Variant Title has been added to your shopping cart.    View Cart   or   Checkout Now
What's the Right Answer?

What's the Right Answer?

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.


Rick Roberts


  • Thank you Rick for this encouraging blogpost! I love to read it because this is so important to me: view every not intended result as new opportunities!

    Anita Aspfors Westin on

  • Thanks so much, Rick. Your answer was great in so many ways. Throughout our Zentangle journeys in life ,I find that my confidence ebbs and flows. Many times I question my own abilities when not necessary, yet the fear of what others think is dominant. Giving a personalized gift can bring your vulnerability to the forefront. I now know that “ history of experience” is that the feedback is positive every time. Take the chance and get started to see that most people are thrilled to receive something built with love, talent and

    Carole Lape on

  • I am so glad that this question was asked because your answer is just what I needed to hear. I am making three “Thank you” tiles for some friends of mine that will fit together in different ways. I was in the decision process of what tangles to use, and embedding their names in the tiles seems perfect. Thank you for the inspiration. Also thank you for the “List of Ten” game. I will use this when faced with circumstances that are not what I planned. One could (almost) take the attitude that there are “no mistakes” in life. Be well and thanks again.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • So beautifully said.

    Devin on

  • I will beging to play that game, “list of ten”. I think that is wonderful!


    Mónica Ferreres on

  • Just a brilliant response to that inquiry, but I would have expected no less. <3

    Margaret Bremner on

  • Thank you 🙏

    I often follow along with lots of videos and feel I don’t call on my own creative ideas as much as I used to before all the draw a longs. Thank you for the reminders of the beautiful process in Zentangle where there are NO mistakes 🙏
    Stay well 🙏🙏

    Susan Jaffe on

  • Refreshing, and completely expected, response. Thank you for reaffirming the importance of diversity and creativity. Peace!

    Danielle DeRome on

  • An excellent book for Zentangle letters is:

    AlphaTangle A Truly Tangled Alphabet by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.
    Each letter uses only zentangles that begin with the letter you are making. Can’t say enough about it……

    CAROL on

  • I love Zentangle! Thank you for an insightful blog.

    Deborah Sadgent CZT 17 on

  • Oh, I read your blog out to my daughter. We laughed. Yes, I can remember struggling to teach her how to set the table. And how to load the dishwasher. I used to think that having these routines Saved time and were efficient. But of course. I don’t need to be so efficient these days. Thanks for the heads up.

    LIsa HOesing on

  • Why am I not surprised that Maria routinely changes the way she sets the dinner table? I’m about to set out now to find some non-Zentangle areas where I, too, can “break the rules.” Thanks for a great blog on expressing one’s creative individuality. That will always be the “right answer.”

    Linda Dochter on

  • Oh my – what perfect timing to hear this and take it in! All of you above give me such joy and insight!

    Mary Ellen Ziegler on

  • Zentangle is all about creativity and mentoring. I just finished a Zoom class on Mentoring and mentioned a wonderful book I read in 2012. Some of you might like it too: IMAGINE: HOW CREATIVITY WORKS by Jonah Lehrer. thank you Rick for you wonderful blog entry!

    GAle SHerman on

  • One can never be reminded too many times of this beautiful principal & have it verbally & physically illustrated so eloquently.


    Rimona Gale on

  • A long time ago I dreamed that I was walking through a wonderful art exhibit. Each display was full of color, life, boldness or subtlety! I awoke thinking “If only I could produce works like that!” Then I realized that I already had, in my sleep. Because my dreaming state accepted all of the images without self censorship I was able to enjoy each very different expression of my creativity. I still draw inspiration from that experience. Mary

    Mary D'Angelo on

  • Lately Zentangle practice has taken on a deeper and slower curve. As someone who automatically tries to keep up with others, and falls short, drawing has been my best means of dis-engaging from comparing, competing and condemning perceived lacks and believed lies. This new season is an opportunity to learn, do and pay forward what I wish I’d had in my 20’s, and… I start now, breaking the blank page, in my case, the blank phone, and apply no mis-takes to every communication, lesson, coaching session and reset. I have less time to draw, and more focus when I do. Less is more as it turns out…and i appreciate everything i used to complain about. Thank you.

    Judy Morgan, New Caney, TX on

  • Ditto all the above! I am grateful every day for having found Zentangle, and for Rick and Maria’s calm, patient, guidance. Having been a calligrapher since HS, I love embedded letters, and Maria’s calligraphy! Also loved the videos on cartouches and frames! Thank you Rick and Maria, for always encouraging us to find our own right answers!

    Jake on

  • I SO appreciate you two and your peaceful approach to life and how that carries over into our Zentangle world❤️

    Judy Montgomery on

  • Tangling names is my very favorite thing to do!! I’ve always loved letters but don’t have the flair of Maria or the consistency and evenness of Rick. But it doesn’t matter to people. It seems everyone is pleased when given a gift made only for them!

    Betsey Youngs on

  • Hey Rick! I love how you illustrated the diversity of Zentangle styles. There really is no wrong in any style making Z. so inclusive. Well done.

    Kathy Young on

  • Wow! What a wonderful heartfelt answer! You two are just SO amazing! ❤️

    Mary on

Leave a comment