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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


  • Could you let us know what is in Pack #2 so we can make sure we have the supplies if we can’t get the pack in time? Thanks. Love the 12 Days of Zentangle Christmas!

    Carol Bailey Floyd on

  • Fascinating reading about the beginnings of Zentangle. Love this holiday series thank you!

    Melissa W Cahn on

  • Fun stories! When I heard about the walk down memory lane, I thought about the history of zentangle, which I’m enjoying learning more of. But it also gives me a chance to reminisce about my own personal zentangle journey and compare then to now. Looking forward to it all – thanks.

    Pat Floerke on

  • Thank you for sharing your story.

    Jan on

  • I really enjoy reading the history of how you developed this art form. I come back to Zentangle again and again, and find so much pleasure in it!

    Andria Kaskey on

  • Just sat down after a very busy day. So excited to see the 1st Day of Zentangle in my inbox. I had just finished packing my PP02 supplies in my carry on in anticipation of traveling for work. Hoping to get in some quality tangling time. Thank you for doing this.

    MartyG on

  • Wow! What fun to find a beginner’s mind with old tangles made new! The sky is really limitless!

    Laura Oldham on

  • Love seeing the variations in some basic tangles. Gives me so many good ideas for teaching winter classes. As usual, thank you so much!

    Jacquelyn Melin on

  • Yay, so excited! I’ve fallen a bit off the Zentangle bandwagon what with school and all, I can’t wait to go through the Project Pack videos during Winter Break and reinvigorate myself!

    Dani Lamothe on

  • So excited to begin the 12 Days of Zentangle 2017! Just completed Day 1…so much fun to work on very familiar Tangles with a fresh new twist! Thank you all!

    Marty Deckel, CZT 10 on

  • Enjoyed the first day of Christmas. It took me a bit longer to do it. I have to tape the tile down because I can only use my left hand. And I had to use an 08 Micron instead of the new one. Still had fun though.

    Jan Smith on

  • I just came in from grocery shopping in near 30degree C heat here in NZ. I checked my Inbox and Yeah there is Zentangle #PP02 .So I indulged myself, sat and watched Day 1 and I now feel like a different person from the frazzled lady who came in just half and hour ago. Mesmerizing and such soothing voices to complete the magic. My Project Pack #02 arrived yesterday so I am good to go as they say. Thank you for restoring a little sanity to my day at this crazy time of year, See you tomorrow :-)

    Elaine Franklin on

  • Just watched the first video… new to Zentangle projects….enjoyed PP #1 …have great anticipation for PP #2…..starting now ??

    Marlene Kanter on

  • I watched the first 12 days video and love that it’s a new twist on back to basics and included not only Marie and Rick but Molly and Nick. You guys always know how to keep things the same, yet fresh and new as well. Looking forward to watching the rest of the series. Thanks for taking the time to put these fun videos together!!!

    Michele Werner on

  • This is so fun! I am sharing with my 5th graders, and we all love Zentangle!

    Connierb on

  • This

    Connie on

  • Can hardly wait to start. Enjoying the trip down memory lane. Great to learn more about the history.

    Edwin on

  • Waiting expectantly for the arrival of the video, I had to try the tile as soon as I could! I love the enthusiasm and creativity y’all put into the 12 Days of Zentangle and enjoy it each year. This was a fun tile! Thanks!

    Sandy Kelley-Jones on

  • Tanks for a great “12 Days” !

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • What fun to revisit the story and play with classic tangles in a new way. Bravo! Thank you for Day 1. As I honor patience and presence, I look forward to Day 2!

    Michelle Aalbers on

  • There you go doing the unexpected again! I loved watching all 4 of you create and comment on the creative process of each tangle. Thanks!

    Teri on

  • Yea! So looking forward to doing the 12 Days of Zentangle this year. :)

    Tisha Cabral on

  • Good stories never grow old. I am very excited to begin Day 1!

    Jackie Saunders CZT19 on

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing how you got started.

    Rhonda Miller on

  • I like the video with the variations on the four tangles presented by Rick, Maria, Molly and Nick. And revisiting the origin of Zentangle is perfect for the holidays too.

    Jackie on

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