It takes one to [Zen]tangle
Adult coloring and drawing trend hits Southern Maryland
Coloring isn’t just for crayon-clenching kindergartners any more.
Alongside the more traditional or sophisticated art supplies, craft stores now stock coloring books marketed toward adults, with complex patterns and designs rather than Mickey Mouse. As a result, classes and groups surrounding the now-adult leisure activity of coloring, doodling and Zentangling (which focuses on drawing structured patterns) have popped up throughout Southern Maryland.
Two groups meet regularly to color at libraries in Calvert County and at the Waldorf West library, coloring is now a regularly offered feature.
Sarah Guy, Charles County Waldorf West library program coordinator, said she was traveling overseas in October and saw an entire aisle of adult coloring materials and brought some home for friends and coworkers and they all loved it. Then, she bought a large peel-and-stick coloring page, cut it in half and mounted it on a table at the library.
In the first month, 750 people colored the tabletop coloring page. Now, individual coloring pages are on a table at the library, free for patrons to take with them or color at the library. Guy said the branch goes through 70 to 100 pages each week.
Coloring has also caught on at other Charles County branches and among library staff.
At the P.D. Brown Memorial Branch, a coloring group meets every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. The library provides the space and supplies for anyone to come and color.
“It’s really a good space just to come and unwind and not think of anything and relax,” said Meghan Yost, librarian at the P.D. Brown Memorial Branch.
Guy said she enjoys coloring because of the mindless nature of it.
“I let my thoughts kind of wander and drift and I don’t feel any obligation to do anything,” Guy said.
At the end of the Tuesday night meetings, Yost said people tell her they feel calmer after an hour of coloring.
Erin Doyle, a circulation assistant at the Waldorf West Branch said coloring is cathartic. A freelance artist, Doyle said coloring is a natural extension of what she already does.
“You can focus on just what you’re doing. You don’t have to think of anything else,” Doyle said.
For Destiny Houston, marina technician at the Waldorf West Branch, coloring is a way to create something beautiful even without artistic skills.
“I don’t have any artistic skills. The best I can do is stay in the lines,” she said.
Houston, like most people, colored as a child, but she never stopped as she grew up. She continued to color in children’s coloring books, keeping each completed book in a collection on a bookshelf.
“I color when I feel stressed, because it’s a way to relax and create something,” she said.
In Calvert County, a coloring and doodling group started up several months ago at the Prince Frederick library and another is starting at the library in Solomons. The Prince Frederick meetup has several members who are Zentangle enthusiasts. Zentangle takes the artistic and relaxation possibilities of adult coloring a step further.
Jeanne Larrison, of Chesapeake Beach said she took a Zentangle class.
“I think it’s nice if you’re insecure. Everyone in the room came up with something beautiful,” Larrison said.
Jill Smithson, of La Plata, teaches Zentangle classes at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons and at Mattawoman Creek. She’s a certified teacher in the method of meditative drawing. Zentangle focuses on drawing d patterns based on a dot, a comma an “S,” an “O” and a dash. Each pattern is based on combining these five things, Smithson said. It’s not just random doodling.
Smithson discovered Zentangle while her mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
“I recognized after so many doctors offices that there are only so many magazine articles than can hold your attention,” Smithson said. “I recognized that once I explored Zentangle it was a way for me to come back to center. It was a way for me to have a way of meditation.”
There’s a common saying among its enthusiasts: There are no mistakes in Zentangle. Smithson said anyone can create something from the mistakes.
“There are no mistakes in Zentangle, as in life,” Smithson said.
Tracey Pintell Quade, of Valley Lee, saw a Zentangle on a friend’s kitchen table and was curious, looked it up online and took a class from Smithson, which Quade hosted at her home. Since then, Quade has hosted several Zentangle classes, one of which was her own birthday party.
Many Zentangles are done on thick card-stock tiles, but any piece of paper or surface can be tangled. Smithson said she’s even heard of people detailing their cars with Zentangle. But many of Quade’s Zentangles are done on eggs.
Quade keeps chickens in her backyard, so she’s just using what is available to her. The geometry of the eggs also maked the techniques more challenging. She gives the eggs as gifts. For wedding gifts, she will roll $100 around a toothpick and slide it through a hole in the dec- orated egg. She’ll tell the couple there’s money in the egg, but not to break it unless they really need it. She said it adds more value to the egg and the money that way.
Aside from how Zentangle has become an art form for Quade, it still goes back to the roots of it being a meditative activity. Last year, she had to stay in the hospital over night and couldn’t sleep, so she decided to Zentangle. Three to four minutes into it, nurses burst into her room and asked if she was OK. All of a sudden, her heart rate dropped because of how calm Zentangle made her.
“You can really just get in the moment,” Quade said.
The coloring club at the P.D. Brown Memorial Branch Library in Charles County meets Tuesdays at 6 p.m. In Calvert County, a group meets Wednesdays at 2 p.m. at the library in Solomons. Additionally, a group will meet at the Prince Frederick library from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Monday, April 11, and from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, April 25.
Jeanne Larrison of Chesapeake Beach works on a Zentangle at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick.
Julie Allinson of Lusby shows some of her Zentangle designs at an adult coloring meetup at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick.
Jill Smithson of La Plata shows some of her Zentangles. Smithson is a certified Zentangle instructor.
From left, Jeanne Larrrison of Chesapeake Beach and Lynn Gauthier exchange Zentangle techniques at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick.