Can you hold a pen; make a dot, a line, a ‘c’ shape, a squiggle, a circle, and a semi circle? Then you can make art. In fact, gorgeous art, and it really is that simple. 

I’d told myself for years I couldn’t make art, sure I was crafty but art was different, more important, special and technical, right? Everyone knows you have to train to be an artist and you have to have some special latent talent to begin with.

Well guess what, after one three-hour Zentangle class, I could see that just wasn’t true. Even the people taking the class with me confirmed my new found understanding – they called my first attempt gorgeous and proceeded to tell me why they thought that. They were clearly sincere, honest individuals and amazing artists themselves. So, after this experience, I was hooked!

I’d like to say I quietly mulled over this newfound broader sense of self but I didn’t. I quickly emailed friends and showed it to anyone I could and exclaimed loudly and with great enthusiasm – look! Look what I did! It was like I’d just invented sliced cheese and it was 1960 all over again.

I was more amazed than anyone. It wasn’t until many months later while attending the CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) training seminar, when Rick Roberts (one of the founders of Zentangle) said “so I wonder what else you’ve told yourself you couldn’t do”, that I really got it.

We really do shape our lives with our thoughts and beliefs, and what we can imagine. Albert Einstein says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge” and who is smarter than dear Albert? I’ve read more self help books than I care to admit but I’d never had such a concrete example laid before me and it was all accomplished with the simple tools many of us use every day; with pen and paper.

The real magic of Zentangle happens while creating simple repeating patterns within a designated section called a string. This provides a tremendous sense of freedom and a great outlet for creativity. There’s not meant to be a preoccupation with the finished product, it’s about enjoying or getting caught up in the process of making patterns appear with simples dots and lines. It’s an intuitive process that requires very little technical know how. It’s about a willingness to explore, imagine and simply focus on making that one line or dot. Nothing more. Really, it is that simple.

Each pattern is made up of one to three basic steps that are easy to follow, and with repetition, comes the impression of something much more complex than it really is. With this simplicity, a quiet calmness descends that generates a deep relaxation without any conscious effort. Then the fun begins as you imagine and intuit how to play with the patterns and put them together.

People have different ways to describe this effect, it’s like slipping into a zone where the rest of the world seems to soften and fade from one’s awareness. This happens whether you do it for ten minutes or two hours and this is exactly what meditators have been striving to accomplish for centuries. I’ve tried meditating, getting to that delicious zone, and believe me this is way more fun!

At the risk of sounding like a maniac, other things start to happen too. Before you know it, you’ll start seeing beautiful patterns in all kinds of unlikely places. And what a delightful ingredient that is to add to your every day life. Beauty and appreciation! Patterns are everywhere; in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, architecture, landscapes, plant life, and even on animals.

I can even see covering the town I live in with Zentangle patterns.  We already have gorgeous murals on the sides of many commercial buildings, why not Zentangle designs. In fact, we have four Zentangle banners up right in the middle of downtown as part of the summer banner project. So more Zentangle designs would make sense!

I suppose some might accuse me of creating graffiti, of being a ‘tagger’ but I’d do it differently. First I’d meet with the staff at City Hall and get them all excited and on board, maybe even offer them a Zentangle Appie (a small first hand experience of tangling). Imagine handing out pens and tiles in the Board Room at city hall. Now that would be fun!

Then we’d create a catchy name for this project, call it something exciting like ‘urban beautification’. Ok, that’s not very exciting; I’ll have to work on that a bit more but when you stop to think about our evolution as a species; we’ve been decorating our surroundings and ourselves for aeons. So why quit now!

I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t already. Reach out, contact me, I’m happy to provide classes in a variety of settings; schools, art galleries, recreation centres senior centres, your home, on a cruise, in the park. Keep in mind, this art form can be done anywhere, as it’s small and portable, unless you get carried away and paint your house with Zentangle patterns. Now there’s a great idea….

Of course, you don’t have to do it with me, there are lots of CZT’s out there but I guarantee, with me it will be fun and exciting and you will begin to see yourself and your world in a very different way.