Sunday, September 30, 2012

Doodling vs. Tangling - What's the diff?

When I first saw a completed Zentangle® example, I initially thought, "So, isn't this just a fancy marketing name for doodling?" But even as the thought ran through my mind, I could see the Zentangle image was different somehow. There was beauty and symmetry in its apparent randomness. It did not appear pre-planned. Nor that it was measured or laid out with any particular precision or perfection. But still, it looked special to me.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas explain that creating a Zentangle image uses structured patterns. In their recently released “The Book of Zentangle,” Rick and Maria comment that “the biggest difference between a doodle and a tangle is that a doodle is generally aimless and random, while a tangle is structured and deliberate.” That structure is a key distinction.

The definition of a doodle, as defined by, is “to scribble aimlessly, especially when preoccupied.” While there is freedom in creating a tangle, there is nothing aimless about it.

The practice of Zentangle provides an approach to mindfulness, especially as a primary activity. You focus on the pen moving across the paper and the beauty of the image that emerges. Slowly, carefully, and deliberately the strokes are made. As you create your tangles, you relax, gain focus, and may find unexpected inspiration. This is purposeful activity, not generally the case with aimless doodling.

From an entirely different angle, I found an interesting interpretation of the difference between Zentangle and doodling while reading a blog post by Geneviève Crabe, CZT, at When questioned on the subject, Geneviève replied, “Is your work teachable? Can you teach others to do what you do?” I think that is an interesting consideration.

The 130+ official Zentangle tangles and the method to use them are a form of standardized notation, and the standardization makes sharing the practice through individual and classroom instruction possible. Yes, it is teachable. I don’t believe the same can be said of doodling.

So, that, in the proverbial nutshell, is the diff. I'm sure there are those out there who may still think the difference is just a marketing ploy, but I've tried it, and would not agree with them. From my viewpoint, why just doodle when you can tangle with the Zentangle method?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

You have to start somewhere...

Greetings, and welcome to the inaugural post on “Z'Artfully Tangled,” a blog about my Zentangle® journey, with a special invitation for you to join me in your own such journey. I readily admit to being new to this blogging business, but I hope what I share here will also inspire you, the reader.

What is Zentangle? Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the founders of the Zentangle practice and teaching method, describe it as “an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.”

I am beyond excited to have attended the 10th Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) training seminar last week in Providence, Rhode Island. And with great pleasure, I can now introduce myself as a CZT!

While I know much more about the Zentangle method than I did before becoming certified, a particularly exciting and cool aspect of this art form is the continued growth that occurs as you practice the Zentangle method. Creating tangled images will not get old and stale, as inspiration for this art is all around us, and there is no limit to the creative applications of these structured patterns.

At the CZT training seminar, Rick and Maria made a point of talking about how each of us there had a story, how important each of those stories are, and that they should be shared. Here is my story...

While I, perhaps like you, have a great desire to CREATE art, I do NOT have formal training in any of the various art forms and media. I’m always looking for a way to create that fits into my available time and space, but doesn’t necessarily require advanced artistic knowledge, training or skill. I started tangling casually, following an informal demonstration I’d seen at a local craft store. I had never before heard of the practice of Zentangle, and the idea intrigued me.

What attracted my attention when I first browsed the Zentangle website to seek more information was Rick's and Maria's statement that "Anything is stroke at a time.™" I saw so many beautiful and amazing Zentangle creations on their website (just take a look at the rotating images on the home page!). However, I did not see how I could ever draw such intricate and inspiring tiles myself.

After perusing some of the books on tangling by Sandy Steen Bartholomew, I was bitten by the Zentangle bug, and decided I really wanted to take a class with a CZT. I live in Washington state, and the list of teachers in our area is a little thin. However, I did find Carolyn, a CZT in Bellingham, from the Zentangle website, and what I experienced in the Zentangle starter class my adult daughter and I took from her is that, yes, anything IS possible. The satisfaction of watching our creations grow into a work of art "one stroke at a time" was (and is) exhilarating and fun.

After that class I could not get the idea out of my head that I should attend a training seminar to become a CZT as soon as possible. So, I listened to my heart, signed up, and have been impatiently waiting out the last several months. On 21 September, I headed off to Providence, as excited as I used to get on the first day of a new school year (or maybe more so). I wanted to soak up as much Zentangle knowledge as possible to be able to better share this delightful way of expressing one's creativity, all while experiencing a mindfulness that is increasingly harder to find with today's busy lifestyles.

My goals at the 4-day intensive training event were to improve upon my own Zentangle skills and to learn the finer points of Rick's and Maria's Zentangle teaching methodology. Now that I am certified, I'm planning to share the enjoyment, creativity, relaxation, and ART that comes from tangling the Zentangle way.

I would love to help you discover the many healthful benefits of this art form (in addition to it being just plain fun). While you can certainly learn a lot about Zentangle on your own, learning from and working with a CZT (yes, there IS a difference) will really give your effort a boost. If you are curious about this mindful art form/meditation tool, browse the information at And, of course, I'll fill you in with further posts as time goes on!

If Zentangle is a term new to you, here are some key quick background points.
  • The Zentangle art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is copyrighted. Zentangle is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc.
  • "Zentangle" can refer to Rick and Maria's company (Zentangle, Inc.), their teaching method, or artwork created according to their teaching method.
  • The artwork consists of various abstract patterns, known as "tangles," drawn on a 3.5-inch square paper "tile."
  • Zentangle-inspired Art (ZIA) is artwork created using these tangles on surfaces and items of all shapes and sizes, other than the standard Zentangle paper tiles.