Today was the first quiet day–afternoon, actually, but still quiet–that I have had in quite a while. I am finally happy with my temporary work space setup, and continue to await construction completion and furniture delivery. But this afternoon…
This is the first experimentation I have done in quite a while. I used a Magic Pencil (available at many art stores and at Amazon), which changes color as you draw. I’ve done a few of these in the past on white tiles, but this is the first time I tried it on a black tile.
For the shading/highlighting, I used General’s Charcoal White, a sort of white pastel type pencil that is the “official” whit shading pencil of the Zentangle community. Despite its versatility when used with other media, I found it difficult to use as effectively as I would have liked with the very waxy Magic Pencil. As I said, an experiment. For two reasons 1) to test hoe the two pencils interact; and 2) to ease my way into using black tiles again.
Black tiles are great until you draw your first white Gelly Roll pen on it. We are used to seeing black ink on white paper, but less often see white pen on a black surface. Thus, originally, it took me many months to feel brave enough to tangle on black tiles. So I deliberately purchased a big box of the tiles. The moment I had lots of them, my fear disappeared, and I was drawing all sorts of beautiful designs while experimenting with several brands of white gel pen. The moment I found my perfect combination (a fine-line Angelic gel pen), I took to black tiles like s fish to water.
After Hurricane Irma, when I had fewer supplies than I was used to (I thought all were lost during Irma, but was flooded with donations from the Zentangle community), my fear of tangling on black tiles returned in proportion to the decrease in my supply of these tiles. For me, it must be the knowledge that I could “ruin” lots of black tiles and still have many more left to explore.
I think I spoke in previous posts about the generosity of the Zentangle community (especially of Zentangle’s HQ and many of the CZTs (Certified Zentangle Teachers) and regular tanglers from the Zentangle Mosaic app (available in free and full subscription forms from Google’s Play Store for Android devices and from the Apple Store for iOS versions for iPads and iPhones). They sent tiles (mostly white, and in various sizes and shapes), as well as Micron pens, Zentangle and other B3 drawing pencils, sketch pads, colorful Prismacolor Pencils, watercolor pencils, color Microns, color staining tissue, watercolor sets– well, everything and anything anyone has seen me use on the app. One CZT, @JodyGenovese, even sent me river rocks to tangle! It seems the community loved my color-touched tiles as much as (more than?) my black ink on white paper tiles.
Alas, I finally had to break down and buy a box of black tiles again, even though I waited until we reached the UK. And I did take advantage of those black tiles again! Unfortunately, there are only so many supplies you can cart around the world, so many donations and personal purchases were shared as I traveled, and before returning to Sint Maarten.
It took me months to get back to my island home (St. Martin island) and discover that many of my blank tiles and tangling supplies were in great shape after Irma. As Irma was threatening to bear down on us, I stored as many raw paper and pen supplies as I could in watertight plastic storage containers. I doubted that they could survive a hurricane of Irma’s strength, but the boxes had been expensive enough when I bought them, and I figured my supplies had the best chance of surviving in them. Well, as unpacked or paper box packed items and books turned to pulp around these boxes, and the Irma-given skylight in the ceiling let in all water possible, the items in the boxes survived! Among the supplies were many black tiles and white gel pens and pencils.
It took a while longer to set up a quiet place for meditative tangling, but a few days ago I succeeded, and drew my first white on black tile in ages. That’s the one featured. I was afraid I had lost both my passion for tangling and my ability to produce creative tiles, but I learned with this featured tile that maybe I just need more practice–maybe start at the beginning again– to regain my confidence as well as my meditation abilities.
Sometimes all I need is a bit of encouragement from the wonderful people on the Zentangle Mosaic app, and a stack of black tiles, to find my niche again.
Thank you to all who helped with stuff and with emotional support during a very trying period of my life. I am all set now to go out into the community and volunteer to teach with free supplies to community groups who continue to help those in need, whether children who need to learn to sit still for 15 minutes, or adults dealing with serious health and post-Irma trauma issues. The Mosaic community has provided me with so many supplies to share that I needed extra suitcases and several parcels to bring supplies home with me to share with those in need. I need to buy a few items where Irma shorted me, but I have plenty of supplies to get started here in Sint Maarten (the Dutch side of St. Martin, where my home is). One school has already asked me to teach it’s teachers so they can pass on the anxiety reducing Method to their students. Other organizations are considering. Other groups are putting me in touch with yet more groups. I hope to be really busy soon, and leave the house and contractors to themselves and my Cujo-wannabe dog. Sharing the Zentangle Method. Rings me incredible joy and peace. I want to share that with my ravaged community as we all pitch into the rebuilding effort.
Tonight, I did something different and fun. I attended a sip’n’paint event to help sponsor talented SXM (Sint Maarten) kids to travel to NYC for a week to learn not only more about their particular talent ( singing, dance, painting, etc.) but to also take a workshop about the business end of the professional artist. The painting event was led by world renowned St. Martin artist Sir @RowlandRichardson, who showed us how to paint a still life of three colors of bougainvillea in a simple jar vase.
We used exactly three colors–blue, red, yellow–and white to produce a lovely pallet of colors. Here is a photo of my work tonight. How many distinct colors can you see? Certainly more than the three we started with!
This is not to highlight my lack of talent with oil paint, but to show the influence of my Zentangle work and patterns on Zentangle-inspired art ( ZIA). In essence, I tangled a painting of real-life bougainvillea in a simple jar-style vase. Not only that, but it’s my first genuine still life work. That is, working from the real thing instead of a photo.
Note the number of poke leaf and flux in this painting, adding dimension to the simple patterns through how the paint was applied.
I will never be a famous artist, but I am really proud of this silly little piece encouraged by a famous artist, but completed because of the Zentangle Method®️. Tangling is so simple and versatile that it adds richness and texture to a piece that would have been completely flat and dull without my grasp of Zentangle patterns and techniques.
You may not be into Zentangle for the stress reduction, but if you are an artist, the method is definitely worth exploring for its patterns and unique shading techniques. I am proud to be a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). Thank you, @MariaThomas and @RickRoberts! Without your influence, even a master artist like Sir @RolandRichardson could not have helped me do any better than apply dabs of color and hope for the best!
Earlier this week, on the Zentangle® Mosaic® app, founder Maria Thomas shared one of her first tangling pieces from very early in The Zentangle Method®’s history. She encouraged us to share our firsts.
As I read through descriptions of uploaded first works, I marveled at how many tanglers were introduced to Zentangle through use of the book One Zentangle a Day, by Beckah Krahula. Individuals who had not been able to locate a CZT (that’s Certified Zentangle Teacher) began their tangling journey using that book One Zentangle a Day was published in 2012, four years before the more comprehensive Zentangle Primer, Vol. 1 came out. Although Suzanne McNeil had been publishing thin workbook-style books for several years by then, it did not take a rocket scientist’s math abilities to realize that Krahula’s book was more cost-efficient and comprehensive than twelve workbook volumes. Before spending $50 on the official Zentangle kit (available from the Zentangle.com site or from any CZT) and, for the past year, another $50 on the Primer, so many of us took the less expensive introductory experience of purchasing One Zentangle and a stack of inexpensive card stock paper tiles by Peter Pauper Press (probably all purchased via Amazon, too!). Or we used sketchbooks in lieu of tiles. This way, if we didn’t like tangling, we spent less than $30 for book and tools rather than $100 or more to get started. Not one of us regrets having spent that $100 later, though, because the tangling journey made us feel good, and we needed more.
My tangling journey began 15 months ago, with One Zentangle a Day and a sketch book that had many of my traditional drawing attempts in its first half. I worked almost exclusively in the journal for several weeks, mostly because I lacked the confidence to ruin even a cheap tile. Sometimes, I drew 3.5-inch squares to simulate tiles. More often, I simply drew a square that was big enough to tangle in, but was either larger or smaller than an actual tangling tile. Perhaps I was deciding whether I liked tangling, or maybe I was sticking to the sketchbook because I needed the sense of familiarity and security of a well-used surface. It took a while before I started using the inexpensive tiles.
Much of my tangling was originally done in pencil–just in case I wanted to erase, even though we don’t erase in tangling. Then I moved on to more complex tangling as I learned more patterns and came up with more strings. Gradually, my work improved and I out-grew One Zentangle a Day.
That’s when I decided to invest in the Zentangle Kit, the Primer, and finally the Zentangle Mosaic app. Following the lessons in the Primer and getting insight and inspiration from fellow tanglers on Mosaic, I kept tangling and found my art–and my ability to meditate–growing, expanding, evolving. By then, I had also decided that I needed to attend the Zentangle teacher certification Seminar, if for no other reasons than to attend a formal class, and to legitimately spread the love of tangling to the island’s residents so I wouldn’t have to tangle alone.
Maria Thomas’ challenge on the Mosaic app opened so many opportunities to share where many tanglers started, and why we started. Some people took up tangling because they were established artists wanting to learn a new technique. Many started their Zentangle journey because of a major life change–the loss of a loved one, a move to a very different environment, retirement. Still others came across the Zentangle Method when they were searching for a form of meditation that didn’t force physical stillness. A few were introduced to tangling by a close friend. Some simply stumbled across Zentangle on the internet and thought it was pretty. Most started tangling because of several of these reasons, plus others. But we all started somewhere, fell in love with tangling, and continued to grow through certification seminars or various local tangling workshops.
The humble beginnings project got many of us communicating and sharing how the Zentangle Method has helped us personally. Both on this blog and on another blog site (Write of Passage, or dremiller.com), I have shared both why I tangle and what my experiences have been. Among the ways Zentangle has helped me personally is calming my mind, helping me learn (or re-learn) to focus on something, relieving physical and mental tension and anxiety; and providing meditative opportunities to examine my past, including behaviors, and to brain-storm the possible impacts of important decisions. Meditation has helped me explore myself in many ways, with the topic of exploration showing up often in my tangled works.
Why do you tangle? How did you get started? If you have been tangling a while, how has the Zentangle Method helped you with your life and your art? How has your art changed?
Leave a comment to this post and share your tangling journey!
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.
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.
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.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!
In a Part 3 of this series, I discussed the first four of eight steps in the Zentangle® method. These are 1) Gratitude and Appreciation, 2) Corner Dots, 3) Border, and 4) String. Today’s post will talk about the other four: 5) Tangle (or Draw), 6) Shade, 7) Initial and Sign, and 8) Appreciate. I will also talk about some of the intangible aspects of Zentangle that make it different from doodling and traditional arts.
Just a word… this is a lengthy post because it covers a lot of information–about what goes into each step and materials. Bits and pieces will be covered in future posts in more detail, and one at a time. In general, this is an overview of the next four steps of the Zentangle Method, and of the very few materials you need to get started. On to the discussion…
Steps 2 through 4 are done in pencil for reasons that will become clearer in a minute. For Step 5: Tangle (or Draw, depending on the age of the source; Tangle is the more recent step name), a pen is used. Using the pen, the tangler fills in the spaces created with the border and the string in Steps 3 and 4. The patterns used are generally those that are recognized by the Zentangle community as being either official Zentangle patterns or those created and shared by tanglers around the world. These can even include your own pattern designs! Step-outs, or step-by-step illustrations on how to draw the patterns, can usually be found on the internet. The largest repository of Zentangle step-outs is TanglePatterns.com. Although some of the patterns (or tangles, if you prefer) look extremely complex, they are easy to create by following the steps in a step-out. When first starting out, it is generally best to stick with a handful of tangles until comfortable with the Zentangle method.
Step 6 is when shading is added. Shading within and among patterns gives the tangled tile dimension and texture, not to mention movement. The difference between an unshaded tile and a shaded one is like the difference between a simple flat road map and the satellite view in Google Maps. There are recommended ways to shade particular patterns, but experimentation is the best learning tool.
In Step 7, Initial and sign, the tangler adds a “chop” of their initials on the front of the tile. (I will talk a bit about the chop in a later post.) On the back of the tile, the artist signs his or her full name. This step locks in one’s ownership of the finished piece. You created this little masterpiece, and, just like any artist, you sign it to let the world know you created it.
Finally, the pen is set aside and the artist studies the composition, rotating the tile to view the work from all angles. This is Step 8 in which you Appreciate what you have created, and decide how you want it displayed. You have put time and effort into your work, and you have set your mind free to wander or contemplate as you drew. Now that you have finished, you can study how the part of your mind that was concentrating on the drawing helped you create something unique and personal. Appreciate what your meditation has helped you create.
That is all there is to creating a Zentangle tile. The composition of the tile is “non-representational;” that is, it is not meant to be of something. In fact, if you are tangling with a picture in mind, chances are you are creating a ZIA–Zentangle Inspired Art. Many professional artists are now adding Zentangle patterns to their work to add fresh interest or texture. For example, one of my earliest attempts at a ZIA is a simple fish that one would never find in nature. Because I had intended to draw a fish, and because it has an obvious direction from which it should be viewed, it represents something, even if it was something from my imagination. Although the entire picture is done using Zentangle patterns, it is not a Zentangle. It is a ZIA.
A Zentangle may look like something real at the end, but the work itself is done without any particular object or subject in mind. Rather, a Zentangle is the result of your mind wandering around, but making suggestions of what patterns to use to fill the spaces created by your border and string(s). If I hadn’t intended to create a fish, then the tile would have been a Zentangle. But what are the chances that an obvious fish would come out of just drawing patterns? It is possible that a fish-like shape would emerge from the process, but unlikely that a clearly outlined fish would emerge.
So another aspect of a finished Zentangle is that it can be viewed and appreciated from any angle. That is, what started out as “top” with your first strokes may end up being a side in its most complementary position. Tanglers rarely draw from one tile position. Instead, they “spin” the tile for ease of drawing certain patterns, or to more easily fill in an empty space. Some tanglers find it easiest to draw certain strokes from left to right, for example. If the composition wants the pattern to go in a new direction, the artist turns the tile so that it is in the best position for the line or curve to be drawn in the favored direction. Experienced tanglers are constantly spinning their tiles as they work. Besides, because the patterns themselves are non-representational and non-directional, it matters little how the tile is aligned as the patterns are being drawn–except as needed to complete a pattern, of course.
A word about materials…
Although tangling–the process of drawing the Zentangle patterns–is generally done with a Micron® 01 black pen, any fine-tipped porous marker can be used. The finer the line, the better, especially for adults. The Micron 01 is recommended for a lot of reasons: it dries immediatelymso it does not smear or bleed, it is archival quality and will not fade ever, it draws one of the thinnest lines at an affordable price, and it is waterproof. The final quality becomes more important as the tangler begins to experiment with the addition of media such as watercolor or colored markers. The Micron 01 will not bleed into color or other treatments. A lot of pens that I have tried claim to be waterproof, but adding watercolor or artist marker over a drawn line can cause the black to bleed into the color, pretty much messing up whatever effect the i was going for.
Because the line of a Micron 01 is so fine (.25 mm line width) the ink dries instantly. Wider fine line markers–even the Micron brand–take a bit longer to dry and might smear accidentally when the hand brushes it or shading is added too soon. The Micron 01 also produces an instantly waterproof line. Several other artist quality brands take from an hour to a day to resist bleed when other media are applied. During experimentation, I have had inks bleed blue or brown into watercolor or artist ink. Having a tile ruined because of bleeding is frustrating, even if the addition of something else can “save” the work. It is hard enough to incorporate an unexpected line from the jerk of a hand or loss of concentration. To have a piece that is completed except for the addition of a bit of watercolor can ruin a meditation, even though the work can be saved–it is no longer what one expected.
For shading, a 2B drawing pencil is recommended. The 2B hardness is dark enough to add dimension to tangles, but light enough so that it can be blended smoothly. Using too dark (too soft) a graphite lead can leave the shading looking sooty when shadey is the desired effect. Also, the softer the graphite, the more likely it is to smear accidentally.
Not all 2B pencils are the same, however. It is a good idea to purchase several brands of 2B drawing pencil to figure out which works best for you. Some brands (or classes within the same brand) are darker or lighter. There are no industry standards about how dark or soft a 2B is. It seems that every brand determines its own 2B degree of softness, probably based on the hardness or softness of the other graphite pencils in its line.
It is also a good idea to have a 2H pencil for drawing corner dots, borders, and strings. More than likely, you want these to “disappear” into your finished work rather than have the line stand out. Erasers are frowned upon in Zentangle, as the idea is that, in life, you can’t always undo a mistake. So the motto, “There are no mistakes,” becomes a metaphor for life. As such, tanglers do not erase. Instead, they incorporate the flaw into the piece by changing the outcome of a pattern, even if it seems to be a cover-up. The point is to move on by using the mistake to create something new or different, and going on from there. Back to the 2H pencil, though. The pattern drawn in black ink hides the lighter graphite line of a 2H, or the 2H border or part of the string is easily blended into the shading of the piece.
For blending graphite into shading, a tortillion or blending stump is generally used. You can use your finger, but the graphite on it might transfer onto the tile exactly where you do not want it. It is easier to keep clear areas clean with a blending tool.
The only other thing needed for Zentangle is something to draw on. The recommended surface is a square paper artist tile that measures 3.5″ by 3.5″. The official tiles, which can be purchased from Zentangle.com or from a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher), are recommended for a number of reasons. The paper is high quality that professional artists use. It is also strong and thick enough to use with watercolor and markers without buckling or allowing bleed-through of inks or watercolor. The smoothness (“tooth”) of the paper is perfect for ink and graphite art, and is wonderful for watercolor.
Although the official tiles are a bit more expensive than other available tiles on the market, it is best to use the best quality materials you can afford. This is true for any art, not just Zentangle. Lower quality materials can effect the outcome of work at any level of expertise. It is generally more difficult to work with lower quality materials, and this can negatively affect the enjoyment of the art form. Plus, you are worth a few cents more per tile. Or for a pen or pencil…
Bottom line: anything can be used for tangling. Some tanglers draw everything into a sketchbook or unlined journal. From experience, I can tell you that it is easier to compose a tangle on a tile because there is nothing to interfere with the drawing process–no coils, no change in surface height, no difficulty in spinning the work. Otherwise, any notebook or piece of paper can be used for tangling–even glass or fabric or other surfaces. The internet has many examples of everyday items that have been tangled, whether to hide marks or to simply beautify a too-plain object or area. All you need is the special tools for working on the particular surface: china paint, fabric markers, wood-burning tools–whatever the surface calls for. Zentangles can even become the focal point of jewelry or holiday ornament. Lots of ideas can be found on the internet and in books, as well as at CTZ-led workshops and classes in your area.
Zentangle is world-wide. There are few places on Earth near which a CZT can’t be found. Although there is much information available on the internet or in books, the best way to learn how to tangle, expand your tangling horizons, and experiment with new techniques and materials is with a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). If you are on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, you can tangle with me. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everywhere else, check out Zentangle.com for a listing of CZTs in your country or near your home. I won’t be a CZT until May of 2017, but we can always have some tangling fun together before that time.
Until next time, when I tell you why I tangle, Happy Tangling!
Zentangle is a method first and foremost. It is a set of steps that enable the participant to achieve a state of meditation that results in relaxation and a small work of art to be proud of. Zentangle is also the resulting product, or tile.
The method itself consists of eight steps. The first four steps will be discussed in this post.
The first step in the method, as I currently understand it from books, is a preparation and centering step. After materials are gathered and the tangler is settled into theplace to create, the tangler begins to relax by taking what yoga instructors would call cleansing breaths. This begins the relaxation. In this step, the tangler takes time to appreciate and be grateful for the work space, the time, and the materials. This gratitude and appreciation helps him or her focus on the positive parts of one’s life and environment and helps the inner self to influence inspiration and creation.
Step 2 is to draw a dot at or near each corner of the square tile, using a light hand and a light graphite pencil. These four dots are called corner dots, for obvious reasons. This step serves two purposes: to eliminate a blank drawing space, and to begin to define that drawing space.
Step 3 is to draw (lightly and still with a pencil) the border by connecting the dots into a sort of frame in which the rest of the work will go. The border is loosely defined by the corner dots. The lines connecting the corner dots can be straight or curved. The only rule is to quickly join consecutive dots into a framing border.
Step 4 is to draw a string inside the border., still using a pencil. A string is one or more lines that create smaller work spaces. In most “how-to” books on Zentangle, the first string is a Z (for Zentangle) that goes diagonally from one side of a border to another, as in the first picture. However, the shape(s) of the string are only limited by the tangler’s imagination (second picture). And when imagination doesn’t help, there are many places on the internet to find inspiration. One of these is TanglePatterns.com, another is Zentangle.com (the official Zentangle site created by Zentangle founders Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts).
The sections formed by the string are generally used to fill with a different pattern in each area (see photo below, which is also shown in the previous post).
Among the reasons for using a string to define smaller areas within the workspace is that smaller spaces are less intimidating to many tanglers. Instead of seeing the entire work space as a single “canvas,” which can be almost as intimidating as a completely blank tile before the Step 2 dots are added, the tangler sees smaller spaces to fill up.
A note on the drawing of corner dots, borders, and strings: use a hard pencil and draw as lightly as possible. Hard pencils are H, 2H, 3H, and so on. Hard pencils produce a lighter line than softer (B, 2B, 3B, etc.) pencils. The softer the pencil, the darker the line and the harder it is to hide later. Any school or home pencil usually fits the bill for the harder pencils, as soft graphite is generally found in pencils specifically for drawing.
The reason for a harder rated (lighter toned) graphite pencil is that you want the dots and lines to act only as guides that disappear into the final drawing. Erasers are a no-no in Zentangle. Light lines can be blended into the final artwork or simply disappear as patterns are drawn. In the tile on the left, you can see where the string is shaded into the patterns to produce soft borders between pattern areas and to give the tile a bit of depth. If I had wanted “harder” borders between the patterns, I could have left the original lightly drawn string unblinded. In many cases, the patterns themselves clearly define the string areas on their own. In this particular tile, the string is easy to “see” even without the shading because the patterns simply don’t cross over the line. It is OK to cross a string line, but I didn’t want to do that in this “lesson 1” tile so that the boundaries created by the string could be clearly seen.
The point about using a hard pencil lightly is that, as a tangler becomes more experienced and confident, she or he may not want the string, border, or corner dots to be so obvious. In the tile on the right, I drew patterns along the string, often using both sides of the string, to create the borders. It is still easy to see the different sections filled with different patterns, but the string is much less obvious. Because I drew the string so lightly, it is almost impossible to see the original pencil line that broke the tile into sections.
Bottom line: the corner dots, border, and string should be drawn just dark enough to remind you where the sections break, but not so dark that an area where you decide to jump a line shows up to “ruin” a pattern element. Who wants to see a heavy line going through a beautiful petal or leaf in a weird place?
Before you pick up a pen to draw patterns on a tile, four steps of the Zentangle Method set the session tone and break the tile into small work areas. Step 1 is Gratitude and Appreciation. Step 2 is Corner Dots. Step 3 is Border, and Step 4 is String. The drawing begins in Step 5, called Tangle. But that discussion is for the next post.