MomZenArtist on Instagram

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tangler's Block

It happens to many of us.  Tangle, tangle, tangle, block.  Either life gets in the way or we just get stuck. Sometimes it's life stress, and sometimes we can be become blocked about our tangling.

I recently taught an amazing private lesson with a talented tangler who had been feeling stuck.  She has eagerly learned many exciting techniques and patterns and has been exploring larger works in her sketchbooks.  When I visited, she had half of this page completed and kept talking about how she just couldn't finish.  She was stuck, blocked.  She didn't know where to go.  She sounded discouraged.

When tangling becomes frustrating, it's a good time to get back to basics:

  • Breathe.  
  • Appreciate.  
  • Start small.
  • Find comfort in dots and a border.
  • Hug your canvas with a string.
  • Embrace your personal tangle.  Start with the pattern that comes naturally to you.
  • Start and enjoy.

Her piece was, in fact, stunning as it was with the portion above the center band tangled.  Throughout the lesson, I offered several options but knew that only she could choose her outcome:

1.  Accept the piece for what is and consider it finished.  White space can be fantastic in a piece!
2.  Turn the page and start again with a clean and less stressful page.
3.  Put it aside for a while and come back to it when ready to try again.
4.  Breathe and dive in by adding tangles below the border.
5.  Add string lines below the border to fill.
6.  Get back to basics by tangling on a tile to get the creative juices flowing again.

She loved what she had created and really wanted to finish the page.  I admired her determination and hoped that I could help her to get unstuck.  After our breathing exercises and playing with tiles, strings, and patterns, I think she felt freer to explore her piece.

We spent a lovely afternoon tangling, talking, and breathing.  Sometimes we just need a reminder of how wonderful this process truly can be.

I was thrilled when she wrote to me later the same day to thank me for the lesson.  She told me that I had made the process much more enjoyable for her.  Tears came to my eyes when I opened the attachment.  She had finished her piece!  In the same day she was stuck, she discovered the key to unlock her creativity and her passion.  I was proud of her and happy to have been a part of her journey.  She's even sent me additional pictures of additional pieces she has created illustrating that she is still tangling.

The amazing thing is just how much my students inspire me each and every day.

Hooray, Diane!

ZIA by Diane Gray


  1. Thank you Emily, I was so happy and relieved to be able to finish my zentangle piece and go on to create more. Looking forward to whatever you teach me next !! You are a treasure :)

  2. Sound advise! I generally have no problem starting, but often get blocked in the middle of a big piece. With thinking about what you posted, the concept of really liking what I have can keep me from moving forward. Not wanting to "destroy" what I love.