What is Zentangle?
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Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher

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Use this Random Tangle Selector with your TanglePatterns.com TANGLE GUIDE, 2016 Edition to help you select tangles. See Page 6 of the Guide for instructions. You can also use this to select random Strings.

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What is a Zentangle®?

TanglePatterns.com BEGINNER’S GUIDE to Zentangle® eBook is now available! Visit the STORE > E-BOOKS tab for more details.

“The Zentangle Method is an easy to learn, fun and relaxing way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.”

Zentangles are miniature pieces of unplanned, abstract, black and white art created through a very specific Method from an ensemble of simple, structured patterns called tangles on a 3.5-inch (89 mm) square paper tile. Zentangles are not only exquisitely beautiful, they are fun and relaxing to create.

The process of creating a Zentangle is a form of “artistic meditation” as one becomes completely engrossed in making each pattern, deliberately focusing on “one stroke at a time”®. The creativity options and pattern combinations are boundless. And anyone can do it!

The Zentangle Method “increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.”

As CZT Margaret Bremner has written, “One of the lovely things about Zentangle is that it isn’t supposed to BE anything. Even more, it’s SUPPOSED to NOT be a something. … Zentangle is simply beautiful patterns playing harmoniously together. Zentangle-inspired art (ZIA) is another story; it can be Something if you want.”

From the "Beginning Zentangle" booklet in the Official Kit

From the “Beginning Zentangle” booklet in the Official Kit

Creating a Zentangle is known as tangling.
(There is no such thing as “Zentangling”.)
** A tangle is a single pattern. **

The Zentangle art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. You can learn much more at zentangle.com and from taking a class with a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Here’s a brief overview.

Format – A 3.5″ Square Tile

The surface for a Zentangle is a 3 1/2-inch squaretile” (9 cm x 9 cm) of high quality paper (“fine, individually die-cut printmaking paper selected for its texture and archival characteristics“). A tile is small enough to finish in a short period of time and portable so you easily take your supplies with you to tangle anywhere, any time.

Any other format is referred to as a “Zentangle-inspired” creation.

The paper is called a tile because completed tiles can be arranged together in a beautiful mosaic.

Process – A Ceremony

The first important step in the ceremony of Zentangle is to relax and breathe deeply, bringing one’s attention to the process.

On the Zentangle tile, one lightly pencils a border and a string, a freeform shape into which one then draws intricate non-objective patterns called tangles, with deliberate intentional strokes using a thin-nib archival ink Sakura Micron pen. Additional shading can be added in pencil to create depth and drama.

Rulers, straight edges, or other mechanical aids are not used in Zentangle. It’s just you and your pen.

Example of a Border with a “String” drawn within it with pencil on a Tile – ready to tangle and become a Zentangle®

A Zentangle is not intended to be a representation of some thing. Both the tangles used, and the resulting completed tile are intended to be unplanned, abstract, non-objective creations that grow organically as you make each deliberate stroke. As described on the official website:

A Zentangle has no up or down and is not a picture of something, so you have no worries about whether you can draw a hand, or a duck. You always succeed in creating a Zentangle.

The mindful drawing of individual strokes makes possible the shift in focus that is meditation. The decision-making involved in other forms of art is deliberately removed in the Zentangle Method. The outcome “unfolds one stroke at a time”.

Primo Examples

If you’ve never heard of Zentangle before and would like to see some wonderful examples, check out this one by guest artist Jella Verelst here on TanglePatterns.com. Then visit the Zentangle Gallery to see originators Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts’ beautiful work. Maria is widely recognized as one of the top lettering artists in the world. Her 40+ years of experience with pen and ink transform an ordinary line into something quite lyrical.

Zentangle or Doodle?

Update: 09/03/2015: CZT Sandy Hunter has published a very good description of the differences between Zentangle and a doodle here.

Often people new to Zentangle will say, “I’ve doodled all my life, I never knew it had a name.” With all due respect, Zentangle is not doodling though the outcome may look the same. What is the difference between doodling and Zentangle?

In Zentangle, you don’t doodle aimlessly. There is a foundation and a process. Because there is no need to keep thinking about the foundation, freshness and delight get to come alive.” – Mary Sargeant, CZT

Zentangle is a form of artistic meditation through a very specific Method of deliberate intention that produces non-objective drawings composed of patterns (tangles) that can be viewed from all four sides. Zentangle is about process, not outcome.

Zentangles do not contain recognizable objects and there is no “right side up”. The Zentangle method is very focused and mindful, whereas doodling is generally something you do with your hands while your thoughts are occupied with something else. It’s easy to confuse the outcome of Zentangle with doodling, but they are quite different processes.

Likewise, the tangle patterns composing a Zentangle do not represent a natural or actual object, figure, or scene.

A pattern is not always a tangle. Learn more about what makes a tangle pattern different here. (There are many drawing patterns online labeled as tangles but they are not.)

The following excerpt from the 2009 article Zentangle: Art, but not for Art’s Sake by Sandy Bartholomew, CZT and author of the very popular Zentangle books Totally Tangled and Yoga for Your Brain, explains the difference between Zentangle and doodling:

As you cruise the internet looking for Zentangle art and ideas, you start to see the difference between “doodles”, Zentangle-ish art and Zentangle art by people who have had some training. Doodles are easily recognized as what they are because they are random and done in a thought-less way. Usually done while doing or thinking about something else. Unrelated. Talking on the telephone or daydreaming in a class or meeting. Zentangles are unplanned, but deliberate. The patterns are built “one stroke at a time” and they build on each other. The tangler doesn’t “tune out”, but rather “tunes IN”. You become incredibly focused on what is evolving beneath your pen. You forget your worries for the moment. It is also very easy to see the difference between Zentangle art and Zentangle-like art. One dead giveaway is the dark lines outlining the “strings”. Strings are guidelines that fade into the design when used properly. The characteristics that make a piece look like Zentangle: black and white, dense patterns within shapes, some shading – are what make some artists shake their heads and say “that’s nothing new.” But, again, these characteristics are not what make a real Zentangle, they are just the “look” – the end result. Zentangle is not a technique like watercolor or oil painting. … it is all about the process, not the finished piece.

Getting Started

If you are new to Zentangle, I highly recommend you start by learning how to draw the published Zentangle-original tangles which can all be found on Linda’s List of Official Tangle Patterns.

The TanglePatterns.com BEGINNER’S GUIDE to Zentangle® is available from the STORE > E-BOOKS page and in it you will find answers to all your Beginner’s Questions. And your purchase helps keep this free resource going and growing, and is deeply appreciated. 🙂

Related Links:

About Zentangle classes and books

I caution anyone thinking of signing up for Zentangle classes (or hiring someone to teach your organization) to make sure you will be learning from a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Check the list to verify you are getting a CZT.

A CZT understands “how to guide and coach you as you learn, explore and practice the Zentangle Method and Artform.

There is simply no way an uncertified person can honestly give you an authentic Zentangle experience, and believe me you want the real thing.

Unfortunately there are people who are charging for Zentangle classes and they are not qualified or trained to do so. While I don’t doubt their enthusiasm, it’s just plain wrong for them to misrepresent themselves and take your money under false pretense. At best the experience can only be Zentangle-ish.

This applies to books too, there are so many “Zentangle” books and eBooks that are just balderdash to part you from your money. Forget accuracy, forget truth. If you’re shopping for a book, look for authors who are Certified Zentangle Teachers and avoid the rest like the plague. Your money will be better spent.

Demand the real deal.


Perfect Holiday Gifts ...

TanglePatterns.com TANGLE GUIDE, 2016 Edition

TanglePatterns.com TANGL GUIDE, 2016 Edition The current Edition of my TANGLE GUIDE. This instant-download digital eBook contains all the tangles on the site from May 2010 through December 31, 2015. It's a must-have tool for using the site.
Visit the BOOK REVIEWS page for more details on its features and view a sample page.
Visit the STORE > E-BOOKS page for more information and support TanglePatterns.com by getting your copy now!
GIFT ORDERS: To give the TANGLE GUIDE as a gift, visit this page to place your gift order.
If you're new to Zentangle® and tangling, my TanglePatterns.com BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ZENTANGLE is just what you need to get started. Also available en Français and en Español.

Zentangle Primer Volume 1 Remember you can get your official Zentangle supplies here too, including the fabulous new Zentangle PRIMER Vol 1. It's your CZT-in-a-book by the founders of Zentangle®! Visit the STORE tab on the top menu bar or click on the image. For more about the content and to read the rave reviews, visit the BOOK REVIEWS tab.
"Absolutely the best Zentangle Book yet! As an accomplished artist I used to think I did not need instruction on this art form. How wrong I was! My tangling improved by leaps and bounds after reading this book. If you think you have Zentangle down then you need this book more than ever!" ~ Kris H

The Official Zentangle Kit Another great jump-starter for new tanglers is the original Official Zentangle Kit. The Kit includes all the supplies you'll need to get started properly: Sakura Micron Pens, Zentangle Tiles, pencil, sharpener, tortillion, a booklet and an instructional DVD by co-founder Maria Thomas. Click on the image for more information about the Kit and its contents.

 

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