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?

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