(I’ve recently been posting my Zentangles and Zendoodles on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and I get lots of questions about them, so I decided to go ahead and do a brief write-up on them. I am not an expert, but this is my best attempt at an explanation of them.)
A few years ago, my kids talked about some drawings they were learning in their gifted class at school. It had a funny name and, like a good mom, I acknowledged them by nodding, but then quickly moved on.
Soon after, a local blogger became a client, and one of the things she wanted incorporated into the design was a Zentangle/Zendoodle.
I had no idea what she had said, so I did some research and fell in love with the geometric shapes, the lines, the shading.
It was beautiful.
It turns out, this was what my kids were doing in school; the thing I had done the obligatory nod, “mmhmm” and paid no attention to.
I started playing around with it, searching for how-to tutorials online, and I ultimately landed on the book One Zentangle a Day* (I have it listed on our “Books on Giftedness” resource page. Zentangling is a great way to help a child relax and quiet their mind, which is why our gifted specialist teaches it to the students.).
It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I’ve written before about how I went from drawing all the time, majoring in graphic design, losing my confidence, quitting drawing, followed by my journey back to a creative life.
But I was still uncomfortable picking up a pen or pencil and moving it across paper to create something.
I absolutely had a mental block.
Until I started tangling.
It turns out that it is one of the best ways for me to relax and clear my head. It fits right into our idea of purposeful and minimalist living in that it helps to quiet my mind, tune out outside noises and cut through the clutter in my mind.
(And I am now back to carrying my sketchpad with me again.)
What is Zentangle® and what is Zendoodle?
“Zentangle” is a registered name for a process of drawing (hence the ® above). There are some specific parts to it (a few are mentioned below).
A Zendoodle is basically the same idea, but without some of the confinements of a Zentangle (also called a tangle).
The term ‘Zentangle’ was coined by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. Roberts had noticed that the focus that Thomas had, while drawing, was similar to the meditative state he had learned as a monk – what is often referred to as “flow“. They then set out to develop a system allowing almost anyone to follow and use as a way to relax and express themselves creatively.
The system follows certain steps, which are established to allow freedom to create within the boundaries.
I am not an expert on this, at all, but as I have learned and come to understand it, the gist of it is this:
1) Zentangles are drawn within a 3.5″ square area.
2) There are official tangles. While this may sound overly constraining, it is actually meant to allow for more relaxation — creating without a lot of thinking.
3) They are created within a boundary and sectioned off by what what is called a “string”, however, what you choose to do with the patterns within each string and tangle is limitless.
4) Strings are drawn very lightly with a pencil and the tangles are drawn with a pen. (I prefer/use Staedtler Pigment Liner pens; 02 for drawing and 08 for darker shading. Sakura Micron Pens are my next favorite)
5) They are black and white.
6) It is a highly-focused process (versus doodling, which is usually done while doing other things, such as talking on the phone), designed to facilitate relaxation.
7) It’s not meant to look like anything.
8) Most importantly: relax. Don’t make it a stressful process. While these sound like a lot of DOs and DONTs, there is really no wrong way. While the end result may turn out to actually be lovely, it’s really about the process.
Zendoodling has none of the specifics, regarding paper, size of the shape, color etc. You can draw a shape (letter, animal etc) that fills a large sheet of paper and fill it in with patterns or create designs on clothing, pottery, etc, and it can be meant to look like something.
(*updated: I’ve created “The Basics of Zendoodle“, a printable guide based on this post and the questions I’ve received since posting this article, that provides more info, tips, basic patterns, shapes, and more.)
Benefits of Zentangle and Zendoodle
Studies have shown that doodling actually helps you pay better attention to other things going on around you. So doodling during a lecture or a meeting, though everyone else thinks you are being rude and not listening, actually helps your mind focus on what is being said.
Zentangles and Zendoodles are different from this sort of doodling, in that they are deliberate, and are meant to focus, relax and calm you. As I mentioned above, it is meant to be a very focused process.
Zentangle 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.
I can’t stress enough how much it is about the process and not the end result. I hate taking naps (ok – I love a nap, but I hate how I feel when I wake up from them). Zentangling and Zendoodling have the same result of recharging my mind, without the post-nap grogginess/hangover I always feel.
A beautiful drawing is the icing, but the cake is the benefits that come from taking the time to quiet your mind and relax, even for 30 minutes.
Do you Zentangle or Zendoodle? If so, what are you favorite patterns? Got questions? Feel free to ask in comments.