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What is Zentangle?

The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.

Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well-being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests, and ages.

Enjoy some calming zen sounds as you create!

A pattern is not always a tangle

What is a tangle?

A tangle has no pre-planning with pencil guidelines, grids or dots, no erased lines.
It’s just pure Zentangle magic . . . one pen stroke at a time.

The Zentangle® Method was designed to remove the thinking, planning, decision-making and other obstacles that often hinder creativity or even prevent people from creating art at all.

For this reason, Zentangles are intended to be as little like drawing pictures as possible. Thus patterns that are drawings of a recognizable naturalistic or actual object, figure, or scene, are not tangles. For example, floral patterns are not usually tangles.

“Keep it Non-representational. Zentangle artwork is intended to be non-representational. Zentangle’s elemental strokes are also non-representational. We don’t teach complex elements such as hearts, stars or flowers. Tangles are also non-representational.”

From The Book of Zentangle

“It’s also why (for the most part) we give our tangles names that have little relationship with what a tangle looks like,” writes co-founder Rick Roberts. “We usually choose names that don’t create a preconception of how a tangle should look.”

This is the heart of the Zentangle Method. By eliminating recognizable objects or scenes — and thus the associated “thinking” that goes with them — we become totally focused on each stroke of the abstract, structured pattern-making that grows organically into the usually-surprising end result. This process intentionally short-circuits the restless mind and facilitates the pleasurable calm we experience in our Zentangle practice.

Characteristics defining a tangle (aka Maria’s Rules)

Maria writes that in Zentangle “a pattern is not always a tangle”. These are the characteristics that define a tangle:

  1. a tangle is at most 2 or 3 simple strokes — “Usually the number of elemental strokes needed are 3 or less. Often, you only need one or two. By ‘elemental strokes’ we mean a dot, a straight(-ish) line, a curve (like a parenthesis), a reverse curve (like an ‘S’), and an orb or circle.”
  2. a tangle is simple enough to draw without using a pre-printed grid, pencil guidelines or an eraser. “It also has to be done without any underlying pencil structure or pre-planned grid.” Inked grids or dots, however, are often part of a tangle.
  3. a tangle does not use rulers, stencils, or any other mechanical aids
  4. a tangle is abstract, non-objective (non-representational)
  5. a tangle is non-directional, it has no up or down orientation — there’s no “right side up”
  6. a tangle is usually an overall pattern that grows organically, rather than a single motif. Zentangle is about “the repetition of a stroke, not the repetition of a drawing.”
  7. a tangle is elegant, unique.

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