Zentangle and What I've Learned

You've probably heard of Zentangle. Or zen doodling or free-form tangling. They're all different names for the same art form, with minor variations. (For simplicity I'm going to refer it all as zentangle.) It has risen in popularity lately as a stress reliever. People like it because it's easy to learn and has unlimited ways to use it.

I discovered zentangle through my mom, who decided to teach it in her art class. Once I tried it, I loved it. The patterns which look so complete are fairly simple once you know how to do it. The possibilities of use. While the rest of the class enjoyed learning it, I taught myself even more than what my mom had.

What Is Zentangle?

Zentangle is an art form, created by two people called Maria and Rick. She had told Rick that she felt peace and complete focus when she was drawing patterns. Together they made an art form that was simple and used to relax and meditate.

The official form of zentangle is draw in a 3.5 inch square. It is black and white, can be viewed from any direction, and is guided by a "string". This string is simply a pencil line drawn through the square. You then fill in the parts the string created. In the tangle above, I used a triangle string. Zen doodling is similar, but with none of the restrictions of zentangle. Free-form tangling is even more free, and the patterns are built off each other. In all three forms, shading is often important.

What I've Learned

I'm the sort of person that plans everything out. I like to have set schedules and have nothing disturb them. When I draw, I like to be precise and know exactly what I'm doing. So I often have problems when things get changed or something goes wrong.

Zentangle taught me not to worry so much. No matter which form you use, there is no right way to do it. The patterns are specific but there are so many ways to combine them. When you mess up a pattern, you have to go with it, because it's in pen.

When I tangle I relax and stop worrying so much about perfection. The pattern in the upper left of the cover picture? That was supposed to be a completely different pattern. I messed it up and that is what came out. When I tangle, I don't think about time or mistakes. I'm focused and enjoying myself. That's the important thing.

Learning Zentangle

There are many ways to learn zentangle, zen doodle, or free-form tangling. Many books have been written with helpful step by step breakdowns of the various patterns. If you search on YouTube, there is a multitude of videos that you can learn from. You can also take classes. It doesn't really matter.

Zentangle experts suggest you do look for things made or taught by CZT (certified zentangle teacher). They say that's the best way to learn if you want the full zentangle experience. I'm not in it for the zen part as much as the art, so I don't mind if they're certified or not, as long as they know what they're doing.

The important thing is to practice. Learn the patterns and practice them, alone or in a tangle, so you know how to do it. Memorize how to put the together so you don't constantly need guidance and can tangle anywhere. Experts say that if you want to learn a new skill you need to practice 15 minutes a day. So go do it. Right now.

What do you think about zentangle and all the others? Do you enjoy it or have a desire to try?


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