Zentangles as a basis for abstract intuitive painting
In this blog post, I will tell you about the inspiration I found in the Classic Zentangle, and how it became the starting point for the Free and the Extra Free Zentangle, and for abstract, intuitive painting in general.
It all started last night when I could not sleep.
I had done The Forbidden Thing: I worked on my computer until 10 o’clock in the evening. Staring at the blue screen, clicking around, switching tabs, comparing designs, as if I did not know anything about the detrimental effect that working late behind a computer has on your sleep.
But: I was so excited about the design of my new website that I couldn’t stop working on it, and since there was no sweet husband at home who just would turn the WiFi off and tell me to go to bed, I just worked on until I heard him coming back.
So when I could not sleep that night, I was not surprised. I knew it was completely my fault, and after half an hour of lying awake, I went down to make a cup of tea.
Looking around for something non-stimulating to read, I bumped into a book about Zentangles that I had borrowed for my 11-year-old son. In the summer vacation, he had played around with a fine marker. There he had made drawings that looked like Zentangles, so I thought he might like getting some inspiration from this book.
Zentangling as meditation
When I looked in the book, I found out that there is a whole culture around these intricate graphic paintings. All kinds of predefined patterns exist, they even have beautiful and exotic names like Crescent Moon, Shattuck, Nipa, Betweed, Cruffle, Poke Root, Verdigogh, Btl Joos, Flux and Zander.
Moreover, Zentangles are supposed to be meditative and to draw you into the Now. They get you out of your head and into the simple movement of the pen on paper, letting the pattern arise – without too much thinking.
The writer of the book even claims that by regularly tangling your life gets more balanced. You can handle the daily chaos that most of us live in more easily and create harmony in your life.
The Free Zentangle
My aspirations were not so high that night though. I just wanted to sleep! I thought making a Zentangle would be the perfect thing to settle down, and help my chattering mind to become silent.
But: to be honest, I became a little bit recalcitrant by the predefined patterns and the slightly ‘kitch’ examples in the book.
So I thought: why not make up a Free Zentangle myself? Not use the prescribed patterns, but just the images that exist in my head. While still being true to the philosophy of the Zentangle by letting the shapes arise by themselves, simply focusing on the process of moving the marker over the paper.
Probably I widened the concept of a Zentangle much too far by not using patterns, but: who cares! In abstract art making, there are no rules and regulations, and you can get inspired by anything around you.
The framework for Zentangles
From the book I learned that the Classic Zentangle is about 3,5” square – that is 9 cm square. You start by drawing this square as a framework, divide it into parts, and start filling them with patterns.
I liked the idea of making a framework, so I took that as a starting point. I took a simple marker that I also use for writing, and I started to draw. No thinking, just following my impulse.
All kinds of imagery arose on the paper. Mostly shapes that I recognise from my other paintings, but also new ones. Some look like animals or sea-creatures. Some are just abstract shapes. I loved doing it, and I also liked the drawings that came out of the process. I found them beautiful and funny.
Here they are: