Zentangle Spells Relief
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 (www.centralmasswca.org). 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
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
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.