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Tangling Outside the Box

Molly writes: 

 Some of you may have heard of the phrase, “thinking outside the box”. This metaphor speaks of a creative thought process that perhaps explores an unknown territory, looks at something from a new perspective, offers a unique approach and steps outside of the otherwise expected way. Encouraging this perspective on brainstorming and problem solving often leads to new and exciting exploration and discovery.

I was raised in an “outside the box” house. Every day, every meal, every holiday, every hairdo, even every prom dress was a new adventure. Sometimes I would ask to get back in the box. Not an option. Looking back I realize how lucky I was. I now know to not just look at things for what they are or what they have always been but rather what they could be. Life is full of change, growth and opportunity and aren’t we lucky to be able to take advantage of that.

To me the Zentangle Method is a beautiful collision of structure and chaos. While it nurtures specific steps and illuminates borders it also encourages us to take our practice into uncharted territories. It pushes us to not fear so called mistakes, but rather see them as seeds for new opportunities. It invites us to “color outside the lines,” and to be lead only by those strokes that we put down ourselves. It teaches us that our unique marks are not only beautiful, but also important because of their uniqueness. 

We often say to our Zentangle artists to learn the rules so that you can break them. I love the structure and beauty of the method as it written, and I find it so inspiring to explore and try things a little bit differently once in a while. In the world of Zentangle art we time and time again see tanglers taking that artistic license and going “outside the box”. We continue to learn and be inspired by the all the ways you are doing this. This type of thinking is different for everyone. It might be that tangling a little lower the string line is a big deal for you, or you might be someone who likes adventure like perhaps tangling underwater like mermaids do.
When the time is right take a leap in your practice. Jump at that opportunity. Allow yourself to look at something for what it could be.
Whether it was a so called mistake or flash of brilliance that led you there, it took that bit of confidence to take a chance to see what could happen when you not only "think outside the box" … but actually “tangle outside the box". 
Join us with your "outside the box adventure" … Tell us your story here and post your work on the Zentangle Mosaic App using #outsidethebox. You can also download the Zentangle Mosaic app for free and search #outstidethebox to see the Zentangle art from across the globe!
We welcome both literal and metaphorical interpretations here … we do like to have fun after all.

Molly Hollibaugh


  • Love this post Molly as an out of the box gal, it’s very inspiring.

    Miriam Zimms on

  • I often struggle with tangling outside of the box, which is why I often don’t draw strings, I find them restricting. Is this bad?

    Anonymous Tangler on

  • Hi Molly, it’s Belén from Barcelona, Spain. Your writte is just fantastic and inspiring. Can you explain if this of thinking and tangling outside of the box has relation with the topic “the elegance of limits” and how. This Is always something I’m thinking about and I’m still trying to analyse and explore. Thanks a lot. Belén

    Belén Vílchez on

  • That third paragraph … <3 I’m going to copy and post this near my desk.

    Peyton on

  • Thank you for your words of wisdom.

    Nancy CZT18 on

  • So pertinent, Molly that during this time of shut down, permission to go outside the box maybe the only nudge needed to venture forth.

    Carolyn Satter on

  • Your outside the box commentary is so well articulated. Thanks for sharing it.

    Rimona Gale on

  • From doing the project packs and reading the emails I have finally become comfortable and satisfied with my Zentangle artwork. Hearing repeatedly over and over no mistakes, new opportunities, outside the box helped and finally penetrated. It has lead to me being more confident in other areas of my life also. I feel so much easier inside myself. It has also given me more freedom and confidence in my painting. So I thank all of you very much. It is a huge gift that you have given to all of us and extremely generous.

    Cynthia on

  • I’ve been tangling for years now and love sharing this at form. I’m amazed at how many people have never heard of Zentangle and I always try to share it when appropriate (no stalking!) I am retired and live full time in an RV. We’ve been volunteering in the parks and I always try to slide a little tangling into their programming. At North Cascades I created a tile with tangles reminiscent of the natural features of the Cascades (tipple river rock, Verdigogh for trees, Msst for Pacific Northwest mist, etc). It made it on their Facebook page.

    For Yaquina Head I designed tangle pages for Victorian stars complete with star, step outs, instructions and a sample. They hope to use it during their Victorian Christmas activities. I also set up a step out page and “coloring” page to entice older kids and adults to engage.

    My hope is to gently expose many more people to what I consider a life enriching art form and activity.

    My thanks to all of you for what you’ve given all of us.

    Holly on

  • Molly, this blog will always be relevant. Thanks for the re-post ❤️

    Kathy Y. on

  • Buenísimo, gracias, mil gracias, me encanta el método Zentangle.

    Lenis Gomez on

  • I loved that there are NO MISTAKES—just opportunities! I tell that to everyone who says they can’t draw!

    Zipporah Rosenblatt on

  • Oh how I needed to read this today…i am so out of the box for the best parts of my life and stuck in the box with zentangle…i will work at it. And look forward to “out of the box” adventures again!

    Mary Ellen Ziegler Czt33 on

  • Hola!, Gracias!, estoy encantada con esta tecnica y es la primera vez que encuentro una enseñanza tan clara y con tanto amor.Me anima y me inspira !!!, mill gracias!!!! desde Argentina, Buenos Aires. Cariños !!

    patricia pancheri on

  • I love tangling – I`ve been doing it for 2-1/2 years. The admiration I get when I show it off is fun too!

    Rosemary Turpin on

  • Loved reading this, yes Molly you are lucky indeed to of been raised in an outside the box home!

    Deborah A Sargent on

  • I wish Molly would post her last name on her blog posts. I like to quote her in my teaching and on my own blog and I think I should have her full name!

    Ginny on

  • Love the empty “box” in Maria’s tangle!

    Susan on

  • Zentangle encourages thinking outside of the box!

    Betsey on

  • Exquisite prose describing the elegance and adventure each and everyone of you share?

    Promise on

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