Yes, the name is copywrited; and yes, there are official trained instructors, and a formal procedure. BUT! there are no Zentangle police who will come after you if you find your own way into this peaceful and meditative art form.
My teacher promised me so.
What IS Zentangle, Anyway?
Zentangle is drawing, but not doodling. When we’re doodling, our mind is elsewhere, and our results are random. When we’re “tangling”, our mind is on the pattern we’re drawing. The pattern liberates us from figuring out what to draw. It focusses our attention. Patterns are simple gateways to get the pen on the paper, the hand moving, the line following, the mind absorbed. The results are surprising and delightful.
My first attempts, though, were not so delightful. I tried it on my own, but my drawings didn’t please me much. What’s the deal here, I wondered? So I did some research and found a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) in my town. Her name is Liesbeth, at Tangling Tools and Tiles. We got together a few days later.
Learning to Tangle
The training session gave me 2 hours with Liesbeth, and all the materials I needed to start:
- Archival quality paper squares to draw on, called tiles;
- .01 micron pen with archival quality black ink;
- graphite pencil;
- tortillon (or blending stump, a paper tool for blending graphite);
- a bookmark-sized list of the 8 steps the Zentangle method;
- all in a neat little cotton bag lettered with the phrase “Anything is possible, one stroke at a time”.
No eraser, though. There are no mistakes in this art form. A pen stroke that goes awry may be incorporated into the design, or remain an oddity in the pattern. It’s like life.
Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts are the originators of Zentangle. They’d so often heard all the reasons people give for why they can’t make art. No time; no space; can’t draw, no materials, no creativity. Thomas and Roberts had an epiphany – they realized a way for people to overcome every one of those obstacles. Zentangle assures that if you can write your name, you can do this. And it delivers on that assurance.
Testimonials about the delight people find in tangling are plentiful and inspiring. Liesbeth’s story, for example. She’s a pediatrician. She was called away from the children’s ward in her hospital, last year, because of the pandemic. Treating adults sick with this new disease was “horrible”, she said. The stress was intense and relentless. In the midst of that, she found Zentangle. That gave her the break she needed – times of peaceful absorption and relief from the grinding pressure she was experiencing every day in the hospital. She valued it so much that she became an instructor.
There’s so much more that could be said about Zentangle. It’s a great activity for kids, and for families; it’s created a world-wide community; it’s easy to learn, yet endlessly varied. The most important thing, though, is that it’s do-able and welcoming. There may be a certified teacher near you; if not, the Zentangle website and numerous Youtube channels can bring you everything you need to get started. Try a tangle or two! See where they take you!