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Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Good Opportunity

Some people think that if it's got an area with black lines in a pattern it's "a Zentangle."

But filling an area with patterns is not new. That concept is at least as old as illuminated letters on manuscripts from well before the 14th century.

The Zentangle method is more than that. If you have taken a class with a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) or have enjoyed our Zentangle Kit, you can appreciate this comparison.

Think of "Zentangle" as an adjective to describe our teaching method and to describe art created and inspired by that method.

With Zentangle's process, we make no claim to any pattern or design. That is part of our shared human and natural heritage. Our Zentangle contribution is a method that enables almost anyone - particularly people who think they "aren't artists" - to create beautiful images and feel good at the same time.

As one person said, "This isn't art for the masses, it's art by the masses."

Maybe that is one reason behind the occasional strong reaction from a professional artist to Zentangle creations. 

An imperfect but useful analogy is Shin'ichi Suzuki's method for learning music.

As we understand it, Mr. Suzuki believed that almost any child, even those who "aren't musical" can enjoy playing beautiful music. Mr. Suzuki never claimed a particular instrument or style of music as his invention even though he initially focused on classical violin.

So, what inspired this post?

We recently learned that clients of our Certified Zentangle Teachers are receiving an email which begins,

We have to let you know that you were informed wrongly about the background of the art form you work with. So-called "zentangle" is not "zentangle". This art form was originally created way back in 1989 by artist Nadia Russ (www.nadiaruss.com), who January 4, 2003 created a word NeoPopRealism and announced this new style of visual arts internationally.

Right after that, some two people, who even not artists, came with new name to the same idea and concept. They simplified it because actually they couldn't draw, but wanted to sell Nadia Russ' idea. You know the rest with selling kits, etc from "zentangle" website and other sources.

Recently, NeoPopRealism creator Nadia Russ found out about new "inventors" of her style of the drawing and it was shocking news. Please read what people from all over the world say about this matter at: http://zentanglestolenconcept.blogspot.com
[ . . . ]
We don't know who's sending these emails because they're unsigned. But someone did send them and someone created a blog. It is our responsibility to our CZTs, to their clients and to our customers to provide information to allow each person to evaluate this situation and come to his or her own conclusions.

We had not heard of Nadia Russ or seen her work until mid June of this year when someone sent similar emails to our CZTs.

If your friends or customers receive an email on behalf of Nadia Russ, just refer them to this blog entry. If they still have it, please ask them to forward the email to us in case we need it later.

We've reproduced the email in full below. Coincidentally, it also mentions that she "recently published" a book. We haven't seen it, but we trust that our publisher's staff will follow up on it as they see fit.

Nadia Russ is an accomplished artist and she sounds like a very nice person. We would probably get along quite well if we met in person. Here are her "NeoPopRealist Commandments" from her website on May 12, 2008: [credit: web.archive.org]

  1. Be beautiful;
  2. Be creative & productive; never stop studying & learning;
  3. Be peace-loving, positive-minded;
  4. Do not accept communist philosophy;
  5. Be free-minded,do the best you can to move the world to peace and harmony;
  6. Be family oriented, self-disciplined;
  7. Be free spirited. Follow your dreams, if they are not destructive, but constructive;
  8. Believe in GOD. God is one;
  9. Be supportive to those who needs you, be generous;
  10. Create your life as a great adventurous story.

Full text of email forwarded to us by a CZT:
Rick & Maria,

Egads, the hospital I teach at was sent this crazy email. I assume other CZT's got it but wanted to share it with you in case. I'm not planning on responding.

[name], CZT


**[Team NeoPopRealism Journal] has submitted the following message from the Contact Us: [name of hospital]**


We have to let you know that you were informed wrongly about the background of the art form you work with. So-called "zentangle" is not "zentangle". This art form was originally created way back in 1989 by artist Nadia Russ (www.nadiaruss.com), who January 4, 2003 created a word NeoPopRealism and announced this new style of visual arts internationally.

Right after that, some two people, who even not artists, came with new name to the same idea and concept. They simplified it because actually they couldn't draw, but wanted to sell Nadia Russ' idea. You know the rest with selling kits, etc from "zentangle" website and other sources.

Recently, NeoPopRealism creator Nadia Russ found out about new "inventors" of her style of the drawing and it was shocking news.

Please read what people from all over the world say about this matter at:

This is absolutely beautiful artistic style - drawing with ink pen using line and repetitive patterns while your mind is in state of meditation. And no one should limit yourself to 3,5"x3,5"paper and Sakura pen. It will look great on every piece of paper and using any ink pen. No limitations or restrictions should be to anyone who loves to draw and meditate!

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas state in they website that "Zentangle method and art form is copyrighted. It is absurdity, and there is no such registration inhttp://www.copyright.gov/records/website of the US Copyright Office. It can be checked in a minute just searching a word "zentangle".

Many unfounded information and absurdity can be found in "zentangle" website, including their obsession with the copyright issue. They feature in their websites patterns that Nadia Russ uses since 1989. But "zentangle" website say it was created recently...

What Roberts and Thomas created is a word and trademark "zentangle" to re-name NeoPopRealism and sell it in their goods and teaching services.

If you have questions, concern or just thoughts please contact us atneopoprealism1@yahoo.com(http://neopoprealismjournal.wetpaint.com). If you need any information about art style, its detailed history or would like to collaborate to develop your new projects and give some more information to your art lovers about art form they love, Nadia Russ will be happy to hear from you. Her contact information can be found inwww.nadiaruss.com, or email hernadiaruss@yahoo.com.

Also to bring the truth into confused minds would be great if you mentioned in your website and other sources about who is the original creator of this fascinating art form - ink drawing without eraser, using line and repetitive patterns by adding this note:

Originally, the concept of ink drawing without eraser, using line and repetitive patterns, was created in 1989 by artist NADIA RUSS, and in 2003 announced internationally as the NeoPopRealism style of visual arts.

Best regards,
NeoPopRealism Journal & Wonderpedia http://neopoprealismjournal.wetpaint.com

PS There is a book was recently published "How to Draw NeoPopRealism Ink Images: Basics" by NeoPopRealism PRESS. Everyone who loves to draw the repetitive patterns will love this book as it will bring them on another, artistic level of self expression through ink pen, line and repetitive patterns. Also it is the great, step-by-step teaching material for students and for teachers. Available at https://www.createspace.com/3655822

If you still want more, you can read:

. . . and with the Internet's "Wayback" machine you can read this definition of NeoPopRealism on her website in March 31, 2004:


'New Style, New Word'

NeoPopRealism is New Style I developed and now present to the public. NeoPopRealism combines brightness and simplicity of Pop Art with deep philosophical Realism. NeoPopRealism interested in whimsical contemporary world with its technological and cultural achievements, reflects psychological and social diversity.

Lets look in past. 1900, the year when Plank came with his Quantum Theory; 1907, the year when Picasso presented to the world his cubism. In 1910 came futurism... New times bring new ideas.

New millennium brought NeoPopRealism. This style carry bright color's energy and has graphic nature. Philosophical and whimsical same time. Subject - mostly Faces.
How to paint in this new maner? I'll give more details and few lessons in near future. Welcome back.
Nadia Russ 

You're still reading?


Thank you for your patience.

We are grateful for this opportunity to share what our Zentangle method and what Zentangle creations are all about.

We look forward to your comments and questions.

Best regards,

Rick and Maria



Ann said...

This grieves me. How ridiculous for anyone to believe they have a corner on the market for art. Any art. "There is nothing new under the sun" - this is a truism that applies to all of life...but the grand thing about art is that every time pen is put to paper, brush to canvas, ANY form of art - the result IS new, unique, and beautiful to someone somewhere. To be affronted by the creation of Zentangle is small-minded, but to attack the creators is wrong...and sad. "The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings"! I'm with RL Stevenson. Live and let live. *sigh* ...and, btw...you will never know the joy and sheer pleasure zentangle has brought me. Changed my whole perspective about myself. How can that be measured? Thank you, and chin up!

maggiekat said...

Thanks,Rick & Maria, for this great Post,and for all your love and support. maggiekat, czt 4

Pennyb said...

What an absolute load of Poppycock!! (Anyone who isn't brave enough to sign a letter, should never send it in the first place!)
Nadia Russ's Art and Zentangle are world's apart! The concept behind them both is similar...it's repetative and relaxing...but for me that's where the similarity ends.

Her work is based on a drawing that she fills in with patterns, Rick and Maria have made Zentangle into something the massess can do and do well! I'm not a CZT (yet!) but as a teacher, I have taught classes of 30 x 14 years olds who tell me "but I can't draw" how to zentangle and they've produced wonderful work!

With all due respect to Ms Russ and her followers, if I had to choose, I'd choose Zentangle beacuse it's accesible, fun and I've made friends all over the world using this art form.

Keep up the wonderful work the two of you are doing...it has helped me through a BIG low in my life, and I will continue t follow Zentangle...because I can...and I want to.

Kepp on creating

Heather Victoria Held said...

Thanks for sharing this information with us. I love how you both are so open about the emails that you receive and your gentle responses. Having attending the Rhode Island Iampeth convention when Maria launched her Zentangles ( I still have the original handout!) and looking through Maria's art journals, I know that this type of patterned artwork has been with Maria for many years. She has always been open about her inspriation from illuminated manuscripts. Patterned artwork has been around for centuries, its no wonder that many artists use similar designs and patterns in their work.
You and Maria are both inspiring artists and I am so grateful for the method of Zentangle that you introduced me to so many years ago.
love you both,

Ellen said...

Thank you Rick and Maria for your responce. I complement you on your open and warm tone. Thank you for not getting into a fight. Lots of love for you, my fellow CZT's, all tanglers and artist. May we all be as graceful as you. Ellen

Anonymous said...

This e-mail post is just plain rubbish. I give NO credibility to anonymous pot shots in any form. This writer clearly has no understanding of Zentangle or how it is presented (not to mention spelling and grammar.) I won't be changing a thing about how I use and teach Zentangle. Thanks for sharing so we are aware of what's going on out there. "Integrity is the essence of everything successful."
R. Buckminster Fuller

Miss Skelton said...

How sad that someone would take a beautiful and enjoyable art form and tarnish it with their negativity. And to not assign a name to take credit for accusations - pure cowardice. I am planning on attending my first Zentangle workshop next week, and I intend to continue enjoying my tangling!
Thank you for bringing Zentangle into my life - it has provided me with hours of relaxation and peace.

Diana Hirsch said...

What a shame that someone who has such beautiful Commandments could appear so petty. (See especially #5.) On behalf of all Zentangle enthusiasts, thank you, Rick and Maria, for your support addressing this issue so graciously. Diana, CZT6

Enthusiastic Artist said...

I vote in favor of all the above comments! :-)

creative side said...

He who registers a copyright first owns the product. I am sorry that someone has taken such a negative twist to this gracious and healing artform. True, many of the designs are from ages gone by and exist in architecture and nature, but you have put them all into a package that anyone can do. You figured out the process and for that you deserve the right to copyright.

TeVerde said...

The two art forms seem too different from each other for anyone to think that one is copying another.

Maybe they're just trying to hitch their wagon to Zentangle's star- create a false accusation in order to get some attention.

eyebeat said...

Hi Zentangle Folks,

The email discussed in this post seems very strange and poorly written. That aside, thank for linking to my web site (medievalscript.com). I'm receiving a torrent of hits from you. I'll return the favor.

Jean said...

Wow, Rick!

You are a breath of fresh air...

If only you were in Congress!

I do have to believe that all the negativity will eventually burn itself off, leaving behind the very positive legacy of Zentangle.


Shelly Beauch said...

I felt tears when I read the words 'not even artists' it just shows they haven't done their homework and have jumped in the deep end. How sad a life they must live. Maria, you are my most favourite artist in whole world!!!

Tricia, CZT said...

...... and after all is said and done, Zentangle shall emerge with a new creative spirit. It is said that dealing with adversity builds strength and character - and, so, I look forward to basking in that beautiful calm after the storm.

Thank you to Rick and Maria for your continued support and guidance.


Lois Heinani Stokes said...

Rick and Maria ~ Mahalo for your graceful way ~ of bringing things back into harmony ~ Whispering Aloha to you.

carrie ott said...

Thanks so much for letting us know what is going on and for giving us the resources to talk to any of our students who might bring us this information. I think the teaching method you have developed and given to us is brilliant and beautiful and I appreciate how generous you are with your respect and praise for other artists. I hope this issue settles quickly and does not steal time and energy from the wonderful work you continue to forge and share with us. I am grateful for you both. Your artistic integrity is rock solid.

Webster said...

I think it is interesting that NeoPopRealism has just published a book on how to draw ink images. I am sure they figured, probably correctly, that people interested in Zentangle would also be interested in their methods. But nothing I saw on those links looked a bit like Zentangle, so it seems like a nasty game someone is playing to gain some notoriety for their newest publication.

How many of us will buy it now? Certainly, not I.

Tingi textiler said...

It's a shame that people aren't able to appreciate the diversity that is art....
I really enjoy doing my Zentangles!! They have given me a greater insight and calmness that I do not experience with any of the other artistic activities I practice.
Keep up the great work it is really appreciated.......

Donna Hornsby said...

Well executed. I concur with D. All of the Above. ::HUGS:: from North Texas

bajeanne48 said...

I read the entire 8/04 post - and was very curious about the "How to..." book. I clicked the link in the NPR (Geez, wanted to shorten their moniker but "NPR" seems like sacrilege) babble that took me
to where the book can be bought....

when I saw the publication date is 07/29/2011,
I laughed out loud - I think this is a clue why they are injecting themselves into theZentangle world anyway and anywhere they can think of.

I also noticed the author is "NeoPopRealism Press" ... what happened to Nadia?or even PJ Hornblower? Think I'll spend some time detective-ing on the Internet.

Judi said...

I'm so sorry, for you Rick and Maria and for the rest of us, that this negativism was brought into the wonderful world of Zentangle®. I, too, agree with the others who have thanked you for your openness in sharing this with all of us so we can be prepared in case someone "hits" us with it.

Since I began only a few months ago I've already thought that tangling is almost a natural extension of the creative mind. This is borne out of the fact that you see patterns used everywhere, used in all periods of history, and used in all countries. But, it was you, Rick and Maria, who have "harnessed it for the masses" and have touched so many, many people by so selflessly passing it forward! I say Kudos to you and Bah Hum Bug on anyone who says anything to the contrary!!!

Anonymous said...

I think Ms Russ found something a bit similar to what she does, and thought she could get a ton of free publicity by stirring up some emotions. Zentangles is professional and well intentioned and well organized. Ms Russ' websites and artwork seem unprofessional and her whiney tone and self-righteousness make my stomach hurt. Her work is only similar in a small way, and is so basic- ART THERAPY is based on the same premise- is she going to bash art therapists for "stealing her concept"? I doubt it. The email is so poorly worded - without articles- and as I read it I said to myself "This was written by a Russian speaker" and low and behold, Ms Russ IS a Russian speaker- so I wonder who wrote that email? Keep on Zentangling and improving the lives of many, and dont even worry about this unhappy and unhealthy woman!!

Carol Smith (calicocarolj) said...

For lovers of tangling, the Zentangle way, this independent art form, is so different from what's her name's art! And, so are all of our individual tangles. Never two alike, because it comes from our souls. Hard to usurp one's soul and call it your own. Better yet, ink drawings can't be called zentangles or vice versa. I'm still looking forward to becoming a CZT someday. Proudly.

Majka said...

Rick and Maria, you are dealing with this false accusation with dignity and honor. Thank you for showing such grace. And, thank you for your generous gift of Zentangle. As an elementary teacher, Zentangle has provided lovely, relaxing moments of creativity and peace during my summer break. I, too, look forward to the opportunity to become a CZT.
Stay strong. We all support you.

Linda said...

I've been a "silent" readeer for a while now - but have really fallen in love with this art form and feel compelled to comment simply by saying that all you need to do is observe how each side is reacting, to know what the truth is. As for copyrighting an art form - I was surprised to find out that something I had been doing as a creative exercise for years actually has a name - and so many other enthusiasts. It's a beautiful thing and opens up a world of new possibilities, not an bad thing at all.

Alison Horne said...

This is truly nuts, I drew like this as a child and I can assure you that I was not a child by 1989!

KIC said...

Huh. I wonder if she has copyrighted the line.

Anonymous said...

Yep, guys, you were doing these for many years, but not you, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas claim they invented NEW form! And it is truly as you said "nuts!"
Another thing, did they create real ART form? or they are just Craftsmen-copycats? You know the answer. Nadia Russ created Art Form; she is an artist, not a crafts-woman. She created not craft style, but Art style by filling different section with patterns. T was absolutely new way of thinking, new visual language. And who came first? Crafts-people (Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and you all) with copying everything you see, or artist who create every time new and unique images using imagination? You might were drawing-copying patterns since 1924, but Nadia Russ organized these patterns’ presentation in special way, artistic way that was absolutely unique. You should be grateful, copying it, instead of talking rude and nasty. Be grateful and respectful.


Maggie said...

Wow... I actually don't have the patience after reading all that to fully type up all that I feel about this. But, as someone above said, poppycock! I did not read through all of the comments, so I apologize if someone else referenced this already, but I felt that you guys should know that there is also an article here: http://www.articlecirculation.com/contentspecific.asp?ID=180651, basically saying the same stuff. I came upon it accidentally in a search, read a bit of it, then searched "neopoprealism" to see for myself what that was. I'm really not sure how someone could feel "ripped off" when it comes to a style of art, and even when different people have similar styles, they each have a different style within the style. Anyway, when I searched "neopoprealism" I found the link to this blog. This stuff they're saying is really irritating. My first thought reading it was, wait a minute, Zentangle is a METHOD, and if Maria and Rick hadn't developed this, I would have continued with my life thinking that I couldn't draw, that I couldn't create anything beautiful by putting a pen to paper. I could've looked at art of this style my entire life and never been able to create anything like it myself, nor would I have tried. I just found Zentangle about 2 weeks ago, and I am so GRATEFUL for it. I've only messed around learning a few tangle patterns, but I never imagined I could even do that. Anyway, I just checked out Nadia Russ' site and some of her work, and while she is an accomplished artist and she does use patterns within her work, it is not the same as Zentangle, and again, this "neopoprealism" is a STYLE, and not a METHOD. So, Maria and Rick, THANK YOU for creating this method and sharing it with the world! Since I discovered Zentangle (I actually stumbled upon it when looking at a class schedule looking for a pottery class and Advanced Zentangle was listed on the classes starting soon. With a name like that I had to find out what it was!) I've been waiting in great anticipation for the next beginning Zentangle class, and I just got a response from CZT Audrey Markowitz saying that the next class is coming up on April 7th. Yea! I can't wait to attend. So, once again, THANK YOU!!! It sounds cliche, but this method has changed my life. I now have an outlet I never would have had without Zentangle. :) :)

Velvet said...

Firstly, I'd like to say that nobody knows who this "anonymous" email sender is, so I do find the scathing comments about Nadia Russ in the comments to be a little heavy-handed. Perhaps it would be kinder and more appropriate to withhold such judgement until we know who this person is? It isn't necessarily Ms. Russ herself, after all.

I just left the following comment on the "Stolen Concept" blog and thought I might copy it here, so nobody could say I was being unfair. ;-)


I'm a bit confused by all this - and yes, I know I'm coming to this conversation late!

For a start, since this whole topic seems quite heated and I believe in transparency, let me give full disclosure. My name is Gillian Slane, I live in Edinburgh (Scotland) and I have no connection whatsoever either to Nadia Russ or Zentangle.

(Personally, I think everyone in a controversial dialogue should be as transparent as above, giving their real names and any connection to the parties involved. After all, what is there to hide?)

Right, now that's done! I found the Zentangle site just a few days ago, and the Nadia Russ one yesterday. Interestingly, I discovered the Russ website completely separately from the Z. one, and only found out about this argument a few hours later. I have to say, the whole ugly mess has sadly muddied my enjoyment of both.

Unlike "theraggededge" above, I do see some similarities in style between different pieces of work on the site. I can't deny that some of the patterns and concepts have a lot in common. However, I also see some similarities between Nadia's work, which came first, and illuminated manuscripts of ancient years past. This certainly doesn't mean that Ms. Russ "plagiarised" the work of a monk who produced a certain piece - she's an original and visionary artist by everything I've seen so far. But it does means that the range of artistic motifs the human brain can come up with (and finds attractive/meditative) isn't quite as infinite as we'd like to believe.

I do think it would be a pleasant gesture if the owners of the Zentangle teaching trademark would provide links on their website to Nadia's work, partly to show goodwill and partly to let Z. beginners see what sort of beauty might be created if they continue to practise this sort of meditative, structured-doodling pen art.

That said, while heated accusations are being thrown around the internet but not attributed to an actual name, I can't blame them (or other people) for disregarding the whole debate. I was taught always to ignore an anonymously-signed letter, after all.

[] I was doing pen-only (no eraser) drawings, with repetitive patterns and using it as a form of calming meditation way back in the '80s. If I looked long and hard enough on the internet (which I obviously had no access to back then, nor had I read any books with similar ideas in them) I'd probably find pretty much the exact patterns I was drawing. Perhaps even in Ms. Russ' work or the Zentangle website.

I doubt either of them plagiarised me as a teenager. :-D (It wouldn't be worth it, I'm dreadful at art...)