The Beauty of Circles

Zentangle Inspired Art: Circles as New Beginnings

In January 2022, Forge partnered with Elizabeth Vander Kamp to offer a virtual Zentangle Inspired Art workshop focused on the beauty of circles. “Zentangle Inspired Art” (or ZIA for short) combines easy-to-learn Zentangle patterns with color, whimsy and an “anything goes attitude” to create beautiful images. Zentangle is a more formal technique with a black pen and little square tiles of paper. More information can be found about it here: Zentangle Inspired Art can be done on any size paper with any type of pen or marker and with anything that inspires us to play!

Before beginning to draw, Elizabeth asked participants to get into a comfortable position and connect to their breath for one minute of silence. Elizabeth reminded us that breathing is an important part of finding peace and relaxation in any activity.

Elizabeth explained that circles are the “ultimate curvilinear shape.” They are seen as safe, gentle, pleasant, graceful and dreamy. When thinking about circles, participants thought of the following:

  • Circles as evoking calmness, peacefulness, and gentleness
  • Circles as containing energy and helping us to manage stress
  • Circles as shapes that are seen time and time again in nature
  • Circles as portals to the body and in fiction; opportunities for adventure and moving into new experiences
  • Circles as the rings on a tree, telling the stories of their lives
Overlapping circles to begin ZIA

Elizabeth encouraged participants to begin playing with “circles within circles within circles” on whatever size sheet of paper we had, adding them to the page in sizes and patterns that felt right, overlapping or spread apart, always in pen or markers (never in pencil) because there are no mistakes in ZIA. There is no “supposed to” when making this art. As Elizabeth shared, “If there is a pattern that is happy to your heart and your hand, then go with it.” Below is an example of overlapping circles from one workshop participant.

ZIA circle in process


After creating circular shapes on the page, Elizabeth asked us to be inspired by nature and begin filling in some of the circles on the page. Using pens or markers, participants were encouraged to play with shapes and colors. Below is an example from one workshop participant of her design in the process of being filled in with Zentangle-like patterns.

Lastly, Elizabeth encouraged us to add a “secret message” to our drawings. Whether a letter of the alphabet, the initials of someone special to us, or an important word or phrase, adding something meaningful into our art can enhance feelings of joy and relaxation. Below is an example of the final creations from a few of our participants. We hope you feel inspired to make your own art today!

Elizabeth Vander Kamp is an artist-in-residence with the UAB Institute for Arts in Medicine (AIM). She offers workshops in Zentangle and creative writing. She also works bedside in the hospital telling stories, which offers patients the opportunity to laugh and talk, to overcome pain and fear, to awaken their imaginations, and to revel in the possibility of happy endings. You can learn more about Elizabeth and her work on her website: