Today I want to introduce to you the concept of Leaf Tangles. For a long time I have observed that certain tangles — especially the kind of tangle that is used as an organic filler or edge — have basic units that resemble leaves. Observe the following tangles:
They all look different but they have something in common. If we extract the basic repeating unit of each tangle, you will see that they look a bit like leaves, meaning, they stem from a base and grow upward. Take a look at these two examples (Nacho by Carol Kis and Sandswirl by Karry Heun).
The reason why they look like leaves to me is not because they have the SHAPE of a leaf, but because they stem from a base and grow up and outward. Here you can see a full chart of more examples (feel free to download this and print it for your OWN USE, please do not distribute).
Some of these Leaf Units were extracted from commonly known tangles, others have no formal name but have been featured in my previous lessons such as Blue Sun.
Important: Keep in mind that even though I drew the base unit inside a small square for sale of clarity, the leaf unit is never drawn worth a surrounding square.
Here are a few examples of how I used Leaf Tangles and Leaf units:
Notice how the leaf units can be laid out in many different structures, for example in circular or radial fashion around a mandala, or stemming in a bunch like a bouquet, or even growing up or outward like a vine full of leaves. The repeating units are usually held and bunched together by the base (imagine holding each unit by the stem of a leaf).
Are leaf units the same thing as fragments?
If you are really into Zentangle, you probably already heard of fragments and reticula. According to Zentangle, a FRAGMENT is “a small pattern that you draw within the spaces of an ink-drawn reticula (grid).” When rotated and mirrored, the small basic units form a much larger pattern. The Zentangle Primer (a fantastic book you can find here) has a gorgeous collection of fragments and reticula ideas by Maria Thomas, coded in an alpha-numeric system.
At first I thought that leaf units were not like fragments because I personally prefer to use them upright, overlapping each other. However, after a bit of discussion with the insightful Lynn Mead and Georgianna Klein and some reflection, I think Leaf units can be used as fragments and fit into a grid or other reticula.
Keep in mind that, while I am a CZT, this concept and naming was created from my own observations and is not part of the official Zentangle method.