Marsha Krout encourages students to doodle in her class.

For years she has given students at Carpenters Middle School a “creative doodling” assignment as a fun way to learn about some art topics and fill short bits of time between other projects.

A while back some other art teachers introduced her to the Zentangle method, taking the assignment to a new level.

The young artists fill paper with “tangles,” patterns of dots, curves and lines. There’s no pencil sketch to plan and follow. They work directly with pen, and thanks to Newell Rubbermaid have plenty of Sharpies.

The Zentangle method teaches that there are no mistakes, just inspirations and opportunities.

“We’re not trying to draw anything in particular,” Krout explained.

Growing up in a busy world filled with technology, the students find the simple act of drawing patterns on paper with a pen relaxing. Sometimes the teacher will add music in the background.

Seventh graders begin with one large white sheet of paper. Many start from a corner and build designs from there. Andrew Borden began his design with circle stencils, filling the round shapes with different patterns.

While most Zentangle designs are black and white, Isaac Forster put a bold orange Power “T” on his drawing. Others like to hide words or their initials among the patterns. Audriana Orozco tucked an “A” into her drawing.

Laila Henderson started with the letters in her first name and began adding checkerboard and polka dot designs. “It’s a good way to calm yourself, and it’s really fun,” she said of the Zentangle drawing.

Carmen Stinnett included flowers in her design and filled several areas with a heart pattern.

If a student feels that one paper is a finished piece of artwork before the term, Krout will attach another page, and at the end, the students receive one grade for the assignment. “It’s a never-ending project,” the teacher said.

Zentangle books and a bulletin board in the classroom offer ideas and inspiration.

Eight graders may decorate paper drink cups with Zentangles. One girl went home a few years ago and hung a white paper in her room for Zentagles.

“I had one student who went home and Zentangled his shoes,” Krout said.

One of the benefits of the Zentangle technique is that students can do it virtually anywhere with just a pen and piece of paper. Zoey Kirkland said she’ll sometimes pull out a small Post-It size paper for a design when she isn’t in Krout’s class.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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