Monday, January 14, 2013

Overwhelmed by tangles and patterns?

I've been meaning to address this for a while now, as it happened to me when I first started tangling. There are around 140 official Zentangle® tangles at this point in time. There are at least a few hundred more tangles and patterns* available in books and on-line. While that's an amazing collection to which we have access, what's a new tangler to do?

At first, I frantically tried to collect step-outs** of them all, organizing them alphabetically in a 3-ring binder with page protectors. I spent so much time organizing, I hardly had time for the tangling. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my time. 

Then I took a class from a Certified Zentangle Teacher, got more in touch with the simplicity of the practice, and quit trying to go for the gusto with my all-encompassing binder (which by then was two binders because the first one wasn't big enough to hold all I was collecting!). It was suggested to me that I start with the official tangles, about 130 at that time, which I learned from both certified teachers and on my own with step-outs. I still don't have them all memorized, frankly, but that will come, as with other practices, with time.

Memorizing all the tangles and names isn't as important as the practice of Zentangle. Rick Roberts, one of the founders of the Zentangle method, commented on their Zentangle blog ( that he and Maria (Thomas - the other founder) both have their favorites, their "go-to" tangles that they like to use frequently. I have my favorites, and you will, too. It's not a rule that you have to like all of the tangles equally or even use them at all.

So, first, relax. Don't stress out. Don't try to do what I did. Pick up a tile and your pen and pencil and start small. Go easy. Enjoy the process. The rest will come with time. In your time, and nobody else's.

Tangle on!

* Not all patterns can be tangles. Tangles are non-representational structured patterns made up of no more than two or three (and frequently only one) of the five elemental strokes of the Zentangle Method. Patterns are all around us in our world, and many are suitable for deconstructing to create a tangle. However, not all patterns can become successful tangles. They can be fun and interesting, and you may choose to use them in your Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA). But to keep to the basic tenets of the Zentangle Method and receive the most benefit from the practice, tangles, official or not, are the first choice over patterns.
** Step-outs are simply the step-by-step instructions, usually 6 steps or fewer, that show how a tangle (or pattern) is created.


  1. Thanks for saying this... I needed to hear it. *smile* I'm a beginner and am getting lost in all the patterns/tangles. Hugs,

    1. Hi Carla, Apologies for the slow reply, but I did want to thank you for your comment! It is very easy to get so excited, but also so overwhelmed. Hope you are enjoying your tangling and that perhaps you can connect with a CZT in your area. They can help you on your tangling journey. :-)