What is the one thing that prevent you from taking your creative practice to the next level?

As an experienced Certified Zentangle® Teacher and over the last 8 years teaching, I have seen this over and over : people struggle with the next step (and sometimes with the first step – but that is a subject for another article by itself – you can read a little bit about that here).

Here are the most common questions I get:

  • How do I mix patterns to create an harmonious result?
  • How do I choose the next Tangle?
  • How do I find the inspiration to go further?

As you start practicing with the Zentangle Method™, you learn the steps and this helps you know what to do next.

The Zentangle Method makes it indeed easy for people to know what to do. You don’t need to know how to draw you just need to know the steps. How magical is that for someone who always thought they couldn’t draw!

The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Which could be said for many things in life !

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At the same time and I see this happening often, especially in the beginning.

People struggle with choice.

The beauty of the Zentangle Method™ is that it takes away a lot of decision making since you follow steps.

For example, you don’t need to know which color to choose next, since you draw with only a black pen (at least at first).

There is one element of this practice that sometimes throw people off : choosing TANGLES.

Once again, facing too much choice makes it difficult to choose.

Does it happen to you too?

Here are a couple simple and essential tips to help you, if you are facing this difficulty :

Tip #1 is repetition

Practice drawing ONE TANGLE over and over again. For 7 days or even for a month, every day, every week or as regularly as possible, draw that ONE TANGLE and discover what happens and how differently (or not) do you draw it. Do you really draw it every time the same way? Can you ? Or does something happen and you feel like you want to change it, even a little bit, every time?

This practice of repetition – without a specific outcome, is really important. You become free of expectation and explore the joy of discovery. You start to loosen the idea that your drawing has to be a certain way. AND this becomes a practice and not a goal in itself.

Another huge benefit of practicing with the Zentangle Method : no expectations means freedom to explore.

Freedom to explore will help you expand your own creativity. This is a way to take your practice to the next level.

You can also look at it that way : who cares about what you draw, as long as YOU are enjoying it. In essence, how freeing it is to create for the sake of creating and not for whatever judgement we have about our creations!

See this as a practice exercise, not as creating art – even though you may be creating something beautiful anyway.

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Tip #2 is playfulness

When we take things too seriously, we loose the joy of playing.

Why should your creative practice have to be serious and formal? Don’t you think that your art can be a source of joy and playfulness?

In a nutshell, I want you to pay attention to your thoughts when you draw.

In other words:

  • What judgments do you put on yourself?
  • What takes away the joy of creating?
  • Does it have to only be this way or that way, to be creative?

You are often your own major obstacle to taking your practice to the next level.

Keep playing !

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Tip #3 is exploration

The concept of exploration is very similar to the #1 tip Repetition. This is something I do in some of my class series. We explore different ways you can draw ONE TANGLE. Similarly to the repetition tip, there are many ways to play with exploration.

In addition, it is worth noting that both these tips are also about a mindset.

As you practice, you learn to ask yourself an essential question to any creative practice :


In short, the more you put this into practice, the faster you internalize this process, the more you expand your pratice.

Remember :

In the Zentangle Method, there are no mistakes only opportunities.

As you explore your supposed “mistakes”, you discover more opportunities . As a result, this helps you take your practice to the next level!

You can also read more about the “no mistakes” philosophy from Molly @ Zentangle, Inc here.

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Now to get back to these often asked questions :

How do I mix patterns to create an harmonious result?

As usual, I don’t want to tell you what to do, I want to help you find the answers in you. So here are a couple ways to practice mixing patterns or Tangles in a way YOU find harmonious.

  • Find a balance between dark and light. If you have started with a pattern that has a lot of dark contrast, maybe it is worth exploring and finding a Tangle that will bring some light, that has less intensity and drama.
  • Mix and Match. Find elements that works between Tangles so that there is a common ground between them. Find in your next Tangle something that respond to the one you just drew. Is there a round-ish shape in common? Or do they both have lines that can connect somehow?
  • Compose your tile so that the whole composition feel balanced. Do you have a busy area so now you need something less crowded? Do you need to leave some white space, some breathing room in your tile ?

How do I choose the next Tangle?

In essence, this is a very similar question. Do yo want to choose a playful way to respond or something a bit deeper?

If you want to play, here are a couple ways to choose your next tangle :

  1. Make a list of favorite Tangles and give them a number and roll a dice to choose
  1. Open a book randomly and let your finger stop somewhere on the page, pick a Tangle that starts with the letter your finger is pointing at.
  1. Create a library of Tangles and pick one randomly or choose them in order.
  1. Follow the alphabet, today choose Tangles that starts with a letter A, next time with a letter B, etc.
  1. Use a random Tangle generator such as in the app called Art Raffle from Eni Oken, CZT

I would also suggest to listen to your inner voice. This is one instance when you want to listen to what’s inside you. What are your thoughts about what you are drawing that will inspire the next Tangle? Is there a name, a shape, something that is coming to mind that may help you find what to draw next? This is about trusting you have the answer in you. As for all practice, it takes time and patience. You might not find the answer the first time but eventually you will learn to trust what is coming from you, trust in your creativity.What can you do ?

How do I find the inspiration to go further?

Another way to practice finding inspiration is to study a Tangle in depth. What happens if I change its scale? What happens if I change another parameter? How does it play with some Tangles I know already? As you get more familiar with a Tangle, you also train your brain to look for more possibilites and that helps with inspiration.

In this blog post, I have shared a couple pictures from one of the class series I taught about exploring in depth ONE TANGLE : CADENT. Look at each tile and how even using the same Tangle, there are infinite possibilites to play with it. Can you imagnine more explorations?

If you are interested in putting this into practice, you can sign up for weekly Zentangle workshops here. (in French or in English).


Whether you participate in a workshop or not, please take the next couple weeks and try a couple of these tips and let me know in the comments what they do for you.

However, if you have taken a class with me or have read some of my articles on that subject and already tried some of these tips, I would also love to hear from you in the comments too !

For those of you who don’t practice with the Zentangle Method (and it is totally fine), I am sure you have your own creative outlet (or at least I sincerely hope you do), please try and adapt these tips to your medium or practice, see what happens and let me know. Since, I am pretty sure this translate to any practice.

I covered some of this subject in this article but I am sure there are more ways to explore and take your practice to the next level.

I am curious though :

What is the one thing that still prevent you from taking your creative practice to the next level?

Until next time,


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