Authors: Kass Hall
It’s a made-up word that many people have never heard, and those who have will tell you their thoughts on what it is.
“It’s doodling.” I’ve heard that a lot.
“I used to draw like that in high school.” I hear that a lot, too.
“That is not real art.” Not my favorite response.
I’m not going to sit here and tell anyone that they are wrong in their assumptions about what Zentangle is and why it’s not what most people think. I believe that the best way to make my point is by showing you why it’s different from anything you’ve seen or done before.
That said, for the uninitiated, Zentangle is
what you think. It’s so much more.
And after I have convinced you of that, I’m going to show you new ways of creating Zentangle-inspired art.
It is simple. It is achievable. And you don’t even have to be able to draw. Why not, you ask? Because, actually, you can draw. Anyone can. You just need the tools and the know-how, and that’s where this book comes in.
Zentangle is about being thoughtful. Deliberate. Focused. You cannot rush Zentangle. It won’t let you, because it forces you to stop, think about and feel what you’re doing.
Zentangle can also be fast—it’s realistic to find ten minutes in your day in which to complete a Zentangle artwork.
I often meet people who see my Zentangle-inspired artwork and tell me they can’t draw, they aren’t patient enough or they don’t have the time to devote to creative activity. One of the great joys in being a Certified Zentangle® Teacher (CZT) is that I can prove them wrong and introduce them to a whole new world. A world of creativity. Confidence. Calm.
Zentangle is about embracing beauty—our own and that all around us. It is also about embracing the imperfections of life—in ourselves, in our world and, most important here, in our art. Like life, Zentangle is less than perfect. When my students worry that their lines are not straight, I ask them why they have to be straight. I ask them to find the beauty in the wonky lines they’ve drawn. It’s initially difficult for many, but they all eventually find their way to acceptance of their art. Joyfully, this often leads to acceptance of themselves.
I took craft classes on Saturday mornings, I made my own recycled paper and I made my own gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Was I artistically talented? Fair to say, not very! But I loved it, and that was all that mattered to me.
In 2009, I was completing both my Bachelor of Visual Art and Design degree and Graduate Certificate in Secondary Education university programs (things were busy!). Toward the end of the school year, I saw an article in
Cloth Paper Scissors
about Zentangle. Full of interesting drawings and color, it immediately caught my attention, and I soon discovered the online world of Zentangle.
Little did I know how my life was about to change!
Soon after, on a preplanned trip to New York, I contacted a local CZT, Robin Kraut, and we met in a coffee shop near New York University. Within minutes, I was a convert and proud owner of a Zentangle® kit. Our two-hour meeting became significantly longer!
My kit became especially important to me in 2010 when I went through a very difficult situation with my work and health; Zentangle® became my escape from the stress and anxiety I felt. I literally spent weeks at a time working on pages in a journal I had with preprinted photos of blank walls. It was the only thing I could do to stay focused and calm. I took my book and pen to restaurants, parties, doctor’s appointments—anywhere. When I became stressed, I threw myself into my tangles and withdrew from the activities around me. What I didn’t consciously realize at the time, but do now, is that I was using art as my therapy—and Zentangle sat firmly in the middle of that therapy. My psychiatrist thought it was magic.
Before I knew it, I was signing up to return to the United States to attend a Certified Zentangle® Teaching seminar, the training necessary to become a CZT. At that stage, there were no CZTs in Australia, and after the tumultuous year I’d had, it was something I needed to do. I felt it was a fulfilment of the journey I’d unwittingly begun the year before. I got on the plane, not knowing if this would simply be a neat wrap-up of my year or the beginning of something else.
Since then, I’ve taught classes across Australia and New Zealand, from small classes all the way up to major expo crowds. It has been quite a ride, one that may never end, such is the importance of this wonderful drawing form in my life.
Zentangle remains therapeutic and relaxing for me. I’ve suffered from serious illness throughout my life. While producing the work in the pages that follow, I was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time. Some days are harder than others, and I am lucky to have found an activity that can calm my mind and distract me from the realities of my life right now. I do struggle sometimes with illness, depression, mortality (all the fun stuff!). I am a mere human after all. It’s so beneficial that I can turn to Zentangle, focus my mind, find a relaxed place in my soul and remember: This is life. It is now. And despite everything, it’s pretty awesome.
Zentangle has also brought many friends and kindred spirits into my life. Would I know them if not for the Internet? If not for Zentangle? Definitely not, yet their love and support means so much. When I was diagnosed again, many friends provided artwork for this book to reduce my workload. Initially I didn’t want contributors, but I can see now how much they bring to the pages that follow—and to me personally. I am so grateful for their generosity and talent, and I know you’ll appreciate them, too, as you come across their work.
I have finally found an artistic home, a foundation for what else I do. I hope you might find similar enjoyment from it.