A to Z of Zentangle

T is for Tangle, Day 20 of the A to Z of Zentangle Challenge #atozchallenge

You know the rest of the quote. A rose on a bed of tipple.

It’s Dictionary Day. I use the word ‘tangle’ a lot. And grammarly flags it every single time.

  • tangle (n): a named pattern that can be broken down into simple, repeated strokes.
  • tangle (v): to draw tangles.

Breaking down the noun definition: a named pattern.

A tangle has a name, which helps us talk about it. Do not worry about memorizing all of the names. It is like meeting a bunch of people at a party. You can chat with them and enjoy their company even if you don’t remember their name at first. If you meet them over and over and become friends, you’ll naturally learn their name. It is the same with tangles. After a while, you’ll naturally learn their names.

And, speaking of names, a tangle name should be non-representational. Think of tangles published by Zentangle: Hollibaugh, Static, Knightsbridge. Their name does not describe and therefore limit the result. A very popular artist just released a pattern called compass daisies. Is it beautiful? Absolutely. Is it a tangle? I think not. Tangles do not need guidelines, and they are not supposed to look like anything. Does that mean you can’t use it? Of course not. Just understand that when you use a pattern like that, you CAN make a mistake. With a tangle, you cannot.

that can be broken down into SIMPLE, REPEATED strokes.

Have you seen so-called tangles that have dozens of complex steps? Have you tried any of them? Not every tangle is for everyone, but if you’ve tried a tangle and find that you just “can’t do it” then it is probably the pattern’s fault and not yours. Anyone can publish something and call it a tangle. There is no one policing the Zentangle world, so they may or may not be tangles.

Verb: to tangle

“Tangling” is what you do. Since Zentangle is a trademark, you should not say that you are “Zentangling” out of respect for Rick and Maria’s intellectual property. Did you know that aspirin was once a trademark?

What is your favorite tangle?

Missed the beginning of the series? It all starts with  Appreciation.

7 thoughts on “T is for Tangle, Day 20 of the A to Z of Zentangle Challenge #atozchallenge

  1. All of your daily tangles are wonderful & I’m so happy that you have commented on what a tangle is. Back in the day, when I first began tangling, I found much joy in making the simple lines & watching a pattern or shape develop, but so many patterns, drawings, challenges, etc. have cropped up that I find it all overwhelming. I need to get back to the simple pleasure of making art one stroke at a time. Thank you for that reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cris, I so agree with what you are saying. I find it somewhat sad that people who are newly coming to Zentangle may be missing the heart of the process…and that is simplicity. Yes, there are “official” tangles that are complex, but even those can be created one basic stroke at a time. The new people may see these representational tangles with sometimes complex steps and think that’s real Zentangle. It may intimidate some who can really benefit from the simple calm that can come from Zentangle as created by Rick and Maria.
    One of the reasons I so highly recommend your books to my students is the way you stress learning a few tangles inside out rather than collecting hundreds.
    Thank you for your voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been thinking about your comment about Helen Williams’ new tangle and I respectfully disagree with your opinion that it’s not a tangle. Here’s why: it uses only TWO of Zentangle’s elemental strokes – the orb (drawn once) and the curved line or C-stroke as I call it, which is repeated over and over and over. Drawing the “Compass Daisy” is actually quite easy and meditative. It meets the criteria of “a named pattern that can be broken down into simple, repeated strokes”. If your objection is about her penciled construction of the framework, you have a point; however, once that is done I see no difference between tangling within that framework and using the Zentangle-produced pre-strung Zendalas.

    I completely understand (and agree with) your concern about patterns that have too many and too complicated steps. Perhaps a better example, tho, would have been more helpful?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jan. Perhaps you are right. I was turned off by the framework, but never thought of it like a prestrung zendala. It just looked like you need great precision to draw it and the “compass” in the name turned me off. I don’t even own a compass. If I can’t freehand then I generally trace something round 🙂

      I wasn’t trying to diss the pattern. I guess it is just the name that I reacted to. The name to me implies what it is supposed to look like and I am very wary about that. I have several students that worry so much about what their work is “supposed to” look like that I will not teach anything with a representational name.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.


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