So many of the books I am reading about learning to draw or keeping an art journal say something like this: “You probably drew and doodled all the time on your school papers, and now that you are an adult you find that you doodle on scraps of paper while you talk on the phone or attend long meetings.” Their point being that it is easy to translate these doodles into drawing or art journaling success.
But here’s the problem for me: I’ve NEVER been a doodler! I have always been a copious note-taker, transcribing entire lectures in college to stay awake, and I still cover my church bulletin in sermon points. But it has never occurred to me to cover papers with concentric circles, wavy lines, and curlicues. I feared for my future in drawing. I feared for my possibilities as an art journaler. And then I discovered Zentangles!
There is an Official Zentangle web site (right here), as well as lots of other web sites that give examples and ideas for Zentangles (like this one and this one), so you can try visiting them for the official scoop. But here are the basics: The “rules” suggest that your design is 3 inches by 3 inches, and that you start by drawing a dot in each of four corners and connecting them to make a square. You then use a pencil to create a string—some sort of swirling line that divides your 3x3 square into sections. In each of the sections you use a black pen to draw some kind of “tangle”—a repeating pattern.
When I first encountered an article about Zentangles, I couldn’t quite get my head around it, and I almost discarded the paper, but a little nagging feeling made me stick it in a file folder instead. A month ago, I pulled out the article, which led me to try my hand at a Zentangle for the first time while my husband and I watched “Iron Man” on T.V.
Here are the first two I came up with:
And then, because Zentangles are clearly addictive, I also made these:
When the movie was over, I showed my husband what I had been doing, and his eyes widened. I loved what he said: “I had no idea you were so talented!” He was actually shocked at how cool my Zentangles looked! And, until you do one, you just don’t realize how easy it is to come up with something that looks completely cool and artistic.
I was soon filling the pages of my notebook with ideas for “tangles” that I got from different web sites, from the book Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (which I had immediately ordered on Amazon once I started “tangling”), and from pattern ideas I found in other pieces of art, advertisements, and even patterns on clothing.
Creating Zentangles and drawing different patterns for them has given me a great gift: I now know how to doodle! I even doodled on my agenda for a church meeting last week (a strange triumph, but a triumph nonetheless!). I did a Zentangle in a heart as a Valentine for my husband, and since no Valentine is complete without a cheesy punchline, I wrote, “I’m so glad I got ‘tangled’ up with you.”
I am still very much in the beginning stages of making Zentangles and incorporating them into my journal pages. Right now, I just set aside a page once in a while to doodle on when I don’t have the energy or focus to create a more formal journal spread. Here is the page I’ve been doodling on so far this month:
If you’re a doodler, you will totally “get” Zentangles, and if you, like me, have NEVER been a doodler, give it a try. It’s such a pressure-free way to put pen to paper, and create some fun art!