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Unleashing her inner artist

Teacher taps creative side with new art form, Zentangle

Created date

September 24th, 2014
woman working on an art project

For Trace resident Merrilyn Meushaw, art has been a lifelong hobby.

Merrilyn taught elementary school for 32 years, primarily in the Houston suburb of Spring Branch.

“I loved teaching and helping my students learn new skills and ideas,” she says. “I saw myself as an encourager.”

Merrilyn’s artistic dreams bloomed when she retired in 2007. 

“After my retirement, I tutored children at Sylvan Learning Center and took art classes at Houston Community College,” says Merrilyn. “I learned about drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Those classes inspired me to pursue my artistic creativity.”

Zen art form

Merrilyn discovered her niche in the art world when a friend invited her to a Zentangle class in 2011. 

“I had never heard of Zentangle before,” says Merrilyn. “It’s an art form using structured patterns to create beautiful images.”

The Zentangle method, pioneered by Maria Thomas, a letter artist and illustrator, and Rick Roberts, a former monk, has gained worldwide attention since it was introduced in 2003. On their website, Thomas and Roberts describe Zentangle as an abstract art form that “deliberately creates a mood, a focus, a state of mind.”

Merrilyn enjoyed creating Zentangles so much that she traveled to Rhode Island in 2012 to study under Thomas and Roberts and become a certified Zentangle teacher.

“Maria is the ‘tangle’ in Zentangle, and Rick is the ‘zen’ in Zentangle,” says Merrilyn. “Their motto is ‘Anything is possible…one stroke at a time.’”

Learning to tangle

An official Zentangle design is drawn with black ink on a three-and-a-half-inch square tile. It’s comprised of repeating patterns, or tangles, drawn in an unplanned sequence.

“There are no erasers in Zentangle, as in life,” says Merrilyn. “Any ‘mistakes’ become part of the design.”

Merrilyn says Zentangle differs from doodling because individual tangles can be taught. The first tangle Merrilyn shares is the Crescent Moon, a half circle that’s repeated around the perimeter of a designated area. Another of Merrilyn’s favorite tangles is the Hollibaugh, which starts with parallel lines in the foreground and moves toward the background with subsequent parallel lines.

“Doodling comes from a lack of focus, where Zentangle requires a concentrated effort to create,” she says. “The artist uses intentional, steady strokes.”

Teacher and artist

Since moving to Eagle’s Trace in February 2014, Merrilyn has combined her teaching skills and artistic pursuits to introduce Zentangle to other residents.

“A number of people expressed an interest in Zentangle, so we formed an introductory class in mid-May,” says Merrilyn. “There was such a good turnout that now we meet twice a month for Zentangle classes in the community’s creative arts studio.”

Pat McKinley, who’s spent more than 40 years painting bluebonnet landscapes, says she was intrigued by Merrilyn’s designs and attended the class to learn more about Zentangle.

“It’s so different from anything I’ve done before,” says Pat. “Zentangle is more a form of relaxation. I’ve noticed that when we’re working on our designs, the class gets quiet. It has a calming effect.”