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Jo Knows How to Tangle: Zentangle Lesson #1

By Joanna Campbell Slan

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Now we’re going to actually start tangling! We’ll start with setting up your tile to do Zentangle. Essentially, you will use your pencil to lightly make a frame on the inside of your tile. You will probably draw over this pencil line, but…that doesn’t matter. It’s just there to give you a sense of where your drawing should go.

So start like this…

Step #1–Using your pencil, draw a dot in each of the four corners in the tile. They don’t have to be big or perfect. They’re just placeholders.

Step #2–Using your pencil, connect the dots to make a frame. This does not have to be perfect–or even–or square. It’s just to help you center your work.

Step #3–Using your pencil, draw an X inside the frame. This X is called a “string.” In Zentangle, a string is like your skeleton. It supports the drawing. Rick Roberts came up with the idea of a “string” because his grandmother used to make rock candy. Have you seen that? You dip a string into sugar water and allow the sugar to crystalize on the string. In that same way, the string is a scaffold for your drawing. It divides the larger space into many smaller ones.

It also ruins your tile.

Gulp. Say what?

Most of us get intimidated by blank sheets of paper. We worry too much about making mistakes. By drawing a sloppy X in pencil on your tile, you have ruined it. (Of course, you have NOT ruined it, but it’s no longer pristine, is it?) And that frees you to be creative. What is creativity except the license to make mistakes?

Now we have “prepped” our tile for Zentangle. Next we will fill each of those four quadrants made by the X with a tangle (a pattern). This is what our final effort should look like — Your results may vary!–

About Zentangle patterns: These are incorrectly called “tangles” but I do a lot of stuff incorrectly, so that’s that. Tangles are to Zentangle tiles like words are to a sentence. The more words you know, the better you can express yourself. Don’t fret about memorizing them. You’ll later use your tiles as references. Don’t worry about making each motion perfect.

Instead…sink into the process. My son used to have this book about a pig that sank into the soft squishy mud. Your goal is to let yourself sink into this process. Don’t hurry. Don’t fret. Just BE in the moment. Take your time. Enjoy the process.

So what we’ll do next is teach you four “vocabulary” words. We’re going to start with “Printemps.” All Zentangle designs have a name. Some of the names are inconsistent. (More about that later.) “Printemps” is French for “spring,” and you’ll see why as I teach you to make this tangle. Essentially you are going to draw a coil shaped like a snail’s shell.

Go here to see the lesson:

Here’s the practice set of Printemps I did on a scrap piece of paper:

Okay, the Zentangle folks don’t really suggest practicing, but I do. I like working on a tangle, going over and over it, often in pencil until I feel like I’ve mastered it. So this week, I urge you to draw Printemps on…EVERYTHING. And I’ll see you here next week.

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