Interest in a meditative art form has led two Oconomowoc residents to share their knowledge with others looking for a creative outlet.
Known as Zentangle, it is the use of repetitive patterns to create abstract artistic images, primarily with the use of pen and ink and shading done on 31/2-inch cardstock tiles. Each tile is signed and dated on the back. Expanded use of the patterns that stray from anything but the tiles is known as Zentangle-inspired art.
Don McCollum and Joyce Block, both retired schoolteachers, have become certified Zentangle teachers and have taught at churches, schools and libraries in Lake Country, as well as at Veterans Affairs, Artist and Display in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Art Museum and retreat centers in southern Wisconsin.
McCollum was introduced to the medium through his daughter; he shared his enthusiasm about it with a skeptical Block.
McCollum explained the enjoyment and peace he found in Zentangle.
"I'm not artistic at all, I told him," she recalled.
Block, however, was having a difficult time adjusting to retirement.
"I have been a busy person all my life," she explained, and McCollum shared how the artistic exercise helped him make that transition.
It did not take long for her to understand what he was eager to share. Thus was born a collaboration that eagerly shares their knowledge of the art form with others.
"It (Zentangle) has been a godsend to me. It's given me a lot of pleasure, and I call myself an artist now," she added.
The career teachers recount how they have taught Zentangle in schools and have seen classroom instructors impressed with the focus and attention the students give to it, including students who have attention-deficit disorder.
McCollum said he has also taught the class to deeply troubled children and found that same attentiveness.
"Zen is the focus, the relaxation that it causes, and the mindfulness all come together here," McCollum explained.
The art form appeals to people "looking for something meaningful. This is always done with focus and concentration," he added.
Lessons for both children and adults are given in a step-by-step process. There are no mistakes made, just styles that develop; the art is individual to its creator.
"There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in a Zentangle kit. However, in creating Zentangle art (and in living life), you will discover that apparent mistakes can be foundations for new patterns and take you in unexpected and exciting new directions," the website Zentangle.com explains.
"Anything is possible one stroke at a time.
"At first glance, a Zentangle creation can seem intricate and complicated. But when you learn how it is done, you realize how simple it is ... sort of like learning the secret behind a magic trick. Then, when you create a piece of Zentangle art, you realize how fun and engrossing the process itself is," the website notes.
It also disabuses people of the concept that they cannot create art.
"We love presenting to a class or seminar full of people who are convinced they can't draw the Zentangle art we show them. Then, within 15 minutes, they have easily accomplished what they thought was impossible. This is one of our favorite Zentangle moments, because then we ask, "What else do you know that you can't do?" it asks.
As certified Zentangle teachers, both McCollum and Block traveled to the East Coast to study with its creators, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, making them two of approximately 900 certified teachers worldwide. During the process they learn more than 100 different patterns.
Zentangle is a creative outlet that is growing rapidly in popularity.
For those interested in the method, Block facilitates a Facebook page with more than 7,000 members.
"I admit about 20 to 30 people daily from around the world," she said.
Having discovered the benefits and enjoyment of Zentangle, the pair are pleased when students report the same.
One former student told them how it helped her during a serious illness her husband suffered, providing the focus to pray as she worked.
"That was very meaningful to us," Block said.
The two have published an e-book and recently self-published a children'' story, which is a "how to draw Zentangle" book, available at Books & Company in Oconomowoc.
McCollum and Block will conduct a class at Delafield Presbyterian Church on Feb. 23. For more information, call Block at (262) 567-4848 or (414) 803-4494.