Metro-East Living

Local doodler teaches Zentangle in Belleville studio and home

Relax with Zentangle art

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Lois Holthaus has been a doodler most of her life, so when she posted some of her doodles on Facebook, a friend suggested Zentangle.

The artistic method is described on its website as an “easy-to-learn, relaxing and fun way to create beautiful images.” Before long, Lois was taking a Zentangle class at the Kaskaskia College campus in Vandalia.

“Oh my gosh! It was unbelievable,” she said. “When I would get home from those classes, it was like I couldn’t stop. I just kept going.”

The method involves using pen and ink to draw repetitive patterns with various shapes that can be filled in with color, similar to adult coloring books.

The “Zen” part of the name reflects the meditative state some artists reach through focus, deliberation, abstract thinking and a lack of rules or predetermined outcomes.

“There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in a Zentangle kit,” according to the website. “However, in creating Zentangle art (and in living life), you will discover that apparent mistakes can be foundations for new patterns.”

Lois, 75, of Breese, got so excited about the method that she enrolled in a three-day seminar with its founders, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, in Providence, R.I.

Each time you get one of these done, you can send it to a friend and say, ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Hope you’re feeling better.’ It’s like a personal greeting card.

Lois Holthaus on Zentangle tiles

Now she’s a certified Zentangle instructor who teaches classes on Monday evenings in Belleville and Friday afternoons in Breese.

“We’re using paper manufactured in France,” Lois explained in a recent class. “It has a softer texture to it. It absorbs the ink so much better, and we use micron pens. The ink doesn’t run, and it doesn’t seep through.”

Tangles (designs) are drawn on 4 1/2-inch square or round tiles. They’re easy to transport, allowing people to create art anywhere.

Lois holds her Belleville class at the studio and gallery of Kathy Gomric, an artist specializing in surrealistic fantasy images. Both are members of Gateway East Artist’s Guild.

Kathy and her 30-year-old son, Patrick Bellmann, have been taking Zentangle classes, mostly for fun, but she thinks it has improved her other work.

“I just love the cute little curlies and intricate designs,” said Kathy, 62, of Millstadt. “It’s stimulating for me, very creatively stimulating, and it’s relaxing.”

On this day, students were learning to color their tangles. Lois introduced them to ink tints, which can be mixed with drops of water and brushed on like watercolor paint.

Student Janet Deien, 74, of Breese, is the retired co-owner of a car dealership and former nurse. She got into Zentangle after the death of her disabled grown son.

“I thought, ‘I’m not a drawer at all. What am I doing with this? Where am I going with this?’” she said. “But I continued with it. It got me out of the house, and the more I learn, the more excited I get.”

Lois has done sales and office work most of her life, in addition to her hobby, creating watercolor and acrylic images of animals and landscapes.

Early on, Lois noticed that Zentangle helped keep her mind off chronic back pain. Other people use it to reduce stress or just get away from the worries of the world.

“One man was in a car accident, and it has helped him recover,” Lois said. “He was in the hospital for a long time, and he didn’t have anything to do.”

Lois attended the Zentangle seminar in Rhode Island with people from Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and other countries.

Since that trip, she has designed dozens of tiles. Her daughter jokes about sending her to “Zentangle Anonymous.”

“Each time you get one of these done, you can send it to a friend and say, ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Hope you’re feeling better,’” Lois said. “It’s like a personal greeting card.”

At a glance

Here’s what you need to know if you want to take a Zentangle class.

  • Instructor: Lois Holthaus
  • Belleville: 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays at Drawing Fantasies studio/gallery
  • Breese: 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays at the Holthaus home
  • Cost: $25 per session ($10 for beginner kit)
  • Information: Call 978-2070; registration required
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