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First Day of Zentangle 2017

"On the First Day of Zentangle . . ."

On the first stroke of Zentangle
R and M began, 
With white squares and simple black lines

In the fall of 2003, Rick and Maria developed the Zentangle Method. In these early days of its conception they decided that the method would use a 3.5" square white piece of high quality artist paper. 

In the photo above, Alfie holds an example of the first Zentangle tile design. This is the first tile that Molly tangled.

They knew right away that they wanted to work small. The idea behind this was to help conquer the fear of a large blank surface that may seem overwhelming. And so Rick and Maria tested to see how much surface you could cover with tangles in about 15 minutes or so - the length of a standard coffee break. 

They found that a 3.5" square was a nice size to allow you to create something beautiful in one sitting. We all know now that you can easily spend much more than 15 minutes, but the idea was that you could develop your practice within  these parameters. 

They decided on a square rather than a rectangle because this supported their concept of no up or down as the tile could be worked on and viewed from any angle. 

The quality of the paper was also important because the quality of your materials affect the respect and value you put on your time and your art. We always say to find the best tools available to you. Even if you decide to tangle with a stick in the sand at low tide, you would still want the best stick and the most beautiful patch of sand. 

Maria and Rick set off to test and explore all kinds of papers and pens. They finally landed on their favorite combination, Fabriano® Tiepolo®, an exquisite, 100% cotton mould made paper from the oldest paper mill in the world and Sakura® Pigma® Micron pens with beautiful black pigment ink. And so they started cutting up this paper to create small canvases for this new art form. 

The name of these drawing surfaces was decided upon as they contemplated how a group would display their individual creations in a collaborative. They chose to call the group a "Mosaic" and the individual pieces of paper, "Tiles."

The first tiles were actually square with ordinary cut corners as you can see in the photo above with a very preliminary version of the Zentangle logo. Actually, these tiles were created late one night in preparation for their first public class in the summer of 2004.

Time went by and many tangled works were piling up. One day, Rick put some of his tiles in his jeans' pocket, then forgot about them and threw the jeans in the washing machine. The tile and its tangles survived both the washer and the dryer but in the cycle inherited lovely rounded corners and a frayed natural edge very similar to the deckle of the large sheets of mould made paper. Rick and Maria were thrilled with how beautiful this made the tile and so decided to die-cut the tiles to add another layer of specialness to this drawing surface. 

Within a year after the birth of Zentangle, the first manufactured Zentangle Tiles were produced at a small printer and die-cutter in Massachusetts. A meticulously designed die was created to cut these magical 3.5" square pieces of Fabriano Tiepolo complete with subtle deckled edges and rounded corners. To this day, our original white tiles are still made this way.

Today, we celebrate the 3.5"white square Zentangle Tile. We thought it would be fun to go back to the beginning. Many of you know that when we introduce the method to someone we start with a very specific tile that showcases the 8 steps of the method and also teaches some key Zentangle techniques. 

This tile is one you may have done may times. It has dots, border and a Z shaped string and four tangles: crescent moon, hollibaugh, a grid tangle and a simple organic tangle. 

Whether you have tangled this type of tile a hundred times or never before, we invite you to join us we explore it ... with a little twist, of course! 


Rick Roberts


  • Hi Maria !
    Just reading this post as a reference source for exactly which Fabriano paper you and Rick picked when you launched Zentangle®…I have sourced the Tiepolo paper here in Vancouver, BC…I will be starting my next project which requires a larger size sheet…I will be tangling the Rose Window of Notre Dame using a new stencil Jenny Perruzzi CZT has designed..So excited !!! I had just “discouvered” Zentangle® in April, 2017….Best wishes for your scheduled activities this year ! 😃✏✏

    Sharon Jerkovic on

  • This is going to be fun!

    Nancy Wilcox on

  • What a fantastic start for the 12 days projects! Looking forward to each and every day!

    LInda JF on

  • Loved watching the tile come together with each individual style!

    M Moore on

  • I love the project packs! Even though I have all of the materials already, it is great to have everything at hand to follow along. What a great idea to use them in the 12 days of Zentangles as well.

    Janice on

  • What a great new way to teach the basic tangles!

    Terri Young, CZT 16 on

  • Love to read how this all came about. Genius and so many who have benefitted from Zentangle these past years.

    Marilynne on

  • What a terrific way to get back into some daily tangling.

    Sandi McLean on

  • Love reading the history of how it all started. And wow, didn’t realize it had been that long ago. Thanks for such a beautiful art form to share with all of us.

    RobIn pIchelmayer on

  • I’ve got back into Zentangling thanks to your videos. They are so much more meaningful than learning the Zentangles from a book. I totally get the meditative aspect of it; it’s wonderful to be inspired, again. A HUGE THANK YOU.

    Jackie on

  • Hi, Zentangle family! I’m a little behind, but that just means I get to do the first three all in one evening! Very much looking forward to this series to give my spirit a boost. It’s fun to read the history and learn new things I didn’t pick up at seminar about Zentangle history (Zenstory?). Hope your holidays are filled with love and light, peace and joy! Seasons Greetings from Redwood Country – Humboldt County, California!

    Jen Morey CZT 22 on

  • Finally some time to read these blog entries and do some tangling. Need the relaxation desperately. Thanks so much.

    Chriss Jasper on

  • Love the way the whole Family is involved teaching- brings out various creative styles!

    Heather Toswell on

  • Loved reading about the history of Zentangle here as we begin the 12 Days of Zentangle!

    Paulette Kirschensteiner on

  • Loved reading about the history of Zentangle here as we begin the 12 Days of Zentangle!

    Paulette Kirschensteiner on

  • So instructive seeing the way you each approach the shading. Really makes me think differently & absolutely love seeing the variations on the basic tangles. Much food for thought. Thank you.

    Evy Browning on

  • I got lots of fun from this video that just changed some little things of the patterns that we all knew but created so much fun!! :)

    Wanyi, LIN on

  • Oh my, SO much fun!!!

    Debra Myers on

  • What a beautiful journey through the history of Zentangle. Last year I shared the 12 days of … for the first time. This year I can’t wait to see what will come. Lovely idea! ???

    Barbara on

  • I’ve been waiting so long for the 12 Days of Zentangle! Yay! It’s here!

    Ginny Lockhart on

  • I love the new PN Micron pen, and white gel pens! Your videos are so much fun to watch.

    Debbie J on

  • Loved trying the PN pen. Thanks for the entire concept of daily lessons. Wonderful!

    Heather OB on

  • My goodness, you all amaze me. Your family dedication for keeping us moving along our Zentangle journey is humbling. Following along with you with so much enthusiasm. I sincerely thank you.

    Yvonne Rein on

  • I really enjoy the tutorials. It helps to be able to watch the how-to procedure.

    Dianne Jamieson on

  • I loved the first day and am looking forward to day 2. It is fun to look at some of the very familiar tangles in a new way.

    Joyce on

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