Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



July 2010

"Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity. Zentangle provides artistic satisfaction and an increased sense of personal well being. Zentangle is enjoyed by a wide range of skills and ages and is used in many fields of interest."



Zentangle Spells Relief

Dear Reader,

I joined the Central Massachusetts chapter of Women's Caucus for Art several years ago and have enjoyed belonging more than I could have predicted ( Even though I cannot be as active lately because of too many commitments piled "up to here," I can list a few of the benefits that make my membership a must.

First, I have met some really great artists, women at various stages of artistic development, all welcomed into the group.

Second, one of those artists is Patsy McCowan, the gifted photographer who created my website and manages it every month. I think you will agree that she makes my work look great.

Third, the chapter exhibits twice a year. I had the pleasure of serving a two-year stint as exhibitions coordinator, met more artists and learned a ton of new skills [Judy's Journal 2005-August].

Fourth, the chapter sponsors workshops where members can take advantage of trying out new ways of making art. A visit to the website (also created and managed by Patsy) will tell you about two workshops: Artist's Trading Cards and Zentangles. The latter was the focus of a workshop led by Catherine Rogers last May. I recommend Googling the term to read more about this fascinating artistic practice.

I cannot sit still long enough to doodle. I would rather pace. Zentangles were exactly what I needed to learn, because it is an exercise in mindful drawing.

At the beginning of the workshop, Catherine passed out the simple materials: pre-cut 3½ squares of 90 lb. watercolor paper, an .01 archival pen, and an artist's pencil.

Catherine worked from a large tablet on her easel to show us steps in organizing the space. Then she modeled five patterns, one at a time. Slowly. Patiently. Quietly. After what seemed like a very short time, our group fell into a drawing trance. That afternoon, we each completed a few Zentangles. As we were winding down, it was our great pleasure to fill a table top with our work and gaze at each one.

Someone commented, "We were given the same pattern to work on (for example, fishnet) at the same time, and look how different they all are!" She was right. It seemed like the perfect combination of freedom and discipline.

Catherine suggested that we keep a Zentangle kit with us at all times. "Next time you are sitting in a waiting room, take out your materials and create." If we followed her advice, there would be no more frustrating searches for a magazine to read or the need to remember to pack a book.

I am hooked on Zentangles in ways that I could have never imagined. Yes, I have brought out my kit while waiting for an appointment. Little children are curious. A little girl said to her mother, "I want to do what she's doing." Yes, I have taught others how to do them. But I also bring out the kit at home when I am really frazzled and losing my balance. Zentangles calm me down. It's good for my blood pressure.

Zentangles have improved my "looking," which is the skill artists need to work on constantly. Now, when I drive along, I notice architectural details such as shingles, railings and fences that escaped me before. I never appreciated how much gorgeous, poetic repetition there is to see in one city block, especially in the older sections. The craftsmen left their work for a whole new audience: Zentangle fanatics!

I learned that, besides craftsmen, jewelry and fabric designers have been in on this for thousands of years. One visit to any museum with an antiquities collection will prove my point.

I used to think that drawing was a little too tied to reality. Not that there is anything wrong with that. However, I enjoyed it when I could riff on a mood and improvise, rather than record what was in front of me. Having serious fun is one of my art making standards and creating Zentangles earns high points.

A jolt came a few months later when I found myself incorporating these intricate patterns into my paintings. It seemed inevitable that my journey would be influenced by Zentangles and the world that Catherine Rogers opened up one Sunday afternoon.