Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zen Zentangle Tango

I've had Zentangles on the periphery of my consciousness for a while now. I'd seen some samples and heard a few folks talk about them but was not quite sure what they were. I love Loretta Puncer's Gallery 510 in Dayton's Oregon District and often visit for a visual feast and inspiration. In early January my friend Lori, fellow writer and fiber artist, noticed some Zentangle art for sale and while discussing it with Loretta she mentioned that a Zentangle group meets in her studio once a month for a work session and that there was an introductory class coming up in a few weeks. I signed up with limited information and an open mind.

I confess that if I was on top of my schedule I would have at least googled Zentangle for some prior knowledge. But, I forgot about the class until the day of and had to go cold. This was good! Zentangle is a form of, well, doodling. You can read about the origin here. Many people find it stress-reducing and enter a meditative state while drawing.

Carole Ohl, a certified Zentangle teacher, gave us a little box with all we needed to get started. I love little boxes and containers of all sorts. This one was pristine white cardboard with a pen, a smudge stick, a pencil, and four paper squares. These were not just any pen, pencil and paper. The pen was a Pigma Micron 01 Black. The pencil had soft lead good for smudging and the paper was archival quality. It felt like the first day of elementary school when I always reverently clutched a brand new pencil box, pencil, eraser, and crayons, all ripe with possibility.

Zentangle supply box and an in-process Zentangle

You start by making a dot in each corner of your paper and then connect the dots to make a shape. You can use any kind of lines you want to do this. Then you add a string. This is Zentangle talk for a line that divides your shape into smaller sections. Again, any way you like! Then you begin to fill in the spaces created by the string. There are over a hundred Zentangle designs (tangles) for you to try. And, of course, you can make up your own!

Now, here's the fun part, there is no such thing as a "wrong" Zentangle! There were six of us in this session and using the same prompts and tangles, created six very different finished pieces.

My first Zentangle

Initially, my grip was tight, I was using two much pressure and was over thinking the whole thing. When I relaxed and just played I slipped into a lovely place. Calm. Peaceful. As I finished my first Zentangle,  I shifted into a creative rush and began to think of all the things I wanted to try with these. I was especially enthused about using them within or surrounding letter shapes. I finally got up from my seat and wandered in the gallery for a few minutes to mellow out.

In a one hour session I went from curious, to fascinated, to soothed, to eager, to inspired. Zen to tango to zen again! Engaging my right brain always opens creative thoughts for me and that leads to creative action. I think this will be helpful to my writing practice. It gives me a visually productive way to tap into a sense of well-being, of being at peace within my body. Lovely.


  1. This looks like serious fun, Jude! Will have to try it out. I turned 60 last year too, and have never felt more "real" in my life. I really feel comfortable in my own skin, and don't care what others think. It's about time!! Glad to hear you are getting there too. Don't forget to look me up again when you are in Sarasota!

  2. Deborah Lee I will look forward to tangling with you in Sarasota soon! Dayton has been frigid of late and some Florida sunshine sounds good! Sixty is a time of becoming for me thus far...

  3. Sounds like fun! Also has possibilities for art quilting.

  4. Thank you for introducing me to this Judy! I have already cut my 3 1/2 " squares and dug my art pencils out...on my way to trying something new. What fun! I turned 70 recently, and I never want to stop learning new things. I think you are right, this will helpful to my writing.

  5. You are most welcome Mary Ann! I'm trying to do a Zentangle once a day but sometimes get in a groove and do several. I checked out your blog and look forward to perhaps seeing some Zentangles there? I'm experimenting with sepia colored pens and having interesting results. A local group here is having a Valentine Zentangle session this weekend. Lot's of creative uses for this. I'm currently playing with adding Zentangle to alphabet letters. There are many examples on the internet.