What is Zentangle?

What is Zentangle?

Zentangle is an easy to learn intuitive art form created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas of Rhode Island.  Its intention is to allow anyone to create a beautiful piece of art whilst experiencing a state of piece and relaxation.

Traditionally, Zentangle is created on small ’tiles’ of card 3.5 inch square and the only other equipment necessary is a pencil and a black pen.  This makes it the most easily portable of art forms and you can zentangle in your break or lunch hour and whenever you feel the need to focus or relax.

Zentangle claims many health bene fits as it induces a feeling of calm and is a form of mindful meditation.  Many people thefore find it a good way of coping with trauma or grief.  It can help to reduce stress, improve dexterity and increase concentration and focus – all things that since my stroke 13 months ago, have been a big issue for me.  Before my stroke, I was able to paint and draw for hours at a time.  Now, after just 15 minutes, my concentration is gone and I wander off looking for something else to occupy myself and then forget what I was doing anyhow.   This causes a major problem at work and I have really struggled to return to full-time employment which has had a knock-on effect on my confidence and self-esteem.  I feel tense much of the time, with nerve pain throughout my left arm and shoulder, and often tension and stiffness in my jaw. 

Last week, I read about Zentangle for the first time and was keen to discover if I could experience any of its health benefits for myself.  I was in for a big surprise.  Within minutes of starting my first ‘tangle’, my shoulders relaxed and my jaw stopped aching.  I quickly became thoroughly absorbed in the task of creating my patterns and over a hour of unbroken activity and concentration later,  I finished my first Zentangle, and immediately set about starting a second.  What a result!

The only way to truly discover the benefits of Zentangle is to try it yourself.  So let’s get started.

Step one: Take a square piece of card (3.5 inches is the norm) and with your pencil, mark a dot in each corner.

Step two: Join the dots to form a border.  This can be square or curved.  There is no wrong way to Zentangle.  You make the conscious choice.

Step three: Draw your ‘thread’ – a pencil line that may be a random curve or squggle, a X or other letter, geometric shape, whatever else you fancy, but it divides your tile into segments.  The pencil lines are not erased but gradually get incorporated into the design and vanish.

Step four:  Taking your black pen, start filling in the segments with ‘tangles’ (patterns).  Rotate your tile as you move around it.  Each time you meet a line, switch to a different pattern.  It is fine to leave some segments blank if you wish.  Zentangle has numerous named patterns, some of which I will introduce to you in future posts, but it is okay to invent your own series of lines, circles, squiggles, etc.

Unlike Doodling, which tends to be done without thought, Zentangle is structured and deliberate.  Take your time and concentrate up on the marks that you are making.


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