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Back to Basics and Beyond Again

Back to Basics and Beyond Again

Julie writes...

Last week we concluded our Back to Basics blog series with the announcement of our TWO new Zentangle Kits. We are so excited to share these kits with you and see where they take you on your Zentangle journey.

We have been focusing on the basics of the Zentangle Method and some of you have asked, "then what?" After you have "mastered" the basics, what is the next step? Do you learn more tangles? Try black or Renaissance tiles? Add color? Where do you go beyond the basics?

The short answer: There are no mistakes, so you can go wherever you want. You don't even have to go beyond the basics. There are no "rules."

For those looking for a little guidance, I have asked a few of us here at ZentangleHQ for their tips and ideas...

Maria says... Whenever I have a chance to sit and tangle, just for the pure joy of it (not work related) I grab a pen, the closest clean tile, and put down the first thing I think of. Oftentimes, it’s a mooka or poke leaf or huggins. Now and then a blossoming tangle, like fengle, auraknot, dingsplatz, or a seed tangle like waybop or mi2. I almost never draw the basic tangle. I enhance just about everything with auras, rounding (to add strength and drama). Then some tipple or dudah. You get the picture. By that time, I’m off! like a tangle of tangles! Stuff just comes out of my pen. . . until it doesn’t, so I either stop or “rinse and repeat” with a different tangle. Always adding auras and little details. . . and fun. Don’t forget the fun!


Rick says... I might decide ahead of time to add a fixed amount of auras, or decide what to do once the auras begin to touch . . . and then watch what happens. It is a fun twist on our idea that the elegance of limits can often inspire increased creativity in unanticipated directions.

Julie says... I love to tangle the same tangles over and over again, but each time trying something new. It is like going out for coffee with a friend, but each time you change your coffee order. Once you feel like you have mastered the basics, go back to those first four tangles that you learned and keep drawing them, but on different color or shaped tiles. Use different tools. Explore different sizes and techniques. The basics have so much to offerI

Molly says...I tangle because it makes me feel good. Creating in general makes me feel alive. Its nourishing and inspiring. Finding ways to access that feeling is important to me. Zentangle provides easy access to creativity for me. I have learned that I need to embrace what is familiar first in order to find room for new thoughts and ideas. I often remind myself that Zentangle is about repetition. In fact, a true practice is something you do over and over again. It is through the familiar behavior that you gain the strength and clarity to incorporate in something new. When we find things in life that we are passionate about and excited about it is easy to get caught up in "wanting more" mentality, obsessively trying to learn all there is to know. It's easy to become overwhelmed thinking you need to know all the trending tangles or explore every new material or be the one to invent the next new technique. In reality, it is simply about putting pen to paper in a way that feels good to you. Embracing the repetition is important. Once you have tangled the basics many times slowly integrate in something new. Change things slowly and let the new things gradually become familiar before moving on. Focus on the tangles and techniques that feel good. Allow room for growth. Take chances and embrace mistakes. Most importantly remember that all of this happens one stroke at a time. Focus on your next stroke and so on ...

Martha says...If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the question, "what next?", I recommend sharing the Zentangle Method with a friend. Sharing the method, one stroke at a time, will give you a whole new appreciation for this basic strokes. When you are showing someone else, sometimes you see new opportunities that you didn't see before and the answer to "what next?"

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We have been having so much giving away new Zentangle Kits that we wanted to give away one more! Share in the comments your best advice for where to go beyond the basics and we will choose a commenter at random to receive a Zentangle Kit - Classic.

Thank you to everyone who commented on our last blog, A Zentangle Timeline. We enjoyed reading about YOUR Zentangle journey. We have randomly selected 3 of you to receive a Zentangle Kit - Classic. If your name has been selected, please send your snail mail address to

  • Linda Stephens
  • Lucinda Mathews
  • Cheryl M

Julie Willand


  • I’ve just begun learning Zentangle, first attempt at anything in the ‘art field’. So thank you for the encouraging words, that there are no mistakes.

    Candace G - Florida on

  • My best advice for where to go beyond the basics… I love using the icosahedron to allow the Universes to create my meditative Zentangle classes. I draw few of the basic tangles and allow the flow to create our tile. I speak about self-love and how to allow the life to unfold as a perfect dance. I feel like there are infinite possibilities to the “Basics”. Thank you so much for the nice blog. With love and gratitude,
    Annie Rocha on July 28, 2021

    Annie Rocha on

  • I’ve accumulated a LOT of tiles and decided it was time to start sharing the art. I make bookmarks and put them in little free libraries and book exchanges. Some are monotangles with different tangleations on the front and step outs of the basic tangle on the back. Others are whatever comes out of my pen. I like to add a comment on the back directing people to for more if they are interested. The more people that tangle, the more mellow the world will be.

    Holly C on

  • As a long-time tangler, this is a refreshing read! Thank you for sharing your ideas. MaryAnn

    MaryAnn Scheblein-Dawson, CZT#1 (New York) on

  • I am a new CZT and I have starting going through the previous project packs at my own pace. I might follow the lesson closely or try them in my own way! I think this would be a good suggestion for someone who wants to go beyond the basics, start with the project packs!

    Suchitra Komandur on

  • Taking the virtual CZT class last November helped me get back to the basics. Although I had been tangling for years, this class taught me to really slow down and focus on one stroke at a time. I now notice the improvement in my tangles… although I still embrace “no mistakes”.

    Ruth Osborn on

  • just gorgeous! i love the way that you embellish the simplest strokes! always the inspiration for Fun With Paper Tape!!


  • I have been sharing zentangle with seniors citizens at our local senior center. It makes me review the basics, but also look for new to me tangles to share. As well I try to revisit tangles that we have done before for those who are new, but also to encourage those who have been tangling all along ( and me) to look at old favorites in new ways. I also try to introduce new materials (paper pens etc) to keep it interesting. So it helps me grow, and take time to tangle even when life gets busy! And checking out websites and books is inspiring me to try new things as well.

    Gwen M on

  • When I need to go “beyond”, I get out one of my old project packs and choose a Day that I found really fun or challenging and roll with it again. I’m amazed at how changed it is from my first time work, and how it inspires me to go beyond! Love all the inspiration in those pack lessons! Thank you!

    Alice Steuck Konkel on

  • Limited space on a scrap of paper, limited time, or limited energy always seem to bring out surprises. It’s like the scarcity encourages me to try something new while I can.

    Ernest Hemingway suggests stopping each working day as a writer in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, as it makes it easier to begin again the next day. The same works wonders for me and my tangling.

    Jem Miller on

  • The Back to Basics series has reminded me that when I don’t know what to do next -because I have so many things I want to do – that I can just “keep it simple” Get the basic supplies, tile, pen, pencil, blending stump and draw a tangle. Maria’s suggestions here were a reminder that I have lots of ‘mac n’ cheese’ tangles to explore.

    Bette Abdu on

  • Thank you for the help. I sometimes get lost as what to put where. I have my favorite Mac and cheese tangles that I love to draw so I start with them.

    Linda Mensching on

  • Where to go next…Alaska! I am heading there to bring my Aunt back to Fairbanks where she lives. I will be bringing supplies and having a get together with a group of my Aunt’s friends and her grand and great-grandchildren.

    Colleen Clifford on

  • My suggestions for “what next?” is try color and tangling on non-traditional things. I tangle my journal covers, smooth coffee mugs, muslin pouches and fabric purses. I have sakura micron pens in as many colors as I can get. Thanks.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • My favourite way of “extending” my Zentangle practice is to join in a Facebook group black and white challenge, always trying to push the boundaries a little, especially if I’m not drawn to the featured tangle(s). I learn so much from this, and from seeing how others approach the same challenge. I like to play with a tangle in as many ways as I can think of in my sketchbook, to really get to know it. Eni Oken’s Art Raffle app is another good starting point if I get “stuck”. There are also so many people posting inspirational work – a tile here, a new way of interpreting a tangle there, a new technique somewhere else – as well as the Project Pack videos, to learn from.

    Deb on

  • I have my favorites that I always go back to. While I love to learn new techniques and ways to color and enhance – I still rely on my favorites. They flow along on notes at work, scrap paper and receipts and they always look different depending on my mood. Back to basics is an everyday occurrence

    Kathleen Wiktor on

  • I agree with Molly especially that you should work on your basic/core patterns before you start incorporating new patterns.

    One interesting way to advance “Beyond the basics” might be to choose three of your favorite patterns, and then each day or once a week, add in a new pattern to go with those three core patterns. Next time you research a new pattern, try it out with those same three patterns, and so on.

    Beth Peters on

  • The basics are just that the “basics”. Think of it in terms of baking. As long as you have flour,sugar and eggs you can create a variety of baked goods by adding your own touch (or secret ingredient). Sometimes you just use your “go to” recipe. Use the basics of zentangle in the same way. Start with the basics but add your own touch -whether that is adding color, using a different surface or pen, changing up the shading or size of the tangle, or trying a new tangle (like trying a new recipe); and sometimes you just use your “go to” tangle. Regardless of which “ingredients” you choose the end result will be uniquely yours.

    Deborah R on

  • meditation took awhile to appreciate, and because of tangling, both practices deepen my appreciation for stillness and movement. thus post especially hit home as i used to be a pattern addict, have to learn another and another…then, about project 10, I found myself returning to it over and over again. even with similar tools, repetition became the zen-ning I needed to anchor my thoughts til they dropped away and allowed the drawing itself to emerge. rhabk you

    Judy Morgan on

  • Take a class from a CZT and see how different even the basics can be with different points of view.

    Deb Murray CZT30 on

  • I have been making many “basic” tiles to show how much variation one can see with the same string and 4 tangles. I have tried different shading as well as letting the tangles “escape” into each other as a way to show variety.

    Jessica M on

  • The basics are the foundation. To go beyond the foundation is to build on. I like building my skill by using tangles I don’t typically use. I add one new one and then build my motet tangles in. This stretches my thinking and good things happen!!

    Gretchen Carter on

  • Sometimes, when I get to the “what now” stage on a tile I look at one of the patterns, or two sometimes, and decide to “think giant” or “ think teeny weeny”. It amazes me what happens when you take a pattern and really enlarge it, or draw it as small as you possibly can . Then I take a new tile, and work around the big or tiny variation…….WOW happens! Try it and see!

    Sue Zanker on

  • I don’t know that I am at the end of the “basics” yet, as that in itself has such a variety, and opportunity for exploration. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box of all these things to try, and incorporate together, singly, or a few at a time. I suppose doing the basics and adding some color, which changes it all! Or, starting over with the basics, using my non-dominant hand, challenging my sanity and my brain at the same time ;))

    Ginger WhiteCZT34 on

  • This blog post came at a good time. I am teaching a Zoom intro class tomorrow and I love the two statements – embrace the repetition and embrace the mistakes!

    Shelley Bell on

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