Tuesday, June 24, 2014

By the Book

Reading a book in order to learn to do something is nothing new; throughout history knowledge has been preserved and passed along to future generations in book form. People who are book learners tend to seek instruction and understanding of something that they might not otherwise encounter in the course of their daily lives; it's also a very economical form of education for those who can't afford the formal variety.

When a book is both classroom and teacher much of the stress of learning can be eliminated from the equation. A book doesn't give you detentions for not getting your homework done; it always allows you to absorb information at your own pace. There is no competition for the book's attention, either; you're always its only student. Unlike a teacher a book also has no opinion of you, so it is the most unbiased of instructors.

The only major downside I see to learning anything from a book is that you have to be fully committed to learning by reading, and keep that committment. As in the book is not going to call your mom and rat you out for not doing your lessons.

Zentangles are a meditational art form created by doodling repetitive patterns in a small space. While I've been making this sort of art since childhood I've never taken any formal/proper instruction, so I found my way to One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula. this how-to book. I picked it up primarily because of the subtitle: A 6-Week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration and Fun, but when I flipped through the pages at the book store I also liked the simple format of the lessons, all of which are accompanied by several illustration and photo examples.

Ms. Krahula begins with an introduction the defines Zentangles and the art supplies she uses to create her own. She also talks about the spiritual comfort she gained from practicing meditational art. She began Zentangling while recovering in the hospital from a major health issue, and that provided some invaluable insight into the benefits of the artform for me. I doodle most when I'm under a great deal of stress, as it's naturally relaxing for me. Now I know why.

I read the entire book before I began the lessons, and with each day's instructions Ms. Krahula offers great tips and technical discussion for the entire six weeks. The materials needed to work through each lesson are listed along with a detailed breakdown of whatever technique she's teaching along with example pictures. The instructions for the day's lesson are very simple and flexible and I think anyone, no matter what sort of experience they have with art, can easily follow the course. With the book pic I've posted you can see three examples of the Zentangles I've made while following the lessons. I think the most valuable things I've learned so far are consistency, how to give up control in order to be more spontaneous (a real challenge for me) and strategic shading to improve the look of the end result.

Art resets me emotionally to a better perspective and gives me a sense of well-being unlike anything else I do creatively, probably because I do it just for myself. Creating art can be stressful for others, especially if their past artistic efforts have left them feeling unskilled or otherwise inadequate, so this might not be a good book for anyone who actively avoids art for those reasons. If you haven't been successful with art in the past but are still open to learning, however, I think Zentangles are a wonderful way to try again.


  1. Oooh - this may be something for me to play with. I normally can't draw my way out of a paper bag, but I'd definitely give this a try. I feel the same way about my ceramics work as you do about your art and quilting. Yes, it 'resets' me. What a great way to put it. I'm on hiatus from the studio for June/July and miss it already. (No adult classes until August). Can't wait until August!

  2. This sounds like a very useful book. I rarely doodle now, though I did as a teenager. It would be nice to find a simple way to relax.

  3. I have a friend who does this, and she creates the most amazing pieces of art.

  4. A friend of mine does these, too, creating beautiful bits of artwork. I've doodle all my life, filling the covers of most of my paper notebooks with multi-colored swirls all through school...but I stopped that as I began to write....maybe a substitution of one creative expression for another?


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