Keep calm and Zentangle on!

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Keep creating. It will change your life. Not only does creating add beauty to your life, but also it improves our attitude and personal outlook.

Beckah Krahula

My confessions to begin with:

Confession 1:

If you ask me what’s the application I use the most in my cell phone, without a second thought I would say Colorfy. This offline mobile application is an adult coloring book with lots of options like mandalas, floral patterns, gardens and animals to choose from. After a long day, I turn to this application as a stress relief and it sure works wonders (warning: extremely addictive). I am pretty sure there would be many like me who have a similar craze for adult coloring. It goes without saying that this form of art therapy has been an inspiration for busy grown-ups to take some time out to create without any deadline or protocol. Having said that, sometimes art routines like color-filling some anonymous drawings can get a little too mundane and sometimes you crave for some spice.

Confession 2:

Meditation has never been my kind of thing, probably because I have a hard time silencing my thoughts. Consequently, I admit that I have been to yoga classes and happiness programmes. Frankly speaking, I have enjoyed the sense of harmony and the serene connection between the body and soul that followed.

The dire need for adding zest to the monotonous coloring routine and for engaging in some self-care routine led me to venture forth on a quest to try something new. That’s when I happened to hear about a naïve, meditative and relaxing way to engage in art-making i.e. Zentangle. And then, I discovered that this would be the kind of meditation that would suit my tastes.

So, what is this all about?

A Zentangle is a self-help art therapy and involves filling drawings with calming patterns rather than just filling colors. It is an easy-to-learn and extremely fun way to create aesthetic images with structured patterns. These patterns are called ‘tangles’. Tangles can be created using varied combinations of dots, lines, waves and S-curves. They are drawn on small pieces of paper referred to as ‘tiles’. Consequently, these tiles can be assembled to create a ‘mosaic’.


This form of meditative art was founded in 2003 by a couple based in Massachusetts – Rick Roberts, who was a monk and Maria Thomas who was an artist. The story behind the Zentangle art goes something like this. On a quiet day, Maria happened to be at her desk adding patterns to the background of a large letter atop a manuscript she was working on when Rick interrupted her. At that moment, Maria happened to notice feelings of selflessness, freedom, well-being and focus that she experienced when she was engrossed in her pattern creations. When she discussed the same with Rick, who had been practicing meditation for quite a while, he was excited. He identified this simple act as a form of meditation which ultimately led the couple to develop a system to help others experience similar bliss. Needless to say, Zentangle art was born.

Doodling and Zentangling –Are they different?

Doodling and Zentangling have one thing in common – the use of mark-making with simple and repetitive patterns.

But yes, they are pretty much different.

Doodle – mindless scribbling – is a drawing done with full attention while the person is occupied in something like a phone call or listening to a boring lecture. Doodles are created in an often detached and relaxed frame of mind over a period of long time and result in intrinsic artworks.

On the other hand, Zentangle has a fixed format that follows a prescribed method. They are done with intent and are more of a focused activity that takes one to a totally different world. In the process, it drives away stress, fear, anxiety, boredom, etc.

So, where do we start?

The art is not very demanding when it comes to art supplies. Hence, you only need some blank paper and a regular pencil or pen. Here’s how to start one:

Credit: Pooja Warrier

Step 1: Outlining with a simple shape for your Zentangle – Draw a square or circular border to outline the Zentangle.

Step 2: Divide the shape into several sections – Using a pen/pencil divide the shape into various sections using strings (lines used to divide a particular shape into several portions).

Step 3: Fill each section with patterns of your choice – Choose a section and fill it with a repetitive pattern. Never spend time planning on the choice of patterns, just draw.

Step 4: Fill in all sections with different repetitive patterns. You may also color or shade if you choose to.

Step 5: A Zentangle with all sections filled. Go ahead and sign your work. You may also add the date on which the art was done and probably how you felt during the art. Go ahead and be proud of your creation.


1) Relieves stress and promotes mental relaxation – Zentangle is designed to lift the pressures of daily struggles. Hence, by focusing on creating Zentangles, it becomes a simple and light-hearted way to unwind oneself from the daily hassles.

2) Develops creative abilities – When you engage in Zentangles, the creative part of your mind is stimulated and grows to explore unknown territories.

3)      Improves sleep – By relieving stress and relaxing the mind, Zentangles promotes deep and replenishing sleep.

4)  Improved self-esteem – By engaging in Zentangle art one creates something that has a beauty in itself. From the start to the end, watching your Zentangle transform into a beautiful outcome gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.

5)      Increased focus and better concentration – This is probably one of the most important aspects of the art. Engaging in its creation helps sharpen one’s focus and concentration skills. And with repeated usage, it becomes easier and easier.

6)      ‘Nothing is ever perfect’ – Zentangle art is a simple art with pen and paper and using erasers is a strict No-No. Hence, there are normally misplaced lines in every Zentangle which makes the art extremely aesthetic. Consequently, it becomes a metaphor in everyday life to accept ourselves with all our flaws because nothing is ever perfectly perfect!

7)      Live in the present – The art teaches us to live and enjoy every moment in the present and not to rush through life.

There are no mistakes in Zentangle, so there is no need for an eraser. If you do not like the look of a stroke you have made, it then becomes only an opportunity to create a new tangle, or transform it using an old trusty pattern. A Zentangle tile is meant to be a surprise that unfolds before the creator’s eyes, one stroke at a time.

Beckah Krahula

Since its introduction in 2003, the art has gained popularity and has found many takers too. The fun part of the art is that you need not be a Picasso or Michelangelo to create it. The basic concept is ABCD — Any Body Can Draw. Surprisingly, it can be created on the go as well. There are plenty of sources to learn about Zentangle art. You could either go for self-learning or take the help of a Zentangle certified teacher. Though the art may look complicated at the start, breaking it down into simple steps would make you get a knack in doing this simple art form.

So, just go ahead and Zentangle on!

I promise you, life would never be the same.

Featured Image Credits: Pooja Warrier

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