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Never Say Never

Never Say Never

Julie writes…

In conversations with other tanglers and in blog posts, I have always shared that my Zentangle journey does not involve learning all the tangles. I tend to use the same tangles again and again and I have always been content with that. This does not mean that I don’t like to try new tangles but I tend to know right away if I like a tangle or not.

Or, do I?

There have been plenty of times in which I have written off a tangle as “not for me” only to end up loving that tangle in the end.

If you know anything about me and tangling, you know that marasu is my favorite tangle. I could tangle marasu all day, every day. But, it was not always this way.

My first introduction to marasu was at CZT 14, when I was becoming a CZT. I remember sitting in the classroom at Hotel Providence and feeling lost and it was not clicking for me. I tried it again and again and ultimately decided that marasu was just not a tangle for me and that was okay.

Sometime after that, I decided to give it another try, or explore not just the tangle but different papers, tools, and ways to shade. It was with this exploration where I fell in love.

This has happened a few times over the years, most recently with the tangle ING. ING was a tangle that I had decided a while ago, wasn’t for me. It never clicked. Recently, I said this out loud and I immediately thought of all the other tangles that I had decided were not for me, that I ended up loving in the end.

I set out to explore ING a bit more. I decided to work on Renaissance tiles since they offered so many opportunities for shading and layers. I knew that I was comfortable on Renaissance tiles so it was a safe space to explore, and that General’s white charcoal pencil could elevate any tangle.

And guess what? ING is for me.

I still believe that we don’t need to know all the tangles (or even a fraction of them) for a beneficial Zentangle practice, but I do believe in second chances.

If you have written off a tangle and decided that it was not for you – I encourage you to try it again. Here are a few ideas to help you explore these tangles.

  • Work on your favorite surface with your favorite tools. The comfort of this will give you confidence to explore the tangle.
  • Finish the tangle and the tile. You may be surprised how it all comes together in the end.
  • Shade and then shade some more. For me, shading is the icing on the cake and really elevates any tangle.
  • Have fun!

And if at the end, you decide that tangle still is not for you, that is okay! There are plenty more to choose from.

Julie Willand


  • I started and fell in love with this art of Zentangle ®️. Being closed up during the pandemic gave me the release I needed to survive. My health was great! My weight dropped off cause you can’t eat and tangle at the same time. I was so pleased with my work I wanted to teach it so I signed up to be a CZT only to develop AML acute myeloid leukemia. No longer able to take the class I was devastated! Getting chemo blood and platelets took up all my time. I am starting to tangle again it’s slower this time I am too critical of my work. I am older and my eyes brain and hand don’t seam to want to work together. What has helped is just going back to basics and not trying the hard ones yet. The shaky lines just add more to the piece and I’m getting better. Thank you for this blog. I will try some of the hard tangles again and maybe one day I’ll take a CZT class again. Thank you for caring. ❤️

    Pamella Dolney a CZT Wanta B. on

  • Oh my goodness, this describes my whole Zentangle method journey! I attended an intro lesson from a CZT three years in a row at a convention session before it finally clicked for me. The first two years I left the session saying, this just isn’t in the cards for me, I am in awe of those that can do it. It finally clicked the third year and there is no stopping me now! And I had the same experience with ING. My latest awakening to a tangle was at CZT40 with Molly when she did the voice guided session – I finally drew a decent Tripoli.

    Rebecca Stewart CZT40 on

  • Julie,
    You are so right! I recently had 3 tiles I wanted to put a borders on, but I challenged myself to use some patterns from my Zenthology book that I have not tried before. I was very happy with the results! It seemed to add so much more than my usual checks or orbs even though I still love them too. I used snail, knase and doodah if anyone wants to give them a go. I found they really popped when I combined the brown and black microns in each one.

    Lynn Starnes, CZT39 on

  • Excellent thoughts. I’ve also found that being able to see Rick, Maria (or any of the Zentangle crew) do a tangle from start to finish, either in person or by video, really helps with the understanding of the stepouts and ways to make it easy and also make it your own!

    Linda Deedy CZT 10&40 on

  • Spot on!!!!!

    Clara Brunk on

  • Yes! It is so interesting to consider the tangles that we love and that we avoid… I’ve always absolutely loved LEE-BEE and now can’t get enough of Mysealiam and I still wrestle with getting the hang of Mooka for some reason!!

    Linda Hunter CZT 31 on

  • I can echo most of the previous comments here. Coincidentally Marasu just challenged me at the conference I am attending – Tangke U. Such sage advice from a young wiman. Thank you Julie.

    Bette Abdu on

  • Julie you hit the nail on the head with this one. Some tangles just do not click with me. However, going back to them now & then I finally get them and enjoy exploring with them. As you said, some of them even became favourites.

    The ideas you have outlined are a great starting place for those tangles we all find difficult or ‘not for me’. Zentangle is a process and it all starts with “One stroke at a time.”

    Lianne on

  • Julie this is so true I have a couple tangles that get me frustrated. For me it’s Fungees and Dewd I will have to take a day to revisit them and see what happens.

    Michele Couture on

  • I also have those type experiences. Somehow project pack 20 was so full of difficult tangles for me. As I was determined to learn and work my way through it, I realized each one had a secret step I must have missed before. I was pleased as i snickered my way through the learning with every tile. I am proud of my accomplishment with each new or unfavorite tangle. Yippee. Great challenge.

    Carole CZT19

    Carole Lape on

  • Challenge accepted! I’ll start with Pouyang, a tangle that hasn’t clicked with me yet. It’s a lot like Gourdeous, another tangle I struggled with, but recently made peace with it.

    Ann Baum on

  • Challenge accepted! I’ll start with Pouyang, a tangle that hasn’t clicked with me yet. It’s a lot like Gourdeous, another tangle I struggled with, but recently made peace with it.

    Ann Baum on

  • Great advice! 🧚

    Rimona Gale on

  • Well said Julie! so many times I have said the same thing.. the flow of Mooka was difficult for me, then one day it clicked.. Trust the process, lol..

    Linda Rios CZT27 on

  • Excellent piece, Julie. I can now publicly admit that when I was introduced to Zentangle, I didn’t get Crescent Moon, For me, this Holy Grail of Tangles was awkward, uninspiring, and uncooperative. Then, during CZT36, I witnessed Rick do his magic with Crescent Moon. I still remember the goose bumps I got as his pen flowed across the tile, joyfully creating consistent crescents. I couldn’t wait for the training to end that day so I could practice Crescent Moon with new eyes and a new attitude. This spring, I’ve been teaching a Zentangle class at the local elementary school. The first day, when I demonstrated Crescent Moon, I heard gasps of awe, and the goose bumps returned as I thought, “I AM a CZT!” Now, I look forward to those Tangles that I don’t immediately fall in love with because I know eventually, mastering them will being back those goose bumps.

    Shannon on

  • Oh so many tangles that have felt “wrong” for me over the years. I find if it really bothers me that I just need to practice, practice, practice! Like Flux. I really didn’t like it when I first started tangling. Then I taught a class where it was the main focus. Now I use it on almost every single tile. Crazy.

    Deb bowyer CZT23 on

  • You are absolutely correct, Julie. I have felt that with several tangles, ING being one of them. At zenAgain, we were taught vining with ING and at last I got it, no confusion, just possibilities.use it a lot now. Recently went back to review some of my older tiles on the mosaic and found some with tangles I felt I had ‘mastered’ when really I just liked what was finally reflected on the paper. That may have been the last time I worked with it. Now I realized I hadn’t fully learned the pattern(s) let alone mastered it/them. You’ve inspired me to take the time to explore them individually so that I feel comfortable and can incorporporate the ones I know ARE for me without ‘thinking’ too much. Looking forward to rediscovering.

    PamS on

  • Kinda like life in general, isn’t it? We cannot seem to find a path/pattern that feels comfortable at the time, and reject it. And then come back to it later, only to find we were what was standing in our way.

    Ginger White CZT34 on

  • Yes…I hear you. I am CZT15…so just a year after you and yes, at the lovely Hotel Providence. What a great memory. I’ve been teaching ever since. Hundreds of folks. I know for sure two of my students are now CZTs. That’s a honor. And yes, a number of “not my favorite tangles” have surfaced and then resurfaced. Cadent was one of those. It isn’t hard to do for sure but it just never clicked. Lately I’ve come back to it and all it’s amazing variations. I’ve been including it in my teaching again. The project pacts sometimes renew my interest in a long forgotten tangle too.

    Ginny on

  • Me too! It seems to me that there have been some tangles where the timing just wasn’t right for me to make friends with but some time later it clicked and they’ve become regulars. I nudge myself to try some tangles I don’t like periodically just to see if we’re ready to be friends! Beautiful ING by the way!

    Sandy Kelley-Jones CZT on

  • Julie- I just used Ing two days ago because it fit the space and design. I LOVE what you did here with it and will use your thinking on those tangles that are too straight line for my taste. 🥰

    Kathy Y. on

  • Julie, I love what you have done with ING. I never “liked” ING, but after seeing what you have done, I am going to do some exploring of my own. Thank you always for your insights.

    Mary Kay Cass, C.Z.T. on

  • I have a love/hate relationship with paradox. I LOVE how it looks and when I get it “right” it’s a celebration. However, my brain just can’t “untangle” the steps to make the desired outcome. You should see the diagrams I’ve drawn with arrows and notes!

    Rondy L Murray on

  • Wonderful post Julie. You are so right – never write off a tangle until you have tried over and over again. Works every time.

    Kathy McMurtry CZT on

  • Moc pěkné.

    Jana Doubravová on

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