Is a Zentangle® a Doodle?

I can understand why people hesitate or refuse to use the word “Zentangle”. They think they’ll get in trouble for using the word “in the wrong way”. They think the word “Zentangle” is pretentious. They think their drawing shouldn’t be taken seriously, it’s “just” doodling. They don’t want to be bound by rules or judged.

First, I’ve met few people as unpretentious as Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas (founders of Zentangle). Second, Zentangle is about *no* rules, though there are guidelines for the purposes of the process. Those guidelines exist specifically to unburden what drawing has become for so many people: a stress-filled attempt to draw something that looks like a “real thing”. People are afraid to put pen to paper and so they get out a pencil, ruler, cheap paper and an eraser so they can practice ahead of time and get rid of “mistakes”.

Zentangle embraces mistakes! Start with a pen! Ditch the eraser! Use high-quality paper, worthy of the artist you already are.

A Zentangle class is a no-judgment zone, just relaxing and sharing structured pattern-building together. Calm down and draw, no expectations.

My pet peeve is the term “Zendoodle”. …What?! Maybe you want to be all-inclusive…? (I’m being kind) I wouldn’t say anything but just the other day my own mother asked me, “What’s a ‘Zendoodle'”? If you’re using this non-term, do a little more reading about Zentangle and then choose your realm *not* based on the fact that “Zentangle” is a top-trending concept for 2015…) ooo, controversy…

I’m more interested in sharing my love for Zentangle drawing than debating the minutiae of what is and isn’t a Zentangle, a tangle or a pattern. You can tell when people want to authentically share their love of art in any form. Pen and ink drawing is one of my favorite art forms, but not every inkpen drawing is Zentangle. I love watercolor painting, acrylic painting, drawing with markers, rubber stamp carving, fabric surface design, quilting and more. I “bothered” to learn about Zentangle just as I “bothered” to learn about quilting.

The following is from Linda Farmer’s site Tanglepatterns and it’s worth reading the whole page if you are interested in knowing more. She includes an excerpt from the 2009 article Zentangle: Art, but not for Art’s Sake by Sandy Bartholomew, CZT, author of the popular Zentangle books Totally Tangled and Yoga for Your Brain, where Sandy explains the difference between Zentangle and doodling:

As you cruise the internet looking for Zentangle art and ideas, you start to see the difference between “doodles”,  Zentangle-ish art and Zentangle art by people who have had some training. Doodles are easily recognized as what they are because they are random and done in a thought-less way. Usually done while doing or thinking about something else. Unrelated. Talking on the telephone or daydreaming in a class or meeting. Zentangles are unplanned, but deliberate. The patterns are built “one stroke at a time” and they build on each other. The tangler doesn’t “tune out”, but rather “tunes IN”. You become incredibly focused on what is evolving beneath your pen. You forget your worries for the moment. It is also very easy to see the difference between Zentangle art and Zentangle-like art. One dead giveaway is the dark lines outlining the “strings”. Strings are guidelines that fade into the design when used properly. The characteristics that make a piece look like Zentangle: black and white, dense patterns within shapes, some shading – are what make some artists shake their heads and say “that’s nothing new.” But, again, these characteristics are not what make a real Zentangle, they are just the “look” – the end result. Zentangle is not a technique like watercolor or oil painting. … it is all about the process, not the finished piece.

<end rant>

Tangle on,