Project Packs

In November, 2022, I took my first post-COVID airplane trip. I was very excited to travel to the amazing town of Newport, R.I., located on the Atlantic coast where Long Island Sound meets the ocean. Newport was founded in the 1600s and has been America’s biggest sailing town for more than 300 years. In addition it was also the vacation home for New York’s richest families, such as the Vanderbilts. These families built over 100 amazing mansions in Newport. It’s a fun place to visit.

My reason for travelling to Newport was that Zentangle held a wonderful, 4-day event there with daily classes and teachings.  My husband, who is very interested in sailing and boats, went with me, visiting New Bedford, Mystic, Plymouth and other nearby boat meccas.

At the event, Rick and Maria, Zentangle founders, introduced a new concept that they called Zentomology. This isa new way of organizing the thousands of tangle patterns that have been designed over the years. Ten years ago, when Zentangle was founded, there were 200 patterns. But the invitation was open to anyone to design a pattern. Hundreds of tangle patterns have been designed, one even by me! It’s called Nanalee and is based on banana leaves. What seems like thousands of tangle patterns have been collected and indexed for search online for by the amazing Linda Farmer at

At the conference, we talked about common characteristics of tangles, and we sorted hundreds of patterns into different groups, for example: grid tangles, organic tangles, drama tangles. Rick and Maria named this system “Zentomology.” I believe Rick said, “As insects are to entomology, so tangle patters are to Zentomology.”

The book on Zentomology is here. 

This was a wonderful system to add to my understanding. Before Zentomology, I had thousands of tangle patterns floating around my head, without any organizational system. Once I understood the categories, things began to fall into place.

For the last few days I have been enjoying Zentangle Project Pack 20. Each Project Pack is a series of video classes that are free to watch. For $35 or so, you can also receive a package of supplies that includes everything you need to complete all the videos: pens, pencils, gel pens, blank Zentangle papers. (Zentanglers call the papers “tiles” because we combine everyone’s together into “mosaics.” We have our own language to some degree, mostly becuase it’s fun. )

Project Pack 20 is devoted to a single category, Blossoming Tangles. These tangles tend to radiate from a center point and plant themselves like a blossom. They are often bold and like to take center stage in a composition.

Project Pack 20’s first video was posted online on March 19, with a new video appearing every other day and continuing through March 31, so about 9 videos. You don’t have to buy anything to watch the videos. Instead of paying to receive all the supplies in the mail, you can just use whatever pens and papers you have on hand. I can’t recommend the project packs highly enough. I have so much fun doing them.

Here are the five Zendala (Mandala shaped) tiles that I have done so far. The first three are on gray tiles, and numbers four and five are on tan tiles, which we call “Renaissance” tiles, to honor the tan papers that were used for drawing by Leonardo and others from the Italian Renaissance in about 1500.


Day 1 – The first day’s video was led by Rick and Maria, Zentangle founders, with Rick doing the drawing. This tile uses a tangle called Hollis designed by Rick and Maria from a pattern they saw on a plate when they were in Taiwan. Here are the Hollis step outs.

I love the single red bead. Each of the project videos so far has a small red object that is a focus of attention. in addition, I used the red pen to add my signature symbol. Zentanglers call that signature symbol a “chop.” This is after the chop used by the Japanese artists of the Ukiyo-e (The Floating World) that inspired the impressionist movement when European artists first saw the Ukiyo-e artists’ woodblocks in the mid 1800s. This group of japanese artists includes Hokusai and Hiroshige. They often used red for their chop.

Day 2 – This day’s video lesson was led by Molly Hollibaugh, daughter of Rick and Maria. Molly used a new tangle patterrn called WayBop. See Waybop step outs here. 

She also used the tangle pattern Striping to make the striped areas. The background pattern in the middle is printemps.

Day 3 – This video lesson was guided by Martha Huggins. Martha is the daughter of  Zentangle founders, Rick and Maria. This tile uses another very new tangle pattern, Wyfore. Martha reminded us that the tangle was named in honor of her son, Wyatt. Rick and Maria have named many tangles after their grandchildren.

Day 4 – Guided by Rick and Maria, this video lesson is drawn by Maria. It’s a pleasure to watch her draw, because she is so very skilled. The primary tangle used is called Ellish, because it looks like the letter “L” in it’s original and simplest form. 

Maria also used tangle patterns DooDah and Crescent Moon to decorate the leaf-like shapes.

 Day 5 – This video was led by Julie Willand.  It’s my hands-down favorite so far, I love the use of tangle pattern Arukas to organize the overall composition. Arukas includes the circle in the middle as well as the striped rays that go out to the edges of the tile. “Arukas” is “Sakura” backwards. The Japanese pen company Sakura is a kind of Zentangle partner. They make the recommended pens that we primarily use in Zentangle drawing. Sakura makes excellent quality Micron fine liners in all colors and sizes.

Sakura also invented the Gel pen, and just about every pen you can buy today is a Gel pen. Before the Gel pen we all used ball point pens, invented by the Hungarian-Argentinian Biro. (Ball point pens are called “Biros” in many countries.) Sakura put years of research into the gel pen, wanting to create a water-based pen that was versatile. The ink is free-flowing and quick-drying, and the pens are inexpensive to make. And on top of all that, “Sakura” means cherry blossom in Japanese. What more could you ask for?

Back to the Zentangle. Julie draws many pokeroot zentangles coming out of the Arukas center circle. Poke root grows in my neighborhood, and I have to get some into my garden. The tangle pattern pokeroot looks like a little berry on a stem, or a lollipop. It’s a nice contrast to the straight vertical lines of Arukas. Julie draws a few hundred little orbs to fill in the background, and she patiently colors them all white. I love this whole design!

Star Lattice

This is my latest Zentangle, just finished today. I created it taking a class with the wonderful Zentangle teacher Eni Oken. She guided us through, step-by-step. Her main video for this course was almost 2 hours, and it took me about ten hours of pausing frequently and coming back day by day to complete the drawing. I have to say, they were ten very happy hours!

As you can see, the initial drawing was a challenge. But Eni is very clear, and the video was easy to follow. We initally drew in pencil. We divided the paper into a grid that was 6×6, i.e., 36 squares. To accomplish that, we first drew a center horizontal line, and then a center vertical line, crossing in the middle of the paper. Now we had to divide those lines into 6 parts so we could make our grid. I was impressed that Eni had us take a piece of scrap paper and cut it to exactly half the width of our tile (2 inches). To divide that into 3 equal parts, she just said to just fold your scrap paper into thirds and use the folded paper to make marks on your tile. I found that a very easy and creative solution to what could have been a complicated math problem. Thanks Eni!

Once we had a penciled grid, we were ready to draw. We startdin the center with a 4-leaf flower in an eight-sided shape. Fun! I love the center of this mandala. Then we moved outward, doing the next set of triangles all around, then the next, and so on. Different patterns for each set of triangles. The black outermost triangles and squares were my idea, and I think they are probably a little heavy for the rest of the design. Oh well. Caution, human being at work.

Supplies recommended by Eni Oken are always interesting to me, as I learn about new materials. This project was drawn on a 4″ square paper rather than the standard Zentangle 3.5″ square. The paper Eni recommended was hot pressed watercolor paper. I had an old d’Arches hot pressed watercolor block that I had forgotten about, because I had used only cold pressed paper for many years.

Cold pressed paper is bumpy and is typically preferred by watercolorists. Wet paint glides on easily over the paper’s bumps without any untoward behavior. Watercolor doesn’t mind bumps, and the texture of the paper is beautiful.

On the other hand, hot pressed paper is smooth, and therefore it accepts all different kinds of media well, especially colored pencils and other media that don’t like too many bumps. So it was fun to use paper that I hadn’t used in a decade or three.

Eni asked us to use fine line markers. I had forgotten about the LePen brand, which used to be my main pen for all forms of writing and note taking. Eni  had us get a set of Marvy LePen Fineliners. They were a pleasure to use. Nice colors, fine lines. I got a set of eight, but now wish I had sprung for the set of sixteen.

Most of the black lines are done with a Micron PN, slightly thicker than the Zentangler’s usual Micron 01. (PN stands for “plastic nib,” if  you are interested in such things!)

After drawing with the Micron PN, we next drew highlights with white graphite pencil, Eni emphasizing that it should go down first, before other media, as it doesn’t like going over other pencils or pens. She had us draw with the PN first, then apply the white graphite.

The white number 10 Sakura Gelly Roll pen is a wonder. It is especially great for making the playful, somewhat 3-dots all over. I read that Sakura Gelly Roll was the very first gel pen ever! I use gel pens exclusively today, for writing, shopping lists, anything I write, so I was impressed by that fact.

One really unusual thing about this design is the borders. Zentangle most often uses black line borders, but Eni chose to use white borders with black lines going across, making little rows of rectangles. I thought this border treatment made the borders jump, making the overall design much more dramatic than it would have been otherwise. The wider, white borders are truly effective.

As we worked on each little square, we shaded with dark colored pencils and added some color with the fineliners.

I’m grateful that there are online Zentangle classes like this one. I have fun, and I get to study with wonderful teachers. And then I can blog about it all!

As always, your comments are most welcome!


Crazy Huggins


I belong to a wonderful group of artists who get together once a month and Zentangle . We are all Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) and proud of it, even if not many people have ever heard of this title. For us, it means we went to Providence Rhode Island for a 4-day training in how to teach Zentangle. This training was a highlight of my life, four of the most enjoyable days I have ever spent. I go back each year (COVID Permitting) for ZenAgain, a refresher for CZT’s. In our group, all four of us have taught classes, and we all love doing Zentangle. Plus it is a wonderful group of people. I look forward to our meetings.

Each month a different one of us is in charge of bringing a project for us to do, and we meet at that person’s house. There are cookies and sharing and lots of good will. Then the project. Elizabeth was in charge this month, and she asked us to do a big Crazy Huggins on an Opus tile that she provided (expensive, thank you!!), and then to fill in all the areas with different tangle patterns. Let me define some terms

Zentangle, an art form, was invented by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts as a form that anyone can do. It is true, I have taught it to people who have never done any artwork, who are afraid of doing artwork, and then it clicks for them, and they are off to the races. There are two daughters in the Thomas-Roberts family, and one is Martha Huggins. Rick and Maria invented the Huggins pattern and named it after Martha and family. It looks like this:

This diagram shows what we call the step outs for the tangle pattern. You start with the dots, add concave and convex lines vertically and then horizontally and there you have it. The last image here shows a way to shade the pattern.

Crazy Huggins happens when your dots are not lined up. You put your dots all over and you get this:

The image we made is just like this, but done on an Opus tile, so it’s more than 9 inches square.

Once the Crazy Huggins grid pattern was laid out, this project was a walk down memory lane. Elizabeth asked us to draw a different Zentangle pattern in each little area of the Crazy Huggins grid. I chose my favorites known in Zentangle circles as my “mac and cheese” tangle patterns.  Thanks Elizabeth!

New Zentangle Experiences

I have four new interesting Zentangle experiences to share. The first was ZenAgain 2021. This was a 4-day intensive specifically for Certified Zentangle Teachers. I have attended it a few times in past years. This ZenAgain conference was supposed to be held in Newport, R.I., in November.

November, 2020, that is. But COVID was calling the shots. (Is that a pun?)

Rescheduled for November, 2021, ZenAgain was cancelled-again, and I ended up sitting in front of Zoom for four entire days in my dining room. If I didn’t love Zentangle so much, it would have been difficult. But even on Eastern Time, getting up at 6am for the start of the day, I loved every minute of it. The theme was “It’s About Time.” We created zendalas of the Phases of the Moon, most appropriately coloring them with Moonlight Gelly Roll pens. We visited artists across time, looking at their work and letting that process inspire our own Zentangles: Leonardo da Vinci, William Morris, and Salvador Dali.

Here are a couple of my favorite tangles from ZenAgain.

This first one comprises two new tangle patterns, introduced by the Zentangle team with traditional celebration and fanfare. The first is Pangea. The individual shapes below are the Pangea pattern, separated by white channels of space. They are named for the “original” continent, Pangea, that split apart to make the continents we know today. Pangea was surrounded by Panthalassa, the original ocean.

Inside each Pangea shape reticula is the new tangle Mrth used as a fragment. Mrth has a “hole” in the middle with grassy spikes protruding out, and is covered with radiating, rounded stripes.

My second Zentangle experience I want to tell you about derives from the first. I sent a copy of the above to my friend Christy Tews. Christy has a very high-tech sewing machine, with which she has embroidered everything she could get her hands on. Tea towels, my new favorite blouse, jackets, t-shirts, and more. Somehow, Christy managed to create this embroidery from the drawing. I was simply blown away by the beauty of her creation!

My third Zentangle experience to report was a Project Pack called The Twelve Days of Zentangle. Zentangle has created theses Project Packs for some years now. They snail mail you a package with everything you need, all the pens, papers, and tools, to follow along with a series of videos that guide you in creating beautiful tangles. For this project pack, every day for 12 days, they posted a video guiding us in making a beautiful creation. The theme was 3-D objects. I was not happy about creating a little army of zentangled objects that would sit around and collect dust, but I went ahead anyway and am glad I did. Fewer than half the 12 videos were objects, and some of the rest were amazing.

Here are my favorites.

Again, this Zentangle is using the Pangea pattern. this time the continents are filled with round tipple dots and are floating with the Panthalassa Ocean channels between them. What is amazing to me is that there are pale white Mooka patterns appearing inside the Pangeas but not appearing in the channels between. It was mind bending to make this happen, using black pens on black paper to keep the Panthalassa ocean black.

I just love this zendala. I don’t know why, it just gives me chills. I like the 4 crescent shaped borders with the coffered ceiling shapes. I like the 4 starry night black triangles that add drama. I like the over and under of the swirling leafy shapes.

Creating these above pieces, and for some time now, I have been wanting again to create my own art, rather than following someone who is guiding me to create their vision. I do this with my Alcohol Ink paintings, but not so much with bigger Zentangle projects. This brings me to share my fourth and final Zentangle experience.  Throughout my life, before Zentangle, I always valued being able to see what came from me. It was like a mirror to the inside.

When I discovered Zentangle, I just loved drawing so much, and for all these years of Zentangle I have just said who cares? to all that. I just wanna have fun. I will follow your lead, dear Zentangle teacher, whoever you are, and create your beautiful vision happily alongside you. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. I felt proud of my lack of vanity not needing to be the “creative one.” But then lately, I began to want to look again into that mirror. I felt some trepidation beginning this, but here is my first original Zentangle-style mandala, designed by me.

Zentangle Experience #4.


Mooka Feather

I recently decided to take more online classes, thinking I might as well broaden my horizons while spending so much time at home. I will soon be taking a memoir class with some fellow writers from my Novel Writer’s Group. My memoir is all over the map right now, and I need to find a focus. Hoping the class will help with that.

I have also been taking a number of Zentangle classes lately and enjoying them very much. I took a Circus Banner class from Eni Oken. She is an excellent teacher, and I always get a lot out of her classes. I also took two classes from  Laura Marks.

The first was a class where Laura showed us how to tangle over a photograph (see prior post). I can imagine that I will use these techniques to decorate many future photos. Then I attended Laura’s class called “Mooka Feather.”  The word Mooka probably needs a little explanation.

Mooka is a well-loved tangle pattern that looks like this.


Here are five Mookas of different heights, facing in different directions. Mooka is a tangle pattern that I did not enjoy at all, never included in my work, and did not understand why everyone loved it so much.  Whenever I tried to include it in a Zentangle, it always looked awkward, never pretty or graceful like other people’s Mookas.

In this recent class, the teacher, Laura Marks, fixed my problem in the first five minutes of the class. She showed us how to draw the tangle pattern. She started at the bottom, and drew an upward line for one side of the stem. Then she drew a circle at the top, which I think she called the “head.” The key point for me waswhen she demonstrated how the little head had to lean forward on the stem and that the “neck” where head ends and the line makes a sharp angle before it heads back down, that little angle had to be very close to the other side of the stem. Mine had always been far away, making big fat ugly stems, and that was my problem. From that moment on I have been loving Mooka. Amazing how a little guidance changed my attitude towards this tangle pattern.

Mooka was invented by Zentangle founders Rick and Maria. Over time, doing classes and projects with them, I realized that Maria loves Mooka and will use it at the drop of a hat.

The tangle was created because Rick and Maria admired the beautiful posters of the French artist Mucha (pronounced Mooka). They especially liked the way he shaped the strands of hair in his subjects, like this:

So, the Mooka tangle pattern imitates these lovely shapes in Mucha’s posters. We Zentanglers sometimes like to reduce all tangle pattern names to their simplest phonetic spellings, hence Mooka. These simple names help me to feel comfortable with new patterns.

The course I was taking from Laura Marks was called Mooka Feather. She explained that the idea was to draw a feather, and that one could draw leaf or branch shapes to fill out the feather. But she loved just using the leaf shapes of the tangle pattern Flux.

Here is my Mooka Feather.

I had such a good time doing this.

I colored the Flux leaves with my new set of General Brand Pastel Chalk pencils. They are very nice to work with, kind of creamy and smooth. I was planning to use watercolors, but Laura, wise teacher, warned me that a nice sharp pointed pencil would be much easier than trying to paint the tiny spaces of the stems with a wet brush. That was good advice!

I only used three colors, the blue for the Mooka’s with a white highlight, then a simple red and a brown for the feathery leaves.

Laura suggested we add some white highlights with a Gelly Roll pen, and then a few Fescu tendrils for the final touch.

I plan to continue to take Zentangle courses. I hope to share more of these  experiences with you here in the future.



I took a Zentangle class today with a good teacher named Laura Marks. She sent us, before the class, photos of flowers, including this one. Then she demonstrated a number of tangles that she has found to work well for filling in petals, stems, leaves, etc. I had such a good time!