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Revisiting That Challenging Tangle

Revisiting That Challenging Tangle

In 2007, we started BLOG Zentangle and began our enjoyable series of conversations within our Zentangle community. In reading through these blog posts with their insightful comments, we decided to bring a few of them to your attention from time to time. It is easy, for me anyway, to sometimes think of old information as stale information. But these insights and conversations are anything BUT stale!

Today we invite you to revisit this 2018 blog from Molly...

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Molly writes:

I have told this story before but I like to retell it, as it was a part of my journey that not only gave me strength and confidence but it also allowed me to look at things that challenge in a totally different light.

A couple of years ago a very talented Certified Zentangle Teacher started a blog called I am the Diva. One of the features of this blog is a weekly Zentangle challenge. This challenge has become an inspiration and a community for so many creative minds. I have followed and admired her blog for years. I have watched how she has touched and inspired so many. I have also participated in many of the challenges, and so enjoy her process of sharing and inspiring.

So years ago, there was this one particular Diva’s Challenge that caught my eye and I decided I would participate. This was challenge #111. (Keep in mind that her most recent challenge was #354 so this was a few years back.) Anyway at the time, I thought, what a great challenge! I set a goal of taking on the challenge and created two tiles. After they were complete, I went back on her blog to learn how to submit my work and upon doing so reread the original post ... HA HA HA ... I had totally misinterpreted the challenge and not done anything close to what the actual challenge was.
Not a deal breaker, pretty funny though. However, the challenge that apparently only “I” was participating in, ended up being this huge breakthrough from me.

When I originally read the challenge, I somehow digested it as a challenge to create a tile featuring a tangle that is outside your comfort zone. I loved the idea of this. The diva mentioned that mooka was her tangle that she for one reason or another avoids. And I agreed that at the time I also tend to ignore that particular tangle. I decided I would pick two tangles that I had considered outside my comfort zone and would create one tile with each. The other tangle that I never would use was pokeroot. Many of you that know my work might be thinking, “what is she talking about? She uses those two tangles all the time?” Well, this is true. But remember, this was many years ago and at the time I avoided them like the plague.
Here are the two tangles I created for that challenge.
I thought if I went crazy with it, I could find some way to love it.


The challenge actually was to use or I think feature mooka on one tile. Which, I ended up doing anyway. So, in a way I did do the challenge. I just took it a step further.
The process of using a tangle that is challenging or difficult to do is usually intimidating and uncomfortable. However I was determined on this day and at the same time feeling fearless as I knew I was going into this task at the bottom. And honestly, what did I have to lose? … We are talking pen and paper here. On both tiles I decided to fill it with as much of that particular tangle as I could. By the end of the process of creating the two tiles, I wasn’t in love with the two tangles but I saw that through my process of creating, I became more familiar and fluid with the tangles and thus started to grow an appreciation for the way I drew them.

This process of choosing a tangle outside my comfort zone was enlightening and fun and through this whole journey I have decided to move both pokeroot and mooka into my comfort zone. I learned that there sometimes is a benefit and discovery in challenging or pushing yourself to try something new or go in a different direction.

These tangles did not become my “go to” tangles overnight, but I continued to use them here and there and eventually found myself finding comfort in them. It might not happen with every tangle that challenges you and honestly there is no reason that you have to love them all, but you never know when a little perseverance might lead you to a lovely and rewarding discovery.

Here is a recent tile I created with the tangles. After years and years of drawing these tangles I have discovered my own style within them and they have for sure made it into my comfort zone.

What is your challenging tangle? Is there one that you have been able to tackle?


Julie Willand


  • I love this blog post. It’s so relatable. I’ve finally mastered those tangles that where challenging the first few years as a CZT. Yes, the first few years. Then there were those tangles that came easy to me but came easy to others. I always find it fascinating because the more and more tangles I come across, the more it so wonderfully repeats itself. And that’s why the motto HQ created, “anything is possible one stroke at a time” is so true, and after having to relearn how to walk in my 40’s, I now say, “anything is possible one stroke and step a time.” Thanks for this post!

    Miriam Zimms - HIPster on

  • I love this blog post. It is such a great reminder of the way that the process of creating zentangle art is a constantly growing experience. I also participate in a group that does weekly challenges. Today’s Tangles Keeping it Classic. She posts both a string and which tangles to use. I love doing it because it gives me inspiration and it challenges me. Some weeks I don’t love the prompt and I do it anyway. Other weeks I might miss or skip a prompt. And I often use my favorite tangles from the choices. But sometimes I feel like the tile really needs something different, and sometimes I just want to challenge myself. Sometimes I still dislike certain tangles when I am done, but other times I re-discover them and grow to love them. It is also why I love the project packs. I find the same thing with them. Sometimes one of them uses a tangle I dislike or find challenging. And sometimes when I am done, I have re-learned or re-discovered it. I feel like, just like there are no mistakes, there is also always learning….So thank you for sharing, Molly. It is inspiring to see that you feel the same way I do sometimes…..

    Amy Lilien-Harper, CZT32 on

  • I would like to learn drawing zentangle. How can you teach me or what? I hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you.

    Helen on

  • alle drie erg mooi. Ik ga zo alle drie proberen. groet anna

    anna wieseman on

  • Me encantó lo que escribiste sobre Mooka y el desafío…muy inspirador lo que decís Molly!gracias

    Alicia on

  • Auraknot and Peanuckle are the two challenging patterns for me. This article will inspire me to revisit both these tangles and maybe try a more organic variation to break-out of the inherent underlying structure, that may be the source of my resistance to both these patterns. Sometimes the “crazy” version of a tangle can be very liberating!

    Debbie H on

  • This is so interesting, Molly. Like everyone I have tangles I can’t make friends with. For me though, they change periodically. I am at a rough life patch right now and can’t find my zen anywhere.
    Usually it is just a few tangles at a time that give me the cold shoulder, I will ignore them until we make up and like each other again and find I’ve lost favor with others. Ah, this is life! Luckily there are enough tangles in our wonderful Zentangle World where we can find a new group for a while then drift on to hang out with another appealing bunch.
    I guess it is the same with our fellow tangles. It seems I find wonderful groups I join and tangle with for a time and somehow loose track of them when learning a new class, technique, phase, or something. I do think of my other tangle friends, though.
    Is it time we have a catch up blog on where the Diva has drifted? What is she doing now? That amazing woman had so very much happening in her life; where are you Diva?!

    Betsey youngs on

  • I too have trouble with Mooka, but love the look that I keep trying. I once drew it but like the challenge it is it withdrew from me. I am currently stuck and try as I might cannot tangle. If you know how I can start again that would be helpful.

    Karin K. Anderson on

  • Thanks Molly. Really enjoyed reading that. Wow!! If we used this philosophy in life, we could sail through our difficult times by simply being strong enough to confront them.

    And yes, Mooka isn’t my most favourite as I don’t seem to think it looks as graceful as it should…..
    But having said that, I recently have started a larger work on black paper using huge Mookas…..
    Will post when done.

    Binaifer Karanjia on

  • Mooka has always been challenging, but I had to do it so many times for project pack 02 that I finally began relaxing with later mookas and I actually enjoy it now and playing with where it can fit. Also, the whole Diva Dance scene was just too much for me to put my pen to paper until I saw Rick’s demonstration for one of the projects packs and I began after considerable practice knowing I could do it! Sometimes I just over think tangles!

    Marjorie Dugan on

  • Thanks for posting this, Molly. I am still waiting to make swan-like Mooka like Maria’s. Mine usually look kind of alien. I also find the grid patterns challenging. Not that it will stop me from trying them; it;s a process!

    Susan Goodman on

  • Molly, thank you for your honesty. I shy away from a few tangles that are not complex or difficult. I just don’t like how they turn out which means they look different from the way that I see others draw them. I am a CZT and yet have not noticed this in my own mind. I would never allow a student to think or behave this way. Okay Sway here I come! 😀

    Kathy Young on

  • Ugh, one is definitely Purk! I don’t know which one of you came up with such a torturous tangle, but I just never like my results. I mean seriously, the lazy S’s are fine, but then trying to cram those orbs in there so they hit the edges just so…it’s maddening, I tell you! Sigh…I guess I can try again. I will wrap lights of Zentangle around my heart and give it the old college try. [wish me luck]

    Kim Kohler, CZT16 on

  • This morning, as I walked on my treadmill, I watched Molly’s video on Arukas…which is Sakura backwards! Arukas have been a challenege to me. But, today, this morning, I think I may have found the confidence to give it a try! Thanks Molly!

    Lynette Menichelli on

  • I am so excited to see that I was chosen last month! My challenge tangle is Rick’s Paradox…i never like how it turns out for me. Time to try again!

    Lisa Anderson CZT20 on

  • It’s funny – I wrote a blog post just yesterday about my uneasy relationship with Mooka and the Pokes. To me it’s about sticking with them, spending time with them now and then, trying to find a way to feel more comfortable with them. Different ways of drawing the tangles works for me. I now have a handful of Mooka ways which suit me, and I’m now working on ways with Pokeleaf. I think there are profound lessons in this about ways we can approach other uneasy areas in our lives.

    Jem on

  • There have been a number of tangles I have found challenging, and going to the Mosaic, or Googling that particular pattern, studying the renditions, noticing the shape of the pattern, the lines of the pattern. This has helped a lot. Then came Toodles. That first curve just didn’t. It was more S than curve. Like Sara Mudge says, it was difficult. So, I copied a tile with a single Toodles on it into a blank MS word page, and repeated that single tile as many times as the page would hold it. I printed it out on lighter watercolor paper, then used a non-working ball point pen, then a pencil, then a Micron, I traced that first line, again and again and again, keeping myself deliberately and determinedly aware of how my hand felt while drawing that shape, how the tip of the writing instrument followed that line, how my arm felt when tracing that line, how my mind saw that shape. Then I aura-ed that line again and again and again, carefully keeping my arua-ed line as close to the length and shape of the original. When I tried Toodles again, muscle memory gave me a lovely curve! Now, I just have to do that with Rick’s Flux!

    Mary Helmers on

  • Fengle has been a challenge tangle for me! Your inspiration gives me hope to keep trying and make it my own creation! Thanks for your beautiful tiles and encouragement to practice, practice, and then practice some more!

    LInda JF on

  • Thanks for this challenge. Mooka has been one tangle I’ve struggled with, but keep playing with it as I do like the outcome, Tho it is about the process not the outcome! Pokeroot shows up in a lot of my tangle pieces as I’m drawn to nature and organic tangles. Liked this mix of the two.

    Sue Leslie CZT on

  • I find any tangle pattern with an S curve in it difficult. Fengle, cadent, toodles to name a few. I need practise with this stroke!

    Sara mudge on

  • Flux! Thought I have to admit that I’m loving it more after doing tons of mini Flux for the Christmas Holiday Wreath that Yvonne Westover shared with us on our CZT page. So you’re right, often doing a tangle we don’t love, over and over again, we become more appreciative of it. I tell my students that actually as often they don’t love Printemps until they do it more than once.

    Deb Bowyer on

  • I meant to say they are all still a challenge for me… LOL, but I love being inspired by you all!

    Michelle on

  • I’m on day two of learning to Zentangle so they are all still a chronic me!

    Michelle on

  • Yes. We all come across those challenge tangles. When I first found Zentangle Finery looked so soft and inviting ro me. Yet i needed lots of patience and practice before i finally ‘got it’. I now love Finery and use it heaps. Thanks for the reminder. What may be easy for some may not be easy for others.

    Lianne Woods on

  • Love this! I can relate so very closely on the Tangles that are difficult and making them my (your) own! They are the ones I love the most today! Thanks for the share.

    Forgetmenot tTangles on

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