Zen and the Art of Shell Collecting

 In Guest Blogs

Cris wrote a book, Pattern Play, A Zentangle Creativity Booster, with Sonya Yencer. I had heard about both women through the Internet, but it was really Pattern Play that brought Cris to my attention. It is one of two books I recommend to anyone beginning their Zentangle journey. And then I private messaged Cris asking if she might be willing to chat with me a few moments and when was a good time. Hardly had I hit send when my phone rang. My kind of person – instant gratification, smile. She was full of good advice and spent a healthy amount of time for which I remain grateful. She is on my A list.

And now the page is hers.


 

Cris Letourneau, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

 

I will admit to being a recovering perfectionist. Not content simply to be valedictorian, I graduated with a perfect 4.0. A challenging software development career in the telecommunications industry where systems had to be available over 99.999% of the time did nothing to curb this tendency.

But after forsaking my 15-year career to take care of my newborn daughter, I began to realize the folly of this all-or-nothing thinking. Even so, I chose hobbies like quilting where striving for perfect 1/4-inch seams, perfectly matched prints, and precisely pieced patches is ubiquitous.

In February of 2010, I went to Whitinsville, Massachusetts to learn from the founders of Zentangle®: Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Their gentle, “no mistakes,” “life as an artform” philosophy was completely foreign to my type-A personality. But it struck a chord deep inside of me.

For the past five years, I’ve been teaching the Zentangle Method and their philosophy weekly. Since then, I’ve noticed that the philosophy of Zentangle has been creeping gently into my daily life, subtly adding a sense of peace and artfulness to many everyday activities.

Today, I noticed it while collecting shells.

Before Zentangle: My morning walks had a purpose: to get the best shells before someone else did.

After Zentangle: I slowed down my morning walks and took my time to notice the sound of the waves, the color of the clouds, the coolness of the water, the patterns in the sand, and the smell of the ocean. Any shells I pick up are a welcome side-effect to my walk, just like in Zentangle where the relaxed focus of stroking pen across the paper will have a side-effect of beautiful art.

 

Cris Letourneau, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

 

Before Zentangle: I only looked for perfect shells because they are the prettiest, and also, the scarcity of these rare gems gave their discovery a sense of accomplishment.

After Zentangle: I understand that that perfection does not equal beauty and that all beauty is subjective. A shell may be both simultaneously broken and beautiful.

 

Cris Letourneau, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

 

Before Zentangle: I threw away the “ugly” shells.

After Zentangle: I know that any shell can become lovely with care and attention.

 

Shells Tangled

 

Before Zentangle: I looked only at “what is.”

After Zentangle: I look at “what could be.”

 

Cris Letourneau, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

 

Zentangle has helped me become more peaceful, appreciative, patient, and non-judgemental. Has creating affected other aspects of your life? If so, please share how.

To see more of Cris’ work, please visit:  https://tangledupinart.wordpress.com/

Showing 14 comments
  • Dorian
    Reply

    Love this entry, will carry this with me for a long time. Thank you.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Yes, for me too, shells will NOW be associated with this thoughtful blog from Cris.

  • Minette
    Reply

    What a lovely article. Gorgeous photos but mostly I loved the story about how Cris’ life was transformed by the Zentangle process. I am familiar with her book Pattern Play and it is one of my favorite Zentangle books. I remember meeting Cris and Sonya at my CZT training and being so impressed with their art and their business cards which had gorgeous tangles on them. I am a fan of Cris’ tangles and of Cris herself 🙂 And thanks to Ann for sharing other’ great stories about their Zentangle journey.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Thanks for your public reply, Minette. I receive a number of private replies and particularly when a guest blogger has shared their experiences, it is gratifying to all to see readers’ thoughts in print.

  • Steve Lovelace
    Reply

    Great food for thought, Ann, as always. For myself, I’ve always straddled a fine line between realism and idealism; perhaps it’s my Gemini way. “Simply perfect” or “perfectly simple”? It’s a daily balance – and choice. Thanks for your posts.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Cris Letourneau, guest blogger this week, clarifies her thoughts on the benefits of not always pursuing “a” concept of what is ideal. Of course, “ideal” is relative and dependent on place and time, i.e. family, culture, mores, etc. We, the readers of comments, appreciate your thoughts Steve!

  • Cj Petersen
    Reply

    Wonderfully said, Cris; I have seen the same transformation unfolding in my own life since becoming a CZT.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Shells, a personal favorite of mine although I have gifted away my larger collection, now will serve as a talisman. Visual images tied to thoughtful words are powerful.

  • Maureen Stott
    Reply

    Thanks to Cris for writing this inspiring article with its gorgeous photos and to Ann for publishing it. I will print it and have it handy when I need a reality check or the world seems just too crazy to deal with at the moment.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Hope you share with all your students, Maureen. We all benefit through connections.

  • Deborah Sargent
    Reply

    I loved this article, thank you Ann for posting this!

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Deborah. I wonder if many of us who love “pattern” will benefit from Cris’ personal experience.

  • Jeanne Hewell-Chambers
    Reply

    What a beautiful, eloquent reminder that all life is beautiful if we simply slow down and notice.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      And the most operative word in you sentence is “all”.

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Julie Anderson, Ann Grasso Pattern Art, guest bloggerStacy Reck, Journey, Art Journaling