Many claims are made for the Zentangle. This method of creating abstract drawings, using repetitive patterns, developed by an ex-monk and a calligrapher, has variously been described as a way of promoting focus, increasing mental retention, reducing stress and stimulating creativity. It’s been likened to a form of artistic meditation, hence the Zen bit, and it has been recommended for improving your mood, calming you down and as a tool for anger management.
I don’t know about the validity of those claims, but I’ve always loved doodling and have used various art forms such as Mehndi designs and Aboriginal art to teach children about line, pattern and texture, so Zentangles instantly appeal to me. I do find creating these tiny works of abstract art very relaxing and fulfilling, with the added bonus that they are quick to complete, can be done anywhere and can be put down and taken up without any planning or setting up of messy areas. Time flies when you are doing them and so they are perfect for taking on the train or distracting you in the dentist or hospital waiting areas.
So, what is a Zentangle?
It’s a miniature abstract work of art, created from a collection of patterns not meant to represent anything and without any orientation.
In its original form, it is created on 3.5 inch (8.9 cm) squares of good quality art paper, called ‘tiles’, using a pencil and a fine black pen. You don’t need to plan anything in advance, as the idea is that the creation unfolds itself one stroke at a time, and you don’t need a rubber, as, because there are no expectations, there are no mistakes in Zentangling. It is more than just doodling however, since you work with more focus, giving your deliberate drawing of patterns a great deal of attention.
How to get started:
- Draw a border in pencil using freehand and a light touch - it’s not meant to be visible once you finish creating your Zentangle in pen. Don’t worry if it’s not straight - it all adds to the finished effect.
- Draw a "string" inside the border - This is a curved line or squiggle that acts as a simple, abstract form which elegantly divides the border into sections to lend structure to your design. It should be lightly-sketched in pencil so as not to be visible once your Zentangle is finished.
- Start creating a tangle. A "tangle" is a repeating pattern drawn in pen along the contours of a string. Tangles should be composed of very simple shapes - lines, dots, circles, squiggles, squares, arcs etc.
- One Zentangle may have just one tangle, or a combination of different tangles. Use your pen to begin drawing whatever pattern comes to you. Pencil shading or colour can be added to the tangles to create more depth and visual interest.
Go to my Arty Scribblings tab at the top of the page for some Zentangle ideas.