What is Zentangle, who practices it and what are its uses and benefits?

“Zentangle is an easy-to-learn, relaxing and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns,” is the way instructor Sister Ann Henkel describes it in the city of Mobile community activities brochure.

One thing Zentangle is not is doodling; it is more like a mindful meditation and stress management activity. Those who practice it do so on a 3-and-a-half-inch white paper tile (heavier than bond paper) using a Micron-01 small-nib, black-ink pen (from a hobby shop) and a pattern, easily found at such online sites as Zentangle.com or TanglePatterns.com. There are even books of patterns on Amazon.com.

(Photo | Photos courtesy of Jo Anne McKnight) Zentangle is usually done on a 3-and-a-half-inch-square heavy paper tile, but can also be used as art, as in this letter created by Sister Ann Henkel.

(Photo | Photos courtesy of Jo Anne McKnight) Zentangle is usually done on a 3-and-a-half-inch-square heavy paper tile, but can also be used as art, as in this letter created by Sister Ann Henkel.

The benefits of “tangling” are not limited to people with a specific condition or disorder.  According to literature provided by Sister Ann, tangling is simply a fun activity that produces the following advantageous side-effects: increases creativity and aids in problem-solving; creates a sense of peace and calm, lowers stress and quiets the mind; produces a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and confidence; increases focus and concentration, helps individuals stay in the present moment, helps them to feel purposeful and provides a healthy distraction.

For adults, it can be a meditative art to fill those long waits in the doctor’s office or in the carpool line. For students, it can be a way of taking 10 minutes out of a busy, stressful day of class work to refresh the mind and redirect the focus to the next task at hand.

One of the best things about tangling is that there are no right or wrong ways to produce the patterns; there are no ups or downs to the tiles. There are no mistakes, only opportunities; if you make a little slip in creating a pattern, you can just incorporate it into the design or use shading to enhance it.

The tangle is accomplished in ink, so there’s no erasing or using correction fluid.

“Just as you cannot erase things you’ve done in life, you can’t erase what you’ve done in Zentangle art,” the literature says. “The whole purpose is to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings as you create your tangle. If your mind wanders, that’s all right, too; mindful meditation asks only that you recognize that your mind has shifted to focus on something else during your meditation.”

On TanglePatterns.com, certified Zentangle teacher (CZT) Linda Farmer gives some of the same characteristics of a tangle, but goes a step further to stress that “a pattern is not always a tangle.”
The features of a tangle, she says, is that it generally needs three or fewer elemental strokes, such as a dot; a straight line; a curve, like a parenthesis; a reverse curve, like an “S”; and an orb or circle.

The tangle is simple enough to draw without a preprinted grid and uses no underlying pencil structure. Tangles are achieved without the use of rulers, stencils or any other mechanical aids. They are usually an overall pattern that grows organically, rather than a single motif.

And as other sources point out, and as is evident in Sister Ann’s tangles, “they are elegant, unique.”

Sister Ann, one of six CZTs of this meditative art in Mobile, offers both a beginning and an intermediate class for adult tanglers, as well as two “teachers’ tangle projects.” The latter classes show teachers how to share the art of Zentangle with students as a way for youngsters “to find inner focus and self-control,” as well as an inexpensive way to create beautiful art.

While the intermediate Zentangle class is already in progress, a beginning session is scheduled for March 21 through May 9, Mondays from 12:30-2:30 p.m. A teachers’ tangle project is offered on Saturday, Feb. 27, and on April 27; both are from 10 a.m. until noon.

All classes are held at the Art Instruction Center, 200 W. Parkway Drive at Old Shell Road in Lavretta Park in Mobile. For additional information, call 251-460-2421 or pick up a community activities program brochure at one of many locations throughout the city.