People do not remain neutral to seeing Zentangle art. Some are immediately dismissive, seeing the line drawings as little more than graffiti. Lifelong doodlers will see it as “what I have been doing for years”. Others, captured by the line drawings, remain with eyes fixed, not quite able to pull themselves from the art, not knowing what holds them to this art form. As a therapist, my surprise has been the strength of the emotional responses of many people, (including my own, at times), to these simple line drawings. Here are two recent examples:

A 30-year-old pregnant account executive, in the middle her session, stared downward.

"You wrote on your shoes!” She exclaimed. "My mother would have a fit. She always fussed at me whenever I would doodle on my shoes because I was so bored in class."

"But these are my shoes" I responded.

“It doesn't matter”, she replied, “my mother would still have of fit”.

“But, now you are old enough to buy your own shoes. You can write on them whenever you wish…..”   I began, thinking this was an opportunity for therapeutic intervention.
“My mother would still have a fit!” the client interrupted, “She says you’re not supposed to write on your shoes.

 I can understand people writing on their shoes, or even on their clothes, as a personal statement. But, do these “Zentanglers” carry this a bit too far in their expressive quests?

I, too, have an emotional, almost judgmental, response that says “people are not suppose to write on walls with Sharpies, or on the floor, or their cars”; a feeling that wells up within me when I see photos of any 'tangles' on otherwise pristine surfaces. These Zentangle art people -- they find a way, just like graffiti artists, to practice their craft wherever they find a blank space. Making “string lines”, they just start drawing; like some inspired (or possessed) person in an altered state.

After a fourth-year teacher from Spring Garden, a private elementary school, took a Zentangle class with Deborah, she proceeded to teach her fourth-graders how to make a Zentangle. This art form became the rage in the students’ homes. At the annual fund-raising event, even the brochure announcing the annual fundraiser was decorated with the Zentangle art.   An ensemble of the 20 students' Zentangle cards fetched a high bid of $325.00!   For fourth grade students, no less.
At this benefit auction, my bid won me a safe deposit box for life, prompting a visit to a local bank I'd never seen before.

In explaining the flier’s artwork as “Zentangle” art to the young bank manager, I pointed out the use of Zentangle art on my shoes. She appeared intrigued, explaining she has been an avid doodler all her life.

A week later, when a note came from the bank thanking me for having stopped into secure my safe deposit box and inviting me to make use of the banking services, the entire front of the bank's thank you note was covered with a very intricate and time-consuming form of the Zentangle art. The bank manager obviously must have taken me seriously and looked up the word Zentangle on the internet.

It so impressed me. Any branch manager who takes such care when writing a thank you note surely would exercise care in taking care of the money I deposit to her branch.

The Thank You Card

A writer once said, "That which is written with little effort, is read with little interest."

Is it the amount of focused time, attention, and creative energy that goes into one of these 3 1/2 inch squares that creates in people the fascination with this art form?

Does the artist imbue the work with an energy that emanates out to the viewer, capturing and holding her attention no differently than when one observes other line drawings created by artists from cave dwellers to Kandinsky.

Or, is there something primitive or primal in this work that touches a place deep in our archetypal unconsciousness of which were not yet aware?

"The mission of art is to inspire wordless awe." Alex Grey writes in his insightful book, The Mission of Art.

Wordless awe seems to be the most common, and perhaps most appropriate response to viewing any Zentangle art that has been created with concentrated, focused attention. Wordless awe is our most common response to great works of art, great music, mystical spiritual experiences, and even transcendent sexual experiences. (ever watch two artists in class look up from their work, smile at each other as if to say, “Was that as good for you as it was for me?”)

All of these experiences put us in touch with some great creative force that seems to come not from us, but through us; Experiences that, when we are open to them, change us is some way. We know we have been touched deeply in some way and there is now no way of going back. Such seems to be the experience of people becoming engaged in this Zentangle art form.  It has been mine.

Next,    Zentangle as a Spiritual Movement

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