Zentangles: Small But Addicting Drawing Morsels

Arc Flower: My very first Zentangle. Photo: Jenny Williams
Arc Flower: My very first Zentangle. Photo: Jenny Williams

I am drawing challenged. I have beautiful pictures in my head, but getting them to transfer through my hand to any kind of medium in the real world is usually laughable. My drawing skills never evolved past the fourth grade. It almost brings me physical pain to try to improve these skills. I used to doodle a bit as a kid, but I drew more abstract shapes than anything else. Not useful when trying to draw people, for example, unless you’re Pablo Picasso.

Then a random meeting with a complete stranger at Michael’s introduced me to a new trend in drawing: Zentangles. The man was pretty nonsensical for a while, but one of the friends I was with managed to get enough information out of him to try them herself. And, because she’s an amazing artist, she made it look easy. It took me a while to muster the fortitude to give it a try, but I finally did.

How did I do? I think I’ve found the art for me. It fits my imperfect drawing style, and my more organic shapes and patterns. I had a lot of fun Zentangling (is that a word?), and I can’t wait to try more of the patterns. I’ve only gotten two under my belt so far, but I know I’ll continue on and have a stack of little squares to paper the walls.

Btl Joos (get it??). My second-ever Zentangle. Photo: Jenny Williams
Btl Joos (get it??). My second-ever Zentangle. Photo: Jenny Williams

What are Zentangles? They are a structured art form consisting of different kinds of patterns, usually in a small or confined space. Many different patterns exist, and you can make up your own. I’ve been doing mine on small squares of paper, about 3 1/2″ by 3 1/2″, along with a black drawing pen, but you can use whatever you have at hand.

Some patterns are repeated shapes, others are an evolving image. All seem to have smaller bits that add up to be a larger picture. By the time you’re done, you’ll look at it and be impressed that all of those little elements of a picture combined to create something really interesting to look at.

If you want to give it a try, there are plenty of websites to get you started, and many books are available to step you through the process. Even if you think you can’t draw, if you have any urge at all, give Zentangles a try. If I can do it, so can you. There are so many patterns out there that some of them will fit your particular drawing leanings.

Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.