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Tangled Directions

Tangled Directions

Julie writes...

I see this question asked in various Zentangle groups online and we get it a lot here at HQ.

What direction is the Zentangle Method going in?

My favorite response to this question is, “Well, there is no up or down, or left or right in Zentangle, so it’s going in any direction you want.”

But, as this question comes up more and more, I ponder what the community is really asking and why they are asking? I think this question comes up a lot because of the vast variety of Zentangle art shared online. If you spend just 5 minutes on the Zentangle Mosaic app and you will see Zentangle art and Zentangle Inspired art going in all different directions. Tiny bijou tiles to murals covering entire walls to tangled shoes and tangled quilts. Here at HQ, we too have taken our Zentangle practice in exploratory directions like introducing colors, folding techniques and tangling on different objects. There are new techniques and ideas popping up every single day that can take you in many different directions, but I think it is important to remember that the roots of the Zentangle Method, stay the same. Introducing new techniques does not mean we are abandoning the original method that Rick and Maria came up with that weekend in Western Massachusetts. If you don’t want to venture off that main road, you don’t have to.

I think a good comparison is recipes. Take guacamole for example. I consider myself a purist when it comes to guacamole and I make it with avocados, lime juice, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, some salt and viola! Guacamole. But, when my husband and I go to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, he likes to get their “Flight of Guacamole” which includes a small sample of 3 different types of guac. They often have a variety of different “flavors.” Sometimes it’s tropical, spicy or with a Mediterranean twist. The last time we visited, the special was strawberry-mango. My friend swears by sour cream in her guacamole and Molly will sometimes use cashews. You can take guacamole in so many different directions with all kinds of ingredients, but the recipe for classic guacamole remains the same. All of our taste buds are different and it’s all about what you want on your tortilla chip.  

The beauty of the Zentangle method is that it sparks creativity. It opens to door for you to try new things, to follow new paths, but only if you want to. If you’re a purist like me, you might be happy with black ink on a white tile. There is a road for everyone. Occasionally, I venture out, but no matter which road I take, I find myself back cruising along that main road.

So, what direction is the Zentangle Method going in?

Well, there is no up or down, or left or right in Zentangle, so it’s going in any direction you want.


Compass Rose postcard available here.

Julie Willand


  • Love this such a perfect explaination

    Dawn on

  • Not a comment but a question please. in the rectangle that has your name and webaddress in it above. There are a couple of tangles I cannot find in my books or online. The one in the upper left – is it a variation on holibaugh? The triangle one with the little balls in the middle (to the right of the one I think is sandstorm) and is the knot one sparkle? I am only a year into this and my adult ed class ended because of covid…. Thanks. Jan A in Berwick, ME

    jan armstrong on

  • The joy, for me, both in growing my Zentangle Method and in teaching it, is knowing while the basics are black and white (and tan), the possibilities are endless. Someone once said to me about the ‘game of life,’ the rules are simple but the strategies are complex. So it seems is the Zentangle Method. I love that I can switch from basics to color, from a simple tangle to something more challenging and I love that ZHQ supports us all, however we evolve. May all CZTs remember that once they did not have the treasured letters after their name, that they have expanded in knowledge and skill and in that expansion they can show love and tolerance for those who are choosing their own path: simple or complex.

    Annie Sargent, CZT33 on

  • What a great take on this and a good thing to remember.

    Kate Ahrens CZT IX on

  • Absolutely wonderful article, Julie!
    I have wondered this on occasion, especially when seeing all the new things coming out of ZTHQ. But, of course, you would never abandon the classic, basic zentangle method.
    I, as so many commenters have said, always and frequently go to the black on white. But I also enjoy digressions into various forms of ZIA.
    (Also much appreciated the comments from Ginny Stiles and Brenda Shaver Shahin)

    Margaret Bremner on

  • My thoughts exactly, Julie. Thank you.

    I am always true to the Zentangle Method, the simplicity of black and white in a 3.5" tile. No pressure, no expectations just the joy of being in the creative moment.

    Like you, I do step off the path and find other wonderful areas to explore with colour, paper, objects and techniques but my true heart always finds its way back to the main road the one that takes us home and home is purity and simplicity of Zentangle.

    PS. I now want to make some guacamole!

    Joanna Quincey CZT29 on

  • Because I can, I will! Zentangle’s journey today may be classic and basic. Tomorrow may lead to color or various papers, not Z tiles. The next may be on a different direction or object like a t-shirt or gourd. And because I can, I will bounce between it all and enjoy the journey and share my love of zentangle with others so interested. Encourage all and appreciate all. And much thanks to ZHQ for providing a great start to my journey and to others who have inspired me along the way no matter where this journey may take me. My only goal is to enjoy, appreciate and have fun. No mistakes and no right or wrong.

    Sue Leslie CZT on

  • Oops! There should’ve been an exclamation point after “basic Zentangle” and a new paragraph about Linda M Dochter.

    Kat Van Rooyen, CZT on

  • I loved this entry, Julie. I feel sometimes that I’m asea in all the hundreds of “tangles” out there. I love the “official tangles” – basic Zentangle I was SO hurt for commenter Linda M Dochter! I cannot even imagine a CZT saying the first response or the silence of the second. On behalf of all CZTs, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I love the Zentangle Method, which I consider to be a lifestyle.

    Kat Van Rooyen, CZT on

  • Another beginning tangler here (1/7/19). I like the black and white for myself at this time (and only learning official tangles) while appreciating all the directions I see people take with their personal Zentangle journey.

    Zentangle has brought back my art while helping with pain and stress management. I work at a community college where we got Spring Break off along with the students. From the Friday afternoon when I stepped into our apt to early Monday morning on the day I had to go back to work, I tangled for hours and hours and hours and hours. It was the most restful time I had experienced in a very long time. I usually get sick with something during our days/weeks off but this time I did not at all. I tangled and tangled and tangled some more. My sleep schedule got back on-track (I suffer from myriad chronic autoimmune diseases even though I still work full-time) and I got enough sleep instead of naps here and there during the night because my days would be filled with tangling and I needed to be in top form learning those tangles. I want to retire (I have the points) so I can tangle all day but we cannot afford the pay cut in my monthly salary to retire right now. I have to wait four more years.

    I also set the goal to work hard becoming debt-free so I could attend a CZT seminar. A friend suggested that if I was that determined to teach again, I should open a Go-Fund-Me. I may do that so I can attend next year. I still need to learn a LOT more before branching out to teaching again. I taught multimedia and anime art classes until the State and school district changed the rules on me so a giant group of full-time staff who taught part-time could not teach anymore. My goal is to become a CZT and 1) go into the multimedia classes as a guest speaker/artist and teach the Zentangle Method; 2) teach classes to faculty/staff during Professional Development; 3) teach classes at retirement communities; 4) keep learning from other CZTs; 5) other goals that have not come to mind at this time.

    DM bakayaro onna Smith on

  • Thank you, Julie, for your insightful thoughts. I encourage all to go their own way. There is no need to look left or right, to see what your neighbour is doing. Comparison is the thief of joy. The Zentangle method provides us with a wonderful recipe. Just as a plain sponge cake is delicious, a multi-layered and frosted one can be too! Please, let us all appreciate each others art without judgment or argument, simply enjoying the creativity in it all.

    Jennifer Moor on

  • I am not an artist. I do have a creative nature though. When i started doing Zentangle, it reminded me of doing counted cross stitch, which i did a whole lot of years ago. Taking a blank piece of grid fabric, a needle and some thread, then you stitch one stitch at a time until an image begins to appear. It was the same calming feeling as drawing one line at a time. For me it is the joy of the process, then the amazement with the aftermath, an image, an art piece that i created one line at a time.

    Blythe Nicassio on

  • This is a great article and I think you nailed the concept we all struggle with. The basic Zentangle will stay basic. But it gives the confidence to branch out and go places you though you would never go. I routinely go back to the basics to keep grounded and then let it take me whatever direction I go. Thanks for the article.

    Pat Mathes on

  • What a great article, Julie. I haven’t been tangling very long but I’m so happy to have discovered Zentangle. As a student I took art classes and wanted to be able to draw. It wasn’t to be. However, now that I’ve found Zentangle, I feel as though I can actually create something that brings beauty and joy to others! Thanks to everyone at ZHQ. 💝🧡💖

    LaJuania on

  • Well said Julie!!

    I love my tiles but find myself straying often into uncharted waters. I enjoy that a lot and find myself doing super art that amazes me, some of which I admire and say “did I really do that all by myself?”
    There are so many amazing teachers and techniques out there waiting to be learned and explored further.
    So the path is exciting and old and new and mysterious and solid and whatever anyone wants it to be
    Because you know what…… it’s your tile and it’s your life!!
    That is true freedom!

    Binaifer Karanjia on

  • This is a wonderful discussion… I am fairly new to Zentangle – at first I wanted to stay as absolutely true to the original method as possible but have explored briefly with variations in size and colour. I have found it interesting that throughout these explorations, I feel almost uncomfortable straying from the original method too much… perhaps I consider myself a “purist” lol. However, as I have explored the many different posts on the Mosaic app, I am learning that these variations can produce so much beauty and joy, so I find my mind is opening to the possibilities that Zentangle can offer, and how that notion can spill into other areas of my life, and open myself up to the world a little more.

    I like to think that if you don’t have a specific direction in mind, then you can never be lost :)

    Heather Moffatt on

  • So glad to see this post. I struggle with this as well. I so often feel compelled to try color and sometimes I like it, but, more often I prefer the black and white.


  • So glad to see this post. I struggle with this as well. I so often feel compelled to try color and sometimes I like it, but, more often I prefer the black and white.

    Clara Brunk on

  • I was so glad to read your blog this morning. I am currently teaching a class where I have been asked to teach some “expanding one’s repetoire” of tangling techniques. While on one hand I am very glad to do this to help my students develop their creativity and to be less afraid to branch out a bit, on the other hand, being rather a traditionalist, I strive to help my students remember basic Zentangle method. It can be a challenge, but then, that is part of what makes Zentangle such a lovely and rewarding art form.

    Pam Stevenson on

  • Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful article, Julie. It grieves me when good, better, best becomes what some think of as Zentangle. As one CZT told me, “Let’s face it. You’re no artist.” As another told me when I showed her a completed tile, " [Dead silence.]." No matter what direction the method takes, may we all consider a kinder, gentler day when APPRECIATE was an integral part of the Method.

    Linda M Dochter on

  • It grieves me when good, better, best becomes what some think of as Zentangle. As one CZT told me, “Let’s face it. You’re no artist.” No matter what direction the method takes, may we all consider a kinder, gentler day when APPRECIATE was an integral part of the Method.

    Linda M Dochter on

  • Thanks, Julie. I am a guacamole purist as well as a Zentangle purist. I like exploring with you when there’s a project pack and with some YouTube videos. I only met Zentangle a little over a year ago. I did CZT last year and one of my students is doing huge projects. I’m impressed and have no desire to go there myself. I will see you at Kripalu in May!

    Mary Lou Minard on

  • Wonderful blog post today! I see some interesting and diverse comments, My own testimonial is simply based in gratitude for an unexpected path that lead me to find the Zentangle community at large and enabled me to return to my love of pen and paper expression after more than 30 years. I majored in art in college but my life took a turn that went another direction. When I found Zentangle it re-activated my creative juices and re-trained my skills after watching many tutorials and practicing one stroke at a time. I love that Rick and Maria always repeat their “no mistakes” philosophy. It’s removes that hesitation to just go with the flow. I think some people just feel comfortable with exploring and taking off with the basics and adding this wonderful basic technique to enhance other works of art. I actually felt good enough to enter some of my work in a local art show for small works and have been accepted twice now two years in a row. Very gratifying!

    Linda Elkin on

  • I have been tangling for over 5 years now and have yet to follow any direction. It seems to permeate and enhance everything.

    Kathy Young on

  • I love me some guacamole!

    Terri Young, CZT 16 on

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