Author Spotlight: Zentangle Teacher Brian Crimmins, CZT


By Author Brian Crimmins, CZT of Zentangle Dingbatz

Last summer, we learned my mother had stage four liver cancer. While I was flying back and forth between Florida and California for visits, I was developing my first book, Zentangle Dingbatz. Although I had been a Certified Zentangle Teacher since 2016, I now have a very personal experience of how a regular practice of drawing using this method helps reduce anxiety and stress, quiets the mind, calms obsessive thoughts, and provides quiet moments of peace along the way.

Zentangle, founded by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, is a meditative art method that uses simple patterns, often with repeated lines or motifs, that allows someone – even those with no previous drawing experience – to create something beautiful and unique in an hour or two. Just as in meditation we focus on the breath, in Zentangle we create by focusing our attention on one pen stroke at a time.

Dingbats in classic literature and printed broadsides were small designs that were used to frame a title, separate sections of text, indicate the beginning of a new chapter in a book, and simply added some decoration to what would otherwise be bodies of standard printed text. Dingbatz with tangled patterns could be used to decorate journal pages, scrapbooks, note cards and envelopes, gift tags, and much more.

There are terms that are sometimes used to describe Zentangle but, in essence, are inaccurate. The most commonly used is “doodling.” When we sit down to doodle, we let our pen mindlessly wander on the page. We do not know what we are going to end up with, and we have no real plan on where we are going with our drawing. The Zentangle Method is an intentional, mindful practice in which we thoughtfully plan out how we will use the space we have to fill with patterns, and as we draw, we breathe, we take our time, and we focus simply on the pen stroke. The difference is mindful and intentional (Zentangle) versus mindless and unplanned (doodling). 

Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine

Dingbatz Zentangle

Dingbatz are a fun and easy way to incorporate the fundamentals of Zentangle(R) into a wide variety of creative projects and bring attention and mindfulness to the smallest corners of your life.

  • Fun complement to hand lettering, scrapbook, and art journaling projects
  • Beginner-friendly, with few materials required to get started
  • Techniques to practice and a world full of canvases to bring beauty and joy to others
  • Author Brian Crimmins is a coach, speaker, and Certified Zentangle Teacher who uses the Zentangle(R) Method in his individual and group coaching and workshops

    As summer turned to fall, my deadline for the draft manuscript of the book approached. Despite my academic experience in literary writing while getting my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of Central Florida, this was a different type of project because it required not only words, but many drawings, and photographs of completed projects. I don’t know that I had realized just how many drawings were required for a book of this magnitude, but all I knew then was I needed to keep going to have something to provide to my editors by mid-October.

    At about the same time, my mother’s condition worsened, and I was off on another trip to California to spend time with her and my father, and to help with planning and organizing her care. A couple weeks later, when I thought the large portion of the book was completed, an email from my editors both applauded what I had submitted came to 112 pages and they needed 160. I was given the month of November to make this happen – and again, while a situation like this would have elevated anxiety for many, I dove in and made it work. 

    I submitted all the new drawings and photographs to my editors just before Thanksgiving, and only a few days later my mother passed away. I share this not to bring the reader down, but rather to illustrate that in those moments when life seemed so beyond my control, when demands were high but purpose and passion were higher, a mindful, meditative art practice like Zentangle really worked.

    The great news is it doesn’t require a book deal or a contract to establish a regular practice of drawing, of sitting with pen and paper to bring beautiful non-representational designs to life. The simple act of slowing down and being present while drawing for a few minutes can have wonderful results. Zentangle is an active and intentional process that quiets the mind, brings us to the present moment, and yields beautiful and interesting designs that both delight and inspire.