Zentangle: My Way

I’ve been tangling. I like saying that. Although, it sounds a bit grandiose because I’ve only learned about two dozen official tangle patterns, and completed six regular-sized tiles and one 5”x7” page filled with the two dozen patterns I’ve learned.

I worked my way through the ‘Zentangle Basics 1’ instruction book over the past few weeks. I did it with a few small hacks. First, I didn’t buy the official square white Zentangle tiles because I was uncertain about committing to Zentangle by buying the official kit. I decided instead to use a 5”x7” art sketchbook – the same as my art/gratitude journal – mainly so I can draw the individual steps as I learn each tangle pattern, which I do by tracing the lid of a small loose-leaf tea tin as a frame for drawing each of the steps in a tangle. It has been a good exercise for me to learn the tangle patterns using this method of repetition: not simply because I’m learning to draw them but also because it increases my patience and helps me to focus my attention.

After learning four patterns, I was then going to mark off a 3.5”x3.5” square on a page of the sketchbook with a ruler to use as a Zentangle tile, but I found I didn’t have to measure anything because as I looked around my small space I noticed that my drink coasters measure exactly 3.5”x3.5”. I traced the decorated piece of square glass then I followed the steps outlined in the Zentangle instruction book and I drew a string to form sections within the 3.5”x3.5” space to fill with the tangle patterns. I repeated these steps with new tangle patterns six times and I now have six completed ‘tiles’, and one large 5”x7” mess of 25 tangle patterns. I call it a mess in jest because I’m proud of what I’ve learned, but my eye for perfection can see the few tangle patterns with which I’ve struggled peeking out at me and I have the urge to try to fix them, which goes against the Zentangle method.

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I should add that until about a week ago I didn’t have the recommended Sakura Pigma Micron pens. I started out with an ultra-fine black Sharpie pen. This was partly because it seemed impossible to get a hold of the Micron pens anywhere, and I’m limited in my ability to venture out to do things, so I ordered the Sharpies online. I finally located Sakura Microns online, in abundance, at Cult Pens – Pinterest is a great resource when you’re trying to find something you really want. I have to admit that I find tangling patterns with the Micron pens a lot easier. The ink flows more smoothly, the different nib sizes make it easier to fill in the larger areas in some tangles, and the black ink is richer.

The last hack is one I read about on a blog somewhere – I wish I could remember which one so I could give it credit. Shading is used in Zentangle to add dimension to tangles. You can add shading to the tangle patterns in your tile with a pencil then using a blending stump or Tortillion blend and create a softer effect. The hack I learned is to use a cotton swab/Q-tip instead of a blending stump to smudge and blend the pencil to add dimension to the tangle patterns. This is working really well to add shading to the tiles I’m creating in my sketchbook. It’s interesting to see how I can transform the lines from flat marks on a page to images with depth.

I think I’ll continue to use my hacks for a while longer until I feel more confident, especially because my medications sometimes make my hands unsteady and I fear ruining many real Zentangle squares. However, I will definitely continue to use the method I’ve developed with the lid of my loose-leaf tea tin to learn new tangle patterns when I graduate to using official Zentangle squares. It’s nice to flip through the pages of my sketchbook as a reference for what tangle patterns I can use and to see what I’ve learned.

I had difficulty finding a song to add to this post to reflect the sentiment I had about choosing not to adhere to the precision of the Zentangle method (i.e. improvising with materials), but as I searched for a song about options/choice I came across this song by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) that felt right: In the End. The blurb on the page where I found the song says, “According to Yusuf Islam, in the song he is asking people to look at themselves and check that they’re making the right choices because they’ll be judged – in the end.”


Yusuf Islam – In The End


9 thoughts on “Zentangle: My Way

  1. You are incredibly talented! Writing, drawing, .. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I can follow patterns and recreate works already done, so I do have skills,don’t get me wrong. But an artist, I’m not. Good job!


  2. Pingback: Gratitude and Creativity: A Year Of Banking Positives | My Small Surrenders

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