Sunday, March 6, 2011

Redhead Review: Zentangle Basics

I first started to see tangle patterns specifically the Zentangle style, as pioneered by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, show up on blogs a few years ago, but it wasn't until last year that I tried it.

This stress-free type of doodling and drawing claims to be able to be both relaxing and focusing. One book refers to this art form as "yoga for the brain". All you need to create your own drawn tangles is a micropen, a pencil and something to draw on. The teacher I met suggested a nice cold-press watercolor paper as a base although she prefers the official zentangle squares.

Today, I will be reviewing 3 books on this art form - Zentangle Basics and Zentangle 2 by Certified Zentange Teacher (CZT) Suzanne McNeill as well as Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (CZT).

My daughter recently took a class on Zentangle at our local community center and became hooked instantly. I took a second class with her and found it a very diverting activity, filled with fun and creativity. I also loved that there are no erasers allowed in Zentangle because there really are no mistakes. You don't need drawing talent just the will to create.

I bought her Suzanne McNeill's books to extend her Zentangle experience. Zentangle Basics is an easy-to-use book with a brief but informative introduction and simple to follow instructions. It contains 25 patterns (or tangles) to start the new Zentangler off with lots of options. Each tangle is shown step-by-step so that even non-rule followers and non-direction-readers like me can follow along. Personal interpretation is highly encouraged.

As well as showing individual tangles, Suzanne shows how they work together to create a finished piece of art.

Here's a simple piece of Zentangle which uses several of the tangles or versions thereof in Zentangle Basics including W2, Chevron, Tagh, Cross Stitch, Tufts and King's Crown:

In Zentangle 2, Suzanne uses her clear and easy to follow writing style to give inspiration with 25 more tangles. For this volume, Suzanne expands on the uses of Zentangle that she had mentioned in her first book. She demonstrates how you can use Zentangle to add flair to scrapbook pages, art journals, titles, and cards. Once again, she shows step-by-step instructions using a method of showing the current step in red that I like very much.

Here's a quick piece I made using patterns from Zentangle 2Beelight, Up and Across, Black Box, and Pillows:

Sandy Steen Bartholomew's book Totally Tangled similarly gives fabulous instructions and wonderful examples of zentangle art. Sandy gets quickly into the actual art and Totally Tangled is filled with great tips and ideas to get you creating. She packs tons of fabulous patterns and ideas into this streamlined volume.

Here's a piece I made using some of the tangles in Sandy's book including Jacki, Laydee, Chugh, Inbloom, Flyte, Awdry as well as tangles inspired by some of the illustrations shown:

So which book do I like best? I puzzled about that for quite some time and decided I loved them all. Like Zentangle, all the books were stress-free and filled with great instructions and examples. Each was put together in such a way that I was inspired without being intimidated.

Want to share your Zentangle fun online? Here's a few guidelines. You can share your completed work but please do not share step-by-step instructions of a tangle that you did not personally create. Just as you would not share a collage image or repackage it and sell it, you cannot republish or recreate the steps of a tangle without permission from the creator. For more information, check out this great article on


  1. Gorgeous zentangles Shar and these are actually how my stamp designs came about as I took part in an atc swap with a zentangle theme and was inspired to do more.
    I may just do some more doodling now!

  2. Lovely work Shar. This is something I have been doing for years, but didn't know it had a name!

  3. Thank you for this Shar, I discovered the ideas of Zentangling a couple of years ago and have played around with 'official' patterns and a few of my own doodles. Think this year tangling is going to become very popular its such a creative and relaxing thing to do. XOXO Zoe

  4. Beautiful zentangles, Shar! This is something I've been curious about but haven't tried my hand at yet. Perhaps it is time to give it a go. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  5. What a fascinating look into the black and white side of art--through new eyes. A very informative review, and lots of exploring afterward. have pens, will zentangle! Thank you so much again!

  6. wow - great article and you have got me wanting to get going on making some - just need to get me the pens

  7. This looks fun! Kind of like doodling!

  8. I found Zentangle last year, I think it's pretty cool, especially because of the no eraser thing :-)
    Great reviews and wonderful tangles.

  9. Nudged by the knowledge that a tangle discussion was coming up here at Gingersnap Creations, I signed up for and made my first zentangles at a local workshop yesterday. It amazes me how many tangles there are! Freehand pattern drawing is a new concept for me, but I enjoyed giving this a try.

  10. i'm so grateful for this review! this zentangle business is something that seems very intriguing to me. thanks for sharing what you've learned. xo

  11. Love your Zentangles! Great review, and the online resources are excellent. I will definitely be trying this!

  12. THANK YOU! This has been scary to me for some reason and you just made it not so. I think I was feeling the need to create my own pattern. Like using them was 'cheating' or something. Now, I am just going to relax and well....relax!


Thanks for your wonderful words!

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