Zentangle vs. Doodles

Reprinted with permission from Verlin

Another response has come from someone who read over my blog posts on Zentangle and has seen my crosstrainer shoes asking, “What’s the difference between the Zentangles and my doodles? I’ve been doodling all of my life.”   It’s an honest questioning from someone who wants to know.

I often respond with, “Is your work teachable? Can you teach others to do what you do?” At that point, I find myself in a mini-lecture with this analogy to music.

The 102 “tangles” are a form of standardized notation, much as in music, that students first learn to master. Each Certified Zentangle Teacher learns to master these 102 tangles so as to be able to teach students to make art in the first two classroom hours. Standardized tangles make classroom instruction possible. The students soon learn to recognize these tangles in a complex looking piece of art the way musicians recognize chord structure in someone else’s music.

Yes, there are gifted artists who paint well without lessons, or gifted musicians who can write and play songs without reading music. But they have no method for teaching students their craft.

My father grew up in an Amish home where musical instruments were forbidden. While I was yet in grade school, I would see him bring home from his monthly excursions to the local auction barn keyboard musical instruments; a bellows organ, an upright piano, or several accordions. I would marvel as in a few minutes he could teach himself to play familiar hymns as the family sang along. His method of teaching me to solve any problem was, “If you just look at it long enough, it will come to you.”  My brain was not wired like his.  I never learned to play “by ear.”

For certain gifted people no lessons are necessary to create art; not so for the general population. We need a way of learning to make art we enjoy. Zentangle makes that possible for us “one stroke at a time.”