Posted in Zentangle

Mosaic App Honor

Yesterday was a big surprise. My morning email brought a request from Zentangle.com to use one of my tiles for part of a Mosaic App T3 (Tangles, Tips, & Techniques) post for St. Patrick’s Day. Shocked out of my mind, I agreed, of course, thanking them for the honor in my reply.

A St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Way Bop tile.

Nothing fancy or exciting, I know. It was the idea that was being used, although maybe the shamrock doing a jig got someone smiling. 

I love the tangle called Way Bop, and waited somewhat impatiently for months for a step-out to come out. I tried to mimic Way Bops as drawn by artists and tanglers for the Zentangle Mosaic app and for challenges all over the Internet. I came close, but the procedure I used was convoluted and the results were far from satisfying. I was certain there was an easier way to draw Way Bop, and that I would have to wait until the step-out was released. 

About a month ago, Zentangle released the step-out for Way Bop (link to my post with step-outs) along with another step-out of a heart-shaped variation. I must admit that I was excited beyond words. I started drawing nice, conservative Way Bops, but realized I have a long way to go before I can draw ones that look like the fancy ones appearing all over tangling blogs and in Mosaic. So I started fooling around. Here is one of my favorites, called Anger Management. 

Anger Management
  And another that was inspired by a hibiscus outside of my patio door. 
Hibiscus — sort of

Way Bop is an amazingly versatile tangle that looks best when it is used as a structure for filling in with other tangles and “fragments.” But it is a flexible enough pattern to be morphed into all sorts of fun and modernistic shapes. 
After tangling a heart-shaped Way Bop for the Valentangle 2017 challenge on Facebook, I figured other shapes could be made from the pattern, too. So last week I started fooling around with shamrock shapes. Here are some examples–nothing fancy or beautiful, but they definitely are shamrock shapes filled in with other tangles or shapes. 


If you can’t tell, I love Way Bop! If you need the original step-out mentioned above, click on the link in the second paragraph. It takes you to the post that contains both the regular and the heart-shaped variation step-outs. 

Where can Way Bop take your tangling? Anywhere you want it to go, of course! 

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Back to Basics

For the past week or so, most of the tiles I created have been based on the earliest lessons of the Zentangle Primer, by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, founders of Zentangle. I was feeling overwhelmed with so many new patterns being developed, especially since I have not mastered some favorites I have come across over the past several months. When I feel overwhelmed like this, I go back to the Primer and try to work all the way through again. With each pass through the book, I am reminded of things I have forgotten, things I want to work on improving, and some important suggestions from the authors. 

Today, I tangled an exercise that made me think. The purpose of the exercise was to draw a string that creates a number of areas, and then to combine some adjacent areas for tangling with a single pattern. Although I now combine areas all the time and without thinking, I forgot how difficult this was for me to do early on. Even though I have done this exercise several times since I purchased the Primer, I suddenly found deliberately combining areas difficult to do. When I tangle with no particular objective, encroaching into an adjacent area with a single tangle simply happens without my thinking about it. When I think about doing it for a purpose–such as for this exercise–I am stymied. 

For this exercise, I used a few tangles that I learned during my first week or so of tangling, almost a year ago. Except for Florz, I don’t often use these patterns (Knights Bridge, Flukes, Cubine), in part because of the solid black areas that are part of the patterns. There are days when I have trouble staying within the limits of the dark areas because my astigmatism is particularly bad for perception. Instead of filling in areas with color, I tend to substitute fine lines that make the area darker but less dramatic than solid black.  So why I chose three patterns with defined black areas is a mystery to me, except that they seemed to go together. But that is what often happens when we tangle–it’s like the pen takes over. When decisions need to be made to fulfill a purpose, pen and mind can come into conflict, and the finished tangle can look a little brittle or forced. That is what happened with this tile, I think. Forcing the blending of two areas made me anxious, and the tension showed up as a conflict among patterns rather than a free mingling. 

That the realization of how I tangle was brought to the forefront of my thoughts during this exercise shows how flexible the Primer‘s lessons are for tanglers at all stages of tangling development. On the Zentangle Mosaic app, I have seen tanglers–especially CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers)–who have been tangling and teaching for years, fall back on lessons from the Primer. The versatility of the book is amazing. New tangles can be found all over the Internet and in books and e-books. But the basics of tangling–the method, process, and purposes–are rarely found outside of the Primer

For me, the Primer has become an essential part of my tangling–from providing inspiration when I feel stuck, to reminding me about sticking points for my early tangling attempts and current needs. Right now, it is helping me get back to basics so I can get over feeling overwhelmed by a deluge of new patterns. 

Next, I will try this exercise again using new patterns I have learned recently. There is always a new way to interpret an old lesson!

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Totally Tangled…

Not long ago, I talked a little about getting started with Zentangle. I had just received Yoga for Your Brain, by Sandy Steen Bartholomew and was all excited about the ideas and presentation. As always, I recommended the Zentangle Primer by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, Zentangle founders (available from Zentangle.com for $49.95) as the first book to get. Because it is an investment, I suggested One Zentangle a Day by BeckAh Krahula (available from Amazon.com in paperback for $13.79, or Kindle version for $12.99) as the second best option. I was waiting to receive Sandy Bartholomew’s first book on tangling, Totally Tangled, to see if it was an equal to Ms. Krahula’s book, or maybe even better. Based on the Yoga book, I was expecting a sensational introduction to Zentangle in Totally Tangled

Totally Tangled finally arrived in our mail late last week. 

Totally Tangled is a great book, filled with a lot of patterns and advice about creating tangled art. At less than $12 on Amazon, it is a great value for the ideas alone. But… Although it introduced the Zentangle Method®, there was little in the way of follow-through in terms of the ceremony or process of Zentangle. It deals very briefly with the relaxation and meditation aspects of Zentangle. The textual content tends to be an overly frugal summarization of the Zentangle Method, philosophy, and process. However, the photographs and drawings are sensational, especially to those who have absorbed much of the whole Zentangle process. 

Totally Tangled came out before Yoga for Your Brain. It contains a lot of information about drawing and creating patterns, enhancing scrapbooks, repurposing old ceramics and “outgrown” household goods. It even offers some great ideas for involving children in drawing with tangle patterns. Yoga for Your Brain picks up and expands on these ideas and adds a bit more information, lots more new patterns, and several new and different project ideas. Neither volume, separately or together, comes close to the wealth of information and ideas presented in either the Zentangle Primer or One Zentangle a Day. As I stated in the previous post, if the purpose is relaxation and meditation but money is a main consideration for initial outlay,  One Zentangle a Day is a great value. It costs about $2 more than either of the two Bartholomew books, and contains more information on techniques, art enhancements, and the relaxation/meditation aspects than the two Bartholomew combined. 

In short, my feeling is that Totally Tangled is excellent if the primary purpose to its purchase is as an idea and inspiration book. I would recommend it as a great supplement to either the Zentangle Primer or to One Zentangle a Day, but I would not recommend it as a “first Zentangle book,” unless the reader’s main purpose for purchasing it is to freshen art or add to one’s repertoire of arts and crafts projects. 

That being said, all these books contain lots of patterns and art ideas, with the Bartholomew books topping the other two in sheer volume of imagery.  The artwork alone makes both Totally Tangled and Yoga for Your Brain a great investment for supplementary ideas and art inspiration, whether the art is Zentangle or more traditional art forms or crafts. 

Posted in Zentangle

Tile Quality

Although I had tons of official Zentangle tiles purchased from Zentangle.com, for months most of my Zentangle work was done on comparatively inexpensive 3.5-inch square tiles from Peter Pauper Press that I purchased from Amazon. I was urged to use more of the “official” tiles by other tanglers on the Zentangle Mosaic app. The reasons given ranged from “you’re worth it!” to “it’s easier to work on the Zentangle tiles,” with lots of other reasons in between.

For weeks now, I have been doing more and more tangling on the official tiles and less and less on what I now refer to as practice tiles. More and more often, I have been using the practice tiles to try out new ideas or newly learned patterns. All my meditative tangling and mastered patterns are now done on the tiles purchased from the Zentangle site. 

What’s the difference? There are a lot of differences, starting with the quality of the paper and how it feels to tangle on the different surfaces. 

Zentangle (more expensive) tile was used for this version.
PPP (less expensive) tile was used for this version.
 

Let me start with the price and why I did most of my work on the Peter Pauper Press tiles. The “official” Zentangle tiles cost $29 for 55 tiles from the Zentangle web site, plus postage. These can also be purchased from CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers). The price on Amazon for the PPP tiles is currently $5.53 for 75. Even if I didn’t have postage-free Amazon Prime benefits, the PPP tiles have a serious price advantage. The official tiles work out to about 53 cents a piece while the PPP tiles come out to less than 7.5 cents each. I get 7 of the less expensive tiles for the price of a single Zentangle tile. That’s quite a price difference! Just starting out, I felt this was a better option. I was wrong, by the way, and I will discuss why below.

Recently, in an e-book on tangling on black tiles, the author suggested that the cheaper tiles are fine for work on white tiles, suggesting that they are interchangeable. But there are a lot of reasons why this is not quite true.

As with most artist supplies, quality matters. The less expensive tiles are made from wood pulp and “post consumer products.” They are very smooth and lack absorbency, so that graphite sits on the surface while ink takes just long enough to dry that a fast tangler can smear the ink easily. Because the graphite has nothing to hold it, it is easy to accidentally rub the graphite over the surface where it is not wanted. It also takes more pressure on the pencil to leave a darker graphite line or shading. That makes the graphite line more difficult to blend out to hide a line while increasing the likelihood of smearing or “stamping” graphite. Since erasers are not used in Zentangle, smeared graphite can affect the finished work in surprising and often undesired ways. 

The more expensive, official tiles are 100% cotton fibers. Aside from the luxurious “feel” of the cotton fiber tiles, the surface is textured and holds graphite well, much like good quality drawing paper. That means a lighter application of graphite can be made, minimizing the obviousness of a drawn line. The texture also helps control how far out blended graphite goes. The cotton tile is also absorbent, so ink appears to dry faster, minimizing accidental ink smearing–except on larger and purposely black areas, but that’s for another discussion. The textured surface also adds a slight “drag” to the pen tip, forcing a lighter hand during drawing. That’s actually a good thing because easing the grip helps prevent hand cramping and actually gives more control over the width or heaviness of a drawn line. 

If color is to be added to the tangle, the cotton tiles have enough of a tooth to grab color from color pencils and markers, while the less expensive tiles require more work to achieve desired color effects. Color appears more vibrant on these tiles, too.

If watercolor is used to marble the tiles before drawing or color in sections after drawing, the less expensive tiles buckle and become deformed without either prior stretching or weighting down the paper to flatten the work afterwards. The cotton tiles are of watercolor paper weight, and basically return to the original flatness after drying–without the need for stretching and flattening. While the texture of the less expensive tiles actually changes after water and watercolor application, the cotton tile remains pretty much as it started. 

Local weather and humidity affect the paper used to create. Here in Sint Maarten, in a very humid tropical climate, that makes a big difference in the way the paper behaves even before I start working. The cotton tiles are always flat when I take them out. The PPP tiles tend to have a slight curl to them, even though they are stored the same way and are weighted down between tangling sessions. 

When I started, I thought the paper quality would make little difference to the finished work. I could not have been more wrong! Aside from the differences noted above, I find that tangling is much more enjoyable on the more expensive cotton tiles. The tiny bit of drag to my pen helps me loosen up and concentrate on the effect I want to create. Tangling on the smoother surface sometimes causes skips in my lines or patterns when I use a light hand. It is also more difficult to control the width or heaviness of the drawn line without switching to a pen with a different size nib or tip. 

Shading makes such a difference in the overall result of the drawn patterns. The tooth of the cotton tiles allows greater control of blending out graphite with a blending stump or tortillion. The differences in blending are apparent when comparing the two tiles above. The cotton tile’s shading is softer, without the obviousness of where the graphite was laid down. On the less expensive tile, I needed a heavier hand to lay down the graphite, making the pencil lines obvious and less easy to blend out. 

It may be hard to tell, but it was more difficult to maintain control over curves and lines drawn in ink on the PPP tile. The surface is so smooth that the pen tip has a tendency to go out farther than intended. The smoothness keeps the ink from being readily absorbed by the paper, increasing the likeliness that I will smear the ink, and actually causes me to press harder on the smooth surface. The cotton tile almost pulls the ink from the pen, so that less pressure needed to be applied and I was better able to control the ink flow. Overall, I think I save money on Micron pens because less ink is needed to obtain the same effect as on the smooth paper. 

One last thing about the textured paper–it has a definite grain to it. It is easier to see the up/down and right/left of the tile when I am tangling. That helps to keep my lines straighter and grids more even. The complete lack of grain on the less expensive tiles makes me completely reliant on my eyes for straight lines and even distance. Because one works so close to the surface when creating on a small surface, it is easy for the eye to get fooled when drawing straight lines and grids. The grain helps me, anyway. Perhaps it is less important for someone else. 

Tangling on the cheaper tiles caused me to develop some bad habits, like tightening up on my pen and pressing too hard on my graphite pencil. I am still “un-learning” some of those habits as I tangle more and more on official Zentangle tiles and less and less on the cheaper tiles or even my sketchbook. 

The overall effects of my drawing on the cotton paper seems more finished and less amateurish. That may be psycological, but between the rich creamy color of the official tile, it’s texture, and the luxurious feel of the paper, I like my drawing results better. 

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Drawing Bigger

Today I started making a conscious effort to draw bigger. 

One of the many pieces of advice found in the book Zentangle Primer is to draw patterns large. When certain patterns are drawn large, other patterns can be drawn inside. Patterns that are larger also require more control and focus, and fill up a tile faster. A single pattern drawn very large can serve as the tile’s string.

When I get caught up in tangling, I tend to draw my patterns small. Consequently, my tiles turn out darker than I like. Sometimes, they take on a cluttered appearance. Too often, my tiles take a very long time to draw, sometimes making the mediation almost tedious, detracting from the intended relaxation. Thankfully, tedium rarely happens. 

This morning, I tangled larger than usual for most of the piece. It went faster and resulted in an airier-looking tangle. 

The border was added last and  was drawn along the outside of the original boundaries, without “straightening out,” to give the piece a more spontaneous feel. 

Although I need to tangle still larger, this is a step in the right direction. The 8-step Zentangle meditation took far less time than my usual tiles (20 minutes compared with my average hour or so), and, surprisingly, left me feeling more refreshed. 

Patterns used in this tile are Henna Drum (the bachelors button looking half-round) and Flee (the cone-flower-like pattern in the bottom right area). Along the outside of the original pencil border, I added a chain of Scoodle elements.

The pattern Flee, drawn even bigger, allows enough space within the pattern to fill leaves and petals with additional tangles. Here, although I left the petals alone, I filled the leaves with the Printemps pattern to give them texture. The Printemps was drawn with the 2B graphite drawing pencil recommended for shading. The leaves were drawn with the Micron 05 pen, which creates a line about twice as thick as the Micron 01 pen. The texture would be richer drawn with the Micron 01, or somewhere in between if I had used a Micron 005 instead of graphite. The same or different pattern (or several patterns) could have been used to fill in the petals for a totally different effect. 
In the last tile, the pattern Flee serves as the string for tangling other patterns in the spaces created by petals and leaves. 
Drawing a pattern very big on your tile can give you a lot more options, especially if inspiration is not coming. Each drawing size yields different possibilities. Those possibilities are endless! 

Tangle, relax, set imagination free, explore your creativity!

Happy tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

New Tangle: Frenot

This new tangle is one I have been using for several months, calling it Frenot. I haven’t posted a step-out before, mostly because I was not sure it is unique. Now, I am pretty certain it is something new.

Frenot  was inspired by the French knot in embroidery work. While unpacking from our move last year, I came across a tiny piece I started years and years ago but never finished. One stitch that was used in it was the French knot. There was a cluster of French knots, creating a ring of petals or blooms. It inspired me to create a tangled interpretation. Being completely new to Zentangle, I didn’t know that anyone can create and name a tangle. Although I used it in some of my tiles, I was afraid to share those tiles because they contained an “unknown” pattern.  It took a while to realize that 1) anyone can create a new pattern; and 2) it is unique, as far as I can tell. 

Although I have been tangling for more than ten months now, I have been working pretty much on my own. That’s why I continue to call myself a newbie or beginner. I have learned so much! There is still so much to learn! Recently, however, I have had a lot of Zentangle-related help from several lovely people on the Zentangle Mosaic app (iPhone/iPad and Android formats available). No one has been more of a help and inspiration to me than Jody Genovese, CZT. It is thanks in large part to Jody’s encouragement on my tangling explorations and experiments that I have gained confidence–in my ability to tangle, and in my willingness to share. So I dedicate this new pattern to her. 

Here is the step-out for Frenot.

Step-out for new tangle pattern Frenot

Here are a few tiles on which I used Frenot. Two of them I shared on Mosaic. 



If you like Frenot and use it in a tile or other work, please feel free to include a photo or a link in the comments section. I would love to see how you use it! 

Until next time,

Happy Tangling!

Posted in Zentangle

Inspired to Create

Inspired by Yoga for Your Brain (see earlier post, InTheMail), I created a new tangle. I don’t have a picture of the photo that inspired me, but I found it while looking through a magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. The article and photos dealt with an architectural dig in Central America. I was surprised to find a tangle pattern among the ancient artifacts!

It was two days before I recorded what I saw as a potential Zentangle pattern. To my eye, it functions best as a grid or border tangle.

My new pattern, Stonework.

 This picture shows a hurriedly drawn grid with a few minor differences in the basic pattern–shading, rounding, rotation. I think it might also work well as a background pattern, but we’ll see what I come up with. 

If you want to try it, here is the step-out. Stonework step-out

For me, I start diagonal ovals and rounded strokes with rounding off the corners. Part of the reason is that my astigmatism causes distortion of lines for me. It is easier to connect two points than to try to figure out where to start curving–I am almost always wrong when I try to guesstimate. In drawing the smaller oblongs, I start with the longest, basically doing the same thing as for the diagonal with the rounded ends. The rest of the row is just elongated C’s, followed by a circle. Finally, I either round (fill in) around the ends or shade. 

When the pattern is used in a grid with rotated diagonals, the effect can be flower-like. As a border, the patterns can all go in the same direction, or the direction can be rotated. In corners, the pattern can be “mitered,” especially if the horizontals and verticals are drawn in different rotations. 

Before creating the step-out and naming the pattern, I checked through all the patterns in TanglePatterns.com’s latest e-book catalog (2017) called Presenting … The Tangles. To the best of my ability to discriminate, this tangle is unique. Two or three patterns might be roughly similar, but none share more than one characteristic with Stonework. One pattern has stacked oblongs, but they are all the same size. Another pattern has a diagonal oblong, but no vertical or horizontal ones. That’s as close as other patterns came to this one. 

Please let me know if Stonework is the same as another pattern. Zentangle is an international community, and not all countries share tangles. I have seen tangles on various web sites online that are identical but share several different names. At the very least, I would like to share the names of the patterns for cross-reference. 

If you use this pattern, please leave a comment and a picture or link to where it is posted. Thanks!

Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Diva Challenge 304

It’s the last day to submit to the Diva Challenge #304. The tangle is Way Bop. So many tanglers contribute beautiful serious works that are rich in textures, patterns, and movement. I decided to submit my fun and fanciful Carnival Dancer 💃 because this tangle was so much fun to do. I had been experimenting with contrast for shading, which didn’t quite work out the way I had thought it would. That the dancer emerged was a bonus to my fun, though.

img_0557

Posted in Zentangle

Endorphins on My Mind

Zentangle is in large part a mindful method of stress reduction. When one tangles, a meditative calm sets in, often releasing unexpected bubbles of creativity that positively excite us into a focused frame of mind as we concentrate on what the pen is drawing. Sometimes we plan our tangling; sometimes the pen seems to take over and the only things left to our minds is to focus on steady strokes, straight lines, and smooth curves. As we are doing all this, the brain and body release endorphins, and we feel better and better. 

Endorphins are those feel-good hormones produced by our bodies’ brains and nervous systems to inhibit pain and produce a euphoric state (probably to reduce pain!). They have a calming effect on our nerves. They want to soothe whether the pain is physical or emotional. They also make us want to reach the same levels of feel-goodedness again and again and again. In short, they are addictive.

When we are stressed or under psychological pressure, we tend to tighten up, which causes muscles to ache and heads to throb. Whether we think about it not, we need for our systems to release a few endorphins to make the pain and stress go away. If we don’t take proactive measures to reduce the effects of stress, everything gets worse–muscles knot up more, the throbbing in our heads takes on the sensation of being pounded by a psychopathic drummer, aches increase, and so on in a downward cycle. 

Because we often can’t think straight when we reach the point of physical discomfort, the best proactive approach is to practice endorphin-releasing activities to either lessen the effects of stress or to keep stressful situations from taking us to a point of no return. Some people run every day or two; other people work out at the gym; still others take yoga classes. Some of us Zentangle.

Zentangle can be practiced anywhere–in the grocery checkout line, in the doctor’s waiting room, in a restaurant waiting for an order, in front of the TV, in bed–well, anywhere at all. Even if people use smart phones to record appointments and lists, a pencil, pen, and small note pad or artist tile are easy to always slip into a pocket or purse, or keep on the nightstand. Zentangle requires no special clothes or equipment. A smal amount of time–maybe 15 minutes–is all that’s needed, and no appointments or schedules are required. 

If the paper or tile gets a little smudged or wrinkled as it travels along with you during the day, those elements just add charm and character to the tangle. Here’s a tile I drew while waiting in the car for my husband’s haircut to be finished. 

Creases from cell phone pushed on top in my purse were accented with graphite. A scribble from a lost pen cap was incorporated into the design–sort of.

Nothing fancy, and I admit I shaded it at home because he came out faster than I expected–but still not a bad little piece of on-the-go tangling. It was a little cramped behind the wheel, as I am very short, but I had enough elbow room to draw and relax a bit ( and I could have moved the seat back). My husband always calls for pick-up too early. Rather than be angry, I tangle while I wait and let the endorphins flow. And if I am not finished when I reach the cashier or my breakfast order arrives (or my husband gets in the car) I can set the tile aside to complete it another time. I don’t need to worry about forgetting what the next step was supposed to be because Zentangles are unplanned. The patterns should be those that come to me when the pen reaches a blank space. When that space is reached–in the next microsecond, a year, or any time in between–the pattern that comes to mind is the one that goes there. It’s OK to plan the patterns; it’s just not necessary.

An idea just came to mind. It is time, I think, to tangle another tile and get another endorphin fix.

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

Growing Into Tangling

Browsing through my album of tiles and my sketchbooks over the weekend was an interesting and surprising experience. I have been tangling since the end of April, 2016–about 10 months. What I saw was growth as well as regression–typical of any learning progress. When my work became more attractive, the same patterns and techniques appeared in a cluster. During times of learning new techniques and patterns, the work became cluttered or less cleanly drawn. The pattern kept repeating in cycles, only now becoming less extreme in its swings. 

One of my first tangles, late April, 2016. I thought this was so cool! I knew only 9 patterns then, and I included them all!
Today’s morning meditation is cheerier, more confident, with a pattern or two learned in the past week. I can confidently draw over 100 patterns now, am familiar with a couple hundred more, and I keep learning a new one or two each day. Only 7 patterns were used.

If you look at the tangles above, you can see that, in my early tile, what I lacked in pattern skills I tried to hide behind a bit of flare. Today’s tile is less stilted. Whether it is more pleasant to view is not my call, but I find it more breezy, better developed, and stronger, even though two of the patterns used here are out of my sketchbook and on a tile for the first time.

To be honest, I have no inate artistic talent or abilities, and it is only about three years since I learned to produce any art at all. I took up drawing lessons to learn to see things as an artist might, and had limited success. My teacher suggested switching to acrylics (I’m too  slow) or oils (which I feared). I even picked up watercolor books and videos and tried to learn that, only to discover that watercolor presents its own unique set of challenges. Then, less than a year ago, I learned about Zentangle. 

I had been looking for a method of meditation and relaxation that involved movement. Although Tai Chi was an option, I couldn’t find classes here on the island–not then, anyway. Besides, going to a Tai Chi class would have involved getting into the car and searching for parking–not very conducive to relaxation. 

“Zentangle” was a term I remembered referenced in several of my art how-to books. I thought at first it was some new professional school or method of art. Then I found out it isn’t art in the traditional sense at all–it’s Zentangle, pure and simple. That it centers around drawing is a good thing, I thought to myself. That it can be done by even the most artistically challenged is even better! So I researched more. 

Although certified Zentangle teachers (CZTs) can be found all over the world–increasingly in China and India–none seem to be in Sint Maarten, the tiny island (well, half-island) country in the Caribbean. So I ordered a book or two from Amazon and set out to see if I could teach myself. I spent well over 20 years teaching children and young men and women professionally. Surely I could teach myself, too.

And I did teach myself Zentangle, of a sort. On the official Zentangle site, Zentangle.com, the recommendation is to learn the Zentangle method from a CTZ through a workshop. The second best way to learn is by purchasing the Zentangle Primer, Volume 1, and the Zentangle starter kit, both available for purchase on the web official site. After months of trying with other sources, I broke down and purchased both. Not only did I wish I had done that from the beginning, but I also decided that, because Zentangle was so helpful to me, I wanted to bring Zentangle to this tiny island. In two months, I will be attending a Zentangle seminar to become a CZT so I can do just that. 

My copy of The Zentangle Primer gets used almost every day. I may never get to all the ideas inside! The book contains step-outs for dozens of patterns that make the complex easy to draw and embellish, as well as dozens of sample “fragments” to develop and “reticula” ideas for grid tangles and strings.

Here’s the thing: I may not have started off with the best self-teaching materials, but I did start off with an excellent resource, One Zentangle a Day, a book by Beckah Krahula, CZT.

My well-used copy that contains six weeks of lessons and about 75 patterns with step by step directions.
It gave me enough information and techniques to get me started, even if I became frustrated sometimes. As a beginner’s reference, it is a great book, especially if you are looking for at least a little of the mindfulness and relaxation benefits. It contains a lot of information for trying Zentangle on for size, but it doesn’t cover Zentangle principles in depth. A great “first” book at low cost. If all you are looking for is art or crafting ideas, it is also a great source of ideas and buying information. But for a deeper understanding of the Zentangle method and its effects on calming your mind and increasing both focus and creativity–and if you want a book that will continue to be a resource for years to come–then The Zentangle Primer is a must-have book. 

For me, a helpful resource is an app called Zentangle Mosaic, available in Apple iPad and iPhone format, as well as in Android format. It is an excellent source of inspiration, tips, and friendly and supportive members from all over the world. Many well-known and respected CZTs share their work on the app regularly. Many up-and-coming CZTs participate and provide advice and support. Zentangle founders Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas share their own work, new ideas, and even exclusive videos there. Rick, Maria, and their family interact with members all the time, providing feedback and encouragement, especially to new tanglers. It is a marvelous community of tanglers. Posted work is validated for its “Zentagleness” (my word). There is a free option, if all you want from the app is inspiration, and a paid option, which allows you to upload photos of your work and actively communicate with Mosaic subscribers. I don’t know enough about the free version to compare it to the paid subscription, but I believe that, as lovely as the free version is for viewing others’ work, the most useful features come only with membership. To me, the benefits I derived from the paid subscription is priceless, especially since I tangle alone here on the island. 

 Encouragement from members of Mosaic got me participating in national and international challenges on Facebook and blog sites. The challenges are not as supportive as Mosaic, but I have learned to judge tangles on “Zentangleness” instead of eye candy. Many challenge submissions are Zentangle Inspired Art, which can be beautiful and whimsical, but a lot are by professional artists. They each have something to teach, though, even if the intention is not there. There are many artsy and craft ideas presented by challenge participants. Mindful tangling is difficult to put out there when one is not an artist. My tangling may not compete in artistry, but it solidly represents the Zentangle method and purpose. After one or two posts, I was no longer intimidated by the pros. For an example of a short (two-week) challenge, visit “valentangle2017” on Facebook. It came with a book of instructions for what to include in each day’s tile, along with lovely examples to use as models. The contributor pool was just over 200 participants–small by Facebook standards. Lots of beautiful work on display, though. 

All of these resources have helped me grow as a tangler. I firmly believe, however, that workshops are the best way to learn Zentangle. When I tangle alone, even with supportive online communities available, it’s difficult to get questions answered or discussions on techniques moving smoothly. There is something about face-to-face contact that helps those of us seeking the mindfulness and meditative aspects of Zentangle. Hopefully, I won’t be tangling “alone” on the island for much longer! 

Happy tangling!