I guess I just don’t “get it”

Yesterday afternoon, a coworker of mine alerted me to a new art fad that I had been completely unaware of.

Have you heard of a ‘Zentangle’?

If you have not I will find it difficult to accurately describe, as nowhere on the promoter’s website is a straightforward explanation of exactly what differentiates a ‘Zentagle’ from good old fashioned doodling. There is no shortage of flowery paragraphs extolling the virtues of this apparently ‘revolutionary’ new concept (i.e.: “It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing”) but all I could deduce from them was that a ‘Zentagle’ is just a doodle focused on repetitive patterns. Having spent some time browsing the gallery of example art, I will whole-heartedly agree that many of the drawings are in fact quite beautiful. But not a whole lot different from the types of doodles that myself and thousands of other people have been sketching in notebook margins for lifetimes already.

Apparently though, if you want to doodle properly you need to buy a kit, which includes an instructional DVD. Although it is also recommended that you take a class taught by a certified teacher. You can buy cards pre-printed with starter doodles, and look at a reference key for pattern ideas. In other words, you don’t even have to be creative, you can just spend $49.00 to do a bunch of fancy copying. What’s more, many of the stock patterns are things which have occurred in traditional Japanese fabric and washi paper patterns literally for hundreds and thousands of years. So even the official source of this new fad is not supplying material that is all that original.

I will acknowledge that the pens provided in the kit (felt tip Pigma Micron pens by Sakura) have been my very favorite type of drawing pen for many years, so they are at least being truthful when they claim to provide you with high quality materials in your kit. On the other hand you can buy these pens for less than $3.00 a piece at most art stores, so they are hardly exclusive to this kit.

Pardon me if I’m too cynical, but this seems like a scam to me! I think when an art form as basic and intrinsic as doodling suddenly requires rules and expensive accessories it is going to discourage creativity rather than expand it as this manufacturer claims. The entire thing just seems ridiculous to me, I’m sticking to my sketchbooks.

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12 Responses to I guess I just don’t “get it”

  1. I agree with you that this is a scam. It’s like saying “Pay me $50 and I will teach you how to doodle.” As I looked through the website, I saw some of the more pleasing pieces that seems to be done with careful consideration, but other were just doodles that didn’t need to be taught or paid for. I think I will be content with creating borders around my school notes :)

  2. jafagirls says:

    I agree about the patterns, many of them look like patterns that have been used for centuries in various cultures for ceramics, tile work, embroidery, henna, textile arts, painting etc. Very clever marketing scheme ;)

  3. PenandInk777 says:

    Zentangle is not new it has been taught to school children by their art teachers for years and also in college in my art design class and done by doodling artists before the word Zentangle existed. The sad part is that people pay to learn this and some have success and the ones that have success are asked by the founders of Zentangle to pay them a donation. I don’t know how much the class cost for someone to become a CZT but Zentangle does not want private art teachers to offer classes to teach from their books and products. They have mislead the people thinking because they have a trademark and a patent pending that you can not teach out of their book and product unless you are a CZT. I also feel sorry for the people that only do this to make a living to profit from because that is also what they are telling people that take their seminar that they can make a living from Zentangle and then they ask for you to pay them money because you profited from using their trademark. This part does have the making of a scam. Their website is always changing and give different reasons why they have CZT because at first I thought it was so they could teach other how to draw but when they ask for donation from people that has already paid for their seminar who profit then it looks like they are about the money. I think they are a business first! I have had art teachers to teach me how to do thinks that I have profit from and they have never asked me to pay them Royalties.

    Some people do have success with teaching Zentangle if they are already teachers, therapist, someone that owns a business were they can offer any kind of art classes, and artist that has written books, etc., can make a living from Zentangle.

    Also, Zentangle have rules and guidelines that I don’t fully understand which is made up of “we don’t want you to do this or that but you can do this or take our seminar and become a CZT and earn more money, but we can’t promise you that you will make money,etc., You only can be a CZT if you stay in good standing and do not offer discount on Zentangle product., etc.,

    The one thing I do like about Zentangle is that they have made a well known art form popular to the general public, but at the same time they are not fully telling the truth because any art teacher will tell you that their students have does this kind of repeat pattern as a lesson for many years before their was a Zentangle. Also, all art form is relaxing and doodling has been known to be relaxing. Zentangle uses the relaxation theme to sale their products, however all form of art has this concept and this is not new theory.

    If Zentangle, Inc., is a scam then the company will be exposed in the future by one of their CZTs. However, I personally wish the Zentangle, Inc, and their CZTs well and I thank them for making repeat patterns popular.


    • JoHanna says:

      The cost of becoming a CZT as a “day student” (no meals or lodging) is over $900.

    • gnarlycat says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share such a detailed look into it! I agree that drawing repetitive patterns seems like excellent therapy and it is also very good in that it teaches people a different method for building up complex drawings. My post turned into a bit of a rant just because of the tone of exclusivity the website took, and the focus on trying to get people to buy so many products and accessories struck me as exploitative. The actual act of drawing zentangles seems very positive to me, I just don’t like the idea of people being made to feel that they need to spend a lot of money in order to do art, especially for an art form based in drawing which is usually one of the more affordable and accessible mediums.

  4. Pixiey says:

    Hi! I stumbled upon this and I know its now 2012, but wanted to share my thoughts on this art form. I have been creating Zentangles for about two and a half months now and I really love it. I have not bought the kit, I have watched how to videos on youtube and gone to tangllepatterns.com where you can get most of the patterns for free, there are so many lovely forums and websites that have great communities with awesome art too!

    For me, it is not a scam. I have been in chronic pain for over 17 years now and this is one of the only things that helps me work through the pain and keeps my mind off of it when I have a bad pain day. I also thought I could not draw, and am learning through this and a few other sites. You really do not have to put any money into it. Would I love to get the kit, sure, but I don’t have the money to and I might someday! It is tons of fun though!! I hope you might give it another look! Pixiey

    • gnarlycat says:

      Thanks for your insight! The actual activity of drawing ‘zentangles’ did seem like a positive thing to me, it was primarily the marketing that bothered me as it seemed very focused on getting people to spend an unnecessary amount of money. I’m glad to know that there are a lot of accessible options to learn it for free, and it’s fantastic that it’s been so beneficial for you. Certainly the most compelling argument for it I’ve heard.

    • JoHanna says:

      It’s a form of meditation and it is awesome that you are benefiting from it. The process is legitimate, my issues isn’t with the process, it’s with the greed that is going into promoting it. Keep up the good work and don’t waste your money on the kit.

      • Ben says:

        But, JoHanna and GnarlyCat are correct. What you described, Pixiey, is called Art Therapy; in fact, you may actually benefit from seeing a therapist and improving in your therapy regiment. Essentially, you are “self-medicating” by convincing yourself that it is zentangle that is doing the trick. In the long term, unfortunately, it may do you more harm than good if you’re not aware of why and how this form of therapy is alleviating your symptoms.

        Do not lend credibility, especially medical ones, to unproven science claiming to be therapeutic because your self medication works. Marijuana is a good self medicating drug but it does harm your lungs. For terminal patients, the harm is insignificant, but for a reasonably healthy person, the harm is significant.

        Doctors in all their training and expertise still get sued for mistakes. Some of them lose the right to practice medicine. So, always ask, always, why their certifications and expertise stops short of a medical degree. You can sue doctors, but not so easily with those who aren’t and make thinly veiled implications they know something but “aren’t officially recognized…”

        I’m currently writing a post about this over at my website..

  5. JoHanna says:

    I know when I discovered “Zentangle” on the internet, I was initially sucked in by the hype. I must say that the “originators” of this method of drawing are masters of media and manipulation of public “current fad”. I am embarrassed to say that I was sucked in by it. Now I have several books – one published specifically from the “owners” that was fairly expensive and taught NOTHING but rather boasted about their accomplishments ($39.95) – and a worthless kit ($49.00 that contains about $6-8 worth of product) that I regret having put money into their pockets for. The kit was a joke. Stamp their logo on it and it’s magical I suppose.
    There are a lot of people out there that have paid the huge amount of money to become CZTs and I feel sorry for them. Wasting all that cash for a worthless piece of paper. One of the photos of their class shows a fairly large group of people attending. At least 50 or more – at the cost of over $900 each…….you do the math! AND they hold it twice a year. Not to mention they specifically state that there is no guarantee you will emerge with a CZT designation.
    I feel duped and they are laughing all the way to the bank – I suspect in Switzerland.
    Just sayin.

    • JoHanna says:

      Good news to report…..I was able to sell all of the crap that I bought about Zentangle on line and re-couped some of the money that I wasted. I will certainly do a LOT more research into things before I get suckered in again by something that is free to those who use their creativity.

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