Zentangle® is an intuitive spontaneous art form that has attracted people all over the globe since its inception more than a decade ago. It was founded by life partners Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and grew out of an experience Maria had. She noticed the freeing, focused, peaceful feeling she had while drawing patters on a manuscript. Rick said that sounded like meditation and a new art process was born. Traditional Zentangles® are done on a 3 1/2 inch square paper tile although there are infinite possibilities to Zentangle®. The practice involves an appreciation for the experience; placing dots in each corner to anchor the border; drawing a border connecting the dots; drawing a string to divide the tiles; creating a tangle or deconstructed pattern within the string; shading to create depth; signing your creation and finally admiring and appreciating your creation.
Zentangle® is as complicated as it is simple, as whimsical as it is serious, and as intentional as it is spontaneous and intuitive. The real beauty is that anyone can do it and millions have. For Dallas, Texas resident Judith Logan, the discovery of Zentangle®’s patterns to peace have been nothing short of a lifeline. But creating art was not always dear to her heart.
“In 1953 I had the art teacher from Hell,” recalls Judy remembering his personal attacks when her creativity veered away from his assignments. “I didn’t draw again until 2002. I couldn’t draw. And then I found Zentangle® and it helped me reconnect with my love of art. You’re connecting lines and all of a sudden something appears. It’s exciting and fun.”
Judy grew up as an “Army brat” and met her husband Donald Logan in France when her father was stationed there. Donald was also serving in the Army as a physician. She was attending the University of Maryland in Munich, Germany before going on to study languages at the University of Poitiers in France. Don called to invite her to a Bridgette Bordeaux movie and the rest was history as they say. It wasn’t love at first sight, according to Judy, but it was close. She sailed back to the States and later received a telegram from Don asking her to marry him. It was 1960. She returned to France and they were married by the mayor of Poitiers. In France religious wedding ceremonies were not legal, according to Judy, so they were married by the Mayor March 12 and had a church wedding the following day.
Back in the states Don finished up his residency in Chicago and in 1965 they moved to Texas with two young children in tow, including a 10 day old baby. She had planned to go back to school but a growing family interrupted that plan. During a visit to Florida, while sequestered in her in-laws home with her youngest child, Judy discovered needlework, a craft that would become a career for her. “I absolutely fell in love with it,” says Judy. “I took a bunch of lessons and ended up teaching children’s classes in a neighborhood shop.” She was introduced to the Embroiderer’s Guild of America. “Our guild had several traveling teachers a year. I took classes at regional and national seminars. I took advantage of everything I could.”
Eventually the practice took its toll on her, and a litany of physical ailments such as tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome demanded a change. “I started stitching blackwork, which is basically Zentangle® with thread; geometric patterns with black thread on white fabric dating back to Tudor England in the 16th century.”
She pursued her teacher certification in blackwork through the Embroiderer’s Guild and later received a grant to go to England to study further. She taught a correspondence course through the Guild and offered workshops at national and regional seminars. Don supported her passion, buying her one of the early Macintosh computers, where she discovered she could create patterns online.
“Macular degeneration now keeps her from doing much embroidery. But that hasn’t stopped her from working with black and white patterns, which she truly loves.
After 49 years of marriage, Don lost his battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease five years ago. “That last year was hell on earth, dealing with a vibrant, extremely intelligent doctor who was like a baby. It would have been easier on me had he died at the beginning. But the kids needed that time to realize this was no way for their father to live. When he finally died it was almost a relief.”
“In April 2014 I got an email from the Embroiderer’s Guild that they were offering a Zentangle® class. I looked it up online (www.Zentangle.com) and it absolutely blew my mind. I went on a cruise in May from Florida to Montreal and Zentangled® all the way. I began showing my friends and decided to get my certification, which I did in June of last year in Providence, Rhode Island. The class, taught by Rick and Maria themselves, was wonderful. It was how to teach their method and idea of Zentangle®. The Zen part of it is very important. It’s not just doodling and not just drawing the patterns.”
She returned home and shared her new discovery with friends and church groups, and has approached the Veteran’s Administration to volunteer to offer classes there. One attraction is that it’s small and can be done by anyone, anywhere, even those who think they are not artistic.
“I think it works for people who have suffered tremendous loss,” says Rick. And the healing benefits of this simple practice are getting attention at academic levels, as universities in Australia and the United States consider studies on the effect Zentangle® practice has on a person. The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut has a preliminary trial in place, according to Rick and Maria.
But Judy is well aware of the effect it has had on her and on those she has taught. There has been a great response to Zentangle® with people not only fascinated with the process, but with the fact that they can create this little piece of art. She always carries it with her, and as she sits in a doctor’s waiting room, ultimately people will ask what she’s doing and she spreads the word, often sharing pens and tiles to give to others.
She happened to encounter a Zentangle® instructor in the Seattle area who was using the surface of gourds. “It blew my mind,” says Judy. “I looked up gourd farms near me, I bought some gourds, and really enjoy Zentangling them. I give them for Christmas presents.”
One of the ideas surrounding Zentangle® is that, “anything is possible, one stroke at a time.” Judy has found this particularly true. “I’ve been Zentangling since April, and I find I’m less angry – about losing Don and just in general I guess. I was angry that this retirement we had planned together wasn’t to be. Part of grief is anger. And if I’m sitting there and thinking about something and getting angry I go Zentangle®. The concentration it requires is one stroke at a time. One line at a time. A couple more and you have a pattern. It is a hyper-focused activity. As a teacher you want to share. I’m able to share something that has a lot of meaning for me, with somebody else. And they are able to do it. If I can’t sleep or if I wake up in the middle of the night I just Zentangle®.”
“A woman came up to us at a show in California and showed us her tile,” says Rick. “She said she had lost her son and couldn’t sleep. She Zentangled® with a friend and something caught her attention. For the first time since, she was able to sleep without nightmares.”
About the success of Zentangle® Maria says they are, “humbled by it. We knew it was our job to put this out into the world. It was something we had to do, like a mission.”
“We feel like the most fortunate people in the world,” adds Rick. “We are stewards of something that will last for generations.”
“At 75 I have embraced something new in my life,” says Judy. “I’m living a new life now and Zentangle® is something that gives me joy. I can’t do blackwork anymore to my standards, but I can Zentangle®.”
And so can you. Watch Judy’s story at https://www.zentangle.com/story-booth.