This email just came in:
“Hi there. I’m from the UK and obsessed with watching Zentangle videos, but I don’t know where to start. I see you do lettering and would love to have some done for my friends. [She lists five names.]
“Could you please make these as I'm too scared I’ll make mistakes.”
Thank you so much for writing that email! Coincidentally, Maria and I were just talking about “right” answers.
I appreciate your question because it brings out some core ideas behind the Zentangle Method.
My upbringing included the idea that there are predetermined proper and improper ways to do small things. I’m not talking about issues of respect and disrespect, honor and dishonor, or moral right and wrong. I’m referring to something small like arranging the silverware for your dinner guests or, in this case, making some Zentangle gifts for your friends.
I notice that when I follow such small codes of conduct, such as how to set a table, it is easy to turn off my powers of imagination that I otherwise might access to create a different and beautiful table setting.
When we have friends over for dinner, Maria arranges the place settings differently and beautifully each time. It is a Zentangle-like exercise.
I believe that each man, woman and child has unique and individual powers of imagination and creativity. We are only just beginning to discover (or re-discover) the implications of those abilities. The Zentangle Method offers an effective toolkit to help loosen their restrictions and inspire their development.
When creating Zentangle art, or setting a table, you can begin small, one stroke (or one fork) at a time. Gradually, you increase your trust in your own ability to imagine and create what does not yet exist.
Whether you consider the traditions of typefaces or table settings, remind yourself that each was once done for the first time by someone. Similarly, the first class to graduate from the first university learned from teachers who had not graduated!
And if you do make a so-called “mistake,” well, in the Zentangle Method we look at mistakes as a source and inspiration for creativity. When something goes “wrong,” that event often serves to wake up our imaginations. Maria and I have a game we sometimes play. When we encounter something, we play a “List of Ten” game. For instance, when something doesn’t go the way we planned, “What are ten ways this could turn out to be a good thing?” Or when we read a headline in the newspaper (yes, we still get an actual morning newspaper), “What are ten alternate explanations for what did (or did not) just happen?”
When you make a so-called “mistake,” and you can’t begin to find even one blessing to begin your list, you have the option to put your creation, your tile, aside for a few days. When you come back to it later you will often see multiple possibilities that weren’t obvious in the emotion of the moment.
The point of the Zentangle Method is that you have a style unlike anyone else. Your contribution to this world is a gift which only you can create. Whether another approves or not, whether another gives accolades or not, begin to trust the flow of your own creativity and the inspirations of your own imagination. It needn’t happen all at once, but “anything is possible, one stroke at a time.”
Using the Zentangle idea of “Embedded Lettering” I played with one of your friends’ names.
I asked Maria to play also.
Each is different. Each uses the same Zentangle techniques and principles of “aura” and “rounding.” Each is beautiful.
We invite you to explore and play with these techniques and principles. Your outcome will be different from Maria’s and from mine. The objective is not that yours should look like Maria’s or mine or anyone else’s. The objective is that it will look like yours.
And we expect it will be beautiful.
All the best,
Regarding your question about "where to start," you can read through our website, particularly check our Zentangle newsletters and the Zentangle YouTube channel for lots of free info. You can arrange a Zentangle class with a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). There are many in the UK; you can search for them here. Regarding products, a good starting one is the Zentangle Primer Pack, Vol 1.
You can watch an early Zentangle Kitchen Table video on embedded lettering here.