History of Zentangle™

The Monk and the ScribeMuch has been written about the history of Zentangle and while I love repeating patterns, hence my love and fascination with the art of Zentangle, I’m not all that keen about repeating the same stories without some of my own creativity thrown in. So here’s a slightly different approach to the wonderful story of Maria Thomas, Rick Roberts and the creation of Zentangle.

Imagine growing up in a small mill town in New England in the 50’s and 60’s and by the age of nine, you begin having a recurring dream that suggests you’re going to discover a new colour that at first no one else could see. It would be beautiful and you’d show others how to see it and it would have the ability to change their lives.

Imagine the excitement and curiosity this might inspire. What a magnificent mission to entrust to a young girl. Thankfully, Maria’s creative streak ran deep and by the age of seven she was painting her own designs on rocks and sold everyone of them at the local church bazar. What a great beginning!

Years later, Maria worked in her mother’s fabric store while attending high school where her passion for art and specifically calligraphy would flourish. Rick also attended this same high school and while they knew of each other in school, they wouldn’t get to know one another for decades to come as a two-year age difference separated Maria and Rick, and as we all know, in adolescent terms that can represent vastly different worlds even in a small town.

Their passions in life seemed like chalk and cheese; she expressed herself artistically and had an entrepreneurial streak, while he was considered the smartest kid in the whole school. (I’d love to see a picture of these two at this age!)

As you might expect, they created two very diverse lifestyles, equally rich in experience and talent. Now, fast forward, they are older and two years doesn’t represent much difference at all. Rick has returned to New England and they are both pursuing their artistic interests, Maria is working as a calligrapher/designer and Rick is designing and making Native American flutes when Rick’s aunt recommends he approach Maria to do the lettering for his new CD.

With Rick’s background in printing and typesetting he started working with Maria in her stationary design and production business. In time, this working friendship developed into the romance they enjoy today and thank goodness it did. As it was the synergistic combination of these two very talented, generous hearted people that created the magical art form we know and love, called Zentangle.

There were many ‘ahah’ moments along the way and no doubt they still happen today but the pivotal one seems to be when Rick barged into Maria’s studio while she was working on an illuminated manuscript. She’d been working, seemingly effortlessly, for hours drawing small intricate patterns inside a large letter. As she described to Rick what her experience was like, he recognized she was describing the benefits of meditation. Having practiced meditation for years Rick sensed something important in her words and they realized valuable insights and possibilities had just surfaced in their lives. Luckily they had the intelligence, creativity and curiosity to pursue this notion further.

They booked a bed and breakfast in Massachusetts to explore these ideas away from the interruptions of every day life and by the end of this creative interlude they had outlined the framework of this transformative approach to art.

Zentangle is an art form that requires a pencil, pen, and paper and a relaxed focus on creating basic repeating patterns. No pressure, no expectations of the outcome, no mistakes, just the delightful process of exploring how to put together in a pleasing fashion, dots, lines, squiggles and circles. How easy is that!

In time they recognized tangle patterns are like colours, and as you might choose a crayon from a box, you choose a pattern to create your art and by intuiting which colour or pattern comes next, you magically create fantastic art simply one stroke at a time.

What an exciting getaway this must have been, two powerful minds at work drawing on their different life experiences, creativity, keen observational skills, insights and profound sensitivities.

That was ten years ago and the ideas and concepts they initially created are exactly what they rely on today to guide and inspire people of all ages around the world to explore their creativity. Imagine their delight when they realized, they had created a nine year olds’ dream come true. Together they created an approach to art that has changed people’s lives!

Maria and Rick’s generous and mindful approach has inadvertently created an extended family of tanglers who share and support the importance of gratitude, cooperation and artistic expression. Many have experienced first hand the benefits that come from practicing the Zentangle method and have forged valuable friendships and support circles.

Who knew you could create beautiful art and experience the healing benefits of meditation all at the same time regardless of age or artistic training.  Thank goodness for serendipity and thanks to Maria and Rick who now lovingly refer to themselves as the Monk and the Scribe.