“You are wrong.” 

I could not believe that those words were leaving my mouth! After 90 minutes of teaching and sharing the Zentangle method and philosophy…

  • Zentangle — It’s about consistency not perfection. 
  • No mistakes — Every line is an opportunity, we embrace every mark that is ours as artists.
  • There is elegance in limits.
  • My place in the circle, everyone’s place in the circle, is a unique perspective. No one else can see the same view.

I had been working with the participants to leave their inner critic “at the door”/outside the room and to develop a calm presence with a relaxed focus. Emphasizing the number of ways there are to use shadow (this isn’t art class), combine patterns or create their “chops”/signatures, underscored the flexible nature of this art form that has a handful of guidelines.

But in fact, the participant was wrong. 

When is the last time you were in a situation in which you needed to deliver the message that something was seriously amiss? What was the context? How did you prepare to deliver the words that feel like a bucket of cold water to the person receiving your message? How did you get back to a place where the conversation could move forward with each person feeling heard and understood? 

At the end of every class, we gather up everyone’s work to create a mosaic. We make time to appreciate the beauty of the individual tiles and the work of the entire group. The participants always remark on the similarities across the tiles and marvel at the differences they created, as each piece is unique.  

Everyone has the:

  • same instructions
  • same materials
  • same process

and yet everyone’s tile is different!

Yesterday, in organizing the tiles on the table, some of the folks in the group were particularly interested in ensuring that everyone’s tile was at the same orientation. Orientation can be discovered through where people put their chop on the tile. As we look at this nonrepresentational art, we search for clues as to how to interpret it, and the chop gives us the clue to the artist’s thinking. 

I never mention anything about how we might organize the tiles, I seek to understand what people want. I embrace whatever arises in the sharing of their work. To me, it’s really the cacophony of the styles and orientations in the mosaic that adds to its beauty. That’s my perspective!

Well, it was almost pistols at dawn! 

The tiles were organized as you see them here, with the chops at the bottom of all the tiles—which was (perhaps) easily understood if you were standing at either the top or the bottom of the mosaic. A woman standing next to me, on one side, was adamant that the tiles were not facing in the same direction and started to move a few around. There was a bit of back and forth about it. The air got prickly! I could sense the energy shift. I was surprised because this was the second set of tiles we were making into a beautiful gathering and the first time had been like butter. 

I felt the need to intervene quickly. And, while I was shocked and amazed—and I did think before saying it— I told the woman who was agitated, “I hate to say this (pause) you are wrong.” She was stunned! It took her back. And that led her to look differently at the tiles. I explained the reasoning again, and this time she was able to hear and see it. I sought to break the tension by pointing to Zentangle philosophy, about how this process helps us to shift and take a different perspective. Happily, everyone just started talking again and all was well. 

The event ended on a high note with people feeling energized and amazed at their own abilities. As I was packing up, one woman said, “I can’t believe I did this! I am not an artist” to which I replied, “You are now.” Then one of the men came up to me and told me this was the fourth time he was tangling with me—having taken classes with me over the years. In spite of our wearing masks, I had recognized him—though I didn’t remember that I had seen him three times previously. I was delighted that he continued to find joy in tangling!

I feel this when I am tangling…

“Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth


 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 14th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 


A deep dive into tangling!

If you’re ready to explore more deeply, join me for Zentangle Project Pack No. 14, a special tangling event to recognize the importance of Mental Heath Awareness. Look here to discover more! It’s going to be amazing!

I hope you will join me!

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