Make a Zentangle

A Zentangle is an abstract drawing created using repetitive patterns according to the trademarked Zentangle Method. True Zentangles are always created on {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} square tiles, and they are always done in black ink on white paper. The invention of the Zentangle® was intended to make the act of drawing pleasurable, meditative and accessible to all. See Step 1 to learn how to start creating your own Zentangle.


Learning About the Zentangle Method

  1. Learn the basic definition of a Zentangle. A Zentangle is an abstract, patterned drawing created according to the tenets of the Zentangle Method. Using the standard format of a 3.5-inch square title, the artist creates a structured pattern according to his or her whim following a basic set of guidelines. No technology, special materials, or educational background are necessary to become a Zentangle artist. Here are a few characteristics of a Zentangle:
    • The tile should not have an "up" or a "down" - it is without orientation.
    • It should not be representative of any certain recognizable object; rather, it should be abstract.
    • The drawing should be completed in black ink on white paper.
    • A Zentangle is meant to be portable, so that it can be created at any time the mood strikes.[1]
  2. See how Zentangle is different from other art. The Zentangle Method is very different from regular drawing, painting and other art forms. It is meant to be a form of artistic meditation that anyone can do. The act of creating the Zentangle is just as important as the final outcome, which is appreciated for its unique beauty. Zentangle creations adhere to the following philosophical tenets:
    • Its creation is unplanned. When you begin creating a Zentangle, you're encouraged not to have an end goal in mind. Rather, allow the pattern to reveal itself as you draw.
    • Its creation of a Zentangle is deliberate, yet unexpected. Each stroke should be made deliberately, rather than hesitantly. Instead of erasing stray marks, the artist should use them as the foundation for an unexpected pattern.
    • Its creation is celebratory. Like meditation, the Zentangle Method is meant to feel freeing and healing. It's a way to celebrate the beauty of life.[1]
    • A Zentangle is timeless. No technology or special tools are used. Zentangles should connect those who make them to the timeless human endeavor of putting pen to paper.
  3. Understand the difference between a Zentangle and a doodle. Many people create doodles - sometimes beautiful ones - in the margins of notebooks and on scrap paper. Doodles are usually created during times when the person making them is having trouble paying attention to something else that's going on, like a lecture or a phone call. Though the best doodles can look similar to Zentangles, they're actually very different. Here's how:
    • The Zentangle Method helps you create a feeling of ""relaxed focus"". Unlike doodling, the person creating a Zentangle is giving it his or her full, undivided attention. A Zentangle cannot be created while on the phone or listening to a lecture, because attention is an inherent part of this art form.
    • The Zentangle Method is a ceremony. Since a Zentangle deserves the artist's utmost attention. It should be create in a quiet place where focus and reverence can be achieved. The paper and pens used should be of highest quality, since a Zentangle is a work of art that can be enjoyed for a long time to come.
  4. Learn about the founding artists. The Zentangle Method was invented by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, when they discovered that the act of drawing abstract patterns with the constraint of a few basic rules was extremely meditative.
    • In order to teach the Zentangle Method, one must be certified as a Zentangle Teacher.[2]
    • There are over one hundred official Zentangles. If you want to recreate one of the originals, there are tutorials online and books and kits available for purchase. Works that are reminiscent of Zentangles but don't adhere to the official guidelines are referred to as Zentangle-inspired art.

Creating Your Own Zentangle

  1. Start with the right supplies. The Zentangle Method encourages using fine printmaking paper to use as a foundation for Zentangles. It should be plain white, unlined paper. Cut your paper into a 3.5" square piece.
    • Handmade or textured paper is fine, as long as it doesn't have patterns.
    • You can use colored paper if you want, but wouldn't be considered a true Zentangle according to the Zentangle Method.
  2. Draw a border. Use a pencil to draw a light square border around the edges of your paper. The pattern you make will be drawn inside the perimeters of the border. Do not use a ruler or any sort of straight edge to draw your border. Just sketch it lightly near the edges of the paper.
    • It's completely fine if your hand wavers while you draw the border. The border will be a unique, original constraint inside which your pattern will emerge. If it has wavy lines or looks uneven, your finished Zentangle will be that much more original.
    • Do not press down too hard with the pencil as you freehand the border. It is not meant to be visible once you finish creating your Zentangle in pen.
  3. Draw a string. Take your pencil and draw a "string" inside the border. According to the Zentangle Method, a string is a curved line or squiggle that will lend structure to your design. The pattern you create will emerge according to the contours of your string. It should a lightly-sketched, simple, abstract form that elegantly divides the border into sections.
    • Again, don't press down too hard with your pencil as you draw the string. It will not be visible once your Zentangle is finished. It is meant to serve as a guide for your pattern.
    • Some people find it hard to determine how to draw the string. Remember that the philosophy behind a Zentangle is that it should feel pleasurable, celebratory and natural. Draw whatever comes out when you touch your pencil to the paper - there's no wrong way to do it.
    • If you want ideas for creating different strings, there are string patterns available online.[3]
  4. Start creating a tangle. A "tangle" is a pattern drawn in pen along the contours of a string. One Zentangle may have just one tangle, or a combination of different tangles. Use your pen to begin drawing whatever pattern comes to you - again, there's no right or wrong move inside a Zentangle. As you work, keep the following in mind:
    • Tangles should be composed of very simple shapes. A line, a dot, a circle, a squiggle, or an oval are all acceptable.
    • Penciled shading can be added to the tangles to create more depth and visual interest. This is not mandatory, but you're free to do so if you'd like.
  5. Don't erase mistakes. You can't erase mistakes you make in pen. That's part of the reason tangles are created in pen, not pencil, aside from any shading you might want to add. There's no going back.
    • Every tangle is built stroke by stroke. Pay attention to each stroke you make, and build your pattern in a deliberate fashion.
    • Focus intently on your work. Just as you would while meditating, free your mind of worries and problems. Remember that the act of creating a Zentangle should feel ceremonial.
  6. Keep going until you're finished. You'll know when it's time to put down your pen. Keep your Zentangle in a safe place, or frame it and display it for long-term enjoyment.
  7. (Optional) Once your tile is finished, you can add color to your art. However, please note that this is not part of the official Zentangle instructions.

Sources and Citations

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