“What’s On Your Mind Today?”

Have you ever had a moment of perfect clarity? A moment that stops you in your tracks and makes you think that you might be either crazy or just stuck in a situation that isn’t good for you? Sadly, I had that moment tonight.

This semester I’ve pulled many all nighters. I can’t imagine my life without caffeine and I’ve officially saved the numbers of anywhere that will deliver food after midnight into my favorite contacts. None of this seemed horribly concerning until I stopped to think about what I’m doing to my body as I was working in my art journal. The realization of these things was probably aided by the fact that I was journaling at 4 o’clock in the morning as a break from studying.

I came across this great art therapy directive that takes a whole new spin on the general journal prompt “What’s on your mind today?” Instead of beginning with an intimidating blank space, start with a silhouette. I would have loved to use my own silhouette, but extra time is scarce in my life lately, so I copied one from the internet.


A Less Intimidating Canvas

With my question in mind I began to draw in my favorite colorful Sharpies. As I filled in the space, I began to recognize how I was feeling about everything I would put down. 


What’s On My Mind Today

It wouldn’t take an expert to tell you that I was overwhelmed, but seeing my concerns on paper made me realize the extent to which I was overwhelmed. I am concerned about my family, my grades, my own physical well being, and my faith in God. All of these concerns could be manageable, but together they leave my mind a jumbled mess. As I kept drawing, my picture of myself began to transform into a realization about what I need and what I am putting out into the world. I am so overloaded with stress that I have been pushing it onto those around me, which has been negatively affecting my relationships.

Seeing my own thoughts on paper made me realize that I can’t continue living as I am. I need to make a change. And I need sleep. Oh goodness gracious do I need sleep.

So what can you realize? Begin with a silhouette on a piece of paper. You can trace your own silhouette or copy one from the internet. Then sit in a calm, quiet place and begin to write and draw out how you are feeling. Let yourself freely draw and worry about interpreting it after you finish.

Once you finish, consider your own use of color, words, symbols, and repeating themes. Did you place things in a certain way that is important to you? Is there something that keeps coming up? How do the things you have drawn affect your life? Maybe you’ll have a moment of clarity like me and realize some changes that need to be made in your life. Good luck!



Zentangles are fun to create drawings that consist of simple, repetitive patterns that combine to create beautiful images. They are made using a single black ink pen so they are ideal for the beginner. They can be done as simply a fun project or they can be used as an art therapy directive.

Creating a zentangle is simple. You begin with a 3.5 in x 3.5 in square piece of paper and a black ink pen. Then you just begin to draw. Relax your mind and let yourself fill the page with simple designs that repeat over and over again to create an image. Try not to have a final image in mind when you begin drawing or you might alter your methods. Think of these small drawing as a process similar to the mandala creation.

You get the most therapeutic value out of it if you relax and let your subconscious guide your process. Many art therapists suggest meditating prior to beginning to draw, which I found extremely helpful, particularly in my second attempt. Refer back to the meditation methods mentioned in my Mandala article if you are having trouble silencing your conscious thoughts.


My First Zentangle!

My first attempt at a zentangle took my about 25 – 30 minutes. I kept getting stuck when I would try to think of patterns to include. My brain doesn’t think well in terms of geometric shapes, so this was hard for me. As most people may age tend to do, I turned to the internet for inspiration and advice. The internet prevailed yet again and I found these pattern quilts by The Lonely Maiden:

zentangle_pattern_quilt_1_by_thelonelymaiden-d65iuir zentangle_pattern_quilt_2_by_thelonelymaiden-d65iutb

Each little section of the quilt has a different unique pattern, which is pretty neat if you get stuck and can’t figure out a new design to use. I utilized some of these designs in my second attempt at this. Many people use the zentangle method to fill in different animals. This doesn’t quite match the original intention of freeing your mind and relaxing it, but it is very fun! 

I used this as an opportunity to consider what I would want my spirit animal to be by considering what traits I value most. Loyalty? Like the four-legged friend laying on my feet as I draw? Ferocity? Like the lion who stalks the land? Maybe cleverness? Like the stereotypical fox? After some internal debate, I settled on family values, like the elephants that have become my favorite animals, and now my spirit animals I suppose.


My Spirit Animal Zentangle

Elephants have intricate social groups, particularly among the females, who are often very close in the wild. These majestic creatures value their family groups so much that they even mourn the death of their loved ones by returning to the “burial site” (if you can call it that) and touching the bones of their fallen comrades in remembrance. I value my family more than anything in the world, so I think an elephant is a very fitting spirit animal for me.

I have had a particularly rough semester, so being able to include relaxing zentangles in my art journal is a great way to release some stress that seems to be continuously piling onto my shoulders. They are very therapeutic for me at this time in my life.

If you’re like me and you think that this is an awesome process, look into these websites and books for more information on creating really beautiful, unique zentangles!

  • Linda Farmer has a great how-to style page with sass.
  • The Ridgewood Centre Wellness Group has a great page that really talks about the therapeutic aspect.
  • Zentangle Basics is a short pdf book that covers the basics of creating common patterns.
  • If you have time and $15 or so bucks to spare, check out your local Barnes and Noble for books for beginners; they walk you through different processes, give you inspiration, and some have spaces for you to work on a regular basis. I recommend this since the internet can have overwhelming amounts of information.