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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


  • My favorite next step is to grab a tile -draw a curly string and do the same tangles in a new string. It gives you a chance to embellish or draw the same tangle slightly differently. Just having a different string means the Tangles will look different and that can guide you beyond the basics.

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • Although what I am drawing now has nothing to do with the “basics”, it is still grounded in Zentangle. It certainly saved my life last year when I was sitting alone in a house and not allowed to go out with the general public because of my inability to wear a mask. No human contact and no community involvement is utterly devastating. I now know how a prisoner in solitary confinement feels!! I have boxes full of “tiles” of all kinds and colors with pen and inks of all kinds and colors. Focusing my life on creativity and not craziness has saved my sanity.

    Deborah Markaverich on

  • I too, am so new at this, that the basics are still a brand new adventure. I do find myself doodling tangles on notes I am taking during meeting, the calendar when I am on the phone, and really enjoying the variations that I see on theis site, and in the “Primer”, which I am still going through. So much still to learn and do. Thanks to all for their examples, and inspirations.

    Fran Sparks on

  • Because I was introduced to Zentangle just as the Covid shutdowns began in the US, I feel that I am still mastering the basics. I joined several Facebook groups so I could see what the experienced people were doing but I haven’t strayed too far from practicing the basics. I have done some project packs, which help in the practice. The videos are so helpful……you would be surprised how often I rewatch them! 🙂 I’m so glad that Zentangle found me at the right time in my life! On with the basics!

    Mary Ellen F. on

  • Now that you know you CAN draw, let it take you into new territory! Wherever your fancy takes you! I read the Zentangle blog, look at videos there, and follow along on Project Packs, etc. I view Pinterest every day and save photos of objects, animals, and actual Zentangle challenges to try later. I experiment with color and new papers and materials. I save the work of various CZTs that I find inspiring and try to mentally deconstruct and duplicate, or enhance their designs. I make gifts for friends and family. Lately, I’ve incorporated Zentangle into abstract acrylic painting, embossed tangles on metal, and also used calligraphy to enhance my Zentangles. I tangle everyday, on scrap paper, envelopes, napkins, and yes, I save those “doodles” for use later. I also take photos of my work and share with my retired CZT, and a Zentangle classmate. Can’t wait for Senior Center classes to start again in October…with a new CZT! (New projects! New ideas!) In the meantime, I’ll just be tangling here at my kitchen table…

    Jake on

  • For me, the thing that came after the basics was more tangles! I would actually spend most of my tangling time making index cards with the stepouts of all the tangles I could find online and in books. Just doing this was good tangling, and helped me focus on repeating the strokes (first in red and then on the next step in black as you draw the stepout) and just getting the basics of each tangle “in my bones.” This ended up producing a large library of cards, and any time I was floundering around trying to decide what to do next, I’d pick a card at random and just draw that tangle for a while. Usually I got inspired after that to try variations, to embellish or add something fun, or to incorporate other tangles.

    Laura F on

  • Beyond basics, I explore what others are doing then just do my own thing. I go back and revisit older tiles I’ve done and maybe add some color or do a bit more shading or just admire them Lately, I’ve been using some to cut up and use as covers on little books I make. Always something to do with Zentangle.

    Sue Leslie on

  • I taught myself to tangle using many wonderful instructions on-line. After several months I thought I had gone as far as I could (little did I know!)
    I needed a gift for my daughter after she lost her dog. I though, “maybe I can Zentangle a dog.” I drew a dog shape (not too well!) and filled it with different tangles. Then I used a stencil to draw a cat, then I drew a cat (it turned out better than the stencil. I then tried other little animals and birds I like and it goes on!
    You can do anything with Zentangle! Go to You Tube and see what free videos are there! You’ll have a ball!

    Betsey Youngs on

  • Color color color! That’s what I think will take my tangling to the next level. Colored tiles as well as using colored pens and markers. The old will look so new!

    Janell Cleveland on

  • Sometimes I get inspired by all the marvellous art that people post…and sometimes it’s overwhelming. I try to balance that for my “what next”. I have a small group that I teach and I ask myself each month “what is inspiring me right now…so much that I want to teach it”. love zentangle

    Anne Harauz, CZT 34 on

  • I’m truly attached to the basics. Yes I do tanglealations, try new techniques and learn by taking several classes, which I thoroughly enjoy… but I always return to the basics, trying all the fun new techniques on the basic four & my Mac-n-cheese. It feels like coming home for Christmas!

    Theresa Caillouette on

  • As a relatively new tangler, (I started this January), the next big step from the basics was color, both using color pens and adding water colors. I especially loved used the brown microns. I also found adding color challenging, because it changed the way shading looked. Shading is another area to explore after the basics.

    Marsha Campbell on

  • Congratulations on revamping the Zentangle Kits! The expanded one is just “the beez kneez”!

    When I draw a blank (ha ha) I flip through the binder of my previous works and find stuff I totally forgot about. I’ll mix and match elements and something totally fresh and exciting most often appears.

    On a totally different (zent)angle, I have noticed that tangling almost 100% appeals to the feminine side and wondering if others have puzzled at this aspect of our endeavor.

    Vivian on

  • I can’t imagine that I will ever ‘master’ the basics. To me that means being able to just pick up paper and draw without something to follow. I can do the steps, but it’s not ‘in my bones’. I think if I am able to do that, my heart will take me where it is supposed to go.

    Vickie L Stamper on

  • Embellishing or finding a variation of the basics is still so satisfying!

    Susan Goodman on

  • I love to start with my favourite tangle and then see where it goes! I’ll often look up new tangles to see what can fit in and then the more times I create, the more tangles I have to work with. I also enjoy gaining inspiration from other artists. If I see a technique or new tangle I love then that’s where I know I need to go next. But when all else fails, I pick a few of my favourite tangles and just go back to basics – simplicity is beautiful too! Reviewing some of my old tiles and seeing how I can make a new version of them is a great start.

    Lauren H on

  • I belong to several Zentangle groups on Facebook. I love seeing what others do and am inspired to stretch myself and be inspired by what I see. I’m also inspired every day on my walk.

    Gail Jarrard CZT36 on

  • Those who has watched my weekly free videos will notice that I always struggle to start, turning a blank tile right and left (don’t ask why I am turning it when it is blank!😅), flicking my pen or putting the micro 01 tip on the tile and moving around with no ink marks! So I always start with a flower tangle follow by some inking or rounding. It works like a charm because inking is super meditative, so meditative that I just zone out to my little zen bubble and tangles will magically flow out from the pen afterwards. If you haven’t try inking and rounding, I highly recommend it!

    Jacky Lee CZT36 on

  • Showing one (or several) of my tiles always lights a spark for me. The ooohhhssss and ahhhhhhhhs, make me feel like giggling inside – “look what I did.” Then there is the comment: “I could never do that.” Then I get to launch into: “I didn’t think I could either!” I direct them to the website and I feel like I’ve helped someone else on the path to believing that they could!

    Rondy L Murray on

  • Thanks to everyone who has shared! It’s always inspiring and I always gain tidbits of things to try. I’d like to mention that going to CZT training is a great next step EVEN IF you have no desire to teach!! It’s a wonderful experience and you can choose to savor it “just for yourself “! There are no rules that say you must become a teacher, next.

    Tracie Schatz CZT 32 on

  • I still love the basics – with an individual flourish here and there to enliven things. Varying the strings makes a huge difference. Learning a new tangle helps give variety. Drawing Zentangle is like being with a familiar trusted friend.

    Kathleen Olivier on

  • I always have trouble starting a tile (you can see me turning a blank tile or flicking my micro 01 in all my weekly free videos 😅) and my advice is to put down your favorite go to tangle follow with couple mooka. This works like a charm as everyone will fall in love with mooka where to go beyond the basics

    Jacky Lee CZT 36 on

  • My best advice for where to go beyond the basics … … … As a CZT, I’ve found that the urge to create a new class is often what sends me exploring. When I was preparing to begin teaching the Zentangle Method, fresh from Seminar and knowing it was very important to offer a thorough introductory series, I developed 4 classes: The Basics, Beyond Basics, Outside the Box and 3-D Twists & Turns. My goal was to prepare my students to continue tangling on their own with no need for further classes. I’ve taught that series MANY times in the last 7 1/2 years. Each time, I feel the benefits of starting at the beginning – again! Once I had guided several groups through the series, however, I felt the desire to offer more. Zendalas came next, then Black Tiles. I actually felt compelled to continue developing classes for those who had become “hooked” on Zentangle. At this point, I’ve developed and taught another 14 classes with the Intro Series as a prerequisite for all! And the ideas just keep coming.

    So … my personal advice for those who want to continue broadening their knowledge is to become a CZT!! Attending Seminar was one of the very best things I’ve ever done for myself. :) Thank you Maria, Rick, Molly and Martha … from the bottom of my heart.

    Jan Brandt, CZT12 on

  • Thanks for a great series on Back to Basics. “There are no mistakes” is such a basic premise with Zentangle. I love your point in this blog post, that premise is what takes you beyond the basics (or not) as well!

    Janet W. on

  • I have my Mac and cheese tangles that I go back to time and again. They always seem to morph into other, or different directions. I love that about Zentangle. Just a few tangles give such variety time and time again.

    Kate Ahrens, CZT 9 on

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