Several months ago, I heard about someone using drawing as a contemplative practice. Rather like the ancient Desert Fathers and Mothers who prayed day and night while braiding rope or making baskets to support themselves, the Zentangle® practice creates intricate patterns by repeating a fairly small number of strokes, and combines the patterns in beautiful and intricate ways.
My image of those desert monastics changed in a flash. I had imagined them weaving or plaiting the same pattern for years on end, something to occupy their hands while their psalmody was the real work. What a foolish idea!! Who could sing praise of the infinite variety of God’s creation while weaving the same basket over and over again? They must have been artisans: varying the shapes, sizes, uses, weaving patterns, handles and lids. In a 4th century way, their practice was not so different from this Zentangle® I heard about.
I really wanted to learn it, but there were two major barriers. I couldn’t imagine
that there would be any teachers in northern Minnesota. And I really can’t draw.
Imagine my surprise to find that Esther Pisczek was offering Zentangle® classes through Community Education in Duluth. Ignoring the second barrier, I signed up. I might not make any art, but surely I could benefit from the contemplation!
I love the class, the patterns and the focus that comes from drawing them – even though working with art paper and special pens with flowing ink feels alien. Learning to braid rope in the Egyptian desert might be easier! Recently, I tried drawing on an iPad or with a pen tablet – tools that are familiar – where software zooms in and helps me out. So much easier!
I still do most of my “practice” by hand with pen and paper. I do want to learn a simple practice; the iPad makes it too easy to get caught up in thinking about the art and lose the rhythm of contemplation. I truly benefit having a bit of both worlds.
What am I doing for Lent? Going outside my comfort zone. And finding it very good.
(Check out Esther Pisczek’s work on Facebook)