a break every now and Zen

The flyer on the library wall announcing a “Zentangle” class piqued my curiosity. I was immediately struck by the abstract design on the flyer consisting of swirls, loops, squiggles, and lines that seemed to move and vibrate and quiver and float.

What was this fascinating, convoluted art? Could I learn to draw like that? Whatever it was, I had to check it out.

That was two years ago. And ever since I participated in that first Zentangle class, I’ve been hooked. Rain or shine, I faithfully attend class in the Mt. Lebanon Library twice a month.Picture1

For those unfamiliar with Zentangle, it’s an artistic technique for creating intricate drawings in black and white using patterns, lines, circles, dots, and curves. Not only is it fun and easy to learn, but it’s also mesmerizing and eerily hypnotic in the way it relaxes the mind, alleviates stress, and makes the world’s cares melt away. (Hence, the “Zen” in its title.)

I always enjoyed drawing, but my humble pencil sketches mainly comprised portraits, landscapes, and still lifes—traditional subjects based in reality, not abstruse flights of fancy. I had never attempted abstract art. Yet these sassy and contorted Zentangle designs were so animated and imbued with such beauty and energy and spirit, maybe the Zentangle method would offer me a novel approach.

Pure Zentangle art is done with fine black ink pens on small white tiles (3½” by 3 ½”) embossed with the Zentangle trademark.pic3

But when the Zentangle police aren’t looking, artists can expand beyond these limits, trying other sizes and textures of paper, dabbling with water colors, metallic pens, gel pens and colored pencils, and drawing on materials as diverse as eggs and pumpkins. Artists can also indulge in “Zentangle Inspired Art” by incorporating Zentangle patterns into ordinary objects like flowers, faces, and birds to intensify the picture.

Learning the Zentangle technique is breathtakingly simple, even though abstract Zentangle art is marvelously complex. You draw a shape on paper—a lopsided square, an imperfect circle, an amorphous blob—and divide it into several unequal sections by drawing lines called “strings.” Then you draw a different pattern within each section.

The number of Zentangle patterns from which to choose is seemingly infinite. To facilitate matters, the patterns all have inventive names–sometimes even nonsensical ones. On TanglePatterns.com, you find patterns with whimsical names like angel fish, flux, fescu, phicops, boze, akoya, ansu, cadent, bales, fandango, crescent moon, poke weed and paradox.

By following the Zentangle technique, varying your shapes and boundaries, and adding enhancements and shading, you will be surprised by the visually stunning images you can create. When I behold Zentangle art produced by fellow Zentanglers, I perceive endless spectacles in the design mazes. So vivid are the images, they confound the senses.

Curly lines resembling slithering snakes crawl among oodles of orbs…Distorted streams of fluid sway and flow like liquid in a lava lamp…Ribbons twist and twirl…Circles dance…Dots are interspersed like belly buttons scattered on patches of skin.

I see drunken undulations of waves spilling and splashing over sweeping tides…I hear a champagne bottle pop, its bubbles rashly escaping…I taste a bunch of grapes piled high in a woven basket…I smell sea foam washing over crowded pebbles on a beach…I feel dizzy lines interweave and overlap like intersecting highways.Picture2

Our teacher, Sue Schneider, a brilliant Certified Zentangle Instructor and an accomplished artist, zealously shares her abundant expertise and overflowing creativity, making the class lively and inspirational. Besides directing the group at the Mt. Lebanon Library the second and fourth Thursday each month from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., Sue teaches a Zentangle class at the University of Pittsburgh.

Other artists in our group conduct Zentangle sessions in different locales. Jennifer Kwiecen leads a Pattern Practice session every Tuesday evening from 5:45 to 6:45 at the Carnegie Library in Carnegie, and Jan Steinle occasionally holds workshops at the North Hills Art Center.

For details, visit www.zentangle/meetup/.  Once you get into Zentangle, I promise you will tangle more than just now and Zen!

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