How “Speak Now” Came to Be

Working in my sketchbook in early 2012, I wrote the following cranky sentence across the page as a starting point:

Thought I was buying a set of black markers presumably of different stroke sizes. Clearly, this is working out differently than planned.

I had recently seen a magazine article that exposed me to the basics of Zentangle drawing, where one divides space into sections and then fills each space with a repeating pattern. That curvy line was the first divider on the page, then I divided the space as I went, with no overall plan.

I had not yet taken a Zentangle class, and didn’t know about the zillions of named “tangle” patterns, so most of my patterns I made up on the fly. I also hadn’t learned about Zentangle shading yet. I removed the starting sentence at this stage too.

Once the page was filled it with patterns, I was tempted to color it like a coloring book page. After taking a photo of the black and white version, I colored in some of the image, trying colored pencils, watercolor and more…and didn’t love it.

This version remains in my sketchbook, frozen in time.

Something important did happen in that coloring process. When I filled in a rounded triangle in the upper left, I saw the shape as lips sitting above a jaw, and from then on, I could only see a female figure, leaning forward with her two shoulders bare. Her words were caught in her throat as her strong feelings bubbled up from her heart. Her heart was tattoed on her upper arm with the resulting crackled injuries. She leaned forwards with hope, the idea lightbulb a permanent part of her.

With so much meaning talking to me in the image, I wanted another try at the coloring process, so I used the black and white photo as a starting point for a digital painting, worked in Photoshop:

The final version, named “Speak Now” colored in Photoshop.

Art imitates life. Most things have an ugly point. If I scrunched up the paper, ripped it out of the sketchbook and threw it away right then, this drawing would never have been. I’m learning to stay with things that are ugly…not easy, but worth it.

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