Posted in Zentangle

Patience: The Pattern

Recently, CZT Jody Genovese created a pattern called Patience, which was featured in this week’s newsletter from TanglePatterns.com. Jody is celebrating the arrival of Spring with this pattern based on the lovely impatiens she grows. She graciously allowed me to share her step-out for this wonderful floral pattern.


Thank you, Jody, for giving us this magnificent new tangle!

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

One Simple Pattern, Many Possibilities

One simple pattern can create a small masterpiece with Zentangle. You don’t even need to plan out a drawing strategy. Just let your creativity flow.

One of the things that drew me to the art form of Zentangle is that it is art that is supposed to be unplanned. That is, there is no preconception of what the result will be. Instead of a rough draft of s subject, the starting place for a tangle is most often the string. The string itself is a random line or sets of lines that create spaces to be filled with patterns. 

With most art forms, a sketch of the subject is often drawn on the surface. For oil and acrylic painting, it is often a charcoal sketch on canvas. A light sketch often gets drawn on watercolor paper before paint is applied. For drawing, a rough graphite silhouette of the subject is sketched onto paper in such a way that the graphite can be blended into the finished design. But in Zentangle, only the drawing spaces are delimited lightly in graphite, and these boundaries are blended into the shading of the contained tangles, if the lines have not disappeared entirely into the designs. 

At first, new tanglers learn a few patterns at a time. The first pattern taught in the Zentangle Primer and in most workshops is Crescent Moon. It is a simple pattern consisting of an inked in half circle and half halos, or auras. Auras are added individually until no more can be added to one of the half rounds. Then a sort of “collective aura” continues the effect. 

Without shading, Crescent Moon doesn’t seem to have much to recommend it. Even with shading, it may not look like much. So why is it the usual “first pattern” taught? For several reasons. First, it introduces drawing within a small space. It is a pattern that can be easily drawn all along a boundary. The ladybug shape is small enough for easy inking in. Because of the shape, if the ink fill goes beyond the outline, the shape can be made a little bigger to accommodate the slip of the pen, especially if the shape is filled in before an aura is added. 

Second, adding one aura gives the individual pattern a bit more flair. Both the “ladybug” and the aura are quick and relatively easy to draw. Adding more auras until the area is filled makes quick work of filling the space.

Third, the concept of drawing an aura around shapes comes up over and over in embellishing various basic patterns. Tanglers refer to this as “auraing,” and use it frequently to add interest, to help a delicate pattern stand out, or to separate one pattern from another. Auras are generally kept as even as possible around an object–at least, at first. Also, drawing auras differtly–for example, several auras around one element before moving on to drawing auras around another–can yield a very different effect.

Fourth, Creacent Moon can be shaded in a variety of ways to give it different looks. Note the different effects produced by a combination of different ways of auraing and different shading. Suddenly, a simple Crescent Moon section becomes so much more! 

What else can be accomplished with this single and foundational pattern? The auras can be omitted, for one thing, and the ladybug shape can be surrounded by something different, such as straight lines radiating from the basic shape. Instead of filling the shape with black, it can be filled with interior auras or different patterns. The sky’s the limit on possibilities! 


Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

Posted in Zentangle

A Little Help From My Friends

For the past ten days or so, I have been re-visiting patterns I learned early in my Zentangle “career,” but have stopped using. Some fell into disuse because I simply didn’t like them; others because I couldn’t make them work for me; still others for reasons I have forgotten. Using the Zentangle Primer to guide me, I simply started at the beginning.

Yesterday, a Primer exercise (#zp1x16) directed me to draw a tangle I either don’t like or have trouble drawing to my satisfaction. I selected a pattern that looks simple but that gives me trouble, ‘nzeppel. 

‘Nzeppel

‘Nzeppel is a simple enough looking pattern that is drawn in a grid of exes. But it has given me a lot of trouble because I can’t get the corners to curve instead of come to a point. This tile shows my best effort in the 10 or 11 months I have “known” it. I posted it on the Zentangle Mosaic app with an explanation, figuring that was the end to it for a while. I was incredibly surprised to learn how many experienced tanglers–individuals whose work is incredibly artistic and beautiful–had difficulty with this pattern as well! Their admission left me feeling so much less klutzy! I am so grateful to them all.

Some CTZs offered suggestions (privately) on how to draw ‘nzeppel better–tips that they used themselves. These made me think about the pattern differently. So I redrew it. 

Better ‘Nzeppel.

This is much closer to the effect I was trying to create all these months. It reinforces my feeling that tangling with a group has many significant advantages over tangling alone. Other tanglers can offer advice based on personal experience or contact with other tanglers. It also made me realize that I am not simply having a unique and personal difficulty with a simple pattern. So often, the most complex patterns turn into an easy exercise (my experiences with Way Bop before seeing the step-out, for example), while the simple, easy-looking patterns are challenges for even artistically gifted tanglers. It is such a relief to know that I am not simply an untalented klutz with a pen and pencil. 

Several of the tips and suggestions I received after uploading the first tile yesterday included references to personal difficulties with the pattern and the tip or instruction that yielded that “Aha!” moment. But it came from group participation and sharing. 

And sharing is just another important aspect of Zentangle. We all get by (and get better!) with a little help from our friends!

If you live on the island of St. Martin, in Sint Maarten, or are planning a visit to the island, let’s get together and tangle under a palm tree or beach umbrella by the sea! 

Until next time, Happy Tangling! 

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

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!