D. I could talk all day about your teaching and how wonderful you are at motivating and supporting those around you. That is my experience with you, Audrey. But this is my opportunity to dig into what motivates you. What gets your creative juices flowing?
A. Whether I’m putting a new class together as an art teacher, or working on an art piece for myself, I’m motivated by different things. As a teacher, it’s the desire to get my students excited about a new project, a new technique, a new medium, new tools, etc. that motivates me. Knowing that people are growing as artists and becoming more confident in their ability is what drives me to create classes.
I start with a project that interests me and one in which I feel there will be lots of learning opportunities. I create the piece of art that I will teach probably 6 or 7 or more times in different ways in order to find the one I think will be a real “WOW” for the students as well as which one will present the best learning opportunities. I also want to pinpoint specific areas that will perhaps be more difficult to learn so that I can begin to think about how I will teach them. This entire process so far is what gets my juices flowing and excites me. Now I have to create the class and the detailed and structured lesson plan my students deserve!
When creating art for myself there are a number of different things that get my creative juices flowing. The main thing that keeps me motivated is that I LOVE what I do and that’s probably the most important thing of all. Other things that excite me are ideas from my journal that I want to try out. Keeping a journal of things I see, hear, learn, and want to pursue is an invaluable tool. Learning and trying new things is also a huge motivator for me. So, I take lots of classes. And no matter the topic of the class, I find it usually helps me refine a skill, take a new approach, reinvent a technique, and just fall in love all over again with what I do.
I have a very close friend who is an accomplished silk painter and when we’re together we bounce new ideas off each other and support each other. If I’m stuck or she’s stuck, we try to ‘unstick” each other. We definitely find ways to get each other’s juices flowing! It usually involves a LOT of laughter. Laughter is a HUGE part of my life. And so is music. I find it both inspirational and motivating. So, you can rest assured there’s music on when I’m working in my studio.
Taking a long walk is also a huge help if my creative juices need some stirring up. I’ve learned that sometimes I just need to get out of my chair and do something different that I enjoy. And I’m always amazed at how many “Eureka!” moments happen during some sort of relaxation activity that gives me pleasure.
D. Zentangle inspired art is what I’m most familiar with in your body of work. And we will talk more about that style in a bit. But you incorporate so much more into your pieces. Have you always pursued art? Did you start out on another career path? If so, what made you change? How were you able to focus your life on art and what types of events crafted your unique style?
A. I have been creating “stuff” and making “messes” since I was five years old, using whatever materials I could find! I do the same thing today, but now it’s called Mixed Media Art. LOL! I am inspired by playing with color and layering and fascinated by texture. I always have been! However, none of my formal education focused on the visual arts. I have a BA degree in Communication Arts and Science and an MA in Human Resources Management and Development.
I needed to earn a living and support myself and felt that creating art wouldn’t allow me to do that, so I focused on a career in Human Resources. And what a wonderful and exciting career I had. I zeroed in on the training and development aspect of human resources and did a lot of motivational speaking, as well. Eventually I started my own training and development business. I did a lot of team building for organizations, management development, and taught teachers how to teach. Throughout my professional career, I used my spare time to create art (collages, jewelry, greeting cards, etc.); after all, this was my passion. And I sold my art at juried craft shows. I also took lots of art classes. I promised myself that when I retired, I would transition into a full-time artist
D. Who and/or what were your biggest influences?
A. A wonderful and talented artist in New York, who I took classes from on a regular basis, was a huge influence on me. She encouraged my mixed media work and I learned so much from her. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher. She felt that as an artist, I would love to incorporate Zentangle into my work. And she knew how much I loved teaching.
D. What made you decide to bring the joy of art to others?
A. As a breast cancer patient, the positive effects that Zentangle had for me as I experienced the anxiety, tough decision making, sleeplessness, etc. associated with this disease, was a strong force in my wanting to share it with others. I learned firsthand what a meditative and calming process Zentangle could be. I found it particularly helpful when I went for my radiation treatments. I would sit in the waiting room and “tangle” like crazy in my journal so by the time they called me in for my “dose” I was truly relaxed. I remember years later I had a student in one of my Zentangle classes who had been in that waiting room with me (her husband was receiving radiation) and at the time she wondered what the heck that red headed woman was so enthusiastically doing in her notebook! She learned that it was me tangling. At any rate I, both the artist and cancer patient, wanted to bring this magical and beautiful art form to others. Whether my students chose to use it as a meditative tool too or simply to create art and find joy would be up to them. But as a cancer survivor I truly felt compelled to share it with everyone who was interested. I am a big believer in “paying it forward.” So, as an artist I have used teaching art as a way of giving back the joy, the serenity, the magic, and the creative inspiration that art continues to give me!
Enjoy this TEDx demonstration of the power of Audrey’s motivational speaking.
D. Now let’s peace out and get a little more Zen.
There are so many benefits to learning and engaging in the art of Zentangle. And I for one really appreciate that you were there to pass them on to me. The meditative aspect, portability, minimal supplies needed, and ability for anyone to produce a piece of art after one lesson are just a few. What are the most important aspects of Zentangle for you from the perspectives of a practitioner and a teacher?
A. As a practitioner, I love that Zentangle can be incorporated into practically any other art form!! Whether it’s pottery, quilting, painting with any medium, jewelry, etc. As an artist, I find this very exciting; being able to have this tool in your kit no matter what your discipline. As a teacher, I love that Zentangle allows everyone to be successful and tap into their creativity. Additionally, it’s an art form where folks are encouraged not to be self-critical or judgmental, but rather to enjoy the process.
D. I remember my first class so well. Zentangle 101. We were in the fabulous old Brewery Art Center’s ballroom. The class was full, and you had a margarita bar set up. I was hooked before we even got started. But when the night was over, and I had several tiny pieces of art I could call my own that I could hardly fathom were created by my own hand, I was a believer in the method.
Zentangle 101, September 2015
More classes at the BAC
You have been teaching folks like me for a long time, adapting to Zoom like a pro during the Pandemic, and constantly producing exciting projects for your students. I will miss those sessions now that you’re moving on to your next artistic stage, but so grateful for the wealth of memories and skills you instilled in me, and I’m thrilled you can spend your hard-earned time pursuing your passion.
Tell us what’s next for you. What projects do you have in the works, or are you just going to let the creativity flow?
A. I am returning to the mixed media aspect of my art. I miss that. And I am looking forward to letting the “creativity flow” without the schedule and discipline associated with teaching. Here’s a photo of a mixed media piece I’m working on now. It’s a combination of collage and acrylic paints).
D. Thanks so much for that glimpse into your studio and a sunny piece of beautiful art! Let me take the opportunity to share more art you have generously provided for our chat.
D. On this note, one of the things I love to discover about creators is what kind of space they utilize for inspiration. Are there any secrets you would like to pass on about creating the perfect studio, environment, or mood? Do you have a special time of day or a process in addition to a place that helps you be your most creative?
A. Okay, not really a secret :-), but for me two important things one should make sure they have is good lighting and storage space. Even if your funds are limited… Just google “creating storage space in my art studio” and you’ll find tons of very creative, inexpensive, and wonderful ideas for storing your supplies. You want to be able to find things when you need them and have a workspace that you can clear up when starting a new project. Insofar as lighting is concerned, watch for sales at the craft stores (on-line too) for Ott Lites. An Ott Lite provides a precise balance of contrast and brightness that allows you to see details clearly and colors accurately. Other light sources can create harsh glares, distortions, and eye fatigue. An Ott Lite is like having natural daylight indoors!
Most importantly, make your studio space your own! I like to be surrounded by things that are important to me, which is why I have a cozy spot on the floor for Sophie, my fur baby!! Also visible in my studio are mementos, photos, artwork, quotations, etc. that inspire me or hold a special meaning. In terms of time of day, process, place when I am most creative, I don’t have specific ones. If I have a deadline for something, well, that obviously helps! :-).My MO is to go into my studio every day to do something… and if the creative juices just aren’t flowing I go and do something completely different. I’ve learned not to angst over it. Rather, I will make the most of whatever else I decide to do… whether it’s: take a walk, physical activity, read a book, cook, whatever. And I will enjoy what I’ve chosen to do!
I’ve discovered that making sure you put joy into your life is important to me as an artist.
D. Where can our readers follow your progress? Any upcoming art shows or plans to that effect?
A. I’m just getting started and have plans to turn my current Zentangle blog into one that will showcase my art as well as any shows, etc. I plan to exhibit a couple of my pieces at the next judged show being held on January 1 at the Nevada Artists Association in Carson City.
D. Thank you so much for visiting with me, Audrey! Do you have any parting advice for our readers who want to pursue their creative passions, art, or Zentangle?
A. Just do it! Jump in! It’s easy to find distractions and reasons not to pursue your passions. Taking action will help you get started. Making that first brushstroke will help you begin to paint away and remove those blocks that are getting in the way.
The most important thing: LOVE what you do! And remember what Rumi said,
“Inside you is an artist you don’t know about.”So, go discover her or him!
All artwork by Audrey Markowitz. If you share, please give credit to the artist.
Below are examples of Audrey’s traditional Zentangle tiles, using the Zentangle method of creating corner dots on a square tile and connecting them into a frame or border divided by “strings” that you can fill in with repeated tangles (doodles).
The Zentangle® method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at: www.zentangle.com