a challenging combination

As someone who has studied, taught— and struggled with— composition for a while, I like how Zentangle allows the drawing experience to flow without a lot of thinking about the elements of composition. Sometimes, there are decisions to make, like the scale of the patterns. Should I make it big? Balance large with small? Or value: where will the pattern be light, or dark, or middle gray? Usually, ideas about composition just happen; other times it takes a little more planning.

The challenge issued by the diva this week was to use pea-nuckle and well, two tangles with about the same level of complexity. So, I called on my composition-brain to add some variety.








I drew pea-nuckle down the left side and in the upper right, at two different scales and one with a darker background. The well tangle is at a very large scale in the center, and much smaller at the lower right.

The resulting tangle grouping is not one of my favorites. I think it is not as fresh and immediate as usually happens for me. I’ll chalk it up to experience. Next time… less thinking and planning, and more letting go, letting things happen.


weekly challenge from the diva






The challenge from the diva of Zentangle this week was to use cruze, a new tangle by CZT Caren Mlot. It is a fun tangle to use… one that has a nice woven look. It creates a solid strip, useful for a border. In both tiles, I tried to extend the shape beyond the long rectangle it creates.

In the first tile, I also used shattuck, tripoli, and tipple. In the second, auraknot, quandary, kitchener, and xyp.



stories and names

I had to review the step-out instructions on how to draw the tangle called fengle this week for the diva’s challenge, and was reminded of another reason that Zentangle is so appealing. It’s the stories!

Not just the stories behind the tangle names, even though those are great, but stories about discovering Zentangle, and learning from it. Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas share their stories in the same way they talk about their family (and often their family is included in the tale, as with fengle). It enriches the experience. It gives you a sense of belonging. It builds meaning. And, as with fengle, it’s nonchalant, just a simple part of the larger story.

I was delighted to teach Zentangle to people from two families last night. I always come away from beginning classes with a sense of wonder. Just sharing a few ideas about why the process is so inspiring, and then teaching the basic elements of drawing a tile always seems to affect people deeply.

I know that people who “don’t draw” are amazed at their own inherent ability, but there’s something more to it. Maybe it’s the simplicity (something we all need more of, these days). Maybe it’s because they now can bring the Zentangle story (and experience, and language, and community) into their own lives and families, and create new stories of their own. And of course, create beautiful images.

Here are the tiles that the students did last night. I won’t tell you who did which, but they were done by a mom, a dad, and their two teenaged daughters, and a dad and his young son (about 10 years old). I don’t have words. Okay, one word: incredible.


As for me, I worked on the diva’s challenge this week. We learned both fengle and quandary at the 10th CZT seminar in September of 2012. I adore quandary! Maybe because it was newly released to us (they always have a special tangle, shared with seminar attendees first) at the time, but I think because it is visually complex and full of possibility. I am still warming up to fengle. I struggle with it. It feels clunky and weird under my pen. But, I will keep trying it, because it’s one of those tangles that gets under your skin.

And that’s my story.














weaving with a tangle

I got a chance to play with one of the 8s tangles created by Jane Eileen, thanks to the diva’s challenge this week. They are all drawn onto a unique 8-dot grid; this particular one (used in both tiles below) is 8s parte dos.

Like mi2, huggins, and w2, the 8s result in a woven look. They’re challenging to work out, but once you know where the curves go and how they relate, there are a lot of opportunities for exploration. I’ll definitely use this one again!


8s parte dos with auras.


8s parte dos with hollibaugh, vega, and xyp.

If you’re interested in learning 8s parte dos, wander over to this post by Jane Eileen. You’ll also find 8s, 8s parte tres, 8s parte quattro, and a host of great tangellations of them all on her blog.

well, well, well

Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, of Zentangle®, just released a new official tangle called well. I like all the possibilities with this tangle! I got to explore some of them because the assignment for the diva challenge this week is to use it. You can read more and see how to create the tangle by reading the September 3 Zentangle newsletter.

Well is really conducive to being mindful and focused on making each pen stroke. The steps are easy to remember, and I found myself getting into the rhythm of the curved lines that connect grid corners to the central orb.


The above tile includes these tangles: well, flux, striping, hibred, and bunzo, plus an African symbol I found.


Tangles used above: well, knase, deelish, hibred, striping, mi2, flux, shattuck, and finery.


The last tile includes well, tripoli, knightsbridge, voga, and opus.

the fascinating orb

It’s a sphere, it’s a circle, a button, a ring, a hole. Pretty simple, and yet it can make so many fun patterns. In Zentangle, a bunch of circles clustered together is called tipple, and with or without shading, they make an interesting surface.

This week the diva Laura Harms challenged everyone to use tipple. I stuck with circular forms, and added a couple more circular Zentangle patterns to the mix.

I agree with Laura that getting lost in the mindfulness of drawing is easy with circles. They spill out across the tile and don’t require a lot of mental prompting about what to put where.


Tangles used: tipple, onamato, and Margaret Bremner’s lotus pods. The ones that look like targets are a bit like Suzanne McNeill’s bubble, just not as uniform.

lefty, loosie!

It never hurts to try drawing or writing with that poor, maimed and shriveled appendage that never does anything but hold things in place and go “OW!” when you hit it with the hammer. This week, the diva challenge is to do just that, with the tangle called bales. She (Laura Harms) calls it a non-domonotangle (non-dominant monotangle, get it?) and invites us to increase creativity by firing up our brains in new and different ways. So, I set out to draw a Zentangle with my left hand. And yes, it is my visibly smaller hand and is totally weaker than my dominant right.

As I drew, I first found myself reflecting about my parents. Both are very artistic, and in their 80s. My mom was the person who taught me to draw human proportions when I was in the third grade. I wanted to draw more realistic-looking people.

Mom’s frustrated by how shaky her drawing hand is, now, at age 81. I can empathize, with this exercise. The pen felt weird in my left hand, as though I couldn’t grasp it correctly. And I had to use a lot, lot, lot of will and determination just to draw a curve, or have edges meet up at a center point. My dad uses paint, and as a result, more big-motor arm muscles: maybe my Zentangle tile should have been three feet square instead of 3.5 inches!

Then, I started thinking about drawing as a child. Or, how it might be to learn to draw again if I ever suffered a brain injury or stroke… or lost my right hand. I would have to start from the beginning, first with the big motions, learning control. Eventually, a small pen wouldn’t feel as though it could slip from my fingers at any moment. Remember some of the first ABC letters you tried? Things could go backwards or sideways very easily, and precision was not the name of the game.

And then, I started getting into drawing with my left hand. It was wobbly, of course. But the design— the idea I wanted to express— was still there. Maybe, in its wiggly wobble, it is a little more delicate than my always-sure right hand might convey. The shading is scribbly, yet still expressive. But the idea is still whole.


Thank you, diva Laura. I did get to visit another side of creativity and think some new ideas, just by using my other hand.

trying new ideas

The grid came alive with the diva challenge 131 this week… use the tangle dex as a monotangle (that is, use only the one tangle (and any tangellations thereof that you create). I think maybe I didn’t gravitate toward dex before because it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of room for expansion and elaboration. Here is the original step-out, if you would like to learn it. Sometimes it takes a challenge to really investigate an idea, and realize that there really is room to play.


On July 25, Margaret Bremner created an absolutely wonderful post about cadent, one of the official Zentangle tangles. Wow, and bravo. She even made charts! I couldn’t read the post and NOT try some of the variations.


Tangles used in addition to cadent: river, rain, flukes, black pearlz, coaster, sez, paisley boa, and betweed.

Try your own! Once you learn the basics of Zentangle, and have a few tiles (or a fresh new sketchbook page) at your disposal, it’s easy to start with the basics and then start asking “what if?” What if I make more than one line? What if I draw an aura around this? What if I do it again? What if I don’t draw it the way they direct me to?

As a CZT (certified zentangle teacher), I get to witness the profound transformation that happens when everyday people, who believe they cannot draw, take the first steps in asking these what-if questions. At first, they ask for permission: can I do this? or this? And I always say, “Yes, you certainly can.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

take the time, make the time

I am really glad that our diva of Zentangle challenges comes up with a new idea for tangling every week. I do love exploring new assignments, and often have so much going on in other realms that without that extra boost, I might not take the bits of time necessary for drawing. The challenge this week: use string no. 004 from the collection of strings and tangles that is tanglepatterns.com.

diva129-1Tangles I used in the tile above: cadent, tagh, bunzo, opus, Tricia Faraone’s sanibelle, and Carole Ohi’s floatfest.


On a walk during lunch this week, I noticed some symbols spray-painted on the sidewalk, indicating gas or cable lines under the concrete. I used variations thereof in the upper right, in addition to the following tangles: sez, diva dance, springkle, striping, quib, hibred, lanie by Adele Bruno, asian fans by Suzanne McNeill, and leaflet by Helen Williams.

a year of zentangle

Every day for a year now, since my Zentangle Kit arrived by mail, I have enjoyed making Zentangle tiles. I’ve learned so many tangles, and really gotten into the groove of picking up a pen and drawing in a mindful way. What was it that I did before? It’s really hard to say.

The diva started her challenges long before I caught wind of this lovely practice. Every week she issues a new idea for investigation and interpretation. This week it was a repeat of her second challenge: draw a string with two pencils banded together.

This week I also enjoyed seeing and learning from Margaret Bremner, who lives in the same province as diva Laura Harms. She shared a sampler of linear tangles, just perfect for the narrow alleys created by drawing a string with parallel lines, and a super fun post about the tangle called cadent. Wow!

Of course I had to try all of the ideas! My first tile includes a tangle that Margaret created, called chebucto, and some experimenting with cadent.


The tangles used in the tile above are knightsbridge, chebucto, paradox, bateek, tripoli, flux, deelish, flukes, cadent, and voga. Bateek is a tangle created by Linda Farmer, and voga is by Carole Ohl; two more people from whom I draw a lot of inspiration.


More tangles from Margaret and Carole, also vigne from Sue Jacobs, elven from Helena Hadzijaneva, and deelish from Stephanie Skelton. The list of them all: beadlines, quib, vigne, punzel, black pearlz, striping, knightsbridge, adente, elven, coaster, unyun, diva dance, deelish, knase, and voga.


I did the above tile without a challenge in mind, but it seems to fit the theme. Tangles used: knightsbridge, copada, vega with zander, bunzo, camellia, flux, striping, and hollibaugh.