Looking for abstract forms for art therapy? Consider using Zentangles®.

Zentangles® are abstract, completely unplanned, drawings. There is no right or wrong direction in the paper, no up or down, no orientation at all. You start drawing and before you know it, a pattern will emerge from your strokes. You shouldn’t have a purpose in mind before you begin, just to think of it as a form of meditation.

Zentangles® were created by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. They discovered that drawing abstract shapes with no definitive purpose and in complete concentration is a form of artistic meditation. That’s why it is crucial to be focused on what you are doing and to enjoy doing it by avoiding distractions, as you will do when you meditate.

That is the big difference between zentangles and doodles. Zentangles should be made in complete concentration, focusing on your breath, whereas doodling is just sketching on a piece of paper, without being completely mindful in the process.

Zentangles® are proven to be a great source to increase creativity and to improve your well being. It is a form of mindfulness because it disconnects you from the outside world and it invites you to concentrate and breathe throughout the process.

That’s why, when drawing tangles, you must have some constraints (size of the paper, use of ink, concentration, etc), because these constraints are proven to be the pillars to disconnect you and keep you focused in your zentangle. You can read further on the purpose behind every indication here.

1. Grab white paper, a pencil and a pen with black ink.

2. The size of the paper should be 9x9cm (3.5in).

3. Draw a light square border with a pencil.
Don’t use a ruler, instead make the square as you like. It is your own creation, so it will be as unique as you are. This square is made with a pencil because later on it will not be visible once you finish your creation drawn with black ink.

4. With the pencil draw a string or a curved line inside the border.
This will divide the border (the square you created in the step before) into different sections. Don’t over think it, remember there is not right or wrong, it is your own free string.

5. Now grab the pen and start with your first tangle.

Tangles are:

  • Patterns drawn along the string made out of simple shapes, usually three.
  • Not recognisable as something, they are completely abstract.
  • An overall pattern, not a single motif.

6. Keep drawing your tangles, you will know when to stop, it would be whenever you feel like it.

The video below was made after completing the zentangle. I was concentrated doing it, but later on I felt inspired to show you the steps behind the zentangle. It was done on a piece of paper, but it was scanned and digitally converted. And, lo and behold, once I finished drawing I felt inspired to compose the music.

Please leave your comments below and share any experiences you have had with Zentangles®. Do you feel mindful when doing it? Do you feel relaxed?