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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


  • Thanks for renewing the appreciation of the basics with a twist to keep it new!

    Susan Warner Nance on

  • Thank you very much for this magic challenge. It is wonderful to go back in the past, to see such familiar stuff, drawn in a totally different way. I love the Tipple inside Printemps!!!

    ria matheussen on

  • I loved the twist of moving the white space – will need to explore that further in future tiles!

    Donna Pilato on

  • What a great write up. I never get tired of hearing the story and learn something new each time. Looking forward to participating in the 12 days again. Thanks for all you do and Happy Holidays to all!

    Jody Genovese on

  • I Love the “outside the box” tile. It is a fun twist to the basic first tile we all have done. Clever!

    Donna J Cyr on

  • Loved going back to basics …with variations!!!

    Faye on

  • Full of surprises!! Thank you.

    LinDa Dochter on

  • Let the fun begin!

    AndreaR on

  • I am so excited to get started with the 12 Days of Zentangle! And so it begins……

    Mary Kay Watson on

  • OMG! What a great start to the 12 Days of Zentangle! I’m loving the feeling of history along with some really cool innovation and play. Can’t wait for the rest of the series!!

    Jeanie "JJ" James on

  • I’ve been waiting patiently for the start of 12 days. I love hearing more about the history of Zentangle. Yay!!!

    KIm Kohler, CZT 16 on

  • Love the 12 days of Zentangle. I look forward to watching, and tangling along with, the videos. Thanks for giving us a chance to relax during this hectic month.

    Phyllis Carter on

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