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What is Zentangle?
Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher


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STORIES: Overcoming artist block; overcoming fear of failure

In this new occasional series on TanglePatterns, here are two readers’ accounts describing in their own words how Zentangle® has changed their lives. (For more in this series, click on the “STORIES” link in the alphabetic listing above.)

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STORIES: How Zentangle changes lives“I enjoyed reading the stories of how Zentangle® has come into people lives just when they needed it. I had a brain injury in 2005 and was hospitilized for 6 months and I wish I had known about Zentangle then.

But my story is a little different.

I was raised with a mother who was a tempermental artist. Daily I was forced behind the easel to paint with her and I detested every minute of it. To add insult to injury, I didn’t seem to have the ‘natural gift’ to conquer the skills to create spectacular masterpieces. By the time I was old enough to leave home, I vowed I would never hold a paint brush, pencil, pen or any other artistic tool in my hand again. Furthermore, I had completely convinced myself that I had absolutely no talent, inclination, or even a hint of desire to try art again.

Thirty-five years later I was taking a yoga class at the senior center and was passing by a room on the way out and happened to notice a room full of people who looked like they were doodling on their paper. But they were so focused and concentrating so hard on what they were doing. I taught high school for over 30 years and never saw my kids be that intent with their doodling. My curiosity got the better of me.

I couldn’t believe what I saw on their papers. Whirls and twirls, geometric shapes that were twisted and warped, and patterns that created the most beautiful images. I was mesmerized. ‘What is this?’ I exclaimed so excitedly. The rest is history.

Zentangle broke down the non-permeable barrier I had created for myself. From the beginning I never saw Zentangle as a form of art that required such rigid parameters. For the first time I felt free with my art and could express myself without someone holding the bar so high above my head. I never knew art could be so fun.

But the most amazing part of what Zentangle did for me was, it allowed me to finally understand that it’s okay not to create the perfect picture. After all these years, I finally went back and picked up a paint brush again. And I  knew that I could paint whatever I wanted. I was okay with myself that I was not Picasso or Winslow Homer. I was painting for fun and enjoyment. The skills would come in time.

Thank you Rick and Maria for bringing this peaceful and enlightening gift into our lives.” ~ Madeleine

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STORIES: How Zentangle changes lives“Well, my story isn’t quite so profound as the others, but I’m still very grateful. I’ve been a crafty lady for years. Only crafty. Follow-the-directions-and you-can’t-miss crafty, not an artist. Inside was an artist begging to get out, but I was held back by fear.

Zentangle® gave me an opportunity to loosen up that artist inside and get out from behind the fear of failure. YOU CAN’T FAIL AT ZENTANGLE. You follow the instructions and guess what you get? ART!! Now I’m drawing and painting and laying out, and designing. It has been pertinent in freeing me up to take a risk. Can’t be without it!” ~ Gwen M.

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If you would like to share your own experience for this series, please email me (linda [at] tanglepatterns [dot] com). You can make your story as long as or short as you like and if you wish your personal details to remain private, I will certainly honor that.

By publishing your “testimonials”, I’m hoping it will help spread the word about Zentangle to many others who can REALLY benefit from it. As the Zentangle founders say, “Anything is possible, one stroke at a time.”™

7 comments to STORIES: Overcoming artist block; overcoming fear of failure

  • Dorothy Roller

    Hi Linda. My story is different from the two I just read, but with somewhat the same result. I was a crafter for a very long time. I did craft fairs, had my stuff in the local craft malls that sprang up in the nineties and I enjoyed it.
    After awhile I decided to start designing plastic canvas and cross stitch and other craft items to be sold hopefully to magazines. Well cross stitch took off when I contacted one editor and she liked what I was doing. I did this for several years, also sold a couple of plastic canvas designs but did better at the cross stitch. I even sold my designs to one of the needlework fabric manufacturers.
    Then I had been diagnosed with a ligament that was ovweerstretched in my lower back and was having trouble walking and standing for very long and couldn’t do many of the things I loved. I also have fibromyalgia that has gotten worse over the last couple of years. I started getting deeply depressed and didn’t do anything for a little over a year. One day while browsing the internet, I found an art group on one of the ning sites and joined it. I saw people doing zentangle and had seen such wonderful and beautiful pieces of art that I wanted to try it. I bought some micron pens and a sketch book and started doodling, learning tangles and went to town. I loved it. That was in 2009 when I started doing zentangle and I have since been amazed at what I see others doing, and enjoy getting encouraging comments from others doing zentangle and other art forms on flickr and my ning group. I never had any formal art training and always considered my self just a crafter although I did my own thing most of the time without follow patterns. I didn’t think that I was artistic only creative even when I was designing cross stitch. Zentangle has freed me from that self image of not being artistic and I know that anyone can do it and I try to encourage others in my art groups to try it. I have even come up with some of my own tangles. Dorothy R.

  • Denise

    I can related 100% to Gwen’s story, in fact it was as if I wrote it myself. I, too have enjoyed what it brings to me and enjoy the deep focus I can get from it – hours can go by and I haven’t even noticed. I love that.

  • linda mcintyre

    In my quest for a healthier me I took a class on weight mantenance not diet but to find a healthy life style that would allow me to loose weight and then maintain the weight loss. One of the classes talked about eating because of stress and finding an alternative to food….well zentangle has become my alternative I spend an hour or two a day tangling and my stress is now controllable. I am relaxed I am happy and I am creating works of art for myself and friends instead of unwanted pounds on my body.I tell everyone who will listen about this wonderful wonderful gift and many have become tanglers is so true that anything is possible one stroke at a time:) Linda

  • Pat Brasch

    I find doing Zentangle very conforting and highly rewarding. I have become addicted to doing it. I can’t leave it alone. I’m currently doing tangles using Dreamweaver stencils as outlines. I recommend this art form for anyone but particularly someone who may be having a lot of stress in their lives. Doing Zentangle can be the key to relaxation and better mental health.

  • Marie Bunch

    Bits of all the comments are mine but I have to tell you how much I enjoy Zentangle and how good it has been for me. I am 75 years old and have always found something to do that would keep my hands busy. I water color, some oils and acrylic. I make greeting cards for my friends and church members. I have health issues too, chronic back ache, Fibromyalgia, arthritis and depression. Now that I am sure one cannot make a mistake in Zentangle I can work and just forget everything. What a blessing it has been for me. When I wake up in a Fibro Fog I get my pen and paper and begin to tangle. In a while I have forgotten about how miserable I feel. Good therpy and a lot of fun.

  • Caroline Marin

    I can relate to these stories… I have tried my hand at crafts of all kinds; making jewelry, beading, sewing, scrapbooking, tole painting… I was pretty good at whatever I tried. Until I started having problems with my hands. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands wich limits me in what I can do. I get very shaky and my hands tire quite easily. I also suffer of depression and it can make it quite difficult to concentrate. I was looking through a crafting and painting magazine published here in the Province of Quebec, and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a tiny article that piqued my curiosity… It was about Zentangles… They had gotten the link wrong but I found it! I have since found that through stretching my hands and relaxing I can Tangle!!! When I get depressed or angry, I bring out my pens and paper and go at it! I can also manage my concentration much better now.

    Thank you for this wonderful expresion of art!

  • Judy Morgan

    Thank You Linda for having these posted. I’ve been practicing tangles since my Mom died May 2014 and just love it. Today I was noticing how frustrated I’ve been getting over a serious injury, financial issues, but reading these reminds me how blessed I am to have tools to create with, that healing is coming along, and that success isn’t truly measured by the world’s standards and titles and bank statements…I get to make my marks one at a time, on paper, in life, and appreciate everyone’s efforts here as well.

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