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How Did It Start?

Once upon a time, Rick and Maria sold prints of Maria’s botanical illustrations at art fairs. Maria would inscribe each botanical she sold as the customer watched. As customers watched her beautiful lettering appear on the page they became emotional and exclaimed how they wished they could do what she did. Then, without missing a beat, they gave all the reasons why they couldn't . . . not enough time, talent, space, money, etc. But Rick and Maria were struck by their deep yearning to experience their own creative fulfillment.

Sometime later, on a quiet Saturday afternoon in the fall of 2003, Rick interrupted Maria in her studio as she added patterns to the background of a large, gilded letter.

Rick’s sudden interruption caused her to notice what she was experiencing just before he interrupted her. Maria described feelings of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and a rich immersion in what she was doing – all classic aspects of a flow state. Rick, who had practiced meditation for many years, said, “You’re describing meditation.”

As Rick and Maria discussed what had just happened, they noted that the beautiful patterns behind the gold-leafed letter were simple to draw, unlike the precise letter forms. Then they remembered all those people who yearned to be creative yet could not invest the time necessary to become an accomplished lettering artist. Maybe they would enjoy learning how to draw these patterns.

And so began the idea that grew to become the Zentangle Method of drawing. By some good fortune, we realized the importance of the idea. To capture it in its fresh fullness, we bought a blank book and booked a B&B in western Massachusetts for a couple days. All the way there and back, and all the time we were there, we recorded our conversations in that book. It felt like we were taking dictation. Everything we wrote became the Zentangle Method as we now teach it.

On the last night of our stay, after trying on many names, we still hadn’t found one that fit. Although we did like the word “tangle” to describe our new method of drawing patterns.

As we played with words that rhymed with "tangle", one of us said “Zentangle.” It was like finally putting on a shoe that fits after trying on many ill-fitting ones. All at once, we both exclaimed, “That’s It!”

We did an online search for “Zentangle.” No one was using it. “Zentangle” it would be! We reserved and began the process to register our name.

(Rick meditated for years, although contrary to reports, he never practiced Zen or Zen Buddhism. But we do have fun saying, “He’s Zen and she’s tangle.” And if you’ve met us, you know why! :-)

Interesting side note: When Maria and Rick first began "dating" one of their primary topics of conversation was geometry, specifically sacred geometry or the topic of Fibonacci proportions and patterns. Maria was using them in her art and design work and Rick was using them in analyzing the price movements of companies and commodities. This was a forecast of the aspect of Zentangle art which mirrors the geometric and fractal nature of the patterns found throughout creation.