Tangled in Zen: A lesson in mindful drawing

Zentangles are very trendy these days — and for good reason!  They’re soothing to do, and since there are no wrong lines, every piece is unique, wonderful and cool!

2nd Zentangle

In the original vision of Zentangles, these are totally abstract with the emphasis on repeatable patterns.  The very act of drawing focuses a different part of the mind and according to some, releases helpful alpha waves the way meditation does.  Rick and Maria, the founders of the Zentangle method (and ology) also insist on using the best quality pens and paper for creating Zentangles because these are mindful creations and the materials influence the way you approach drawing and also enhance the experience.

As I understand from Suzanne Wilka, my Zentangle instructor, doodling is art that is mindlessly created while you are concentrating (or supposed to be concentrating) on something else; it’s a good release and helps with hand-brain muscle coordination, but isn’t meditation in drawing.  Things that are called Zentangles but that look like trees or dogs or other representational objects are also NOT real zentangles; they are ZIA or zentangle-inspired-art — cool, but since they are representational, they miss the abstract quality of true Zentangles.

A Zentangle is a zentangle when it is something that anyone can do (not everyone can draw a dog, but everyone can draw a repetitive pattern in a unique way) on a beautiful piece of paper with a glorious pigment-saturated pen. Shading is optional, but very satisfying.

In my class today, we dove into tangling with a single dot on the small tile to “break the ice”.  If one is intimidated by drawing on the same kind of paper that Renoir and Picasso used, then a single dot breaks the fear.  The dots were followed by a border and then by a “string”.  The string is a guideline drawn to create sections for the different repeated patterns — each of which has its own special name and backstory.

Then to the “tangles” or patterns.  Big strokes are drawn and then the inner strokes are drawn and the form is repeated until the space is filled and you’re ready for the next pattern. You have a lot of freedom in drawing your lines — tightly spaced elements gives a completely different feel from loosely placed ones.  Curved lines have a different feel from straight ones — AND THEY’RE ALL CORRECT! No bad lines. How freeing is that!

Suzanne was very patient with me and we drew and talked and drew some more until my brain was completely full and I had to go home!

1st zentangle

My 2nd official Zentangle; note all the variations. It’s kind of like a sampler piece.

Tangling is definitely in my future.  I can even see incorporating it into my henna designs.  And it will help keep me sane when I spend long hours in the hospital with my mother this December (she’s going in for a knee replacement; nothing life-threatening, thank goodness!)

Have you tried Zentangles?  Are you hooked?

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