Is Zentangle Really an Art Form?

Today’s topic is a little controversial in some circles, and that’s why I think it’s important to discuss. When it comes to Zentangle®, the fact of the matter is that it is an art form, and it’s okay if it’s very different from more traditional art that graces museum and exhibition walls. That’s one reason I like it–it’s a little rebellious, and it challenges us, even if only at first, to ask ourselves how we define art and what it means to us. 

Zentangle by Trish Reinhart

Zentangle World (pen and marker on bristol board, 11×8.5) by Trish Reinhart

“There has been much debate over what Zentangle really is,” says Trish Reinhart, author of Creative Tangle: Creating Your Own Patterns for Zen-Inspired Art. There are those who think it’s nothing more than ‘mindless doodling.’ Which then escalates to asking, ‘Can doodling really be considered an art form?’ I view doodling and Zentangle as totally different exercises, each serving a specific purpose.” 

Zentangle by Trish Reinhart

Summer in Georgia (mixed media on cold-pressed illustration board, 11×9) by Trish Reinhart

Doodling = Personal

“Ordinary doodling serves two purposes,” Reinhart says. “The first is just to mindlessly pass time. This type of doodling is what students draw on the cover of their notebooks when they’re bored during a history lecture. The images and wording on the cover of that notebook appear random and disconnected. Doodling’s second purpose is to serve as a form of journaling, which is commonly found in scrapbook pages. In journaling, the text itself becomes art.” 

Zentangle = Purposeful

Reinhart goes on to explain: “A Zentangle’s intertwining patterns have a definite flow and rhythm. You could draw a Zentangle on a notebook, but it wouldn’t look like an ordinary doodle. Although it’s not in the standard square format, it does connect and relate to the confines of the page, either flowing from the top to the bottom of a paper’s edge or unfurling from one corner. Journaling can be incorporated into a Zentangle as long as it lies within a quadrant or becomes part of the overall pattern, again, with purpose and connectivity. 

“Some of the best ways to successfully apply a Zentangle in scrapbooking are to draw directly on the corner or edge of the scrapbook paper or decorate mats to frame the pictures on the page. 

“With scrapbooking, you can certainly throw a Zentangle into the same arena as doodling, but you wouldn’t consider a doodle suitable for framing and hanging on your wall. Some Zentangle patterns are so interesting and beautiful, you’ll want to showcase them as works of art!” 

Some of my favorite Zentangle art features recognizable subjects, such as wildlife, that are composed of specific tangles, complete with shading and colorful hues that were created with intention, practice and skill.

Your art-loving friend,

Cherie Haas, online editor**Free download! Mixed Media Techniques: 3 Step-by-Step Art Projects
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The Zentangle® Method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc


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