Welcome to BLOG Zentangle. To learn about Zentangle, visit our website, read our free newsletters, take a class with a local Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT), and best of all . . . create your own!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Unexpected Outcomes

Maria writes:

Not too long ago, I got a (slightly) panicked call from​ one of my daughters while driving her children to school. "Stop the car, I'm gonna be sick," one said.

Pull over, emergency avoided, turn around . . . and head back home.

"Mom, can you take the other child to school?"

"I can't, but Rick can."

An hour later she calls back, "False alarm – ate more breakfast and wants to play – we're going back to school!"

The teacher was not surprised. She knows how much this child dislikes public speaking and today was this child's turn to speak in front of the class.

Flash-backward. . . 50 - 60 years, and I can remember exactly the same thing happening to me like it was yesterday! The symptoms precisely the same, the fear worse than I could imagine. This fear stayed with me all through life, never being big into groups, not wanting to teach, and for sure never wanting to speak in front of any size group.

As I replayed these memories over the last couple days, I realized those fears have totally disappeared.

What changed in my life?

Zentangle, of course.

We get heartfelt messages, letters, emails and conversations from folks telling stories of how creating Zentangle art helped their lives. . . but I had never pondered how it helped my life.

When the Zentangle Method "presented" itself to Rick and me, the first words I said to Rick were, "We have to teach this to others." 

It didn't occur to me at the time that this meant I had to become a teacher and a public speaker. And when tanglers of the world asked "Where are your books?" I became a writer, too.

Creating Zentangle art did not make me an artist. I had been there, done that since I was 5 years old. But what did change was I became a fearless teacher, speaker and writer . . . and I am having the time of my life doing things I never thought I could do. (Anything really is possible . . . !)

And that, my friends, is what I am grateful for.

How cool is that?

So now, the big question is . . . "How has practicing the Zentangle Method and creating Zentangle art changed your life?"

We'd love to hear your stories, and others will, too.

As usual, we will choose a name at random (we use an online random number generator) and send some fine goodies your way!

We love being able to do that.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Humble Beginnings

 Julie writes:

Last week I wrote about how we need to stop comparing our Zentangle art to others and embrace our practice. Well, Maria liked the blog (and your responses) so much that she suggested I write one about comparing our Zentangle art to… our Zentangle art. Are you scratching your head? That’s ok. It will all make sense.

Consider this – a world class ballerina’s first step as a baby was probably a wobbly one. Michael Jordan probably missed his first basket and Julia Child probably burned her first soufflĂ©. They all may be known as exceptional in their field, but they all started somewhere.

And so did we.

The more you practice something, the better you get at it. The same rings true with your Zentangle practice. The more you tangle, the better you get at it. By “better,” I mean, you become more comfortable with the pen and paper. You refine your style and master techniques and tangles. You find a safe space where the pen meets the paper and you grow. But, you had to start somewhere.

 After last week’s blog, Maria thought it was a good idea to find the first tile she ever did and encouraged us to do the same. It was humbling to compare where we started to where we are now. To see how our Zentangle practice has evolved and our styles have emerged. It is also a good exercise when you are feeling inadequate about your work, to see how far you’ve come.

Julie, 2004

Rick, 2004

Maria, 2004

Molly, 2004

Whether you have been tangling for a week or for years, we encourage you to compare your first tile to your most recent tile. The tiles tell the story of your Zentangle journey.

Join us in this exercise on the Zentangle Mosaic app by uploading your first tile(s) using the hashtag #humblebeginnings. You can also download the app for free and search #humblebeginnings to see where Zentangle artists from around the world got their start.

If you are not on the app, you can find your first tile(s) and hang it somewhere you will see it often, to remind you how you’ve grown!


When I wrote last week’s blog post, I hesitated before I hit “publish.” The irony was not lost on me that I was feeling insecure about posting a blog about overcoming insecurity. I am so glad that I did. Your responses were heartfelt and I was filled with appreciation and gratitude for all of you that shared. We selected one commenter at random to receive a Zentangle surprise:

J. Stough

Please email your mailing address to julie (at) zentangle (dot) com

Happy Tangling!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Embracing your Zentangle practice

 Julie writes: 
I really do believe that we are our own worst critics. When it comes to our Zentangle art, we know there are no mistakes and no preconceived outcomes, but sometimes (it’s okay to admit it) we compare our work to others and feel inadequate. One comment I get from many Mosaic App users is "I love looking at everyone's work but mine is not good enough yet to post." Today's blog is to tell you to embrace your Zentangle practice, let go of this insecurities and (literally or metaphorically) post that tile!

 If there is one thing that I know, my Zentangle practice is much more about the process, the journey, than it is the outcome. Don’t get me wrong, I love finishing a tile. The satisfaction that I created something, a beautiful piece of artwork, is not something I had until the Zentangle Method. The real beauty to me is not in my finished work, it is in the process of getting there.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up next door to Rick and Maria and was a Zentangle “guinea pig.” I have been tangling for almost half my life but it was not until 2013 when I started working for Zentangle, Inc. that I really kicked my practice into high gear. In the beginning, it was intimidating. I was surrounded by the artwork of Maria, Rick and Molly each day and when my tiles did not look like theirs, I will be the first to admit that I felt discouraged. I felt pressure to tangle more, to learn more tangles and to be better. Where did this pressure come from? Myself. It was all my own insecurities.

It was not until I settled into my Zentangle practice that I was able to let go of my insecurities. I was able to do this when I began to embrace the process, the act of creating, and not just the finished product. It was okay that my tiles did not look like anyone else's, because I created it, one stroke at a time. It was okay that my tiles did not flow like Maria’s, hold as much graphite as Molly’s or have the geometric edge that Rick’s had, because that was their style and I had mine. It was okay that I did not know all the tangles because all I needed was a few of my mac and cheese tangles to make a beautiful tile. It was okay to draw marasu over and over (and over) again as long as I enjoy creating those tiles. Creating Zentangle art is such a personal process, my tiles should not look like anyone else’s.

Share with us in the comments below how you embrace your Zentangle practice and we will choose a commenter at random to receive a Zentangle surprise!

Thanks for reading!
- Julie 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

John Nordell, CZT

CZT Family Tree
We always say that the Zentangle Method attracts really awesome people. We have had the pleasure of working with wonderful Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZT) all over the world and we are excited to share these wonderful people with the entire Zentangle Community. Through our series, CZT Family Tree, we will introduce individual CZTs.

Today, we are excited to introduce John Nordell


Name: John Nordell

CZT#:  8

Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Photo Credit: Beth Reynolds

Favorite tangle: Cubine

Favorite place to tangle: In front of the class, teaching the Zentangle Method to my college students.

How I use the Zentangle Method in my life:  I look for possibility in what I might initially perceive as a mistake.  This ability to crack open the door to possibilities beyond my imagination is a gift.

My favorite story or memory about teaching the Zentangle Method is:  I was set up to teach a Zentangle Workshop for a Cancer Support group, a mix of patients, survivors and oncology nurses.  As participants entered the room, one woman, after seeing the display of my pieces of Zentangle art, announced, “There is no way I can do that.  I am not an artist!”  I assured her that “One Stroke at A Time” she could do it. Towards the end of the workshop, she started to make some positive declarations.  After completing her Zentangle tile, she exclaimed.  “I made some art.  I am an artist.  I am going to frame this!”

Through my experiences as a CZT, I have learned:  The first time I taught a class for payment, I was nervous and messed up teaching a tangle.  I was sitting there mortified, wondering to myself if I needed to hand out refunds.  I finally decided to be honest, become vulnerable, and admit that I had made some errors teaching the tangle.  I was gearing up to ask the students if they wanted their money back.  They would hear nothing of it, echoing back to me the Zentangle philosophy I had just shared:  “There are not mistakes, only possibilities.  Isn’t this what you have been talking about?”  I was humbled by their forgiveness.

If I’m not tangling, you will find me…: Creating art that relates to the intersection of environmentalism and technology.

Website/Blog:  www.createlookenjoy.com

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How many times do we have to tell you?... Cut it out!

Rick writes:
In 2007, we started BLOG Zentangle and began our enjoyable series of conversations within our Zentangle community.

In reading through these blog posts with their insightful comments, we decided to bring a few of them to your attention from time to time. It is easy, for me anyway, to sometimes think of old information as stale information. But these insights and conversations are anything BUT stale!

So, we invite you to enjoy this post from 2011.

                     Begin previous post . . .                  

Maria writes:
"Mom!!!!! (always screamed in two syllables!) . . . He's (my older brother) teasing me again . . . CUT IT OUT!!! Mom, tell him to stop . . . knock it off or I'll tell Dad . . . I said cut it out!"

David yells back, "No! YOU cut it out!"

Some of us have had those childhood nightmares (daymares?) of a sibling making our lives intolerable (or so it seemed). In actuality, it was never so bad. It just interrupted the rhythm of whatever I was doing. I was always content playing by myself, amused with my art or tiny dolls . . . but I guess my brother wasn't so much.

Of course, today we are both in our 60's and he's a really great guy, always was, love him to bits. It must be some sort of rite of passage to go through this routine, choreographed in the heavens by well-meaning beings getting us ready for what life lies ahead.

What does this have to do with Zentangle, you wonder? Well I took this chant to heart. Perhaps it was really angels telling me what to do.

"Cut it out!"

I always listen to my guardian angels . . . albeit somewhat late.

This one is done on a blank Zendala tile, folded once to create a sort of rocking horse effect.

With this next one . . .

. . . I folded the top (white tile) and back tile (black) along the diagonals. The white one folded with the crease facing out vertically, the black one creased inward horizontally. I stitched the white tile (yes, with needle and thread!) at two corners,

then I made a small horizontal slit at the top and inserted the top corner of the back tile into the slit.

I cut these tiles with an X-Acto® knife, something I am comfortable with. But you could use some cuticle scissors or fine embroidery scissors (if you don't mind using them on paper). Then, I tangled around the cut-outs.

A fun project for sure.

On this last one, I used 2 square tiles, white on the back and black for the front. I traced a circle (using the cap of my cayenne pepper jar, about 2" diameter) and cut out the center.

Then I folded the black tile in half (with art facing out), opened it and folded in half the other way (again with the art facing out). Then opened it up flat.

This just gives you a way to form the black tile into 3-D and the circular hole ends up looking like a square!

On the white tile, I cut 2 slits in each corner, (see example) big enough to slip the corners of the back tile in the larger slit, and out the smaller one, of each corner. Voila! A 3-D "Cayenne-tile"

This last little Zendala-ette is the piece I cut out of the blank square black tile. I just couldn't toss it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Rick writes:

Deconstruction: To reduce a pattern to its elemental strokes so that a user of the Zentangle Method can recreate it as a tangle by repeating those strokes one at a time in a simple, structured sequence.

Why is deconstruction important?

When you tangle a deconstructed tangle:
  • The part of you that solves problems or criticizes takes a break. 
  • You enter a state of “flow” as you focus on each stroke, because 
  • You know you’ll know what to do later when the time comes, and since 
  • You’re not concerned about the outcome, 
  • You enjoy the process. 

Inspirations for tangles are all around us. I saw this box in a museum:

 It inspired the tangle well. **

As you become aware of patterns, you will also begin to see their structure and their “elemental strokes.”
In the Zentangle Method elemental strokes are a dot, a straight(ish) line, a curve, an “S” shape and an orb. With these elements, you can draw all our tangles. This is why we say, “If you can write your name, you can create Zentangle Art.  
When you understand that all patterns are made of smaller elements, you look at patterns in art with a new perspective.

Complex patterns and designs become understandable as you discover their elemental strokes and structure . . . in other words, when you deconstruct it. And once you deconstruct it, you can tangle it. And once you can tangle it, you can express it in your own style.

Deconstruction Suggestions 
  1. Keep it simple. Most of our tangles are made from one, two, or maybe (like well) three elemental strokes. 
  2. Keep it non-representational. 

If you think you’ve come up with a new tangle, send it to Linda Farmer, CZT, at www.tanglepatterns.com and she may post it on her site.*
NOTE: Creating a pattern and deconstructing a pattern are different. Many Zentangle tangles are deconstructed from pre-existing patterns. For instance, the pattern that inspired the tangle well was created centuries ago. 
One More Suggestion 
We say that the “Zentangle Method is a metaphor for life,” that “Life is an artform,” and that “Everyone is an artist.”

Patterns are everywhere . . . and not just the obvious ones you might associate with the Zentangle Method of drawing. For instance, there are patterns of behavior, personal interaction and social organization. You can also apply a Zentangle approach to those patterns.

What are their “elemental strokes”? How are they arranged? Can you deconstruct it? Can you “tangle” it? And even more fascinating, might discover a new “tangle” of behavior or interaction or organization for others to explore?

Remember, “Life is an artform” and “Everyone is an artist”!


There were SO many wonderful posts from our last blog that we randomly picked three (instead of one) winners. All three will receive a print of Maria’s Zentangle Color Wheel. Maria gilded the “Z” on one of the prints with gold leaf . . . we’ll send that to the first name we drew.

1. ForgetmenotTangles
2. Laura Story
3. Pamela Scott

Please email your mailing address to maria (at) zentangle (dot) com.

Thank you all for all your heartfelt comments!

See you soon!

Rick and Maria

* Tangle Patterns is a great resource, run by a CZT, but not affiliated with Zentangle, Inc.

** More about well in this newsletter.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Color Wheel

                               (source: Wikipedia) 

Maria writes:

When I was first introduced to the classic color wheel, I thought I had been handed a secret to the mysteries of my universe. By the time I was seven or eight years old, I knew I was an artist, no matter what anyone else thought. My life revolved around whatever little precious thing I could create.

This color wheel showed me that colors were more than just a choice out of a crayon box. I now realized I had the power to create my own colors. That big box with dozens of colors of crayons no longer had the wonder it once had over me. I no longer needed it!

Now, I demanded colors I could mix myself. A benevolent elderly woman (my mother used to sew or alter all her clothes) found out about my need for paints and bought me a set of water colors. It wasn't a beginner's set with circles of dried paint; it was a real adult set of decent of water color tubes and two beautiful brushes. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My art immediately switched to more creative paintings and a fascination of no limitations.

Over the years I had a repeating dream in which I discovered a new color that no one else could see. In my dream it was so beautiful and beneficial that all I wanted to do was show it to others. However my problem was that no one else could see it!

Fast-forward 50 years and my dreams of discovering a new color were still alive. When Rick and I discovered Zentangle, I knew somehow that this was the color I had been searching for . . . dreaming of. As years went on and the Zentangle community and its creativity blossomed, I wanted a way to give back to our community of tanglers that gift that I was given so many years ago.
 Well, MY gift had been a color wheel, but what if we had a tangle wheel, of three of the most basic teaching tangles as primary colors, combinations of these as secondary, and all that comes between. Granted, I could not fit them all in there, but the theory of limitless tangle choices existed there.

As I was creating the tangle wheel, I thought of other art forms: language, dance, music. . . . and they all fell into the same system. 26 letters, combine them to create poetry and stories. Dance movements, maybe not so fascinating in isolation, but combine them to create exotic dances. Learn and practice the basic parts of an art, then proceed to combine them, enjoy them, and finally, go beyond and break the rules.

A major secret I discovered to enter my creative universe that I want to share with you is: PERMISSION. You don't need other's permission or blessing to be creative, only your own. Try new things, love what you create, admire what you find beautiful, and share your creations with others. That sentiment informs all our work with the Zentangle Method.

May this wheel and the sentiment behind it inspire you in thought and action.


What inspires you?

What turns on the switch of your creativity?

Share your thoughts in the comments below and we will pick a writer at random and send that person this 17 x 17 inch print of our Zentangle "Tangle" wheel!

And most importantly, have fun!