Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review - Zentangles

One of my latest infatuations - or obsessions, according to Dave - is Zentangling.  I discovered it on line and sort of made it up as I went along, guided by examples on Pinterest and other web-sites.  Before long, I decided I needed two things:  some actual instructions for some of the more advanced steps, like shading; and a way to keep all this information organized and handy.  

I purchased Zentangle Basics, Zentangle 2, Zentangle 3 and Zentangle 4 - all by Suzanne McNiell.  They were less than $5 each through  Each book is only about 20 pages, but contains 40 pattern samples (except Basics, which has 24) plus great ideas for using Zentangles in scrapbooking, on cards, and in other crafts for all ages.  

Now I needed an easy way to browse all those ideas without having to flip through four books and my Pinterest page.  My solution was simple.  I bought a 3-ring binder, graph paper and tab dividers.  I drew all the basic patterns I have learned onto the graph paper, dividing them into three sections:  Patterns, Flowers and Vines, and Borders.  Here are some sample pages:

As you can see, I made a few mistakes, but I just marked them out and tried again.  For a few of the more complex patterns, I drew out the actual steps for drawing rather than just the finished design.  As I learn new patterns, I just draw them in, adding pages as needed.  When I'm ready to draw a Tangle, I keep the notebook at hand for inspiration.

I also added a fourth section called Samples and Templates, which contains ideas I have printed off the internet and some basic shape outlines to trace.   I like using an outline of an object - a bird, a dress, a Christmas tree - as the foundation of my drawing.  Our daughter has an elephant motif going in her new apartment so we are Zentangling some elephants for her living room.

The elephant outline actually came from the teacher supply aisle at Hobby Lobby - a package of 50 elephant cut-outs for just over $1.  The idea was to draw right on the cut-outs, but they have a shiny finish that didn't work well, so I traced one onto brown card stock, filled in with patterns and added some metallic highlights.  Her plan is to cut out five elephants, place them on a scrapbook paper backing and frame individually, then hang an "elephant parade" on her wall.

Speaking of metallic highlights, brings me to pens.  I have tried a variety of pens/pencils and my favorite is still the Sharpie Ultra-Fine.  They tend to bleed a little, so I keep an extra sheet of sketch paper under the one I'm working on.  I recently found these Sharpie paint pens in metallics.  They don't work for detailed drawing because they spread, but they add a little sparkle in spots.  I also got some markers intended for mechanical drawing and illustrating, that work great for small spots; and some charcoal pencils and paper stumps for shading, but I haven't tried them yet.  I'm still learning and have a long way to go, but I'm having a lot of fun.


  1. YES! Zentangles!! The latest addiction going around. They say it can help a quilter with ideas for finishing a quilt in interesting ways. Because I am still learning in both camps, it's a slow go. My ideas are just too complicated to crossover onto fabric with a sewing machine, not to mention incredibly time consuming for a large quilt. Still, it's fun to doodle a pattern and get a pleasing result.

  2. Great post! I love zentangle but alos need some guidance other than the stuff you can find online. I had ogled those books for a while, so maybe I will finally get them now. LOVE your elephant. The parade will look fabulous!

  3. I'm excited to get started with the notebook you made for me! You failed to mention that you provided one for me with all of the patterns. What a thoughtful gift and so needed! I have seen the elephant in person - they are very cool!

  4. Great stuff, Tami! I love the elephant. I hadn't thought of using graph paper. My tangles tend to be a little more "free form".

  5. Oh my gosh, this looks like so much fun! It's like the doodling I like to do on steroids.