About Zentangle…

Last time, I talked about doing something new. Zentangle is both an art form and a meditation technique. I became a bit impertinent on the topic, but that was my frustration showing. The truth is that I have been rather erratic with my Zentangle practice, and have been frustrated not with the steps and patterns, but with my jittery hand. I guess tremor is not unusual at my age, but it frustrates me to no end when a twitch spoils my “art”–whether graphic or verbal. That is why I feel most comfortable drawing with pencil or working with oil paint. Both are easily fixed with eraser or white spirit, respectively. But working with ink is a whole other matter.

Zentangle, in its finished form, is ideally done on a tile that is 3.5″ square. It is worked in black ink and shaded with graphite pencil. At least, that is how it is initially taught. I practice in my sketch book, usually in pencil because I forget to switch to ink once I have drawn my “string.” A string is a means of blocking out a tile to take different designs in each cell created by the string or strings crossing each other. The example above, comprised of 18 cells, looks like it should be a finished product, but it is in my sketchbook, not on a tile. This is because I lacked the self-confidence to commit my work to a tile. Tiles, although basically nothing more than small blocks of watercolor quality paper, are not inexpensive. Since I am reluctant to waste money, I work a lot in my sketch pad. The problem is that each Zentangle is a unique product of the moment in which it is created. Attempts to replicate lead to frustration as The Moment is no longer conducive to the same Zentangle. 

Another source of frustration is when I begin a Zentangle on a tile, but forget to switch to ink after I draw my string. The result is a nice study that is less permanent than the paper it is drawn on. Some people do just fine tracing over their work accurately. Not I. I might as well start from scratch than trace over pencil in ink. Besides, ink does not do well over filled in areas of graphite, and erasure changes the texture of the paper. With pencil, the contrasts are far less dramatic. I end up with something like this early tile.

Imagine if the dark areas were black instead of graphite gray. Not at all the same effect. 

Despite frustrations, I continue to enjoy Zentangle as both an art form and a means to relaxation. I sometimes start my tangle in the wrong frame of mind and, despite deep breathing and all the other relaxation techniques I try, the resulting piece is pretty bad.

What I need to do is be easier on myself. I need to let myself go and allow the art to happen. It doesn’t matter whether I am working with drawings or words; I need to allow myself to fail with grace. Each failure should come with more of a lesson than being frustrated with my inner self or my body’s decline. I need to analyze the moment and see if there are changes I can make to the environment–physical or mental–that would allow me to create more effectively. It may be that I determine that the timing just wasn’t right for my attempt. Sometimes, not a single change would have resulted in a better outcome; sometimes, shit happens. 


About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
This entry was posted in About Writing, Art, Creative process, Creativity, relaxation, Zentangle and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to About Zentangle…

  1. Adam says:

    Hi. I have never heard about Zentangle until I found your blog. It’s very interesting: form of art and meditation at the same time. Sounds intriguing! I’m thinking about trying it out. Thank you

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