Typical Zentangle Basics tile

It’s not uncommon for someone to tell me they would never try Zentangle because they aren’t very good at drawing. “I can’t draw a straight line” is the common response I hear.

But what if you could draw? Would you like to be able to? What if you gave it a try – just one simple line at a time?

What happens in a Zentangle Basics Class is pretty simple, really.

We start with a dot, a border, and a string all done in pencil. Then we pick up a pen and, one space at a time, one line at a time, we create a pattern. Then another. Then another. Then another. Then we pick up the pencil again and shade each pattern.

That part is simple, right? Everyone has heard the same instructions, everyone has drawn the same patterns. But secretly, several people are feeling unsure of their work. “Did I do it right?” “ Mine doesn’t look anything like hers.” “Please don’t make me show it to anyone.”

But then everyone comes up and places their tile together with the others to see the overall mosaic. And your own tile blends in with everyone else’s, and you look at everyone else’s and listen to the comments. “Ooooh – look at the lines on this one!” “I love how they drew this pattern!” “How did you get your Bales to do that?” And you realize that everyone’s tile is different. They are supposed to be different. The differences are what makes each one unique, and each person has their own style.

Class Mosaic April 16, 2016

And the fun part is that even those who can’t draw a straight line have discovered that it truly doesn’t matter. They can create something and that something comes from inside them.

One of my favourite ‘aha’ moments comes when that student at the start of class who said “I can’t really draw” looks at their finished piece with delight. “I didn’t think I could draw, but look at that – it’s pretty good!”

It begs the next question: What else do you think you can’t do?

The reason Zentangle is so satisfying is that it removes the judgement and the self-doubt from the creative process. If you have no preconceived idea of how your finished product will look, you can focus on the process of creating and you can truly enjoy what is instead of what should be. Failure is not an option because it doesn’t even exist.  That’s one of the gifts of this art form.

So what things might you try if you didn’t worry about failure, or if you could let go of the fear of judgement? Maybe it’s not too late to take that painting class, take a crack at writing, or take up swimming again. What things did you love to do as a kid? What things do you wish you could learn to do? Why not start now?