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Looking Back on a "Clear" Day...

Looking Back on a "Clear" Day...

In 2007, we started BLOG Zentangle and began our enjoyable series of conversations within our Zentangle community.

In reading through these blog posts with their insightful comments, we decided to bring a few of them to your attention from time to time. It is easy, for me anyway, to sometimes think of old information as stale information. But these insights and conversations are anything BUT stale!

We invite you to enjoy this post from 2017...

Begin previous post . . .


Before I started my stationery company, Pendragon, Ink (many years ago!), I used to do a lot of painting. Painting was always fun. It kept me excited about life and and always thinking of the next canvas to cover or series to start. In a painting mindset, I noticed everything and was constantly ​taking notes or making sketches for the next day's endeavor.

One of my favorite parts was at the end when I often added a coat (or two or three) of gloss varnish to the surface of my (dry!) finished piece.

Just so you know, this is an occasional personal preference, not an absolute. I am not suggesting one has to varnish all their art! But this is an element on my palette of choices that I like the look of. I like how it can add depth and richness and increase color saturation. With a few coats it resembles those beautiful old paintings in museums that I love. Imagine, for example, an old table that you have just sanded, the wood all bare, and then you add a coat of varnish/shellac/urethane . . . what a difference!

Anyone who knows me, knows how quickly I do just about everything . . . I eat fast, cook fast, sew fast . . . well you get the picture. I paint with acrylics instead of oils for the same reason . . . Speed! But to me, acrylics seemed a bit flat or dull, so the varnish provided a look that the acrylic paint alone could not.

I was thinking about this the other day while I was tangling. "Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I varnished a tile?" But just to varnish a tiny tile every time the need arose would be a lot of work and clean-up . . . not what I wanted.

So I tried something different. I grabbed a bottle of clear nail polish and went to town! It was a dream come true! Here was this miniature handy-dandy brush, right in the the bottle, just the right size and I did not have to clean it afterwards! I had so many half filled bottles of all kinds of clear coats. The one I used here  has a very subtle pink tint to it, just a whisper. But it brought out a whole new feeling of life wherever I applied it.

These tiles have about 3 coats on them. The first coat seals the paper, the second adds a bit of luster (you can stop at this point) but I added another for depth. Wait for each coat to dry before putting on the next. Of course follow the directions on the bottle. I use this in a room where the smell won't bother anyone. (Molly tells me that I can also try ModPodge, a water based varnish, for a similar effect. Ah . . . another project to look forward to!)

You can see on this diptych (a 2-paneled artwork) . . .

. . . that I varnished the right side panel, and not the left so you can see the difference.

On this next heart piece on which I varnished the upper left corner . . .

. . . to create a dramatic difference dark to light.

Next, I was experimenting on a tan tile, (one I had in my collection, that I did not mind if I screwed it up) and just varnished the "orbital cone-shaped whatch-a-ma-callit" in the middle.

It was pretty dark to begin with and got darker. When the coats were dry, I went back in and added white dots on the surface, and they just popped right off the paper!

If you decide to try this, start with a tile you don't mind experimenting with. You don't have to cover the whole tile. In fact, on each of these I only varnished small portions. I liked how it was more interesting than covering the whole tile.

That marvelous feeling I got from varnishing my old paintings returned. . . like a dear old friend. . . .

I'm not going to do this to all my tiles for sure, but once in a while it might be cool. It's just a nice addition to my growing bag of tricks!

What have you added to your bag of tricks that you can share with us?

Maria Thomas


  • Beautiful blog & so totally Zentangle with it’s no rules, no errors, just modifications! And how extraordinarily…WOW!

    Josephine Wood on

  • I coat tiles with clear gloss acrylic all the time. It looks fantastic if you’re using the tile as a part of another work such as a card or a small mixed media piece. Plus it protects the piece if I’m adding more paint etc.

    Lynnda Tenpenny on

  • I LOVE the idea of using nail polish! And I WILL experiment with modge podge, as I have both of these items in my art journaling studio. I was recently exposed to “Gel” nail polish which is cured under UV light. Since I have THAT system, will try it, as well! Thank you for all the GREAT ideas, and thank you for posting all those wonderful pictures of Frankfurt, Germany!!!!

    Jamie Herron on

  • Another new idea! Great creativity! Thanks!

    Gloriann Ehrman on

  • This is great, I have lots of clear coat and so easy – Many Thanks!!

    Alice Roche, CZT 29 on

  • I had never thought of this, but how cool! It will be great on bijous. I’ve wanted to try Mod-Podge but I don’t know which kind to use.

    Kat Van Rooyen on

  • Will certainly have to play with this idea. Thanks for the post. Had never thought of that though I have used Chemage glaze with paper on lots of other craft projects.

    Sue Leslie, CZT on

  • I love using modge podge on my work. I haven’t tried it on my tangles though so that will be something I do… I love using Sakura Gelly Roll pens and their Glaze pens. Glaze pens are very “wet” when you use them, but allow them to dry and you have an area with lustre/shine and some texture. You have to be patient though because it does take a while to dry. Negative with the Glaze is that it is difficult to blend colors or to shade. It will just wipe off.

    Sue on

  • One of the problems that I have had with ModPodge is that it attracts moisture and can make the final product sticky. This may just be the formula I have been using. Putting urethane on top of the ModPodge takes care of the problem ….. And adds such beautiful depth….

    Pam Stevenson, CZT on

  • I had never thought of this, but how cool! It will be great on bijous. I’ve wanted to try Mod-Podge but I don’t know which kind to use.

    Kat Van Rooyen on

  • This is so interesting ! Thank you for sharing the tips – I love learning these added techniques and really enjoy seeing the beautiful pieces!

    Heather Moffatt on

  • I’ve been using the Mod Podge for years on watercolors and pen and ink. I also use hairspray to set pencil and graphite, instead of expensive fixatives. I always use a hair dryer to make sure my pen and ink is super dry before I apply either.

    MKay B B Watson CZT 17 on

  • Soooo beautiful, Maria! I’m glad you reposted this piece because I had forgotten about this technique. Must try! To my “bag of tricks” I’ve added Sakura gelly roll pens. Sometimes I actually tangle with them, but more often I’ll use one of the lovely Stardust pens to add sparkle here and there with lines and/or dots. There are 12 colors + a clear! I enjoy the Metallics too, particularly the Copper.

    Jan Brandt, CZT 12 on

  • WOW! WOW! WOW! I cannot wait. I am going to try this on Zengems first! I cannot wait!!! Love it!!


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