Selective Focus: Esther Piszczek

This week, Esther Piszczek talks about her journey from attorney and doodler to artist and teacher. Be sure to check out the beautiful documentary produced by Lola Visuals toward the end of the post to see in real-time how she makes her intricate artwork.

EP: I am a pattern artist specializing in the Zentangle® method of pattern drawing. The Zentangle method, created by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts in Massachusetts, uses a .01 Sakura micron pen and pencil shading on a 3.5 x 3.5 inch paper tile to create intricate, beautiful, non-representational art. The method is contemplative and founded on the principle that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to create something unexpected.

Origami Flower Starfish:
Paper, folded, Origami flower, approximately 6″ round.
This origami flower was made using paper printed with my own designs.

I’ve been drawing patterns since I was a small child, but always thought that what I was drawing was not art. I was introduced to Zentangle in November 2011 while living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I was drawing patterns in a community art session at a senior center when a woman looked at what I was doing and said, “You should be doing Zentangle, you’re already doing it.” I went to her house and her husband showed me some of his Zentangle inspired art. I didn’t grasp the entire concept, but I understood enough to know that this discovery had the ability to transform what I was doing from doodling into art. Zentangle gave me a method by which I was able to take my love of pattern and express it in an organized way. I ordered the starter kit online and started drawing.

Acrylic paint pen on 1/4″ reclaimed glass, framed 38 1/4″ round

In August 2012, now living in Duluth, I flew to Rhode Island and became a Certified Zentangle Teacher during a four day seminar. That woman’s comment in the senior center changed my life forever. In October 2013, I remember standing at the easel during the very first class I taught feeling overjoyed and completely awed because I felt like an artist for the first time in my life.

Mirror Mural:
Quad mirror mural mounted on painted plywood. Dimensions 12″ x 4″
(R-L): Breath (48″ x 12″), Tendril (48″ x 12″), Fleur (48″ x 12″), Wuzzle (54″ x 14″). Total Mural Dimension: 80″ x 61″
I created this mirror mural to hang in the Duluth Armory Annex space. As soon as I hung it on the wall, I realized that it was calling me to hang it in the piano store at 405 E. Superior Street. It has since moved with the store and can be viewed at Duluth Fine Pianos, 331 W. Superior Street, anytime the store is open and on the last Friday of each month, 5-8 p.m. for the Downtown Duluth Arts Walk.

I’m a retired attorney. I was a prosecutor in New England for 11 years before leaving the practice of law in 2008 to live more creatively. When I became an artist, the public speaking, appellate writing, and organizing skills I’d gained as a lawyer helped me to market my artwork, secure grant funding, plan solo shows, and teach. However, even though I’ve been working as an artist for 6 years, I’m still learning how to be an artist. It is a process that challenges me. The meandering, non-linear mental space that nurtures creativity feels like unproductive sloth to my taskmaster attorney brain. Finding a peaceful way to balance these two different parts of myself has been my greatest challenge.

Pen & ink original, framed, matted 36 1/2″ x 28 1/4″

My greatest reward is seeing how this simple method of putting pen to paper changes people’s lives. I feel great joy when I see pride in a student’s eyes after completing their first tile, hear their stories of sharing their artwork with friends and family who are amazed at what they have created, and experience their sense of wonder when they tell me that they feel like an artist for the first time in their lives. I am grateful that I am able to witness their joy and sense of accomplishment.

Art On View: Jan. 1-31
Esther Piszczek: Patterns, Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Avenue
Certified Zentangle Teacher and pattern artist Esther Piszczek’s work is on view at the Superior Public Library in both display cases in the library’s old entrance, by the meeting spaces and bathrooms. Her exhibit features framed work, origami on custom printed paper of her own design, and a hand-drawn mural on glass.

Friday, Jan. 25, 5-8 p.m.

Jazz@DFP with Ryan Frane & Friends, a Jazz ensemble (5:30-7:30 p.m.), Duluth Fine Pianos, 331 W. Superior Street (next to Starbucks!)
Musicians: Tim Stratioti, trombone; Matt Mobley, bass; Ryan Frane, piano
Duluth Fine Pianos is participating in the Downtown Duluth Arts Collective’s night of art and entertainment, featuring Downtown Duluth art galleries, eateries, bars and performance venues. My framed work on paper, glass, mirrors, and clay decorates the walls of Duluth Fine Pianos. During the last Friday of every month, come out to hear some music, see the art, or just say hi! Downtown Duluth Arts Walk Google Map

Mondays; Feb. 4 – March 4, 2019 (4 weeks; No class 2/18), 6-8:30 p.m., with Esther Piszczek, CZT

Zentangle Pattern Drawing, Ordean East Middle School, 2900 E. 4th Street
Anyone can create beautiful, intricate line patterns “one stroke at a time” using the Zentangle method of pattern drawing. New patterns will be taught each class as we create beautiful art on 3.5″ x 3.5″ paper tiles using pen and ink. No previous drawing experience necessary. Relaxation is a common side effect. Bring supply fee of $20 to class. Class Cost: $45; Register online HERE or contact Julie Gandt, Coordinator, at 218-336-8760 x 1 or email: [email protected]

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 6:30-9:00 p.m.

Zentangle & Wine, Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road

Come experience the fun and relaxation of drawing simple, repetitive line patterns with pen and ink and pencil shading. No previous drawing experience necessary. Class Cost: $35; Supplies: $10 (or use supplies provided without additional cost). RSVP to [email protected]. Seats are limited.

Book & Film
Patterned Peace, by Esther Piszczek, CZT, published by Whole Person Associates, Duluth. Available on and Duluth Fine Pianos. Original, hand-drawn artwork ready to color. Includes full pattern index.

Life & Art Entangled, a 17 minute art documentary created by Lola Visuals featuring Zentangle-inspired artwork on a piano created by fine-line pattern artist Esther Piszczek, CZT, and the improvisational jazz piano music of Peter Brown. Life & Art Entangled debuted at the 2016 Duluth Superior Film Festival.

Places to find my art in the Twin Ports:

Art on the Planet, 1413 Tower Ave., Superior

Duluth Fine Pianos, 331 W. Superior St. (next to Starbucks)

Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road, Duluth

Zenith News, E.P. Designs, is a semi-regular Zentangle inspired art feature in this newspaper, which can be found at various public locations around the Twin Ports and online.

My Page:
My Art Blog:

[Twinportsart began as a sporadic email listing my art events and classes in 2013 and evolved over time to include other art events in the Twin Ports. It outgrew its email format this Fall and turned into a monthly blog post, although I continue to email the link to my list each month. The blog includes a list of creative education opportunities/classes in the Twin Ports, a Learn a Tangle section, and Art on View. The list is not exclusive. I am grateful for PDD’s calendar, which I check each month to see if I’ve missed any fun art events happening in the Twin Ports. Thank you, PDD!]

A majority of my framed work decorates the walls of Duluth Fine Pianos, downtown. There is a blank wall, however, that is in need of some attention. I plan to decorate a reclaimed 4’ x 6’ mirror with patterns using white acrylic paint. My hope is to film the process and turn it into a time-lapse video that will then be posted on Youtube. I am excited about the process and look forward to seeing what wants to come into being on that mirror. This project also challenges me, as I work from home in a small space, so larger projects are sometimes challenging to orchestrate without dedicated, affordable studio space.

Art Piano:
1977 Krakauer Studio Upright Piano
This piano was featured in the art documentary, Life & Art Entangled, which is a 17 minute video available on Youtube. I hired filmmakers David Cowardin and Joe Olivieri to create this documentary to preserve the artwork. My husband Paul is a Registered Piano Technician, in addition to being a fisheries biologist. This is our first collaborative project. He helped me find this piano. I painted it white and drew patterns on it using black Permapaque marker. I had it professionally sealed. It sold to a young and musically inclined couple living in West Duluth last May.

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