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Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher


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A Video Conversation With Zentangle® Co-Founders Rick and Maria

Rick and Maria VideoGreetings friends, I have a special bonus for you today …

For those who don’t follow the Zentangle blog, I wanted to share this video conversation with Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas with you. Rick alerts us to this video and an earlier podcast they’ve done here earlier this week.

This video is long — an hour and a half — but I’ve set it to start near the end of the discussion at the point where Rick and Maria talk about what to me is the crux of the Zentangle Method™ and what people often don’t seem to realize.

That “crux” is about why it is important that there is no preplanning in Zentangle — no pencil planning and so on. We don’t decide in advance what our tile is going to look like, we create our tiles “one stroke at a time”.

I’ll quote from the video about the passage I’m referring to (bold emphasis mine):

1:16:42 –  Rick explains, “I think that’s why gratitude is so important. And then trusting the process […] just trusting the process and doing it one stroke at a time. That’s a really big Zentangle metaphor. You never plan the art. The way it’s set up is you can focus on one stroke at a time, knowing that you’ll know what to do in the next stroke even though you don’t know what the end result is that you want to look like. So you’re not pre-limiting the outcome by your expectation.

And it seems contradictory but when you understand the structure or the scaffolding of it it then can support something greater and unexpected by the scaffolding. So it’s like morning glories growing on some wooden sticks. They go places that the sticks can never imagine but they could never have done it without the sticks.

1:18:26 – Maria adds, “one of the challenges that I had in teaching Zentangle was how to teach somebody to be creative, to let go of the control, of wanting it to look like the teacher’s or wanting it to look like a book, or wanting to copy and make sure that it was perfect […] One of my jobs was ‘how do we teach somebody to let go of that’ and it was the ‘one stroke at a time’. If you don’t worry about what this picture is going to look like, you can concentrate on the beauty of that one line that you’re making at that point, not worry about three lines ahead.”

To me, the Zentangle Method teaches you to trust your own ability to create something and that you can do it without knowing where it’s going to end up. That you can leap without knowing where you’ll land, just trusting it will be right. I wonder how often people miss this crucial point.


If you want to watch the entire video — and it is worth the watch — make yourself comfortable and slide the time marker back to the beginning.

Below is a very brief synopsis of what to expect in the video from the beginning. Please understand I’ve skipped a lot in this outline because there are quite a few side stories interjected, as conversations naturally do.

The actual conversation with Rick and Maria starts at around 5:40 into the video after Mike the host from Susquehanna Alchemy introduces the video then talks with Rick about how they came together for this conversation.

Rick and Maria talk about their backgrounds and interests as individuals and as artists. Around 9:25 Maria shows a 30-or-so year old fabric doll she handmade early in her artistic life. Around 16:30 Rick shows and at 19:25 plays for a moment a Native American flute he crafted.

At 20:56 they talk about their backgrounds with side stories how they met and eventually came together as a couple.

At 40:23 they begin to describe how the Zentangle Method was “born” and how it has spread around the world.

They talk about how they didn’t anticipate how much Zentangle would change lives [BTW – you can read similar stories on TanglePatterns in a series called “How Zentangle Changes Lives“] and how it teaches people how to deal with and manage life problems and challenges. Rick uses a mug analogy to talk about carrying such loads (52:56).

They share stories they’ve learned related to Zentangle’s impact: one about a woman who lost a child and was ready to commit suicide, and another about a young autistic child in Australia who began to talk for the first time in several years. They describe how Zentangle has grown organically.

1:07:00 Mike the host talks about how he became aware of Zentangle through his mother, this discussion leads into the place where I’ve started the video above.

As they wrap up the conversation they discuss why their “no mistakes” philosophy is so important and how the Method teaches people that they can do something they were convinced they could never do building on simple steps and learning about responding to situations by choosing to take “the next right step”.


I hope I’ve enticed you to watch the entire video. I know I’ve skipped over a lot but after you watch it if you think I missed something you’d like to point out, please share in a comment.

If you know of a YouTube channel or a podcast whose audience would benefit from a conversation with Rick and Maria and learning about Zentangle, they are open to invitations. Be sure to leave a comment on Rick’s blog post or get in touch with them with your suggestions.

I’ve added a page to the ZENTANGLES tab on the top menu bar (ZENTANGLES > GUEST PODCASTS & VIDEOS) with an index to “external” podcasts and videos as I learn about them so we have a central reference to them. You’ll also find this and any future video posts listed on the VIDEO tab on the pink alphabetic tangle menu bar.

As an aside, the Podcast included on the new page is a really great discussion too:

“They share their story about Zentangle’s creation, the experiences they’ve had with students in the classroom, and the work they are doing with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researching the benefits of art on mental health. ”


Related Links

  1. Looking for tangles by Artist or Type? For details visit the ABOUT > HOW TO FIND TANGLES BY ARTIST OR TYPE page on the top menu bar of any page on the site.
  2. What is a Zentangle? — if you are new to the Zentangle Method, start here for the fundamentals.
  3. Zentangle terminology — a glossary of terms used in this art form.
  4. How to use the site — an excellent free video tutorial showing how to use the site as well as pointing out lots of useful features you might have missed.
  5. Linda's List of Zentangle-Original Patterns — here is the complete list of original tangles (aka "official tangles") created and introduced by founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, including those not published online. If you are new to the Zentangle Method I highly recommend learning a few of the published Zentangle classics first.
  6. "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." Thus patterns that are drawings of a recognizable naturalistic or actual object, figure, or scene, are not tangles. A pattern is not always a tangle — here's what makes a tangle. TIP: tangles never start with pencil planning.
  7. How to submit your pattern deconstruction to TanglePatterns
  8. For lots of great FREE tutorials on TanglePatterns, click on the TUTORIALS link in the pink alphabetic menu bar below the tangle images at the top of any page.
  9. Strings! Have we got STRINGS! Click on the STRINGS link in the pink alphabetic menu bar below the tangle images at the top of any page for 250 different (free) Zentangle-starters. More than enough for any lifetime!
  10. Never miss a tangle! FREE eMAIL NEWSLETTER - visit the SUBSCRIBE page on the top menu bar of any page on the site and sign up to get notices delivered free to your inbox.


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2 comments to A Video Conversation With Zentangle® Co-Founders Rick and Maria

  • Polly Heinselman

    Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. It was a great video learning the back story of Rick and Maria coming together and showing how Zentangle came into being. I certainly can attest to it’s healing, calming or whatever you wanna call it properties. Being a caregiver to my independently living memory/hearing challenged 101-year-old mother and my own 83-year-old mobility/memory challenged husband is very stressful in its own way because I’m responsible for two households. When I sit down in the evenings between about 7 and 10 PM, I just lose myself in drawing and it really helps my restless legs, so that I can even sit there to do it. I am so grateful to have found Zentangle about 18 months ago and was never ever around anything of Art before.

  • Beatrice Aronas

    What a great talk!. So much love and integrity in the work you both do. I have had so many unforgettable moments while teaching Zentangle classes: excitement, joy, healing, flourishing creativity, kindness and many more…dear Rick and.Maria, you are really changing lives of many.Thank you very much for his Art of Zentangle magic. And endless gratitude to Linda for posting this video and many other amazing videos, articles and tangles.

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