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Whose Muse is Whose?

Whose Muse is Whose?

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 2016...

Begin previous post . . .

Maria writes:

​I have spoken before that I have been an artist since about the age of 5.

But what made me have to be an artist? Why was I so focused at such an early age?

Well, I actually know what it was, or should I say who it was.

When I was really little, (I am #6 of 7 children) I would hang around my with Mom while she was tidying up her bedroom in the mornings, talking to her as she so carefully made her and my Dad's bed.​ As usual I sat or rolled around on the floor, gazing at ceilings or marveling at the different perspectives of things, and one morning, I spotted something under her bed. I carefully slid it out, and asked my mom what it was.

There before me was a framed "something or other" that, at the time, I had no word for. My mom joined me, kneeling beside me and wiped the dust away ever so carefully, and explained to me what it was. "Ma tante Alice" ( "my aunt" in French) made this for "Memere and Pepere" (her mother and father's) 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1952. She explained that it was a story that her sister had written (in both senses of the word) to give to her parents as a gift.

I could not read at the time nor did I know much French. But it was not what it said, but how it looked, that fascinated me. Letters going in all directions, beautiful swirls and decorations around the letters, gold and red accents, cut paper borders and fancy corners . . . I was in LOVE!

After that, I would visit this masterpiece often, studying the tiniest details, following the margins, counting the stanzas, admiring the concept of writing beautifully. At that time, I only learned how to write properly . . . not beautifully. This was another world, and I wanted to go there.

From then on, most of my art included letters of some sort. My idea of fancy and beautiful morphed over time, but my passion never ceased. I studied mostly on my own, having taken a few classes with Michael Sull, a penman from Kansas.

My Aunt Alice, was actually called "Sister Maria Fidelis," a Presentation of Mary nun. None of us knew her as anything but a nun. She was always "Aunt Alice the nun" because we had another aunt named Alice who was not a nun (but, this is too funny, as I had not really thought about it in a long time, but this other Aunt Alice actually once had been a nun, then came out of the order, and at the age of 40, married my uncle and proceeded to have four children! Really! You couldn't make this up . . . but I digress . . . )

Not only did "ma tante Alice the nun" give me my name (another story!), she was my "MUSE."

A "muse," according to the dictionaries on this computer, was originally a female who inspired creativity. I am guessing maybe, way back then, women could inspire, but not create(?). Muse eventually became more generally "the source of an artist's inspiration," "creative influence" or "stimulus."

Eventually, after my parents passed, and the "family treasures" were distributed among us, I chose to take this piece home with me. It hangs in my studio as a constant reminder of where I came from.

So, what has this got to do with all of you?

The piece of art that inspired me was not the work of an Old Master. It was not the work of a professional artist, or a world renowned calligrapher. It was a simple, humble, work done with limited materials and expertise, but with unlimited love and passion. In an antique bazaar, someone might purchase it only for the frame, but this piece directed the course of my life.

What role of "muse" might your Zentangle creations play for others whose urge to create is yearning to be sparked, but who may think they are not artists? How might your work change the lives of people you will never meet . . . a chance glance over your shoulder in a restaurant . . . a sighting in a friend of a friend's home . . . a five-year-old's first vision of a tangle . . . ?

You have no idea where or how you will influence the lives of others. You do not have to wait for some predefined level of accomplishment for your creativity to have an impact. You do not have to create like daVinci, or Picasso, or Rembrandt to make a difference. (And even if you could, wouldn't that be more like copying instead of creating? Only you can create like you can create!) And when your creation is out there, there's no way to predict when and where it will strike that chord in someone that will resonate throughout his or her life.

So as we begin this new year, don't wait . . . Create!


Dear tanglers, who was your "muse"?

Please tell us a little about them.

Maria Thomas


  • how timely… all my family members are artistic or gifted in some way … as creative as they were (most are passed), life, kids and kitty litter got in the way, and the precious moments ‘stolen’ to create were only just enough to maintain sanity. i was blessed to have music lessons, wish i’d kept it up, but my piano teacher is my now-86year old muse, as active now as ever, teaching, performing, leading her clan of kids and grands and adoring students. 58 years ago she expressed something that became a cornerstone of my life. i hated practicing scales and her incredibly genteel admonishment was/is, ‘judy, no one likes to play scales or practice them…but you never know who in the audience has never heard anything played beautifully….until you play them….’

    Judy Morgan on

  • My Muse has to be Jennifer, my Zentangle teacher. One look at what she was doing and I was lost to the art. Watching her hands create lovely, simple patterns sent me on a journey I’ll continue for years. Now, it is my pleasure to be sharing art with others as a CZT myself.

    Sandra CZT 32 on

  • I remember being in 6th grade art class and the teacher telling me I could not draw because I was looking at a rose drawing and copying it. I thought I did a good job but she told me that wasn’t drawing. Isn’t that how it starts? Seeing something and thinking you could do it too, I think is how you get inspired to try. I see a real rose that is so beautiful and want to capture it forever in a drawing. Is that copying? She made me angry and I wanted to prove to myself that I was an artist. I love to draw and I especially love to tangle. I am an artist in several different mediums. I guess in a negative way she was a muse because she inspired me to prove her wrong. 🤪

    LInda on

  • Definitely my Mom, but also my Aunt Kitty and both grandmothers. My Mom liked to draw and she decided to take that home course where you draw the pirate, cowboy, etc. I would sit with her while she did her lessons and follow along. I was maybe 6 or 7 and hooked. Anything art, I love! My Aunt did chalk drawings, lots of Disney characters. My grandmother’s were talented as well creating beautiful quilts, afghans, etc. My maternal grandmother, Clara once set a plastic bowl on a still warm burner by accident melting the bowl into this odd, warped shape. Rather than throw it away, she saw potential in this little mangled bowl and created a lovely little silk flower arrangement with it. The creativity gene flows in my family and I’m blessed to have received it!

    Terri Brown CZT 12 on

  • I think mine was my mom. She was always an artist and a crafter! I like to think I acquired some f it from her. She had a stroke when my brother was born and did not paint again until her late 60s. She was always busy making new things and many times I was right in the middle of it all. I think she would have like tangling. Her lonliness would have been diminished if her heart and soul could have experienced the joy and satifsfaction of Zentangle.


  • My muse was my maternal uncle, Joe Knittel. He was a professional artist who taught me to really look at what I wanted to draw. I believe he worked for Disney at one time. Here in Pittsburgh he created huge neon sign designs, high up on various buildings, that moved and sang with color. They were so syncopated that they dazzled and practically danced! Mary

    Mary D'Angelo, CZT32 on

  • My little lovely daughter is my muse. I love watching her colour away on everything around the house from tiny scraps to the walls. And she rarely forgets to add an “I love you Mom” message. I rediscovered my love of colours and art inspired by her. In fact I heard of zentangling from her – she picked it up in her art class. Cheers to loving daughters – what would be without them!

    V on

  • My muse was our next door neighbor, my best friend, Patty. (and her Mom, Helen). We were next door neighbors until I moved away at age 19. Patty was 2 yrs older than me … we would sketch, draw, color, and create all afternoon. Especially when the weather was inclement – or, the hot/humid days – they had air conditioning. When we’d create, we put up a cardboard barrier between us. Somehow, we’d select a ‘theme’, usually stars or something like that. We would talk, giggle, share art supplies and once we were ‘done’ for the afternoon, we’d take down the barrier and admire each other’s projects. THEN, we’d take them to Helen for our grade. Helen enjoyed most of our creations. Once, she gave us B-‘s for using only one color blue (we challenged each other to pick one color & sketch). Usually she would give us A’s and I don’t think she ever selected one of our drawings over the other – - I recall when her brother was getting married and we made ALL the wedding shower decorations with construction paper, markers, and an old umbrella that didn’t want to stay open! We were up all night decorating the basement area (for the party). The bride-to-be and all the guests seemed happy with what we created. I remain grateful to this day for every kindness they shared with me!!!

    Carol Lee Parry on

  • Before I tell about my muse, I would love it if Maria would post a translation of the ‘story’ in english to be enjoyed!!

    My muses would be my mother, who was always knitting, crocheting, needlepointing, sticherying, macremeing and other crafty things. She is in memory care now, but I treasure the items i have! My Dad’s dad was a painter, and all of my children have a painting of his…landscapes. My mom’s dad was a woodworker, and I have a needlepoint backgammon board made by mom in a wood board frame, with a wood stand stand, made by Grampa Red. If I only had a portion of their talents!

    Lisa Anderson, Czt on

  • My mother was an occasional painter and totally in love with art and art history. She loved going to museums and art shows. Though we lived in CT, I think I must have gone to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her 4 or 5 times in the 1950s. I wanted to major is art history, but was told that was impractical in the 1960s. :-( During my careers (teaching, librarianship and writing) I worked at silversmithing and designing needlepoint project, but it was really drawing that I wanted to learn. The drawing desire came from my mother’s father and his sister (who I never met- another story!) He could draw anything and I was enchanted. So when my careers

    Gale Sherman on

  • Both my father and mother were my muses.

    Dad was an architect and artist. His amazing drawings, models, sculpture and paintings were around me all my life.
    AND my mother’s “Palmer” handwriting books…book after book of amazing swirls and gorgeous lines. She had the most brilliant cursive handwriting all her life. So beautiful. I look back to both of them for the joy of artistic beauty.

    Ginny Stiles on

  • My parents, all my siblings, and many friends and teachers kept the fire burning. Mom was a seamstress, cake decorator as a single woman she watercolored, made pottery and had an eye for fashion. My Dad was a renaissance man, music lover, model builder, chef, while serving as an Army lifer. They passed the confidence and can-do spirit to all their children and I couldn’t understand people that said “ I’m not an artist” . So knowing I would retire from the Post Office after 30 years I decided that Zentangle might be a covert way to prove to many that they really were artists. I am happy with my choice, many have found their way to becoming CZTs, and many have blossomed into the arts in different ways. Their confidence builds, their strokes are more steady, their personalities come through their art. I can usually find art in any person that enjoys living – whether they make crowns for teeth, repair cataracts, decorate their front doors, customize their cars, if they love doing it, it becomes a real art. Thanks for the “no mistakes” in Zentangle and all the peace it brings to us.

    Cookie Kienzler CZT7 on

  • My muse was my mother, who passed in 2016 on Easter Sunday. When we were growing up my mother made clothing for us as we were really quite limited when it came to funds. She was a single woman, raising three children and always strapped just to put a roof over our heads and food in our tummies. I remember we shopped for school clothes out of the Sears catalogue and felt darned happy to get those big boxes of clothes that someone else made, when they arrived. She made sure that she taught each of us to sew our own clothing, and to this day, I still do. My college degree in actually in Apparel Design!

    By the time I had married and had a child of my own, my mother had taken up quilting. I was fascinated, but working full time and being a wife and mother, I had NO time for myself. When I was 36, on one of their many visits to our home, my parents saw just how hectic my life had become. Mom sat me down and told me in no uncertain terms that I HAD to carve out some time for myself, just for my own sanity. So I started the journey of learning to Quilt.

    Unfortunately, because of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I can no longer make those beautiful blankets, but I’ve become creative in a multitude of other ways. The most prominent of those ways is my Zentangle practice. It came into my life when I was looking for something to keep my hands and my mind busy when I had open heart surgery. It is so deeply stitched into my being now and I feel incredibly blessed to have found it.

    I’m also blessed to have many of my mother’s quilts and they are proudly displayed in my home as a beautiful reminder and inspiration of, and for, my life. Thanks Mom…. and thanks to Rick and Maria and the entire staff of Zentangle. You inspire me in so many ways, each and every day.


    LovelyRita on

  • Her name was Peggy and she taught art at the Catholic school in town but for some reason she taught one year at Morgantown High, one of the public schools, and she taught my mum. When my mother got older and had a family she became a potter, never losing touch with Peggy. When I got older and had a family I started delving into watercolor and by this time Peggy was retired from teaching. I took one of her watercolor workshops and we became great friends. She didn’t know the connection to my mum, immediately, but when she did we both laughed about that. We traveled together to paint, Key West, Carolinas, Carnegie Museum and botanical gardens, mountains around home, etc., until she became quite old and fragile. The last thing she saw of my work were my Shakespeare characters and she just made those happy noises like the best pie she’d ever eaten! She told me they were unique and to follow that direction.
    I was boarding a plane to Florida when my mum called to tell me Peggy had fallen and passed away in the night, at 97. My mum passed away 2 years later from a sudden stroke. I learned about the generosity of art from Peggy. I was also, blessed, to come from a creative mother. Sad to lose my muse but happy to have such a great Zentangle family of artists who inspire me!

    MKay B B Watson CZT17 on

  • My Nan had a few pages of old calligraphy a friend had written in 1904 during daily Dictation in elementary school. It even has red underline where the slopes of some letters weren’t “right” and the teacher made corrections. It was so incredibly beautiful. I also loved the designs of the labels of my Nans old tins and bottles.

    Connie Green, CZT on

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