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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Zentangle®? Who owns ya, baby?

A few days ago a friend asked me that question. It was an unexpected question I didn't know how to answer till she followed with "Isn't it just doodling?"

And then I understood - especially when she said she'd taken a class and was unimpressed and saddened that somebody would need to be taught to doodle - or given permission to.

Which reminded me of a neighbor - a young wife - back in the early 1970's - who had gone to a seminar based on Marabelle Morgan's book The Total Woman. She was visiting her sister in another state and was given an assignment ... to call her husband and tell him she loved him and missed him, intimately. She was blown away by how happily he greeted her when he picked her up at the airport. The most important thing she learned, she told me was that she should "Never insult my husband in front of his friends ... even in a joking way!!!!"

I was 20 at the time. I remember standing there, utterly flabbergasted, thinking - "If you didn't know you shouldn't insult the people you love, thank goodness there is a class somewhere that will teach it to you." 

And maybe that's how I feel about the Zentangle® drawing book. There are a lot of people out in the world who would like to draw but don't feel confident enough - or perhaps lack the 'permission' to give it a go. Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas have written a book that gives permission to do something a school teacher would scold you for doing - doodling (notice how much that sounds like dawdling?) And if someone didn't have the focus to finish a whole drawing, the creators help by showing how to draw small abstract shapes and fill them with more abstract shapes. 

As for the zen aspect - well - yeah. Sure. If you relax, breathe deeply, take stock of your surroundings, concentrate on something small with no associations to your daily life - something abstract - you very well may slip into a meditative state. In fact - I did just that the first time I tried one of their drawings. But I have been working with meditation for many years. I'm still a neophyte with it but I know when I've slipped into that deep place.

What I was a little creeped out by are their not-so-vague copyright threats. I'll admit it. I've never invented something that someone else both claimed and made money off of - and it is possible that Roberts and Thomas were experiencing just that. Even if they weren't, I'm sure they want to prevent it in the future. Who can blame them? The have a whole page on their website stating their copyright claims. They name each little squiggly shape so that it can be 'owned' and issued a blanket title of Zentangle® Inspired Art (ZIA) for drawings that have repeated shapes.  I believe in a courtroom they would lose, if you made a drawing of repeated cherry shapes and sold it and didn't give them copyright credit or royalties for it. But if you called it by the squiggly shape name they gave it - you might be in trouble. For sure, they can copyright their name, their logo and their classroom materials - and if someone used any of those things without authorization, it would be theft.

I was first intrigued and then inspired to purchase a Zentangle®  book. Then I made a bunch of drawings based on the shapes in the book. I've never considered playing around with abstract drawings before - I'm way too much a Virgo realist. Yes, I've doodled all my life but never with abstract shapes. Roberts and Thomas prompted me to explore something new. Out of respect for what they created, I gave them credit and used their name ... this time, complete with the little ®  symbol, since that's what they asked people to do on their website. Can they make any further claims on whatever else I do as I build upon skills I learned from them? I doubt it. But it's a slippery slope - this issue of copyright - and I'm no lawyer.

So. that's about all the answer I have to the question "Why Zentangle® ?" except that - it's fun - but then, I think all drawing is fun.

1 comment:

  1. I've been around the Art Scene for 55 years, and drawings in this style are nothing new. I think it's insulting of them to try to copyright something they have clearly borrowed themselves.

    But, in a "15 minute fame" frame, someone once actually copyrighted a two dot doll face.

    Have fun with your drawing. Enjoy the process and the drawings you are creating are worthy of a frame. Go ahead, put your initials on them and frame them.