Practicing Zentangle vs. a Zentangle Practice

I belong to several groups on Facebook, related to the topic of Zentangle. I often see comments about “practicing” Zentangle:

“What do you practice on?”

“I practice in pencil and go over it in pen.”

“I’m only practicing, so I don’t want to use expensive tiles.”

“Your work is so beautiful! I guess I need more practice.”

Now, you can do anything you want with your art. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. Maria and Rick have said, the more often you tangle, the more muscle memory you will build and the more comfortable the strokes will become. So yes, repeating strokes and tangles over and over will increase your skill, and you will have more control over your linesin re.

“Practice”, as in repetition to enhance skill, is not a direct part of the Zentangle Method. It is an unintended and welcome result, of course, but if your goal is to improve, you are missing out on the now. Each stroke is an opportunity…where will it lead you? To an unintended outcome that may be better than you were expecting.

If you have no expectations, then you cannot fail. You cannot fail at this. Each person, each attempt at a tangle, is a unique experience with a unique look. There never was nor ever be another exactly like it. If precise replication was our goal, we would use a computer. There is no ideal version of a tangle, and we shouldn’t hold ourselves to some unattainable standard. Yes, if you are a beginner, your tangles will look different than someone who has been doing this for months or years. And that is as it should be.

Something I’ve found in my own experience. My work is consistently “better” when I approach it with focus and dedication, when I approach each tangling session as if I am creating art (because I am). It makes for a more relaxing, enjoyable experience. On the other hand,  when I’m tangling just to get it done, like when I’m filling in my A Tangle A Day calendar, my work is often sloppy. I’m distracted, I’m just trying to get it done. I use this little notebook as a Zenthology (anthology) of all the tangles I know, so I can just flip through when I need to choose my next tangle.

Another benefit of always working on tiles is the ability to look back and see how far you’ve come. How often, in fine art, are the preliminary sketches displayed with the final painting? It is a valuable and insightful opportunity for us to see the evolution of an idea. All of your work is art, and deserves the finest materials and all your focus.

You are a unique individual with your own style. Every stroke you make is worthy of the finest artist materials. I can’t stress that enough. You are worthy. The Zentangle Method was designed to build you up, not beat yourself up. If you don’t like something about your tile, try shading it. Turn it around – it will look different upside down or sideways. Leave it for a few days. You will see something different. What you perceived as a mistake may not be noticeable anymore, or may add the character that makes the piece. If all else is not satisfying, put a Bronx Cheer on it. Acknowledge yourself as a work in process, and know that the next time you draw that tangle, you will have a different experience.

The Zentangle Method was designed to be relaxing, a way to cultivate mindfulness. The art is an extra, a bonus.

This is running long, so I’ll save Zentangle as a Practice for another post. Until then, be kind to yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and keep telling yourself “I am an artist. I am worth.”

Because you are.

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