At first glance, Zentangle looks exactly like the DoodleArt that every child born between 1970 and 2000 surely spent hours toiling over. Zentangle, however, claims to be much more than simple doodling. It is an easy and relaxing way to create images through drawing structured patterns. It is, in fact, a school of art, a sensation that is sweeping the nation. There are hundreds of Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) in more than 10 countries worldwide.
Apparently, Zentangle can bring one to a state of religious experience and deep meditation. Zentangle is like the tantric sex of the art world – the goal is to achieve a spiritual awakening, it’s not about the end results. For tanglers, the pretty art is just an incidental bonus. Because aesthetics are not important to Zentangle, even the most artistically handicapped among us can become tanglers.
Tangles, as the patterns are called, are meant to represent life’s problems, helping to deconstruct them into zigs and zags, dots and squiggles so that they are easier to overcome. As the Zentangle mantra states, “anything is possible, one stroke at a time.” Disclaimer: compulsively drawing lines and shapes will not help you erase your debt, mend a broken heart or pass an exam.
Armed with a copy of The Joy of Zentangle, a black fine-tip Sharpie, a pencil, and a small sketchpad, I was ready. It should be noted that “true” tanglers are supposed to use special tiles to draw on, made from fine Italian paper. I, however, had no desire to spend $20 on said tiles when my highschool sketching paper would suffice. For beginners, it is recommended to only use black ink and a pencil, so that our feeble minds aren’t distracted by too many colour options.
The cardinal rule of Zentangle is never to erase – there are no mistakes in tangling. Already this made me anxious. The thought that there was nothing I could do if I messed up my pattern had me in a cold sweat before I even put pen to paper.
Finally, I took the plunge. Following the guidelines in my book, I marked off each corner of the paper with a dot. The next step was to connect the dots to make a frame in which to tangle. Then, tracing an imaginary string with a pencil, I followed the instructions to divide my frame into sections. Each section is meant to represent an aspect of life.
The next part was the fun part, where I got to doodle (sorry, tangle) for an hour under the pretence of self-betterment. After meticulously drawing filigrees and shapes in the first section, I was starting to feel exasperated rather than zen. I can only employ acute concentration for so long, I am a millennial after all. Like a trooper, I persevered and filled the rest of my sections with intricate-ish tangles.
The end result is no Picasso but it is interesting-looking. Was my mind clear and focused on the task at hand? Yes, for about an hour, my raison-d’être was trying to make paisleys fit together like a puzzle. Did this help me to achieve spiritual awakening and solve my problems? Not so much.
The Joy of Zentangle retails for $15.74 at Amazon.ca