Tangle art? It’s a thing. Perhaps you have heard of tangle art or Zentangle®, but do not know what it is. Maybe you know what it is, but do not know how to get started. Allow me to walk you through the process so it will be easy for you to start creating your very own tangled pieces. All the art you will see in this post is tangled.
Simply stated, tangle art – or tangling – is a relaxing, meditative fun art style that focuses on and follows detailed step-by-step instructions for various patterns. Literally, if you can draw the shapes I, C, S and O you can tangle and create pieces like you see here in my post. Honestly, you can!
Recently I was a Guest Artist here on Doodlewash. In that post, you can see quite a few of my tangled artworks. As a result, I thought you might be interested in learning how to enjoy this style of art for yourself.
Tangling in its truest form is easily portable and that calls for few supplies! To get started all you need is:
- a permanent black pen – I currently use the Zensations Technical Pens from Zebra Pen
- pencil (graphite) for shading
- tortillon (paper stump) to smudge the graphite
- paper to tangle on – typically a 3.5″ white square
- and that is it! Easy peasy!
So, what do you do once you have your supplies? Clear your mind of all thoughts and just concentrate on the process. Focus on drawing one line at a time, one line after another, and before you know it you will have a completed, lovely piece of tangled art!
Traditional Zentangle calls for a 3.5″ square of white paper commonly referred to as a tile.
Step One: Using your pencil, make a dot in each of the four corners.
Step Two: Still using the pencil, drawing a light pencil line connecting the dots to form a border.
Step Three: Again with the pencil, draw a string (or line) to tangle within. The string divides your area into sections where you will create your art.
Step Four: Switch to the permanent black pen and tangle a different pattern inside each section created by the string. More about this in a minute.
I want you to look at this tile. I intentionally did not edit it to make it look better. I want you to see every place my lines don’t meet. Every place the black sections aren’t completely filled in – even though they looked like it to my 65 year old eyes. Hahaha! In tangling we are not striving for perfection. We are relaxing, being intentional in drawing one line after the other. We are “getting into the zone.” And even with all its imperfections, each piece of art is beautiful in its own right.
Step Five: When you have completed the drawing aspect, use the pencil to add shading in the places where lines overlap, where there are valleys, where there are lower areas, and where sections meet. Then use the tortillon to smudge those pencil marks. You can even use a fingertip to smooth the shaded areas if you wish.
In step four I mentioned you would need some tangle patterns to fill the sections with. Tangle patterns like Shiretown are a repetitive combination of lines (I, C, S and O) that have step-by-step directions. We call these step-outs. The first line you draw is typically shown in red. Then each additional step is show in red as you build on what you have already drawn. By simply following steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 you can tangle Shiretown. There are many places to find tangle patterns, with the most popular site being Tangle Patterns I would also recommend Musterquelle which can be translated into over 35 different languages.
In its truest form, a tangled piece of art would be 3.5″ square and completed on white paper with a black pen. It is non-representational. It does not look like an animal or a flower or an ocean or a garden scene. It is abstract and intuitive.
As their skill develops, many tanglers begin to feel they could do much more with their tangle art and that is when color and representation is introduced. Tangle Inspired Art is any size, any color, and of any representation. My favorite thing to tangle is a beautiful underwater world. In full glorious color! I love to add movement with the way I curve the lines. The piece above was created on Hahnemühle Harmony Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper. It is pretty much perfect for watercolored tangle art!
Garden scenes are another favorite. Every element you see in the above photo is a specific tangle pattern. It just depends on how you use them in combination with each other.
I have even been known to tangle a dragon or two . . . or three or more. Hahaha! Who am I kidding? Dragons are my absolute favorite!
Tangle art can be traditional:
Tangle art can be inspirational:
Tangle art can be organic:
Tangle art can be completely free form:
Tangle art can be digital:
Tangle art can even be whimsical! (This is my all-time favorite piece I have made!)
Truly, tangling can be all these things. But most importantly, it should be relaxing, fun and easy to do. And remember you can tangle anywhere you can carry a pen and a piece of paper. Absolutely anywhere!
So, what are you waiting for? Gather up your supplies and get started. Once again, my favorite places to find tangle patterns are Tangle Patterns and Musterquelle, and you can always head over to Google or Pinterest. Just search tangle patterns. There are literally thousands of them out there! Need a tangly place to hang out? I admin a Facebook group of 5,400+ members. The group is called Tangle All Around. Come join us! Just knock on the door and I will let you in!
I want to leave you with a video I made showing steps one through five, then a couple places you can find me on the web. Have a great time tangling! You are going to love it! I promise!
I have published numerous books about tangling. Click here to view my Author’s Page on Amazon, to visit my website or see my Etsy shop!
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20 thoughts on “Tangle Art: Getting Started With Alice Hendon”
Nicely done, Alice!! As a fellow tangle artist, I love the way you explained the process and your samples have given me some wonderful inspiration. As always, I remain, a huge fan and follower of yours. Thank you for showing the watercolor world our obsession.
Thank you for the wonderful comments, Jodi. I appreciate you following my art as well. Us tanglers gotta be there for each other. ❤️ Glad I could be some inspiration for you.
Tangle Art… Interesting and very structured… Interesting…. In a way I like it, but never tried. But I might someday…. Thanks for the info.
Thanks, Walt, if you try it you will like it. It’s only as structured as you want it to be. A very flexible art style.
Beautiful tangle art! It is so relaxing to do.
It is for sure 😊
I enjoyed seeing your artwork! 🎨💕 I enjoy tangling too or doodling as I call it. ☺️ It is very relaxing. I prefer to do more freeform designs myself. I like how you added watercolor to some of your designs like the ocean scene. Excellent! 👍
Thank you, Jill. Free form is really what I personally prefer as well.
Wonderful write-up, Alice. You’ve explained the method so clearly. Now I want to go off and do some tangling!
Thank you, Sandra, you do some beautiful tangling !
Great article, Alice. Zentangle has saved my sanity more than once as it helps me thru discomforting times, anxious times and just times when I don’t feel like doing anything else. As a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) I strive to teach this to all my students. Lovely artwork!
Thanks, terri, I have admired your art for some time now. Your students are blessed to have you.
Lovely art, Alice. Thanks for sharing it along with the outside links.
You’re welcome, sharon. Thanks for looking 😊
I like it. There was a recent post on Doodle Wash about another artist who also does Zentangle. I especially like the dragon and the one with the colourful wash in the background.
Thank you so much 😊
Wow…Thanks Alice for sharing so much information about tangles…Loved it all ! I need to resume my practice again…
Hi anita, thanks for reading. I hope you do get started tangling again
this is something I would love to learn how to do – thank you for the wonderfu artwork!
thank you so much, sorry I’m just now seeing your comment. we do a lot of this type of art in my FB group Tangle All Around. if you are interested 🙂