Zentangle: Tangle Patterns, Inspiration, and Deconstruction

This is not the original content I wrote to go with this post’s title. The first draft I wrote was a long rant in response to some very tense, unfriendly, and angry exchanges I keep encountering on some Zentangle-related websites and groups since I started using the meditative pattern drawing method. I decided not to post what I wrote because it doesn’t help anyone, least of all the people I see being dumped on, to write another angry post.

I started learning the Zentangle method because of the inherent meditative and mindful aspects of the process of drawing the various patterns. I’ve grown to enjoy getting lost in drawing lines and shapes. I spend a lot of time searching out more patterns online to expand my drawing skills and make the artwork I create in my art/gratitude journal more interesting. However, at times when I’m about to teach myself a new pattern I’ve found online, I notice negative exchanges written in some of the comments sections. It annoys me – actually, I get somewhat angry – because this thing, that is supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing, seems to be more about ownership and monetization than mindfulness.

I think some people forget that doodling has been around for a long time. Everyone does it. Although not everyone that doodles might take the time to name the patterns they draw. I know highlighting these points is going to make me unpopular to anyone who is devoted to the Zentangle method, but here’s the thing, slightly modifying something that already exists and giving it a new name doesn’t make it original or new. If that were the case, we would all be creative geniuses.

The Juggler - University of Notre Dame - May 1929

Cartoon from the commencement issue of The Juggler magazine of University of Notre Dame from May 1929


Furthermore, just because you’re inspired to deconstruct a complex pattern or image that was painstakingly created by an uncredited artisan in a woodwork carving, chiseled into a marble archway, painted on ceramic tiles, or stitched in fabric, that doesn’t make what you draw an original pattern. If you look around long enough you can usually find a pattern that existed for years, if not decades or centuries (in the case of ancient tribal and religious symbols) that looks like so-called “original” tangle patterns. At the end of the day, all art is derivative. Artists learn from imitating work produced by other artists, or trying to recreate things they see in the world around them, and they use it as a jumping off point to develop their personal style.


That being said, I have to stop letting myself get so bothered when I see some of the terrible things people write to each other in these spaces. As one Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) disappointingly stated in a comment I recently read online, for so many people Zentangle is “sadly just about making money”, which is bound to make some of those people more territorial and severe. For now, I will continue to use this drawing method as a creative meditative practice to divert focus away from my pain, but I think it wouldn’t hurt for some of the people getting bent out of shape about the use of patterns they “create” to remember that imitation is the purest form of flattery.


Arctic Monkeys – Brick By Brick


3 thoughts on “Zentangle: Tangle Patterns, Inspiration, and Deconstruction

  1. The first rule of the interwebz: never read the comments. 😛 (I mean this kind of tongue in cheek both because I’m saying this in a comment and because I say it to myself every time I read a comment section that makes me lose faith in humanity.) That said, I really enjoyed your post and very much agree with your point of view of art/craft. Zentangle is new to me; I’m going to investigate it further & try it out – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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