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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


  • Would love to see the directions for this tangle. It is beautiful.

    Glenda Dudley on

  • Thanks, Julie, for sharing this piece of your journey with all of us. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that the “experts” sometimes get frustrated too.

    Jake on

  • Magnífica experiencia. Es muy cierto. Con gran frecuencia hago ejercicios repetitivos sobre mis primeros tangles y cada vez me quedan más lindos, los entiendo más, estimulan la ceatividad y me llenan de satisfacción, admiración y agradecimiento. Actitud renovada, ojos frescos, trazo seguro.

    Elsa Duenas on

  • First of all, Julie your renaissance tiles are beautiful. I know I frequently struggle with what I am tangling and will walk away for an afternoon, a day or even two days. Coming back with fresh eyes it’s always amazing what I see! I feel that revisiting your work is one of the keys to Zentangle!

    Mary Illana Perrin CZT on

  • Thank you, Julie! Your wisdom is so practical. Seeing things thru fresh eyes and giving ourselves permission to take a break.

    Meg McIntire on

  • I felt the exact same way about Waybop and now it is one of my favorites.

    Susan Arnsten-Russell on

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