink up more ink. I never noticed that. Yet since, I have found that if I stop to rotate tile or just rethink my next move..I get a big point blob on my tile. So I am practicing lighter touch & do not leave pen on paper, just pick up the pen & travel on!

    Pat F on

  • You know, sometimes we judge our own work quite harshly…focussing on what we might believe are ‘mistakes’. When we look at someone else’s work we tend to appreciate the WHOLE, rather than judging.

    I love to think of the Zentangle Method as a mode of creation…believe in yourself, appreciate your own style and be gentle on yourself, don’t just compare your work with that of other tanglers…YOU have created something that did not previously exist…WOW!!! Amazing experience, uniquely yours…appreciate your own work ❣

    Raylene Holz CZT36 on

  • Thanks for sharing your insight Julie. I’ve been frustrated with my tangling lately. I seem to produce really good work when I follow a tutorial, but when I attempt something on my own, the magic isn’t there. I become so inspired by the work of others but can’t seem to pull such lively work from my own vision. I guess that’s part of my journey and I’m okay with that :)

    Mindy on

  • Thank you Julie for this post! Love your work. I had a similar experience with my first grey tile. But the session with Maria on grey phi tile during CZT 36 seminar totally changed my perspective. Still need to explore blue on grey though.

    Rashmi Agarwal on

  • Thanks Julie, this helps with my attitude towards molygons. I have tried at various times and can’t seem to do this one. I do get very frustrated and stressed 😫. I will keep trying and work on my attitude of discouragement and being relaxed.

    Cynthia on

  • I would never have guessed any of this about you. When I draw marasu I actually think of you because I have always admired how you draw it. Your work has a signature ‘Julie’ look to it I would recognize anywhere. What a great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Jody Genovese on

  • Thanks for this reminder. I had just done a couple of renaissance tiles I was not happy with and this made me to give them another look and a bit of charcoal pencil work now they are much better.

    Sue Leslie on

  • Love this post! You have given lots to think about. Might go do a Renaissance tile now!

    Paulette Kirschensteiner on

  • I’m so glad to see this revelation about Renaissance! It’s good to share how progress can be so different for each one of us on any given tile or tangle. I am amazed that sometimes my hand just won’t do what I see in the step out then I realize, it’s my way of interpreting it and it makes it unique.

    Linda Elkin on

  • Thank you, Julie, this is a much needed reminder for me right now. I’ve been working on a tile using Mookah & it isn’t going well at all! I put it a side and am working on molygon which is going well, I will get back to Mookah later this week. I might just like Mookah again.

    Susan M Pagano on

  • Love your message Julie and love those tiles. You make me want to try Marasu with Flux on a tan tile! Thanks for the inspiration! ❤️❤️❤️

    Sandy Kelley-Jones CZT on

  • For Betsey: I have heard that covering the part of the tile that you have created/finished/worked on with a piece of paper may cut down on smudges. I’ve done it and it works. I also attempt to be mindful of the amount of ink I have put on the tile—if a lot, then it’s more likely to smudge, especially if it’s not yet dry. This, for me, is when the blotter is most helpful. Lastly, how about spraying what you’ve done with a very light coat of acrylic fixative? Then just remember to spray the second half of the tile with fixative when you’re finished too. Hope these tips help! And then, there’s always the Bronx Cheer.

    Paula Schneider on

  • Love your insight Julie! Hugs 🤗

    Kathy Y. on

  • Thank you, Julie for this insight. I also just completed CZT36 and am a work in progress! Learning to let go and just enjoy the process without anticipating the outcome is my daily goal. The idea of “fresh eyes” and your encouragement is so appreciated! Thank you!

    PAttie GRove on

  • Gracias !!! Julie un kiss

    Elsa on

  • I really enjoyed this post. Renewal!! Gave me a little bit of a Renaissance too! Thank you!

    Susan Talbot on

  • This is such great advice! Thank you for sharing your insight.

    MKay BB WATSON CZT17 on

  • Love your post, Julie. It got me reflecting on my own process of learning something new. I sometimes get very frustrated and I don’t like it. I would much rather have the “ah-ha” moments. However, it seems that often the frustration has to come first for the “ah-ha” moment to emerge. Interestingly, I just realized that often the joy of the “ah-ha” moment is directly proportional to the amount of frustration I initially experienced. So I am going to keep this in mind the next time I try something new, that the frustration has the potential to lead to joy. Thank you for your post.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • I can relate, Julie. I love the look of the Renaissance tiles and initially felt confident but as time goes by I have found I somehow get dirt spots on my tile when about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way done. I do wash my hands (I am a nurse:-)) but I think it is sweat or oil from my fingers. Does any one have similar problems and/or a solution? Thanks.

    Betsey Youngs on

  • Love this, Julie. I am a huge fan of renaissance tiles, seeing the mid tones pop and giving additional dimension. I remember asking a CZT if they were more tender than the white tiles and they responded they hadn’t noticed but what they really meant was they didn’t like them, mostly because of this. I had an aha moment when Molly mentioned in a video they could get ‘angry’ so a gentle touch was beneficial and that affirmed it for me and my love affair with these tiles began anew!

    I often find tangles I struggle with but unlike you, I have given up on many. You have afforded me the nudge to revisit several that are beautiful but seemingly out of reach. What a wonderful way to spend this Thanksgiving weekend!

    With gratitude,


    PamS on

  • Thank you Julie, this was a pleasure to read and quite helpful to someone new to Zentangle and fresh off CZT36 training. Reading your story here encourages me to give renaissance tiles another chance as they have not been my favorite. And marasu? Well, that one definitely needs more practice. 😬 Thanks to your blog post, I’m on it!

    Cokie Lepinski on

  • So helpful, Julie, I’ve been engaged so much in learning mode my art time has been zero for a month….first time in 6 years i just haven’t done any drawing. Today i feel ‘phantom limb’ pain, a missing piece, same with music… immersion is how i get going, and breaking down new material takes time, and, layers. I appreciate your examples and see how Zentangle helps me in seemingly unrelated practices, and how much time i used to spend just isn’t feasible for now…so… i am going to put my pens/tiles go bag on my desk and fit it in, a layer in my day, even if i only have a few minutes to start rather than finish a tile, and let it ‘tell me what it wants drawn’ the next time i am able. And awesome Marasu btw…!!

    judy on

  • Increíble ….. creatividad al poder!

    Es un trabajo muy costoso pero tan gratificante!

    María Dolores Tirado Valero on

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