Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tangled Up in Zen

The claim of the author of ZENTANGLE® BASICS (Suzanne McNeill, a certified Zentangle teacher) is that Zentangle "turns drawings into artistic design while reducing stress and improving focus." Traditional Zentangle was developed by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is used as a learning tool for school children, stress reduction for adults, and it helps develop dexterity. Cool!

I don't know about you, but I can use all the stress reduction and focus improvement I can wrap my frenzied brain (and hands and eyes) around. Not that my life is particularly stressful at the moment. It isn't. But I can create stress for myself out of . . . well . . . anything. And I've got to admit, I have a hard time focusing when the world outside my window is turning greener and greener and greener. Focus on the weeds, I mutter to myself as I'm trying to draft my daily poem. As in PULLING them. Yeah, right.

It's SUMMER in Minnesota! Hallelujah and pass the BBQ ribs. Grilled steak. Corn on the cob. Not to mention the Weed&Feed fertilizer stuff for the yard. And all the gardening equipment. Curse the fact that I was too unfocused to start plants from seed and dropped all that cash at local nurseries . . . yeah, they probably need the $$ given the economy but so do we so maybe next year I'll . . . Ahhhh.

We've already had three sets of spring/summer visitors. Our friends Rose & Rick were here from Illinois, our daughter, Jennifer, popped up from Chicago for a long weekend of art-making and talk (wonderful), and most recently, my friend, Marilyn, made a pilgrimage by train from L.A. It was Marilyn who got me thinking about doing Zentangles (or as they say in the jargon I read: "tangling" -- I love that). As usual, I assumed my interest in it was for HER. You'd love this! I said, sincerely believing myself. Well, actually, I think she would. But it wasn't until after she'd headed back home that I realized the designs looked a lot like doodling I used to do when I was in boring classes in high school and college, and even more like doodling I did later in boring meetings at boring jobs, doodling that I've lost since I don't sit in classes and meetings any more and if I do, I make danged sure they aren't boring ones! So I ordered the book. Okay, okay, I ordered both of McNeill's books (ZENTANGLE BASICS and ZENTANGLE 2). Yeah, all right, I also ordered TOTALLY TANGLED by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. (I am single-handedly trying to right the economy.)

Long story even longer: I am hooked. Took me back a bunch of years. Brought me forward. Yup, it's relaxing. And it's so much fun to do. It's kind of addictive but in a good way. After I did a bunch of the patterns in little squares like they tell you to do, I started venturing out. I filled in a sketch I'd done for one of my "Woman at a Crossroads" mixed media pieces (that's the one above). And, inspired by the cover of Sandy's book, I tangled one of the girls I frequently draw. Here she is.

I'm fairly smitten with her now that she's all patterned up, where before I had been known to wonder out loud as I doodle, Why do I keep drawing these faces???

If you were wondering, no, tangling is NOT the reason I'm not working on a writing project. Tangling is what's keeping me from chewing my nails to the quick as my completed YA novel makes the rounds looking for an editorial home. On that basis alone, I recommend it.

Now, if it were winter (or even fall or early spring), I'd be working on novel # 2 or novel # 3. But did I mention? It's summer in Minnesota, I finished a novel (hallelujah and pass the black-eyed peas) and my agent's doing her magic with it, we counted 26 goslings sailing across the pond with their adoring parents (geese can be annoying, but they are the BEST parents), the red-winged blackbirds must have babies in the reeds because they keep attacking the egrets as they come to fish in the shallows, the weeds in our gardens are waving at me, the deck needs painting, and next month more welcome visitors are coming!


Barbara Bietz said...


Congrats on your new blog! I love "tangling!" It seems like art that is accessible and fun. Hope all is well with you!

Barbara B

Marilyn said...


The visit was wonderful and. as always, you inspired me in many ways. Thanks for introducing me to "tangling". I can't wait to give it a try. I love the work you shared here.

Many thanks,

Julie Williams said...

Thanks, Marilyn! It was great having you here. I think you're going to enjoy "tangling." It's much easier than it looks and whatever shape you're putting the pattern in alters how the pattern looks so the variety is endless. It sure has succeeded in keeping me from any weed-pulling. (Well, that and the rain!)

Linda Townsdin said...

Your blog always inspires me. Now I have something new to check out--Zentangles. Thanks! Also love your descriptions of pond life. Makes me nostalgic.

Sarah Laurenson said...

That looks very fun and relaxing. Probably much more so than computer games involving math and sudoku.

Julie Williams said...

Oh, I don't know. I think "tangling" is maybe more meditative. But I find Sudoku very relaxing -- I do the daily one in the newspaper every morning. (Online so it has that nifty notating function.) :-) And some on paper before going to bed. It took a couple years (I'm NOT a math person) but I'm finally completing level 5. Yeah!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Time sink warning

Many versions of sudoku and other games

Julie Williams said...

Thanks, Sarah . . . I think! :-)