What Exactly Is Zentangle?

I’ve done a few posts featuring some Zentangle art now, including the haunted house piece that I did for Halloween

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…and when I demonstrated my change of logo back in April last year.

There are a lot more mentions of Zentangle on my old blog, like this one I shared on here a year ago. I did regular updates with all the pieces I’d been doing.  And that’s because, at the time, zentangle inspired art was all that I did.

I’ve been doing a wee bit more of it recently.  I did some pieces with the bits from the December Scrawlr box…

…and I’ve done some more pieces with the patterns used in the Halloween piece.

But the question remains: what exactly is Zentangle?

Technically, “Zentangle” is a copyrighted brand name.  Essentially it’s doodling.

Way back in December 2013, my good friend Katherine (of the awesome Lightwood Games – they make brilliant puzzle games, go check them out) –  posted an awesome picture on her Facebook page.

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It reminded me an awful lot of the sort of random doodling I used to do on school books, and on scrap pieces of paper whilst on the phone.  (This picture is from 2013, don’t judge the photo quality).

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Obviously though, it’s a little different.  Kat had gotten a book for her birthday about Zentangle, and so I ended up on Zentangle.com where Rick and Maria had boiled doodling down to it’s zen essence and created a method.

Here’s my explanation from my “what is zentangle” blog post on my old blog back in early 2014.

To do a “proper” Zentangle, it needs to be done in black and white, on a 3.5″ square tile, in tangles (patterns) that have no more than 1 or 2 strokes, and that don’t represent anything. You begin with four dots just inside the corners of your tile, you connect them to create a border, then you fill that border with your string. Your string is a faint pencil outline that you’ll fill in with different tangles. A true Zentangle doesn’t represent anything, or appear to be anything. It’s supposed to be ritualistic, and repetitive, and soothing. And it can be. But you don’t necessarily have to do a “proper” Zentangle.

There are “official” tangles, and hundreds and hundreds of unofficial ones.  If you search Pinterest or Google Images or Instagram for “zentangle” you’ll get zillions of hits.  Technically a lot of those pieces are ZIA – zentangle inspired art.  But I think most artists just use the term Zentangle.

I got addicted.  Surprise, surprise.  At the time I didn’t have a million craft hobbies, and pretty much all I did was knit, crochet, cross stitch and doodle.  For a long time nearly every single post on my blog was about Zentangle.

As I learned to draw though, I began to doodle less and less.  But I do miss it, and I am currently endeavouring to do more of it.  Mind you, I plan on doing a lot more of a lot of things, and I wouldn’t have enough time to do it all even if I lived to 3000.

I probably explained it very badly, and I know I didn’t explain the details of it at all really.  But there are countless sources for more information.  First and foremost I highly recommend the Zentangle.com website.  It’s very pretty and clear, and full of everything you need to know.

The next best resource you should know is Laura Harms, The Diva.  She posts inspiration and challenges and all sorts, and runs a really friendly group on Facebook.  There used to be a website too, but I don’t know if it still exists or not.

There are, of course, a lot of YouTube videos about it too.  Some, like the one Jazza did recently, are a little dismissive of the Zentangle method as a brand.  I can kind of see his point.  But he took it a wee bit too seriously I think.

Zentangle, whether you do it the “proper” way or not, is about relaxing and zoning out and focusing on repeated patterns.  So put on some music or some Netflix, and doodle away.

Do you do Zentangle?  Or zentangle inspired art?  I’d love to see some of your work 🙂

Author: Colette Horsburgh

A 30-something creator/baker/writer/artist/crafter living with several (but not enough) scatty animals.

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