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 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:
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.
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.