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Zentangle Community: When you haven’t been tangling for a while, how do you get started again?

Tips from the Zentangle® communityRecently a long-time (loooong time) TanglePatterns subscriber sent an email saying in part:

“I haven’t tangled in quite a while and I think I need to get back to basics to re-start. … I’m excited to be renewing my acquaintance with this art form, which, to me has always been more meditation than art.”

This raises an interesting question: When you’ve been absent for a while, how do you get back into the swing of your Zentangle practice?

My reply included some top-of-my-head suggestions:

I’d recommend starting with the Zentangle PRIMER Vol 1 to get back into the swing of things. Start with Page 13 and just go from there. That would be my best recommendation.

You could also start with the “Official” tangles from this page:

http://tanglepatterns.com/zentangles/list-of-official-tangle-patterns

And simply work your way through (or use the Random Tangle generator in the left sidebar to choose for you).

As far as the site goes, when you scroll down the home page all the tangles are listed in reverse chronological order. In other words the most recent is listed first and it goes all the way back from there.

There’s also an “Archives” link in the left sidebar where you can go back in time to whenever you choose.

However, I know there are lots of ideas out there. And I thought this is a really great question to put out to our Zentangle® community at-large:

When you’ve been absent for a while, how do you get back into the swing of your Zentangle practice?

How do you get over the hump and get going? And where do you start?

Your advice and suggestions are invited and welcome, please scroll down the page and add your thoughts in the Comments section at “Leave a reply”.

(And many thanks to NG for her prompt!)

BTW: if you have questions you’d like to see answered by our Zentangle community, feel free to let me know. Email me or use the ABOUT > CONTACT LINDA page.

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48 comments to Zentangle Community: When you haven’t been tangling for a while, how do you get started again?

  • Lynn Hensley

    Take a lesson from a CZT!!! They always have fresh ideas & can tailor your lesson to where you are in your practice.
    LH
    PS
    I’m not a CZT!

  • C.

    Just take a deep breath, sigh, and a micron pen, and get STARTED –

    OR – maybe you have a friend who needs a ZIA card or note, someone you haven’t seen or heard from in a while, and think of them as you get in the”zen” –

    It does make one feel better, even for a short while, which may evolve into a “regular while” –

  • Joyce Blodgett

    Three years ago last month I fell at work, resulting in basically destroying my right shoulder–inoperable–and of course, that’s my dominant arm/hand. I couldn’t do a thing for months until sufficient healing had taken place, so even drawing was out.

    Once I was able to hold a pen without excruciating pain, I began with Zentangle patterns to get back into my favorite activity, and I used this site–tanglepatterns.com–for my inspirations. I would just watch the patterns scroll across the top, and when my eyes would “hang” on just one, I’d go find it, then spend some time drawing that particular one.

    Took me a long time to be able to draw for hours as I used to do, but now I’m back into it full swing–and the shoulder, while there’s not much pain anymore, still cannot be operated on, so I’m mighty thankful for such things as Zentangle patterns, where there are so many delightful patterns to work with, and to keep my mind occupied in a good way, too!

  • Rosemary Turpin

    I almost always have my homemade portable Zentangle kit with me (5 x 5″ cardboard, a few pens, a few of my most recent tangles in a small photo album and maybe a page of inspirations.) I look at those most recent tangles, smile, admire and see if I get any new ideas from them. At home, of course, I have a few books and this site to get my mojo flowing again …

  • Judy Williamson

    I have gotten new enjoyment and a fun way to use my Zentangles- as backgrounds for my composition book covers and as part of my journal pages. Don’t know how to post pictures here or else I would show you some examples.

  • Rosemary Turpin

    I forgot to mention that my kit travels in a reinforced clear plastic zipper bag and my pens in a pencil case.

    • Linda Dochter, CZT

      Rosemary – Portability. I like it. Did you know that micro pens also fit perfectly into an eyeglass case? Linda

      • Dessie Arnold

        Oooh, I love the idea about using an eyeglass case for the pens! That would work for regular pens and pencils, too, to make them easy to find in the bottomless purse! Also would prevent inadvertent pencil injuries.

        • Linda Dochter, CZT

          Also, use cases that can be distinguished from one another by color or texture if you actually carry eyeglasses in one of them.

  • Hattie J Bazemore

    Spend sometime meditating on and reviewing previous patterns you’ve drawn. Take time to peruse zentangle books and looking at flickr.com

  • Sue Agnew

    What got me started again after being burned out for awhile (I was trying too hard, having too high expectations for myself, turning it from a process into a product) was Adele Bruno’s weekly “tickled to tangle” challenge … there are several other weekly challenges around that would work as well … it provides parameters, so you’re not overwhelmed by all the choices, and there’s a weekly deadline. Sometimes the prescribed patterns aren’t my favorites, but it’s good to broaden and give other tangles a chance.

  • Anna Houston CZT

    I have just experienced this myself. I have found that the increasing complexity of others’ work made me compare myself in a negative way and got me to thinking, “why bother, I’m nowhere near that good.” I unfollowed a few fB groups that added to that feeling( I know, it’s my issue, no one else’s) Lately I have restarted by going back to the basics and remembered why Rick and Maria emphasized the use of black and white only initially as it eliminates the stress of deciding on color. Now I can feel and enjoy the true relaxation that comes from doing the basics.

    • Joyce Blodgett

      Anna,
      I have to agree with you re: some groups on Facebook; I got into one that initially seemed great, and the work the artists did was phenomenal, in my opinion. But the woman who organized and runs the group also critiqued everyone’s work, and even the pieces that I thought were utterly exquisite began to “crumble to dust” under her near-constant scrutiny.
      I finally left the group, feeling that my own work could never be posted to that site (it never was), but also feeling immensely better for having gotten myself out of there without having had to suffer the humility of every tiny mark having been ripped to shreds verbally.
      Drawing Zentangle patterns is something I enjoy so much, and creating ZIA is so special to me, I prefer to just come here and see what Linda has (and Linda, thank you so very much for ALL that you have on this site!!), and then work with it. There’s so much here, it would take a person a very long time to run out of inspiration!

    • Dessie Arnold

      Anna, loved your comments. To me Zentangle is intensely personal. I do it for the Zen part for me – not to be judged as an artist. For that reason I’ve tried to avoid posting or anything that might get into competition or critiquing.

  • I agree with Lynn Hensley! A good CZT can make your re-entry into the delight of Zentangle an easy and inspiring process. You’ll be with like-minded people for a few hours each time which just might fan those Zentangle flames back into a warm & happy conflagration of creativity. 🙂 Welcome back!

  • This happened to me recently, and I went back to the very first tile I created at seminar: basic tangles on a white tile with the N or Z string. It was satisfying and helped me jump start back to more complex designs.

  • What I do myself and suggest to students is to go back to the basic fundamentals .. dots, border, simple string, my favourite mac ‘n cheese tangles and of course, gratitude and appreciation that I can draw without thinking about the outcome. I think that’s the secret. If I start looking online, in the FB groups, etc I end up going down that never ending rabbit hole, gradually doubt my work and lose my spontaneity. I also like to draw “large” and don’t think about composition, shading etc… just draw tangles to my hearts content. Within a short time my mojo is back!!!

  • Kimrey Levy

    I just bought myself a new zentangle book, new pens and my first pack of tiles. The book is One Zentangle A Day, A 6-week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration, and Fun by Beckah Krahula

  • Angie Freeman

    Thank you for publishing this question. I can really relate to Anna’s feelings of inadequacy. And I find many of the responses here helpful. I still wonder what to do with all the tiles I’ve done, especially the ones that are not that interesting. Do people just put them in the recycle bin? Or are there some creative ways to use my less-than-stellar tangles?

    • Carol Lindman

      Inre using your tiles that are not your best work:
      I cut up parts I like and use them in multimedia cards, gift tags or other projects
      Most of the time in my paintings or tangles I love one section but other areas give me a visceral response. I am learning to appreciate my journey and growth with less self criticism and comparing to others. That’s a personal thing and certainly I’m in process ! I coach my self to push for improvement but to cut myself some slack.
      Be kind to yourself and enjoy your art.

    • Jeane Parker

      Use your 1 inch square punch. Punch out squares and lay them out on black paper with a sliver of black between the squares.
      Your new “tile” will look different! .

      • Joyce Blodgett

        Great idea! I was just wondering the same thing Angie Freeman asked in regard to what to do with pieces I don’t like all of, and this, as well as cutting them into gift tags, etc., really helps!

  • Sandy Hunter

    Well said, Brenda! Go back to basics, definitely. Stop looking at other people’s art for a while. I’ve seen a lot of people get discouraged and distracted by not following the Zentangle method because they see someone else’s style and want to draw the same things in the same ways. No zen there, though… that’s like trying to copy somebody else’s handwriting. Put the names of some patterns you want to try on individual slips of paper and draw a few out of a mug. That goes along with removing the decision-making process and will make tangling more relaxing. If you want an overkill approach to this concept, google my tangle jar post. It’s 90% fun and 10% completely ridiculous, give or take. 😀

  • Vera Whiting

    I haven’t tangled for several months and feel, almost afraid, to start again! I don’t understand why. Reading these posts I must go back to the beginning. I know that I miss it.

  • Carol Lindman

    I find tiles intimidating and restrictive when I’m in a slump. Consequently I have discovered a pretty journal for ZIA is freeing and gets the creative juices going. I flip through a pattern book or recent postings of patterns, chose whatever appeals at that moment and go with it. Works for me…

    • Anna

      I find it so interesting that we are all so different even though we share the love of Zentangle art. Unlike you, I feel more secure( especially when in a slump) tangling on tiles as I don’t worry about ruining an entire page in my sketchbook! But I also have a small house, a small car, a small RV, so I might just be one of those people who feel more secure in small spaces! Whatever works!

      • Joyce Blodgett

        I like that, Anna–how you like small things–because I, too, like small houses, small cars, etc. (although I’m not a small woman; I’m only 5’3″, but am VERY ’round’!). I do like to draw on the backs of certain old calendars, though–ones I got from work over a several year period before I retired ten months ago–because I have them cut to various sizes, from tiny “Bijou” size up to around 6″. No “Opus” size tiles, but what I have works well for my various drawing moods. And yes, it is very interesting how different we all are, yet in the one way, we’re all much alike within our enjoyment of drawing in the “zen zone.” 🙂

  • Mincka

    I start with turning the page of my journal and stop watching all kind of videos etc. And then start with basics.

    • Joyce Blodgett

      There are some of the videos on YouTube that leave me feeling as if I’ve just watched some kind of finger-racing marathon!

      And then there’s Ellen Wolters, who I think is German; how I love watching that woman’s videos! She doesn’t draw her tangles exactly the way shown in the original instructions, but I ALWAYS come away from her videos having gained greater understanding on how to draw what might have been a puzzling pattern (to me, that is).

      • Dessie Arnold

        Yes, I love Ms. Wolters’ videos, too. I was resistant to watching videos until I tried one, and saw how helpful it was to watch someone tangle. I love the assurance with which so many of the artists draw. It reminds me of the “deliberately” that I just read earlier today in one of Suzanne MacNeill’s books (Zentangle 11, I believe).

  • Stephy

    When getting back to tangling is a challenge, I go back to some of my early Zentangles and, using large index cards (to not waste tiles) I do one pattern on a card several times. If I just do the top, I have pretty note cards for personal use. Then, next card, different tangle, until I have five cards or so, Next, I practice making curls and auras. Then, I pick up a tile, make a random String, and go for it! Happy Tangling!

  • Holly Morales

    Taking a class from a CZT is a great jump-start. Unfortunately it can be hard to locate one, especially in rural California ?. One of my favorite books is “One Zentangle a Day” by Beckah Krhula. I will start the book from the beginning, as if I’d never done the lessons before. It’s fun to compare new tiles with tiles from before. Carol Ohl’s Zentagle calendar is helpful as well, I don’t think about “creating” anything, I just tangle in the spot for the day which usually leads to more tiles and tangles, but sometimes not and that’s fine too.

  • Lianne

    I look through my folder of tiles already completed and remember the good feelings I had when drawing them. I pick out a couple of favourite tangles and then start at the very beginning. Gratitude, dots, join the dots, string (keep it simple, like the Z string) and then just fill in the tangles I chose. Once I get started, one step at a time, the flow just comes.

  • Narelle Cox

    I feel exactly the same as Vera! What I have done, though, is to fill a very small notebook with what I think are the easiest tangles and this is part of my travel kit. When my mind is tired I use these tangles rather than try the more complicated ones. Also, a couple of times I have asked my daughter to draw a string for me, and that has given me the urge to fill it in with patterns so I can show her what her string turned into.

  • Linda Kennedy

    I start with LINES. Just filling pages with lines, until a circle or square pops itself into the space. That is when I know I am ready to move on.
    Then after doing some of my favorite patterns, I move on to some of the newest patterns. Things come back as I am ready for them, just like when I was beginning.

  • Sue Zanker

    I need to make sure I do at least ONE black on white tile every single day, like taking essential medicine, for they are my NEEDED meditation, with a pen in my hand. Then, as far as others during the week, I participate in “swaps” with other Tanglers, challenges etc and occasionally, when I am “stumped to start” I get one of my folders, shut my eyes and open it (or get my husband to open it) at random and do whatever pattern pops up……I then breathe, feeling grateful that I have both the ability to hold a pen and eyes which can see (albeit with glasses!) close my eyes, pick a spot on the tile and start drawing. All this usually works, that plus the Zentangle Primer #1 get me going! The worst thing you can do at times like that is look at amazing tangles other more experienced tanglers do, remember it’s a case of LIFTING your spirits and feeling good, not stomping on your soul….be kind to yourself, you are the best person in YOUR own world.

  • Dessie Arnold

    Dear Linda,

    I love it that you asked this question and encouraged the community to chime in. I’ve often had questions, and not really sure where to turn.

    Being a relatively new tangler (started 11 months ago), I haven’t been away from Zentangle for any length of time, but if I had been here are some ideas that I probably will try if I find myself in that situation. Note: when I use the term “the website” I am referring to your website, tanglepatterns.com.

    1. If you feel like you are really really rusty, checkout Tangle Refresher 119 – Featuring suggestions for Beginners on some tangles to get started … under the Tutorials section of the website.

    2. I love your idea of using the Zentangle Primer Vol. 1. I’ve recently purchased it and it’s a great book – both for revisiting the basics, and for getting into the spirit of things.
    3. Any of the other good books out there (you have a number of them listed in the book review section of your website) – Joy of Zentangle, One Zentangle a Day, and The Great Zentangle Book spring to mind, but almost any good one will get you back into it. Start at the beginning and read and work your way through the book, until you feel like you are back where you want to be. They will remind you of the basics, maybe shed a different light on something than the first time around, and will give you a lesson plan.

    3. Either look at the Tangle Guide 2017 (if you have one), look at the ever-changing banner of tangle patterns across the top of the website or just go through the alphabet looking at the thumbnails of the different tangles. Make a list of ones that you like, and click on them to get the stepouts for them, and start drawing them.

    4. There are a lot of good videos that show how to do certain tangles. Just put Zentangle in the search box when you’re at YouTube.com and you’ll see a bunch of them.

    5. Once you’re comfortable with doing basic tangles, look at some of the tutorials on the website.

    6. Canadian CZT Margaret Bremner has done a series of articles that go into depth on certain Zentangle-original tangles – the “…and then some” series. To find it, go to the page for Gneiss and read about it – links to the articles are partway down the page.

    7. To get started doing tangles again, take any good Zentangle book, and work your way through the tangles presented. I’m currently using The Great Zentangle Book, and doing the tangles in the date squares of an inexpensive Monthly Planner that I got at Dollar General (they haven’t started stocking them yet for this year). I just started with the first tangle she presents and tangle it in the first square, and if I want another try at it, or want to try a variation, I use the next square. The paper is pretty thin, so I skip every other month. I take TGZB and my monthly planner and a Micron pen with me any time I think I’ll be stuck waiting, and it makes waiting a pleasure rather than a pain.

    8. Once you’ve refreshed yourself on the basic steps and of some of the tangles available, if you need inspiration or ideas for doing a tile, work your way through some of the Tangle Refreshers on the website (http://tanglepatterns.com/tag/refresher) – those will give you a string and a few tangles to play with. If you’re feeling really creative, you could do a number of different tiles using the same string and tangles given in the refresher – or you could just work your way through the refreshers – a different one every day.

    I could probably keep going and going and going, but these are what spring to mind right now. Thanks for such a great question!

    Dessie Arnold

    Indiana

  • Dessie Arnold

    P.S. I can’t wait to read what everyone else has suggested – I forgot to do that before submitting my reply.

    • Joyce Blodgett

      That’s okay, Dessie; you said what a lot of us needed to know, and everyone seems to have good suggestions that work for them, and could probably help us all in some way 🙂

  • Eni Oken

    I agree with many of the others, going back to the basics is the best way to start, even if you haven’t been away for very long. Even if you are a regular tangler, revisiting the basic 101 tangle is a great way to re-ground. I try to create a 101 tangle at the beginning of every year. Ideally yes, it would be with a CZT, but if not then with one of the many basic books out there including the Primer obviously.

  • Linda Dochter, CZT

    1) TanglePatterns.com has an index by author on the left margin. I suggest searching for “suzannem” to find over 75 tangles by Suzanne McNeill, CZT. Just page through the results of the search to review her tangles. You will find that many are excellent beginner or refresher tangles.

    2) Enjoy the process and make it your own. (add music, poetry readings, “imagine” which is my fav)

  • JENNIFER SPARROW

    In addition to all these great ideas, I would simply add: b r e a t h e. Then start at the beginning, with gratitude and appreciation, then corner dots, border, tangle, shade and appreciate. If you’ve always tangled without the Method, that might just be what’s missing!

  • Polly Martin

    I appreciated reading everyones thoughts.. this stall period no doubt happens to us all.. When it does to me, I notice what is going on in my thoughts.. usually some negativity that is deadening.. So.. back to BREATHE, Gratitude and Appreciation really does work miracles. Cut myself some slack too, erase that negative thought and pick up your pen in a basic “one stroke at a time”

  • Paula Schneider

    I really loved these suggestions and have acted on several of them just this week (first week of Aug, 2017). I’d like to add one of my own–that of having your soft back tangle books “spiralized,” i.e. having them spiral bound. It makes them so much easier to look at and work with. I simply went to my local copy shop and they did all mine for about $2.50 each. It was worth every penny!

  • Barb Marlatt CZT 20

    Re: Joyce and Anna’s comments r/t discomfort with an over-critiqued FB group experience….
    So glad to know that you both have abandoned these unsupportive environments! To my understanding, the very core of Zentangle is about the process, exploration and self discovery. It is NOT about the final product, altho we can have, and express, gratitude for the beauty that we each perceive. Every class I have ever attended by my fellow CZT’s has been supportive of these core experiences….and FUN! 🙂 May we each continue to explore and enjoy our own Zentangle path, and the support of an incredible community. As always, so much gratitude to Linda for her incredible site!!

  • Karen Lloyd

    Thank you to everyone who wrote all these comments! I read through every single one of them. Sometimes I feel like I just can’t keep up with everything that is going on in the Zentangle world, and there’s a part of me that thinks I should, but with all the comments I realized an important thing. I don’t have to keep abreast of everything and I don’t have to worry about madly trying to post Zentangles all the time. It wore me out, and I felt like I was in some kind of race.

    I also wanted to say that I was sorry to hear about the overly critical critiquers. I have found that for the most part, other TANGLERS are very encouraging and positive. After all, “there are no mistakes” and I love to see people doing things their own way. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing heavy duty shading, and will keep it pretty simple. Sometimes I do. I guess it’s up the individual…and their enjoyment. It’s sometimes not easy to do something just for oneself.

  • TK

    I subscribe to your emails and save them in a separate folder for just this situation. I just go to the last one I practiced and go from there. I’ve purchased a few books & workbooks over the year I’ve been tangling but I always end up back to this site. Or when I’m on the go without internet I refer back to your 2016 Tangle Guide I purchased last year. Thank you for your dedication to this site! I know I greatly appreciate all the work you have and do put into it.

  • Pauline Goalby

    Dear Linda, I lost my zentangle mojo big-time – for a whole year. Three things got me back. One, your website and your latest tangle e-book, thank you so much. Two, the Primer and Jane Marbaix’s lovely project book. Three, doing 26 tiles with strings of the alphabet, A-Z. Three cheers to all the lovely ideas posted here. Love from the Cambridgeshire fens in the UK.

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