The History Of Zentangle

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Tangled Roots: The Origins of Zentangle, Pen Art and the Art of Drawing in Pencil

If you are a follower of this blog, then you know that I have been doing some research into the history of Zentangle and how it came to be. In my search for this information I have come across a lot of little tidbits that did not quite fit in with the main theme that I was researching about. I decided to create another blog especially for these little bits so I can still keep them all in one place and at the same time allow myself to continue my research. This way when I find something that is tangentially related to Zentangle, I can post it on this blog without having to worry about it taking away from my focus on Zentangle.

As you might guess from the title of this new blog, most of these tidbits will be about tangles or tangling as well as other art forms that also use pen art. You may also see me refer back to Tangled Roots: A Blog on the History of Zentangle and its Origins once in a while.

The first item up is an interesting one. It’s a print ad for a product called “Hair Magic” (I am not sure if

Zentangle has been around for over a decade, but many people still don’t understand where it came from or why. seeks to provide an unbiased view of the history of Zentangle and its origins for those who are interested in learning about it.

What is Zentangle? It’s simple drawing, but not as you know it. For more information on what exactly Zentangle is check out the What is Zentangle section.

If you have any questions about Zentangle that aren’t answered on this site, please feel free to ask them on my blog, where I will be happy to reply! is a work in progress and will grow as I learn more about the history of Zentangle. If you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to contact me.**/

Zentangle is a simple, easy-to-learn, relaxing method of drawing structured patterns that make artwork more beautiful. The Zentangle Method was developed by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, who introduced it to the public in January 2003. is an educational resource for artists interested in learning the Zentangle Method of drawing structured patterns. We offer free online classes and resources, including videos and articles on how to create beautiful drawings with the Zentangle Method. This blog concentrates on the history of Zentangle, its origins, and some of the people involved in its development.

It was in the year 1998 that Rick Roberts, an artist and art teacher, developed a new style of drawing. He had been teaching students to draw for more than thirty years and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of traditional drawing techniques.  He began to experiment with ways to encourage his students to draw within the confines of specific guidelines. Drawing in this way enabled his students to relax and focus on the process of drawing rather than on the final product. His experiments resulted in a system of drawing which he named Zentangle.

He gave a series of workshops focused on these techniques where he taught small groups of artists how to draw using Zentangle methods. They were so enthusiastic about these new drawings that they encouraged him to teach it to others. In 2001 he began teaching Zentangle in earnest as an adult class at Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Art, an art school in San Diego. It wasn’t long before word spread about this new style of drawing and people from outside the school wanted to learn it as well.

Rick began teaching workshops out of his home and at local venues, turning his living room into what he called “the first official Zentangle headquarters”.

Rick continued developing Zentangle through experimentation, collaboration with other artists,

Zentangle was created by a group of people involved in the art world and in particular, a group of teachers.

How did this happen?

Ray says, “I started the drawings in 2003 after a drawing exercise at an art retreat in Santa Fe. I thought it would be fun to turn it into a social media art movement so I started a Yahoo Group for sharing Zentangle images. After that, we invited teachers from around the country to come to Santa Fe for an invitational workshop called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. We taught Zentangle to them and they went back to their towns and cities and taught their students. By 2006, we had over 600 teachers using Zentangle with their students.”

Zentangle is an easy-to-learn, relaxing and fun method of creating beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. Zentangle is deceptively simple. It’s a new way to approach art, one that invites creativity, development of observation and pattern recognition skills, along with a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment.

The name “Zentangle” was coined in 2003 by Rick Roberts, co-founder of the Center for Integrative Research and Learning at the University of Texas at Austin. Rick drew tangles (a term used by Dr. Maria Thomas) randomly on paper while brainstorming with colleagues in order to generate ideas for projects and publications. He would then relax by “tangling” them into beautiful images, which often took hours to complete.

Tangles are not drawn following a specific step-by-step procedure, but are created through a process of relaxing and letting your mind go blank as you look at the patterns and attempt to recreate them on paper. Tangles are usually drawn using various geometric shapes such as circles and squares as well as lines.*

Zentangle is a drawing technique that has been popularized in the past few years. The basic idea for the Zentangle was inspired by the art of Madeline G. Levine, an artist and teacher who developed this style of drawing, called “Zentangle”, from a method she’d learned from Maria Thomas in 1994.

Tangled lines are drawn in patterns on a tile-like surface and filled with shading to create interesting images.

Zentangle art has been popularized by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, who teach this technique in classes across the country. You can find out more about Zentangle art by visiting The Zentangle site.*

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