What is Zentangling and how can it help you teach art?
By: Anitra Redlefsen
A Zentangle is a miniature abstract work of art created by a collection of patterns.
It is typically done on a 3 ½” x 3 ½” paper “tile” using a pencil and a black pen. The small size allows for a work of art that can be completed in a relatively short period of time. The “zen” part of it is that it can be a very relaxing and meditative experience.
The creators of the Zentangle, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, have created a variety of patterns that you will see used by those who Zentangle. However, these are not a prerequisite as artists are invited to make whatever pattern feels right and that pleases them.
The size of the artwork actually can be any size (they just refer to it by a slightly different name) and color can be added as well.
I have just started to experiment with this process and am learning what kinds of patterns tend to work in different spaces. I invited my students to give this art a try, and oh my, did they ever take off! They are waaaaay better at this than I am, but I am learning!
Here are some “basics” to get you started…
You can use any size paper you like, but I do think a square is a good idea.
If you can, use a nice quality paper. Zentanglers use an Italian paper called Tiepolo by Fabriano; my students and I have been using the BFK Reeves 100% cotton paper.
Use a black pen that has a fine tip; Zentanglers use Pigma Micron 01, 0.25 mm. If you visit an art or craft store you most likely will find a “Zentangle” area that has a selection of papers and different pens. We have been using a Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm metal point pen and also a Pilot Razorpoint Extra Fine pen.
- Using a pencil, put a small dot in the each of the corners of your paper.
- Connect the dots with a line, not necessarily a straight one though.
- Using the pencil, sort of “scribble” in some lines, going this way and that, until you have created several spaces on the paper.
- Using your black pen, create a different pattern in each one of the spaces that you have drawn with your pencil.
If you like, do some shading with a pencil.
Zentanglers create a signature of sorts, most use initials, and put these in the bottom right hand corner of their Zentangle. You can also give your work a title and date on the back.
One thing that I noticed is that when you follow a curved line with your pattern you can see how it gets bigger or smaller as you follow the curve. It gives the pattern a sense of perspective and “three-dimensionality”.
Putting two or more together in a grouping is fun too! Here are three of my Zentangles, I played around with arranging them together.
Another idea is to draw an object ~ anything ~ a flower, an animal, even your name ~ and proceed to create the spaces as described above and do the patterns within the spaces.
Your local library will most likely have books on this topic (see below for some suggestions). We all found that flipping through some of these books was helpful and gave us lots of ideas of patterns to create.
These are the basics, so, just go ahead and give it a go. Let us know how it goes and send some examples if you have time.
Again, here is what we have been doing so far in my studio. Students are doing them at home on their own as well!
Are YOU ready to Zentangle?!
Anitra Redlefsen is a Teaching Artist who develops and delivers curriculum for students and teachers that integrates the visual arts with other academic subjects and that address the Ohio Academic Content Standards. Visit her at ArtIsJoy.com