There are always people, perhaps you are one of them, who first saw Zentangle art and said, “I can’t do that.”
We always say that if you can write your name, you can create Zentangle art. The beauty of the Zentangle method, is that anyone can do it. I am always very quick to assure these people, with honest conviction, that everyone is an artist.
It occurred to me though that I was not practicing what I preach.
I happened to grow up in the same small Massachusetts town that ZHQ is located in. Right next door to be exact. One of the nice things (for the most part) of growing up in a small town is that everyone knows each other. These days, when I run into old teachers or parents of high school friends and they ask what I do for work, I tell them I work for Zentangle. If they are unsure about what Zentangle is, I will sometimes say I work for Maria Thomas, since in our small town, most people know who Maria is. Once I tell them who I work for, more often than not they respond with, “I didn’t know you were an artist!”
I always seem to laugh at this assumption and assure whoever I am talking to that Zentangle most certainly did not hire me for my artistic abilities. I began to wonder how could I truly believe that everyone IS an artist, while simultaneously laughing at the mere suggestion that I might be an artist?
If you had asked me at age 7 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I was going to be an artist (well, probably a princess who was also an artist). Like many kids, I colored, I drew, and I painted all day long. I never wondered whether or not I was good at what I was doing. I was simply creating. Like many kids, somewhere along the way I began to question my legitimacy as an artist and comparing my work in art class to the other students. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I might not be “good” at art. So, I stopped creating. I found other things that I was better at and pursued those. I think many people can relate to this. As children, we are not plagued with the doubt and insecurity that we develop as we get older.
It is this same doubt and insecurity that makes me react the way I do when people ask if I am an artist. I know that most people asking are thinking of Maria’s calligraphy and botanical art. So, if I admit that I am an artist, they are going to assume I am of the same caliber and once again I am questioning my legitimacy as an artist.
It is true – Rick and Maria did not hire me for my artistic abilities, but that doesn’t make me any less of an artist. They also did not hire me for my baking abilities but that doesn’t mean I don’t bake a mean apple pie.
I decided I needed to be a little nicer to the artist inside of me. If I am going to encourage my students to embrace the artist in them, I needed to do the same. The Zentangle Method speaks to everyone, of all different artistic backgrounds, but I really think it offers a special gift to those of us who were previously “not an artist.” It is a secret passageway back to those childhood days when we colored and painted as if we were the next Picasso and no one was going to tell us otherwise. It is an opportunity to create something beautiful and to activate those parts of ourselves that we stifled so long ago.
The last time someone asked me about what I did for work, I talked about the Zentangle Method and when I could tell they were having trouble visualizing what I was talking about, I opened the Zentangle Mosaic app and showed them some of my work as an example. They looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re an artist!”