Zentangle – Not just a boring old doodle

Zentangle Design

What is Zentangle?

The number one question I get when I explain Zentangle is “well, isn’t that just doodling?”

Yes.  And no.

It’s more than.   So to describe it with a little more detail….

It’s an easy-to-learn and fun way to draw beautiful images using structured patterns.  The Zentangle Method is the creation of Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, two wonderful and down-to-earth people.

It puts you into a relaxed state of focus called Flow (you might remember we talked about Flow in my blog post on time.)

Everyone can do it.  And I mean everyone.

Yes, even you who keeps saying that you haven’t an ounce of creativity in your whole body!

If you can hold a pen, then you are neither too young, nor too old for zentangle.

How did I get into Zentangle?

I’ve been tangling as a hobby for about 10 years now.  I first learned of it from an acquaintance in a study group I was in.  At the time, she had recently suffered from a cerebellar stroke.

She wasn’t paralyzed but she had issues with her balance and fine motor skills.  She was using Zentangle to recover her handwriting.  Because the structured patterns don’t need to resemble anything like letters and words, it was a more fun way to practice writing so that she didn’t feel discouraged about how much her writing had changed after the stroke.  Over a short time, it was remarkable how her writing had improved.

That piqued my interest, I picked up a book on Amazon and started tangling away.

Wouldn’t coloring books be more relaxing?

I thought so for awhile.  A few years into my tangling is when the coloring book boom took off.  I jumped on the bandwagon.  I thought the coloring books for grown-ups were the greatest creation ever.  Why didn’t I think of that??  I loved coloring as a kid.

I started getting various coloring books – ooh wouldn’t that one be fun?! – and put my Zentangle by the wayside.  Then I started noticing that I wasn’t doing anything at all.  I would start a coloring page and not get very far before I had to go do something else.  Then they sat in my drawer.  And sat.

I finally asked myself what was going on.  Even though I loved the idea of the coloring books, I wasn’t coloring.  And here’s why… (at least for me. You might find yourself still very much in love with coloring books and that’s okay too!)

  • The pages were overwhelming – so detailed, so intricate – I just don’t have the time right now in my life to spend hours and hours on one coloring page.  A Zentangle tile can be completed in as short as 10 minutes.
  • I felt pressure to pick a good color scheme and make it look presentable. In Zentangle, all you think about is the next stroke of the pen.  You don’t plan and often don’t even know what it’ll look like until it’s done.  All pressure is off.
  • The rules taught in childhood of “sky is supposed to be blue” came roaring back. I had expectations in my head of what the coloring page should look like and was disappointed if I picked icky color combos.  Zentangle is non-representational – it’s not supposed to look like anything in particular, so there’s no preconceived notions of “supposed to’s.”
  • When I did finally finish a coloring page, I felt relief that I was done with it, but not a sense of joy.  With Zentangle, there is a perked up feeling of “Wow, I just made that!”

So I have since moved away from coloring books and back in my tangles to much happiness and relaxation.

If you have even the slightest inkling that this might interest you, please join me at an upcoming class.  I promise it’ll be fun!



This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.   See my disclaimer.

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